It is hard to believe that I was once a person who received compliments on her writing. I believed as recently as a decade ago that my calling from God in this life was to be a writer, though it was not ever perfectly clear what sort. At first I thought journalism, but I don’t expect that was the Spirit putting it into my head; in those days I was just discovering the history and the great literature and art resulting from the First and Second World Wars.
I made a major decision or two in the pursuit of having something worth writing about.
Now here I am. It is true I am an adult with responsibilities now, which is the usual excuse for abandoning hobbies and old friendships and things. But really I do not have any pets, let alone children. In fact, I do have free time… the sad reality is that nowadays I tend to spend it napping, watching television, or sitting on the couch wishing I could have both free time and energy. There is a cartoon somewhere about how at various stages of life, one can only have two of three of these: time, energy, money. For the most part, the cartoon seems accurate.
Last time I wrote that I remember, it was about mental health. I saw a psychology post-grad who suggested I use my health insurance (which I no longer have, but that is another post) to find a psychiatrist or therapist or whatever I might prefer. I cannot say the appointment was very helpful. I cannot say one thing I learned. I walked away feeling that I am probably rather healthy after all. Truthfully, I would like to have counseling, advice, behavioral training–but maybe it is all a post-modern, superficially complex way of longing for a second childhood. It seems to me I did not learn all I should have the first go round. Even though I am fine, there is still a gap between who I am and who I want to be.
During the meeting, the psychologist asked me how I felt about graduation coming up relatively soon. I said, and I was honest, that I did not feel particular anxiety about it, but rather eagerness to be done with this degree. I still hold that feeling, but now the anxiety has arrived. And the regret. The what ifs. The I should haves. The if only I could do it agains.
Earlier in college I encouraged myself with some of the education news of the day. Folks writing about the elasticity of intelligence, grit, and other topics which to me frankly seem more grounded in belief in the American dream than in reality (though I have not looked to find research on these topics).
So here I am. I am not so good at school, not so good at my job, not so good at a whole lot besides keepin’ on keepin’ on. (This is why I was able to run a marathon once, despite being fat and out of shape and not training–I just go.) So I think, who is right? Am I applying the sunk cost fallacy to my life? Am I being realistic or pessimistic? Am I cutting my losses or just giving up?
I’ve heard it said that it takes something like 10,000 hours of practice to get good at a skill. But I always wonder, are there not people for whom even 20,000 hours practice will not result in them sounding good with a violin?
I was speaking with someone a few months ago, and the cognitive dissonance was real as I encouraged her to study something which she confessed she believed was beyond her ability to learn. I encouraged her and told her it was not beyond her ability, but internally I was asking myself, “Are you sure you think so?”
The truth is I know neither what I want (that is actually achievable: wanting to win the Lotto is not what I mean here) nor what I am capable of. Do I believe there are things beyond my mental abilities? I do and I don’t.
Throughout it all I find myself struggling with faith. I do not mean I don’t believe. I believe strongly enough to fear the possibility of losing my belief. No, I believe. But my zeal is gone and my life does not seem purposeful. For years after my baptism, I read the Bible every day. Every day. I prayed. I remembered God when I looked at a mountain or the sea or a living thing. Now I remember God when I am in the country and have been hiking a little while, and I say, “What is wrong with me? Where is my awe? I forgot this was Creation.” I find myself surrounded by beauty, but still choked by thorns.
Several times in the past year the reading has come up, the parable of the seeds. I am the seed that fell among thorns, and though I grow, I am not fruitful. It was easy not to be preoccupied with worldly things when I was a teen, not paying my own bills, not yet worrying about taking care of my aging parents. It was easy in the Navy too because for all the poor excuses for leadership and for all the danger, the Navy life is pretty easy. Only now in life I have come to the point where I must…
What must I do?
For a couple of years now I have been thinking I would like to become a physician. Of course this is an enormous undertaking. Significant time, effort, and money will be necessary to even gain admittance to a medical school. Supposing I do get myself a short coat, when what? Commit years more of my life to my country (that is also assuming the military would accept me again) or take out over a quarter million dollars in loans to pay for it.
And people pretend to wonder why there is a “diversity problem” in medicine. But that too is another post!
I expressed some of this concern over pursuing a medical career to my mother. She asked if it was my call or not. Always in church we are praying to God for those called to priesthood or religious life, praying for those who are discerning, spreading the word about “exploration days” at local monasteries and such. I have heard a calling story or two, and knew a seminary student once, in his forties, who has previously been an electrical engineer. How do you hear the call? Is there a call for everyone (to different things)? Or is there a general call to do the church’s mission and to live a holy life, which a Christian may do however she sees fit?
I do not know of course. I have prayed lately for a call, but I am not committed to the prayer. Of course God knows this. It is hard to ask God for something when you are not sure it is something he really does–sure he could do it, but does he want to? Does he think it’s a good idea? I am reminded of the ancient Hebrews’ desire for a king, since all the other tribes had one. I do not know where in the Bible this story is told, but it’s true. God told them it wasn’t a good idea. “Look,” I’m paraphrasing, “See how much good it does the other nations to have kings. With kings come taxes and wars and strife. But you have Me for a king.” But they didn’t listen, so God did give them a king. Then it was just as bad as God told them it would be.
Well, I allotted myself 40 minutes to write. Perhaps I have not come to my point exactly, but I have come to the end of that time period and must be off.