Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Career in Comparative Living

There's a Christian song that goes like this:

Stand still and let God move,
Standing still is hard to do.
When you feel that you have reached the end, He'll make a way for you;
Stand still and let God move.

It's a nice song, I recommend looking it up for yourself and giving it a listen.

That said, "Standing still is hard to do," is the line of that song that I relate to the most.  You see, when I was younger, I had certain dreams.  Yeah, yeah, I'm only twenty-nine years old, I know; and those of you who are much older than me are probably breaking out the handkerchiefs on my behalf, at least those of you who aren't busy playing sorrowful notes on the violin.  Thanks, you guys are great.

Please, tell me more about how your best years are already behind you.

The thing is, I get that I'm not that old.  I get that there is "plenty of time" for me to do something that I'm passionate about, something that I'd love doing.  It's not too late.  That's all well and good.

I also realize that life has a way of getting away from a person, though.  Twenty-nine could easily become thirty-nine, which could easily become forty-nine.  And why not?  After all, twenty-two (when I graduated from college) seems to have become twenty-nine with just the blink of an eye, and I am no closer to a career or field I'm passionate about than I was then.  It feels like I've got that "stand still" part down, but at some point in time God says "I've stood you up, kid, it's time to take a few steps on your own," but I'm the kid that looks out at the room in confusion, looks up at Dad as if he doesn't know where to begin with this new-found freedom, and promptly bursts into tears in one of those adorable-but-irritating toddler tantrums...only without the toddler part...and without the adorable part...well, maybe not totally without the adorable part, depending on whom you ask, but--never mind that!

The point is that I want to "get a move on" with this part of my life, but I'm stuck.  It's mostly the indecision:  I'm faced with a choice, now, between passion and employ-ability.  For reasons I won't get into, moving for a job isn't an option, so if I go for my passion (which is Theology, and similar fields, if you're wondering) there's a 90% chance that I'll earn a fancy Ph. D and then be totally unemployable anywhere within driving distance.  If I go for something more practical, but less exciting to me, then I'm haunted by the thought that I'll regret not having chased my passion.  And financially speaking I'm in a uniquely awkward position where we're secure enough that the "practical" choice isn't the obviously necessary one, yet we're not so secure that we can afford to sink all that money (or debt) into the other choice and then have it not work out.

It hurts so bad...why won't he stop whining?!

Okay, I'll try to spare you.  All of my angsty brooding up to this point is mainly to set a backdrop for what really lies behind it:  My own misconceptions and false ideals.  Namely, if there's a career I'd be totally suited for, it's a career in "Comparative Living":  The art of comparing one's life to others.  Guilty as charged, and I give up the right to remain silent.

See, lately in my life I've made some close and wonderful friends who all happen to have one thing in common:  They're either working toward, or have completed, a doctorate degree.  Ahhh, now it's becoming clearer, isn't it?  That's right.  We have an old fashioned case of an inferiority complex.  Keeping up with the Joneses.  Envy.  I'm pretty sure that I was reasonably content with the idea of finding any meaningful job I didn't absolutely hate or, better still, pursuing one of my creative passions, none of which inherently require a higher education than I've already got...until I started making friends with awesome people who happen to have gone farther up on the academic totem pole than I ever did.

I want to clear up that these friends are not snobs; they have never once made me feel inferior, and have even tried to assure me of the opposite.  They are wonderful, humble people, some of whom hold my life as something to be admired (guess the grass really is always greener on the other side).  My insecurities are a reflection solely on my own flawed way of thinking, not on anything that my friends have done.  My way of thinking, as it happens, makes real joy impossible.  Because even if I "pull myself up by my bootstraps," and get two Ph D.'s, one practical and the other for passion, if I keep up in my current state of thinking, what happens when I make a friend who has three?  Heaven forbid I should make warm acquaintance with somebody who's won a Nobel Prize or some other mark of prestige!

I'm not saying whether I should or shouldn't further my education.  But if I do, it should be because it's what I would want solely for myself, not because I'm trying to stay "caught up" with anybody.  This is not a battle cry, nor some heroic proclamation that I'm going to conquer this poisonous thought process from this day forward.  This is, instead, a confession that I struggle with this.  Maybe you do too.  If so, you're not alone.  How about we pray for one another, and take one step at a time toward the ability to say, with conviction, the two words to ourselves that can carry so much power in healing a broken self-image:  "I'm enough."

That's it.  I'm enough.  I don't need a certain kind of degree to prove it.   I don't need to match the accomplishments of my peers to show that I'm worth something myself.

My Christian beliefs may tell me that the only reason I'm enough is because Christ has redeemed me.  But He has redeemed me indeed, and He didn't go through with suffering and death just so that I would have to judge my self-worth based on whether or not I can keep up with others.    It's he that endures to the end who shall be saved, not he who gets there the fastest, or who impresses the spectators the most.  So if you're like me, just hang in there.  We'll get through the race, if we just keep dragging ourselves along by the Grace of God.  I promise you that.  We don't have to keep up with all the athletic types up front.  If we can and we do, great.  But if we're unable, we should take comfort in knowing that we are not measured by the accomplishments of another.  We just have to make it to the end.

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