“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Today is my first day at my brand new, bona fide full-time job. Today I’ll be earning money doing things I enjoy; using skills, experience, and education I’ve worked hard to obtain; toward a purpose beyond a paycheck, a purpose I can put the full force of my passion behind. For me, this is a dream come true. I can’t believe today is here. I look back at those first sentences and gratefulness floods my heart (and my eyes).
I’ll be honest. There were times I thought this day would never come.
There were times I’d scroll through the Resumes/Cover Letters folder on my hard drive… and scroll… and scroll, baffled once again by the sheer number of jobs I’d applied for since I graduated college. At one point, I kept a post-it note by my computer with running tallies of how many jobs I was applying for, how many rejections I got, and how many times I went any further in the process. I quit keeping track after a while, because even the number of jobs I actually heard back from– positive or negative– I could count on one hand. It was depressing, to say the least.
Out of all those missed opportunities, only one had to say yes and I’d be un-unemployed. I’d be on some sort of road to success. I’d be able to pay back my student loans. I’d no longer be a self-perceived slacker floating from internship to my parents’ house to internship to my parents’ house in the polluted wake of the recession and my own un-employableness.
I can’t fully describe how difficult it was to watch opportunity after opportunity slip away, especially those times I made it to some sort of interview process. If you’ve been there at one point or another, you know. After a while, it wears on you. It erodes things you need to persevere– like hope, determination, confidence.
Even as a teenager, I struggled with feeling worthless. I can’t tell you how many replays of Relient K’s “More Than Useless” it took to hammer that out of the mold of my identity. It’s funny (but funny’s a terrible descriptor there) how our youthful insecurities continue to haunt us as we grow older. Being told over and over again– with and without words– that I wasn’t good enough for that by which our society measures worth– well, it almost broke me.
I say almost, but maybe it did. Break me. In some places and not in others. There are some places within us where it is good to be broken. People have told me I’ve displayed great faith, even resilience, during this time, but it’s rare that I’ve felt like I’ve set my chin and put one foot in front of the other. More often, I felt like a wailing child, clinging to my Father’s leg and letting him drag me where I needed to go.
Along the way, I truly came to believe in something I thought I knew before– that even though a job and a paycheck and success are all good, they are the least worthwhile measures of our worth. They can be helpful means to other, greater ends, but they don’t define our value. God does. And God values love, truth, obedience, faith, integrity, community. Even when we fail at displaying the things he values, we are still worthwhile, because God is always all these things– he is always God– and he created us. As I was being broken, God was placing the pieces of my identity back together in a picture of that truth.
Some have called us an entitled generation. Maybe we were. I don’t know how true that is anymore. After I graduated from college, I quickly came to see that things I thought I was entitled to weren’t going to drop into my lap after all. That finding a good job and my place in this world was going to be a journey. Of course, I never figured it would last as long as it did. Or that it would require so much that I was unprepared to give.
But I also never could have imagined what gifts the journey would provide. What I’ve learned, how I’ve grown, the places I’ve been, the moments I’ve experienced. Most of all, the people I’ve met along the way.
There are a lot of heavy words in this post, but there is also a lightness to it. At times I feel… blessed (not #blessed). When I look back at this journey, I feel simultaneously like I’ve overcome a lonesome trek up a mountain and like I’ve been surrounded by the warmth and joy of love, support, friendship, and encouragement the entire time. Out of all the work God’s done in me along this very personal journey, most of it has been facilitated by the people he’s placed in my life. I know now that’s how he often transforms us– with one another.
I guess I feel like Frodo at the top of his mountain, or being carried away by the convenience eagles. But I don’t think I’m about to sail into the Undying Lands. I think I have several mountains yet to climb.
I could write many more paragraphs about faith, God’s timing, and many more aspects to this journey. For now, I’ll just point to this post I wrote back in May 2014.