And there it goes again. That terrible dreaded question I have heard time and time again. Every holiday. Every gathering. Even when I babysat the girls from my church. Don't they know
the answer by now? Couldn't they have guessed? And yet, they continue the question: what are your plans after you graduate? After my first and second year of university I could have told you exactly what I was going to do. And everyone told me, “Oh you have plenty of time.” But after my third year, I was at a total loss as to any direction I should go. The nice sentiment of having so much time dissolved into a slowly rising panic of a lack of direction.
But let's back it up a bit. As a total fangirl of Matthew Kelly, I, of course, have read his book Rediscovering Catholicism. In his book, the motif seems to be ‘being the best version of yourself’. I loved that and ate up every word because I wanted that. But as a 19 year old university student, I really was unsure of what that meant. I went to my classes, I studied, went to Mass on Sundays and even sang occasionally, and I rang my parents frequently. I knew I could do more, but I didn't know how to or what that even meant. So, if this sounds a bit like you, I think I'll give you 4 tips to help.
First things first, get involved in a strong Catholic community. There is nothing that will build you up as much as a group of people your age trying to do the same things and become the best versions of themselves. The Newman Center on my campus was hands down my favorite part of going to university. That's where I made some of my very best friends and grew in my faith exponentially.
During my sophomore year, one of my friends who had recently graduated university joined this organization called NET USA. I had never heard of this before, but I thought it was cool. And from talking to her, I could see how much this organization had impacted her life. She was doing so much more than I was, but I was in school still, so that couldn't even be an option for me.
As I continued my education, I wanted to be more involved in my community. I started to sing at Mass every Sunday, and I was heavily involved at the Newman Center. I went on all of the retreats and even helped lead some of them. Soon, I found my schedule filling up, not to mention the 18 credit hours of school, the service sorority I was in, and the 25 hours of work at my job each week. I found myself with hardly any room to breathe. I knew all of this wasn't allowing me to be the best version of myself.
Drop the things you can't hold onto. If God wants to keep those things around, He’ll hold onto them for you and give them back. I had to reassess the situation and see what God really wanted me to do with my time in university. I felt so pressured to continue everything, I didn't know what to get rid of. I didn't want to let anyone down. I ended up dropping my sorority and asking for fewer hours at work. Once I had done that, I felt like I could breathe again. But I still felt like God was calling me to more.
I began looking into youth ministry because it was starting to spark my interest more than being a teacher (which was what I was in school for). I was never at peace with that idea and I was struggling to see what God really wanted for me. After praying a lot, and learning that another friend had applied for NET, this time in Ireland, I started to think about it again. Long story short, here I am in Ireland at age 22. I am absolutely loving this experience and couldn't imagine being anywhere else in life right now. I didn't think that this would be where God was leading me, but He's full of beautiful surprises. I know I'm still going to be a teacher, but I think God wants me to experience teaching about Him first. I'm not worried about my school loans yet because I know being here is part of His plan. NET is definitely helping me become the best version of myself. My faith life has strengthened so much since starting NET. I know I have found some of my best friends for life here. Each member on my team is helping me grow as a person. I know by the end of the year I will be transformed and be challenged in so many different ways to help me be the best version of myself. There is no other experience like this. I highly recommend applying if you're even thinking about NET in the slightest.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, mind, and strength. It's not always easy to see where God wants to lead you. He's got some big plans if you let Him, though. With your heart, let Him love you. Don't guard yourself from Him. With your mind, let Him open it up so that you can see from His point of view. With your strength, humbly accept his challenges in your life. Not everything is going to be sunshine and daisies, but if you ask not for a light load, but for a strong back, He'll give it to you. It's a daily decision to trust Him. I suggest saying it out loud, first thing in the morning, “Jesus, I trust in You.” You never know how He might come into your life each day with that invitation. Trusting in Him and seeking Him out will lead you to being the best version of yourself. Strive for excellence in all you do to show your trust in Him.
One last thing: schedule in daily prayer time. I cannot stress that enough. Actually write in on your calendar. Start with five or ten minutes a day. It becomes easier the more you do it. If you are pressed for time, get creative (and don't be afraid of dropping activities). Pray when you're in the car or walking to class. Talk to God and see what He has to say back. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” God just wants to know and have a personal relationship with YOU. Let Him in each day and He will come along. He's cool like that. I know I wouldn't be where I am and loving life without Him being the center.