When Purpose Wavers
We were sitting in a dimly lit living room with a couple of strangers. Hurricane Matthew was churning toward Miami so my roommate and I ended up driving west to stay with my dad's friend's parents to weather the storm. We left our respective labs early to prepare our apartment and pack for our mini road trip. As we settled in with the sweet Southern couple that took us in, they started asking us about our graduate studies and our plans for the future once we have our PhD's. As our conversation progressed, the husband sat back in his recliner and delivered some of the most simple and meaningful words.
"Fall back in love with your work. I tell this to my students all the time," he instructed us, speaking from much experience in the field of business wielding both master's and doctoral degrees.
I've heard advice along the same lines before, but after he said it I paused and let the words sink in, because for the first time since beginning graduate school I was really starting to believe that's exactly what I've been doing. As an undergraduate finishing up my senior year, I didn't expect to now find myself in a position of despair and questioning my own decisions about grad school. Then, I had felt like an exception to the rule. I could easily see God's faithfulness in my life and my trajectory through the application and interview process for PhD programs and I was so eager to start my journey.
But difficult classes, loneliness, discontent, and failed experiments quickly overshadowed the idyllic concept I had of this season of life. What had once felt so solid in my mind began to crumble and it's only now, one year later, that little buds of insight are poking through that shattered concrete of some of the blocks I'd built upon my foundation.
I felt so ashamed of myself for questioning the path I'd chosen to take when I believed so strongly that this was God's calling for me life. One day over the phone I got defensive with my boyfriend because he point-blank told me that if I didn't think it was worth it, then I shouldn't be in grad school. His words cut like a knife.
He thinks I can't do this, I thought to myself bitterly. After a relatively hostile exchange, I finally poured out to him that I didn't believe that this journey isn't worth it. I knew why I was here and when I really put all of these doubts to the test, they didn't hold up; I can say with certainty I wouldn't have life any other way. Simply put, the reality I was in didn't match my expectations. Expectations can become so deeply ingrained that they become a reality of their own, but life doesn't quite play by the same rules.
What I learned, though, is that questioning your purpose doesn't discredit your purpose. As in any situation, questions and doubt can be the most potent catalyst to getting us to reflect on our hearts and our truest intentions. Allowing myself the room to feel doubt led me to feel even more love and passion for the work that I do.
Question your purpose and you may just find that you fall back in love with it.
[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]