Monday, June 14, 2010

Navigating the Crossroads in Life

Nutritional yeast can be used as a cheese substitute in some vegan recipes. It tastes sort of like Swiss cheese in some recipes. That is a complete tangent to the rest of my letter, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless.

On Tuesday I decided to quit my job at the MTC. I haven’t felt very useful in a while, and the cultural change that would need to happen to address the issue is probably not in the immediate future. The decision came with so much peace that I finally realized how much work has been taking a toll on my life. It was probably the main contributor to my distress. My last day is this Wednesday, since the MTC doesn’t follow a two-week notice program – all positions are at-will. There are tons of things I’ll miss about my job – the physical perks like a parking pass or being able to use the library and other BYU facilities were nice, but I’ll miss the people and the environment most. My bosses, coworkers, people I’ve met in other departments, and the missionaries… I’ll miss dressing up in a white shirt and tie to go to work each day, wearing a white nametag, and having doctrinal discussions as part of a day’s work.

The only potential problem is that I have no idea where I’m going next in the workplace. I know that quitting, now, is the right decision… but I’m not ‘moving on’ to a bigger and better job (at least that I can see). Which means that I am dealing with a new kind of stress – the stress that comes from having faith and moving forward without being able to see the end from the beginning. And deciding to quit work was only the beginning.

Wednesday I started wondering what to do right after I finished my job. Should I scramble to find another one? Or work methodically so that all the pieces can fall into place? Or do something else entirely? I started identifying my obligations, and realized that they had been slowly disappearing. Grandma died last fall: I don’t have anyone to take care of here in Utah. I’m not in an apartment: I have no financial obligations here. My teaching job ended with the school year, and I’m leaving the MTC: I have no work obligations. I’ve moved wards so many times in the recent past that I don’t have any assignments at all except speaking this next Sunday: I have no Church obligations. The only sticky issue was dating – I’ve been dating a girl here. But that unstuck itself by Saturday. Saturday the girl I’ve been dating told me she had fallen in love with someone else. And that, along with jobs, housing, and everything else, has officially erased all of my obligations that tie me here to Utah at present… which makes me free to go wherever or do whatever. Or just lost.

I live by my responsibilities. One of my life mottos is to make commitments higher than I can reach, then ask for divine help and stretch to reach them every day. I wish I could see into the future – to see what the next step entails in my life – and then to move forward to take it. But I’ve learned that one of the traits the Lord wants to teach me is faith. Especially in uncertainty. I know that God is involved in my life, that He loves me, and that I’m doing the right things. That means that I can have faith – faith that He will guide me and help me to find whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing next. Some days I try to convince myself that I’m on an exciting adventure to discover another facet to my purpose in life. In reality, I feel like I’m walking through a mist of darkness… holding a hand of someone I can’t see. When I think about the darkness, I feel lost. But when I close my eyes, block out the fear, and just follow, I know that everything will be for my good. It makes me think of a dance. I know all the steps. I just need to listen, feel, and follow.

For the immediate future, I’m planning to go to Chicago for a few weeks. It has been years since I spent more than a few days at home with my family. And since I have lots of little brothers and sisters, I want to be more involved in their lives than a letter and the occasional phone call. It will also give me a buffer zone while I discover the next step in my life. Potential directions for that life? Right now I’m mostly lost, in everything from girls to work to living. But that doesn’t mean I should just pull over to the side of the road and stop. The Lord is willing to guide me most when I make my own decisions and go for them, and then listen to the course corrections that He gives me. You can’t steer a parked car. And so this is the direction I’m thinking. For work: one of my passions is making things better… so the two possible directions I have are (1) making people better – teaching seminars on personal skills, being a motivational speaker, or something similar, and (2) making organizations better – business consulting or something similar. Each of those fits the second criterion I have – I want to be involved in a profession that is constantly changing, whether working on new projects or with new people. That way I can use and develop different skills as time goes on. For dating: um… just going on dates. My only stipulation on that aspect: I’m looking for someone who values applying correct principles above all else – someone who is anxious to change everything in her life so that it fits with the things she learns that are true. Instead of the usual response of, “I could never do that,” to hard things, I want to find someone who says, “I can do that. It will be hard, but I can do it.”

That’s what I’m trying to say to myself. I can do this. It will be hard, but I can do it. Suddenly I see an interesting parallel in my life to what is happening now. Since I was little, I have always easily gotten lost – geographically. I can look at a map, choose my course, and go in exactly the wrong direction. And that’s what I did for years and years. In the beginning, I was really frustrated with myself. I’m a smart kid – I should be able to tell directions from a map. And if you quizzed me on the directions, I could give them back to you verbatim. But I still got lost. As time went on, I realized that getting lost wasn’t such a bad thing. It was still somewhat unnerving, but I always found myself eventually… and once I got lost in an environment, I rarely got lost there again. The most important thing – when I was lost and trying to find my way, I turned to the Lord and followed Him. There have been so many times when I’ve been driving and the Lord has been the only way that I arrived to my destination. Turn left here. Turn right here. Because I don’t know exactly where I am going, I am more willing to follow the promptings that come from Him. It’s the same thing in my life. For most of my life, I’ve tried to map out my course and follow it exactly. I’ve always felt uneasy at the crossroads; I’m afraid of making the wrong decisions and then scarring my life for eternity. And I get lost, often. I guess the Lord knows me best, then, when He simply asks me to follow Him. In that respect, being surrounded by the darkness of uncertainty is a blessing. I can’t see that there are 50 different ways to turn at this intersection… I only know that the Lord wants me to follow Him. I can’t see the waves that are crashing all around me if I’m walking on the water; I can’t see the perils to my right and to my left as I walk along the mountainside. But as long as I move forward in faith, following the way I know to be right, it will all work out for the best.

Each of us approaches the crossroads of life differently. Sometimes we have it mapped out for as far as the mind can reach, and when we arrive, it is as simple as putting those decisions into place. Other times, the Lord has higher roads for us to follow… and though we feel lost, He is willing to guide us to our destination. In that respect, it’s ok to be lost… as long as we know which way to go right now. I know that He is watching us. He is willing to give us guidance in the very moment that we need it – sort of like the GPS system that helps me not get lost most of the time. And if we turn to Him, He will guide us. Your invitation this week? Map out your life. Move forward. And turn to the Lord when He calls. Life is amazing – go out and be missionaries!

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