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

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Retreat to Move Forward!!

So, I just got home from spending the weekend with my housemates and site coordinator at this church camp about 2 hours outside of Chicago. It was time for our vocational discernment retreat. To be honest, I was just looking forward to getting out of the city for a few days. The camp was beautiful and really reminded me a lot of some of the camps back home (Prairie Valley in particular) and we were the only ones there from Thursday afternoon until Friday night so definitely got the special treatment from the staff. The weekend was all about learning to be quiet and listening for the voice of God and discerning God's call for our lives. We watched videos and listened to audio clips of different prominent speakers (Rob Bell, Henri Nouwen & Elizabeth Gilbert) talking about the concept of discernment and learning to accept whatever might be calling you. We did some group exercises and some journaling on the subject and had plenty of free time to play fun games, read, sleep, and just enjoy God's creation. We even took some time to climb a rock wall which was a lot of fun and something that I proved to be quite good at!! Just call me Spider-Man!!
As for the actual sessions and what we discussed, we ended up having some really great discussions about vocation and call and discernment. We discussed the concept that vocation isn't just your job but also can refer to other aspects of your life such as buying a house, getting married and having kids. I hadn't ever really thought about it in those terms but it does make sense. Which is why I am starting to realize that I personally don't feel "called" (as it were) to own my own home, have kids or get married. I realize that this opinion could very well change in a few years but at least for right now, I don't really see myself as having that kind of life. To be quite frank, I am completely ok with that. Marriage and kids are really not that important to me and I would much rather rent than own as I don't like the idea of having a mortgage and all that that entails. Plus, those are all things that can tie a person down and I am just not one of those people. I don't like to be tied down. I want to be able to move every few years and travel when I want to and not have to worry about abandoning my responsibilities or whatever. Having kids or a spouse or owning a home would tie me down in a way that I am just not ready for. Again, I realize that in ten or fifteen years time, I may very well have changed my mind and want that for myself but until then, I see no reason to want it just because other people have it.
That brings me to the next point that we spent some time talking about: the concept of the "American Dream" and "Cinderella Story" and how damaging and destructive those very concepts are to so many people's emotional, financial & physical states. The American Dream perpetuates the myth that if you want to be satisfied and happy in life, then your ultimate goal should be to get married, have kids, buy a house, work, save money, retire and then leave everything to your children so they can do the same thing all over again. What about this notion is appealing to people? It also perpetuates the consumerist ideal that if you have more stuff than everyone else, you will be happy which I hope has been proven to be a false concept. The idea that if your next door neighbors have a new car, then you should go ahead and buy one too to save face is a dangerous and financially stupid move and is one of the many reasons why so many people are in financial trouble right now. The American Dream is an outdated and antiquated notion that frankly has very little to do with the new reality that we face here. It is meant to be something to strive for but instead is often used as a tool to shun and shame people who haven't achieved all of those milestones. People who don't want or can't achieve all those goals are meant to feel like there is something wrong with them because they are not achieving the American Dream. It leads to conformity which I'm pretty sure is not an American ideal, right? We're supposed to be a salad, not a melting pot.
As for "Cinderella Story", that notion perpetuates the myth of happily ever after. It promotes the idea that all you have to do is wait for a man to come sweep you off your mind and then the hard part is over. You never actually see or hear anything about what happens after Cinderella and Prince Charming marry. Marriage requires a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice and stories like these never even mention that. Women are led to believe that all they have to do is meet a guy and all their worries are over and their problems will be solved. Anybody want to back me up here and say that that is simply not the case?!? Also, has anyone ever noticed that it's always two white, opposite gender people in all these stories and they are always attractive?? That does not by any means represent the America that we live in nowadays. Yet, we still cling to these stories and tell them to our children and plant these seeds in their heads that can lead to heartache and disappointment when they get to the age of 50 and still haven't found their Prince Charming or found him but then discovered he was having an affair with the baby sitter.
We also discussed the concept of failure and what you do if you end up failing at whatever you are being called to do. That doesn't mean that your entire journey is invalid or that you made a mistake. It just means you have to shake off the fear of failure and keep going no matter what. It's very possible that something you think is quite brilliant will be absolutely loathed by everyone else and also possible that something you hate will be the accomplishment that brings you the most acclaim. Both are valid constructs so I need to learn how not to be afraid of failure. That's something that I struggle with quite frequently. I worry that I will go to seminary and then either fail out or finish but not find a call. Yet, I can't let my fear of failure keep me from doing something that I really feel an intense desire to do.
I don't mean to get political or go off on a rant here in this space but these were topics that we discussed and debated at length so I thought I would share. The weekend was also filled with us getting to know each other better and included my first ever time to try Steak n Shake!! For the record, I loved it and want to go back!! Also, had the opportunity to teach my housemates energizers because for some reason, several of them had never done them before which is just unfathomable and almost broke my little Presbyterian heart. So, of course, I had to take some time to teach them which brought back way too many memories of college!!
In the end, it proved to be a great weekend and very eye-opening on so many levels. It mainly was nice to just get away from the city and the hustle and bustle and stress of it all and enjoy some time in God's creation. Sometimes, all you really need is some time at camp to help ease your burdens and relieve your stress!!

1 comment:

  1. Tad- thank you so much for sharing that. I think so often its overlooked that the "American Ideal" isn't really seeming to be synonymous with "route to happiness."
    I really appreciate your thoughts here.