Hello friends and fellow Fulbrighters! Tonight I have a special guest blogger, my good friend and fellow Benedictine, Jesse Alexander. Jesse blogs over at Learning from the Saints, a blog all about Christian theology and the saints that gave made their mark on the religion. You can access the blog by clicking here. Jesse has a BA in Religious Studies from Western Kentucky University and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary. Whether or not you’re a believer in Jesus, Jesse’s words to those of us on the edge of something different (like returning to the USA, staying in Korea, or finding new jobs) can speak to anyone. Enjoy!
Sarah has asked me to write about vocation and calling, because she and some of her Fulbright friends have struggled with what they are going to do after their year aboard. Having never been abroad, I am not really sure what that would feel like. I am guessing this is where Sarah and many of her friends are right now in their life. They have graduated from college, gone off to a foreign land, spent almost a year teaching there, but now they are about to come back to the real world. This can mean finding a place to live, a job, re-connecting with friends, and loved ones. Or simply, making new friends and settling into a more “normal” routine.
The Benedictine monks have three main vows: Stability, Simplicity, and Chastity (I have written about the last two over at my blog). I wanted to talk to Sarah and her friends about Stability. I know where you are right now is not going to be too stable. You have, what, four months until you come back to the States? It is temporary. However, I want to encourage you to be stable once you get back home. You are coming back from an adventure. Like the farm boys coming back from Paris after the War, it is going to be hard to come back to your “normal” life. I get it, you graduated and then got to go across the globe to teach and you got to be very independent. Now it is going to be like coming back to your old boring life, or it is going to be time to start a graduate program or a day job. I do not want to discourage you, but you all may not get your dream job. You might want to teach in a certain school or do this certain job, but in reality, you might end up working in the school you would least want to work in or a job totally outside your field.
Now this I understand. I have a BA in Religious Studies and a MA in Theological Studies, yet I work in a law office (not the “fancy,” dating myself, “Ally McBeal” law office, it’s the “our commercials are on TV all the time” law office). So why do I stick around a job that I have no background in and is totally outside the field that I would like to be in? Because if offers me Stability! It is a good paycheck, it is a good job, it allows me to provide for my wife and daughter, and I can write on my lunch break. My job allows me to seek God in my work and in my down time. The monastic idea of Stability is not about just staying in one place (that is an aspect of it), but it is really the idea that God is out there. God is right here, in the little corner of my cubical. God is with me when I am making copies. He is with me when I joke with my co-workers. He is especially with me when I hate my job. So even if you do not get into the grad school you want or do not get to teach in your dream school, you can find happiness or your purpose where you are. I do not believe I am going to be staying at this job forever, but I have accomplished a lot while working at this job. I went to grad school, I met, fell in love with and married my wife, I had a child, I became a monk, I started training to become a deacon, and I made friends. I have also looked for other jobs, and I have asked myself, “What am I still doing here?” I have loathed my job at times; I have wanted to move and move on to something else. Yet I have stayed here, not because I am afraid of an adventure or to move on, but because I value Stability. I am also not advising you to stay at a place where you are not too happy simply because it is stable. I am trying to let you know that happiness, like God, is not out there somewhere, never to be found; it can be found where you are at any time. It might not be found in your job as much, but it can be found in your friends, your family, a hobby, and hopefully your co-workers and job.
So my advice to you is sometime soon, find a place where you can practice stability. As you grow older, it becomes harder and harder to make friends, to change jobs, or move houses. You do not have to get yourself into a rut or do the same thing day-after-day. This is a monastic practice, but not everyone is called to that way of life. However, Stability offers something that the world rarely offers: a firm foundation. You do not want to build your life on sand, but on a firm rock. When storms come, you want something that is not going to shift under you. Having roots somewhere is helpful, but it is not going to mean everything will still be standing after the storm passes. However, it will be a lot easier to build things back up. So do not be afraid to explore, but don’t quit your day job, abandon your family, or spend all your money. But then again, you are young and you have been able to explore a foreign country, so have fun while you can!