Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking about college. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
“You know, you don’t have to go to college right away. You can always take a gap year.”
I remember my high school theology teacher saying this to me after I returned home from my final college visit, dejected and scared. I had everything planned out. I would go to a good Catholic university, get a degree in history or law, get a Masters and hopefully get my Mrs degree while I was at it.
Instead, I was overwhelmingly disappointed and angry that I toured my dream school and hated it. It was just a few months until graduation and all of my best laid plans were not panning out. I did not know what to do.
As a former type-A planner, this was not a fun experience. All of a sudden, everything had to be reevaluated. Should I just go to school anyways and suck it up? What do I want to be when I grow up? Will this disappoint my parents? How am I going to provide for myself?
What Do I Do Next?
As I cried to my teacher about how nervous I was, she ever so gently suggested this idea of taking some time off of school to figure out what the Lord wanted me to do with my life. My heart peaked at that idea but I immediately shrugged it off because there was no way I could do something so uncertain, countercultural, and risky. As all of these questions were circulating in my brain, I grasped at so many concrete answers in an attempt to find some peace. It did not come. So, for the first time in my life and pretty reluctantly, I prayed very honestly and simply with the Lord. All I asked is that His plan would become clear. Not my plan, but His plan. I began to trust Him with my deepest desires, dreams, and hopes because I had nothing to lose.
Not long after, doors began to open much faster than I expected. It was one just “yes” at a time and one day at a time. With those individual fiats came amazing jobs, incomes, mentors, and so much more. I had nothing planned out. It was all total surrender and radical trust in the promises of the Lord.
Non-Traditional Higher Education
Four years post high school graduation, I am a full-time photographer and working for Blessed is She. I still do not have an undergraduate degree. My life has been more exciting, beautiful, and stable than I could have ever accomplished of my own accord.
I have no idea what is coming next or what is going to happen in regards to my education, career, vocation, finances, and so on because He is taking care of every detail. He has shown me time and time again that He is faithful to the promises He has made each of us (see Jeremiah 29:11). It wasn’t a Strengths Finder quiz or formula that helped me be successful without a college degree. It was simply walking through the doors that Jesus opened for me.
Now, I am free to do His will. I am detached from my plans. And that is freedom, my friend.
Write + Pray
Discover your story within His.
Don’t Be Afraid to Do Something Different
Breaking away from societal norms and doing life non-traditionally can bring unique challenges and you most likely will face opposition from others, including close friends and family. This can be painful and discouraging. Remember that it can be hard for others to understand your discernment. It can be hard for others to not do things “in order” or “the right way.” Most people are coming from a place of love when they question your non-traditional ways, but trust your discernment. Talk to trusted people such as friends, priests, or spiritual directors. Most of all, really talk to the Lord about it. He is bigger than all of the opposition you may face. You are unique and unrepeatable and the plan for your life is just the same.
Surrendering control and your plan is incredibly hard and humbling. We want to know everything and we want to do it ourselves because we think we know what is best. But the picture He wants to paint with your life is a masterpiece. Remember that He is starting with a blank canvas, so it can be hard to see at first what exactly He is painting. But slowly over time, you will see what He is creating. What He is creating is good and it is much more magnificent than you could ever imagine. We can trust Him with it. We just have to allow Him to use us as the instruments for His masterpiece.
Really Pray About It
If you too are feeling this desire in your heart to take a bit more non traditional route after high school or college, pray about it.
If He opens doors, walk through them.
Chances are, the places you will go are better than you dreamed.
This is just one of many stories about college life and discernment. We want to hear YOUR story. Please share in the comments below!
And if you want more help with finding your own story, our popular Write + Pray course offers 9 topics, nearly an hour of guided video, and almost 50 Scripture verses and questions for you featuring Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Find your story today.