What does life look like post graduation from graduate school? I am about to find out!

Friday, November 26, 2010


I wanted to just take a minute to remember all the many things that I am thankful for this year. In the midst of tragedy, it can be hard to find things to be thankful for but I will try. This blog post may come off as really depressing but it's not meant to sound that way, I promise. I know that this past week has emotionally been one of the most difficult ones I have ever experienced and so to tell the truth, I wasn't really sure how ready I was for Thanksgiving as I have been feeling really homesick lately in the aftermath of my attack. One thing that has been made apparent to me is just how alone I feel here. I know that may sound crazy considering I live with 5 other people in one of the largest cities in the USA. Yet, it's true. I haven't been here long enough to build up the kind of support networks that I have back home so in the last few days, I have just felt a deep sense of loneliness which is a feeling that I have never really experienced before. Even when I lived by myself, I never felt alone or that I didn't have anybody to lean on for support. Now, in the midst of so many people, all I feel is a crushing sense of loneliness and occasionally despair.
Yet, I am so thankful to have the friends that I do in my life. I have received so many messages of support and love over the last week and those have been really helpful. Talking about the incident has actually proven to be really helpful and cathartic for me. I'm starting to feel better and have already started replacing my lost stuff. Thanks to the generosity of the people I work for, I already have a new Ipod touch which I like a lot!! My new phone is on the way and I am working on getting new cards and everything sent to me. So, I will eventually be able to replace the things that were lost. I'm also thankful that I didn't end up in a coma or worse. I know how lucky I am to have had no major, life threatening injuries and so for that I am glad.
I'm also thankful for families that are willing to adopt me for the holidays and make sure I get a traditional Thanksgiving feast with plenty of food, laughter and fellowship.
I'm so thankful that I have housemates who are just as ridiculous as I am and see nothing wrong with turning our downstairs living room into a blanket fort or spending all day today playing Wii games and eating pizza. It's good to know that some people out there get my brand of insanity.
I'm still so thankful that I did the YAV program and know that I made the right decision even if I sometimes question it. I struggle with a lot of self-doubt over whether or not I am cut out for this type of living. Living in community and living a simple lifestyle are the hardest things I have ever done as they take me out of my comfort zone and so I am sometimes left questioning if I am failing at this YAV thing. If they gave out grades for being a YAV, I sometimes wonder if I would pass. I'm not the greatest people person and not a huge extrovert and I am also a Type A personality and those qualities don't always mix well with the YAV program. Somedays are a real struggle for me and I sometimes wonder if I should just quit now and head home and give up trying to make a difference in the world or change my self or find myself or whatever else I signed up to do this for. Yet, I have to constantly remind myself that I am doing good in the world and making a difference and I need to stop being so hard on myself and expecting so much from everything and everybody. That way only leads to pain and misery and I am tired of living that life. I'm happier than I have ever been even if I don't always remember that!!
I'm thankful for the struggles because they remind me of how hard life can be. Life is a struggle and can be difficult and not easy and not fun and sometimes it just plain sucks. Yet, there's always something beautiful to be found in the midst of the tough times. Even when I am at my lowest point, I remember that God still loves me. That has never and will never change and perhaps it would do good for me to remember that more than I do. It's easy for me to be angry with God after what has happened and it's tempting but that won't do me any good. It won't help the healing process any and will actually make things more difficult for me. It's in times of distress that we can best remember who we belong to and who loves us. I need to be reminded of that sometimes.
I'm finally thankful for the gift of discernment. I finally feel like I have some sense of life direction and vocational discernment. I've been spending some time talking to God about it and have discovered a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I'm going to begin the application process over Christmas Break and have already started to narrow down schools. Will keep you posted on here as to how the process is going but I am really am so glad to no longer be feeling like I am just drifting through my life. I hope this aspect of it continues and that I can actually get accepted and go to the school of my choice. If I hadn't done YAV, I might still be drifting around lost and with no sense of direction so in that sense I know I made the right decision even if it is hard to believe it sometimes.
Like I said, I have a lot to be thankful for and I felt it only appropriate to share it on this particular holiday weekend. I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving full of food, laughter, family and fellowship. May you continue to have safe travels and happy journeys over the course of this holiday season. I love this time of year and am looking forward to experiencing someplace cold finally!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"It Gets Better" . . . doesn't it??

This is a blog post that I was hoping to never have to write but unfortunately, here I sit writing it. It deals with something that happened to me yesterday that was very scary and traumatic. Writing this blog, for me, is a way of getting some catharsis and sorting through my issues with what happened. First, let me preface by saying that I am physically ok. A little banged up and sore but no permanent damage.
I was mugged yesterday. It was quite scary and traumatic. Three kids tackled me from behind, held me down, put their hands over my mouth so I couldn't scream and then proceeded to dig through my pockets and steal my wallet, cell phone and iPod. They also slapped me on the face a couple times and knocked my glasses and my shoes off. Did I mention this was in broad daylight with witnesses around?? Literally, my first thought was that I was going to be raped. That's how scary it was for me. I was so afraid for my life and am so thankful that they did not have any weapons or anything as the results could have been much worse. I know how lucky I am to be alive and for that I'm grateful.
I have now experienced one of the worst things that a person can experience and I don't know how to deal with it. How does one even begin to process such a violent episode like that?? I'm still really shaken up by the incident and had a hard time falling asleep last night because I kept replaying the attack all night in my head. Normally, on Friday afternoons, I'm the only one home but this particular Friday, my roommate Mara just happened to have the day off work and let me use her cellphone to make all the necessary phone calls and such. I don't know what I would have done if she hadn't been home. How would I have called the police or called to cancel my credit and debit cards?? I also keep wondering what would have happened to me if it had happened at night?? Would I have ended up dead or severely beaten or raped or whatever else??
I know some of you reading this are full of the idea that the big cities are dangerous, bad places and so this post will only confirm that for you and I am not gonna lie that there is a part of me that just wants to hop on the next plane home to Texas and never come back and go back to my old life which was safe but boring. However, I know that that is not the appropriate response to this. It won't do me any good to run away from these issues. This could have happened anywhere and does happen anywhere. There really is no such thing as safe anymore. I would have never thought that something like that would have happened in broad daylight on a busy street in the middle of the day two blocks from my house. I've always felt safe everywhere I've gone but this attack has taken me out of that mode. I've now come to realize that the world is a big, scary, dangerous place and sometimes bad things happen when you least expect it. Who would have ever thought that it would be safer to walk down the streets of NYC by yourself at night than it would be to walk home from the grocery store in your Chicago neighborhood in broad daylight??
One of the many issues that I was working on with my therapist before I moved was the issue of always wanting to blame myself for things. Whenever something bad has happened to me, I have always tended to tell myself that I deserved it or that I had earned it. Unfortunately, I have found myself doing that again with my attack. If I hadn't gone to that particular grocery store or if I hadn't gone by myself or if I had just stayed home and gone to the store the next day, this never would have happened. I know I shouldn't blame myself for it but how can I not?? It's hard not to blame myself and I suspect that many people have the same problem. I'm almost afraid to leave the house now for fear something else will happen to me, not that there is anything else for people to steal. However, I can't continue to blame myself and I can't let my fear paralyze me. I have to move on and accept the fact that it happened and that I will probably never get my stuff back and live with the aftermath of that.
Please don't be worried about me. Or do but know that I'm relatively ok. I've experienced a traumatic event and so it may be a while until I am fully recovered but I will eventually be whole again. I'm trying not to be angry with myself or with God but I could sure use any words of encouragement and support that people could provide. I will tell you one thing, I am definitely missing my support net back in Texas right now. The physical scars will fade but the emotional scars will be there for some time. However, I know that I will be ok. After all, as we've heard over and over again in the last month, it gets better!! At least, I sure hope it does!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Georgia on my Mind

"God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called."

So, I wanted to use this post to let you know all about my weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I flew down there to look at Columbia Theological Seminary. I was hoping that by actually setting foot on the campus, I would get a better idea of where I am going and what I am doing with my life. I hoped that the weekend would help me find some clarity and give me an idea if indeed seminary is where I should go.
I arrived Friday afternoon and was promptly picked up at the airport by one of their current students. We spent the entire ride there talking about the school and why she decided to go there and what made her feel called to seminary. It was a good conversation and I appreciated the fact that she was honest with me. We got to the campus and I promptly got checked in and had some time to walk around campus and enjoy the sights. The campus is absolutely gorgeous and fall was there in full bloom which was great for this Texas boy to see.
Since I had some free time that afternoon, I had made arrangements to spend some time with one of my good friends from college who lives in Atlanta now. She picked me up on campus and took me out for frozen yogurt (which I always love) and we walked around downtown Decatur. The town is breathtaking and feels very homey and has that small-town feel that I have always found appealing. It kinda reminded me of my hometown in a way or at least the parts of my hometown that I like. After yogurt and a walking tour, she then took me to this great bar for a beer and more conversation. It was just really great to get to catch up with her and talk for a while about our lives and what has been going on in them. I always like having those kind of conversations with people so it was nice to just have a chance to chat over a beer and get caught up. I had to be back at the campus by 6 so she dropped me off and I then went to the dinner that had been arranged for all the prospective students that weekend. I personally wasn't a huge fan of it. It just felt really formal and stiff and I felt very awkward and out of place and underdressed and just really wasn't too happy about it. Fortunately, that didn't last that long and we were then divided into small groups to go have dessert at faculty houses. This I liked more as it was much more informal and less people to talk to. We met with current students and professors and had a nice Q & A session about the school and why it could be a great fit for us. Very low-pressure and intimate which is how I like things. That was it for the day so I promptly went back to my room and went to bed.
Saturday was a very full and busy day as it was filled with sessions and a tour of campus housing and a panel discussion and an interview with admissions and lots of other stuff. My interview went really well and I was able to talk about why I was considering seminary and also get some of my questions answered in regards to the school. The interview was very informal and I really felt comfortable talking with her about my story and everything. There was a panel discussion after chapel about the different forms of ministry and what each had to offer us. The housing at Columbia is great and I was really impressed by what they had to offer to their students. Definitely a lot to offer in that respect even if cell phone reception is spotty in some of the halls. The session in financial aid was the one I was most nervous about attending but it actually went better than I thought it would. Turns out Columbia is way cheaper than my undergrad was!! That was a relief although I am definitely going to have to get some great financial aid offers if I am going to be going anywhere for school. Guess who has to fill out the FAFSA this next year??!! Anyway, after all our sessions were over the school hosted a big, Italian dinner for us and all the current seminary students. The food was great and there was a live jazz band that played all during dinner. Great music, great food, great company and ice cream for dessert!! What more could one ask for??!! Well, after that, I had agreed to go have some drinks with my friend that goes to Columbia. We ended up going to the same bar that everyone else was going to and it really was a great way to end the day. Everybody just hanging out and playing shuffleboard or darts or just simply talking over a glass of beer. What an experience and really made me feel a lot more comfortable about the whole weekend.
Sunday morning, I went with my friend to church and then had pizza afterwards and then it was time for me to head to the airport to fly back to Chicago.
I had a really positive experience this past weekend and more importantly, I think I found some purpose in my life. The whole weekend, I really felt the presence of God leading me to seminary. I could feel myself going there and I could articulate reasons why I think it is the right move for me. Now, I really feel like being a seminary student is the right next move for me. I'm not certain that I will be going for an MDiv and I am not entirely convinced that Columbia is the right fit for me but I now definitely feel that my next move should be applying for seminaries. The more I think about it, the more I realize how perfect a fit it is for me. I think I've known for years that it was the right move for me but have always been resistant until now. Not sure what type of ministry I want to work in yet but it's still early. I would love to do youth or campus ministry or Christian Education or even start a music/drama ministry somewhere. I think that I bring a lot of skills and a lot of experience to the table that will help me in this endeavor. I surely do hope that God is leading me down the right path and that he will help me achieve this goal. He knows my reservations and so I hope that he will help me get past those. I feel a sense of peace with my decision and no longer feel like I am just drifting through life anymore. I had a long talk with God about this decision and I sincerely believe that me going to seminary is truly the path that he wants me to walk down.
All I have to do now is begin filling out applications and just hope and pray that everything works out in my favor. I do sincerely hope that all of you reading this will support me in this endeavor. I know that not everybody who reads this is a religious person and some of you may be even anti-religion and that is all well and good but I do still hope that you will accept and support my decision. I think I am finally walking down the path that God wants me to walk and that is such a good feeling to finally have that sense of clarity. I think things are finally starting to come together for me and my life. Proof that becoming a YAV was truly the best decision I ever made. Thanks, everyone, for continuing to read this and comment on it. You guys are the reason that I am able to do this and without your support, I would be nowhere and would probably still be drifting aimlessly. I will make sure to keep you guys updated on this whole process. I still have some other schools I want to visit before I make my final decision so I have some time. Thanks for reading this really long and in some cases incoherent post!! Remember, God loves you (and so do I).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Life after YAV or Decisions, Decisions??!!

Hello, everybody and sorry I haven't posted in a while but I have been super busy. I'm not the best at keeping up with blogs. I always say I will and then I don't. Anyway, on to other things. I have mentioned before that I have been doing some vocational discernment during my time here. That's how I came to the conclusion that professional acting was no longer meant to be for me. Now that I have abandoned that life goal, I'm a little confused as to what comes next. So, I decided to do what any good blogger does and share with you where my thoughts and feelings are going today. I'm not necessarily looking for advice (although I know some of you will be offering it anyway). I'm just merely sharing the different avenues and career/life options that have been in my head over the last few years and most especially now that I am here. Please note that I am also not presenting these options in the order that they are the most appealing to me.
Option 1) Go to Seminary - Whether it be to get an MDiv or a Masters in Christian Education or some combination thereof, this is the option that has been weighing on my heart a lot over the past few years. It's also the one that I struggle with the most because I just don't know if it is the right fit for me. I'm actually leaving in the morning for Atlanta, Georgia to go look at Columbia Seminary and I am hoping that over the course of the weekend, I can get some clarity on if this is the path that God is leading me down. I've developed or acquired a lot of gifts that could be used perfectly in the ministry including my music and drama skills as both of those go hand-in-hand with the ministry. I also love talking about and debating about religion and theology. I just think it is the most fascinating subject and I think that is why seminary holds so much appeal to me. My reservations are that it won't be the right fit for me and my gifts and that I wouldn't have Sundays off. I'm definitely not 100% sold on this option but as of right now, it definitely sounds the most appealing.
Option 2) Masters in Social Work/Become a Social Worker -This could potentially be combined with Seminary as many offer a dual degree program. I just love helping people and feel that social work would be an excellent fit for me as I love the work they do and think it is an absolutely vital service that needs to be offered. I wouldn't get rich doing it but then, who needs money anyway??!!
Option 3) Go Work for a Non-Profit/Social Service Agency - Admittedly, this could also be combined with one of the first two options. I can't see myself ever again working for a big corporation (been there, done that) so these kinds of agencies really appeal to me. The work they do is so important and I think I could bring a lot to their various agencies. I was really hoping to work for a non-profit during my YAV year so I could test it out and figure out if that was the right option for me which is what makes this one less appealing as I have absolutely no idea if I would like it, having never done it.
Option 4) Writing/Editing/Publishing/Journalism - Again, this could potentially be combined with any of the other three. I get complimented all the time on how good my writing is and I must admit that I do love to write. It's been a secret dream of mine to someday be a paid film critic but that is a career that is dying out quickly so I am not sure that I will achieve that one. Still, it does seem like a good career choice for me. The pay is absolutely terrible and the hours can often be miserable but it would be doing something I love which is the most important thing.
Option 5) Do a second YAV year - I really like the YAV program and could easily see myself doing a second year. There are so many other sites that I would love to participate in (although right now my heart really is in Tucson). Plus, it means I could delay this whole decision-making process for another year. That's always an appealing reason to do something, right??!!
Option 6) Counseling/Therapy - Again, this could easily be combined with another option. I'm a great listener and I love helping people work out their problems. This field practically requires that as part of the job description. Plus, a lot of therapists get to set their own schedule and how many clients they see so I could easily make my own schedule which is really appealing and I could even do this part-time while doing one of the other options full or part-time. As many issues as I have dealt with in my past, I am someone who knows how to get through those hard times so I think that my credibility and experience would make this a really good fit for me.
Option 7) Master's in Public Affairs or Public Administration - There is so much that I could do with one of these two degrees to help better the world. I could become a government official and work to change the policies that directly affect the afflicted people. I could be a school official and help improve education for our children. I could work in a corporation or small business and work to improve things that way. There are literally dozens of options with one of these two degrees.

Ok, I think that about covers everything that I am considering right now. Like I said, a lot of these options could be combined with something else so I can potentially do more than one. I know that they say you should "do what you love" and all those other cliches but what do you do when you love so many different things?? I could easily see myself loving and completely thriving at any of these seven options so what do I do?? Like I said, I am not looking for any advice but I know some of you will want to throw your hat into the ring, so to speak, so please do feel free to comment on here, facebook me, email me, text me, call me, send up smoke signals or whatever else you would like and give me your thoughts on the matter. I know it may still be early in the YAV year to start thinking about what will I do afterwards but many graduate schools require applications to be in fairly soon and I need time to do some research on them so I need to seriously start figuring this out. The biggest hurdles to graduate school for me are the cost (so I'd better get some serious financial aid if I do choose this route) and the fact that I am scared about getting in. I didn't exactly have the most stellar GPA in undergrad so I am going to have to have some really good recommendation letters and personal statements or else it is not happening. Three years ago, I decided that my five year plan included going to grad school so that means that I should be prepared to start it next fall, right?? Although I can always revise my five year plan if needed. I do really want to go back to school as I just miss that whole experience of academia and being a student again and having summers and Christmas off!!
Whatever option I choose, my biggest fear is that I will be a failure at it. I would hate to choose grad school and then drop out after a year or two or choose one of the career paths and then not be good at it and quit. Fear of failure is what holds me back from doing so many things I have wanted to do over the years. It's also the reason I almost didn't do YAV. Yet, I can't let my fear paralyze me from getting my life together and moving forward. I have to choose something