By Kimberly Schluterman
I’m about a third of the way through the 25th year of my life. It doesn’t get much more “mid-twenties” than that. My Facebook status today says, “We enjoyed a perfect fire all day, then went out and bought a beautiful Christmas tree. I couldn’t be happier in love and in life.” There’s no doubt about it – I’m in a very good place. My job isn’t what I want it to be (it’s a tough economy), but it’s steady and secure, and who cares anyway since the 128 hours of the week outside of work are sickeningly blissful.
If you’re not feelin’ my happiness, you should know that I didn’t arrive here in the timing or way I expected. Take heart, you have every possibility of finding bliss in your own time too.
Since I was 18 years old, I wanted to be a licensed counselor. My relationships, both spiritual and personal, were the most important priorities in my life, and a career in counseling would fulfill my desire for ministry, as well as equip me with the tools to make my relationships the best they could be.
With this as the plan, I majored in communication in college, with the intent to get a master’s degree in counseling. During my last year at college, I chose a graduate program at a renowned seminary in Dallas. My friends and family supported me every step of the way. They prayed for me, wrote letters of recommendation, and offered whatever they had. When I was accepted, they were all very proud of me, and I felt the most optimistic I’d ever felt in my life. I had a good plan and a good way to get there.
Then about halfway through my last semester of college, I was walking home from class when I literally stopped in my tracks. With almost no warning, I realized that I didn’t want to be a counselor anymore. My reasons for having chosen that career field hadn’t changed, but I didn’t want my relationships to be my job. Furthermore, I lost the free housing I had been counting on during my seminary years, and suddenly the cost of attending was more than I was prepared for. I’d never been in debt before, and I just didn’t think I was supposed to start now. I prayed a lot during the next few weeks because deciding not to go to seminary was harder than deciding to go. I knew it would disappoint a lot of people and I hated that. The disappointment of people who loved me was the hardest part to deal with, but I knew that a change in life direction was the right thing for me.
After graduation, I got a job for which I am overqualified and underpaid, but it allowed me to live in the town I love. This town is where I met (shortly before I graduated) and recently married the man I love. I love it here! But I’m still in the same job I got right out of college, and I never did decide what, if not counseling, I wanted to do with my life. The more I thought about that, the more frustrated I became. It was like a mid-life crisis about 20 years too early. Yes, I’m in a good place, but no, I’m not really where I want to be. And where am I going? I’ve been mid-twenties-crisis-ing for about the past year.
But three weeks ago, Husband and I were sitting on the couch watching TV when it hit me: I knew what I wanted to be! I felt excited about my professional future for the first time since I was accepted to that seminary four years ago. I told him all about it, and, of course, he was supportive. Our plans for proceeding are still in infant stages, but they are progressing. By next month’s column, I hope to be telling you about all of the official updates.
You know, it would have been easy for me to look back on the last eight years and feel like I’d made a big mistake. I got a degree in communication because it was good preparation for a master’s in counseling, but by itself? Hardly lucrative! What did I get myself into? How could I be wrong for so long and not figure it out until so late? And all those people I disappointed? Yes, it would be very easy to think it was all one big mistake. But I really don’t think it was. And this is what I say to anyone who read the first paragraph of this column and lamented that they weren’t in a happy place: You never know what direction your life will go, which route you’ll take to get there, or who you’ll be when you arrive. The smart decisions you make today might look foolish tomorrow, but you can only do the best you can with what you have right now. The oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” When you’re 18 and on your own, and trying to figure out where you’re going, let God’s promise to prosper you give you peace. And if you do end up in your mid-twenties, wondering “What now?” I hope you don’t take as long I did to figure it out.
I wonder what my mid-forties will look like.