I was so excited about going to college. Finally, after four agonizing years of seemingly meaningless classes in high school, I was going to pursue my dreams. I was going to become a teacher. That's what I'd wanted to do since I was about 5 years old, scribbling on my chalkboard and teaching "pretend" lessons to my Cabbage Patch Kids. I couldn't think of anything else in the whole world I'd rather do.
As I got older and began to babysit, I found I loved teaching little kids how to recognize colors or how to count to 10. My mom, a third-grade teacher, encouraged me to pursue teaching and was proud to know I would follow in her footsteps. So, as soon as I got to school, I felt confident about declaring a major in education. I felt fortunate to be so sure of what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Going to Gordon College was part of my plan. My sister and other family members had graduated from there, and I felt at home on campus. I believed the school would prepare me to be the amazing teacher I had always wanted to be. I never imagined things wouldn't work out. I hadn't considered that my plans might not be the same as God's plans.
Something Wasn't Right
Over the next two years, I faithfully pursued my major in education. But something wasn't right. As hard as I tried, I couldn't explain away the constant feeling of drudgery. I loathed writing lesson plans that bombed in the classroom. I felt overwhelmed by being the educator, mentor, and disciplinarian for each child.
Teaching meant endless preparation and constant control over every aspect of the classroom. On the way to school to teach math to a group of third graders,
I would gaze out the window and wish that just at that moment I could be turned into a squirrel or some other creature whose only worry is in finding the next nut.
That's when I knew I couldn't ignore the symptoms any longer. Longing to be a rodent rather than facing the reality of entering the doors of Cutler Elementary was a huge warning sign for me. It told me that if I continued to pursue teaching, I was going to be miserable for a very long time. My mom tried to encourage me to stick with it, but I was convinced I needed to drop my education major, a realization that left me feeling confused and unsettled. What had happened to my plan?
A few weeks later I decided to major in English instead. I had always enjoyed reading and writing, but I wondered how I'd manage to fulfill all the requirements with only two years left before graduation. What am I going to do with an English major anyway? What if I'm not smart enough to be an English major? After all, the English majors I know are bound to be the next Ernest Hemingways and Jane Austens. Self-doubt continued to eat away at me.
I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, and I found that unbearably unsettling and distressing. I cried. I got depressed. I hated feeling like I didn't have a purpose or any goals. But what I hated even more than anything else, was that I wasn't in control of my future anymore.
In an almost panicky state of mind, I began to think, "Where do I go from here?" I felt so far from God. And I knew that was a big part of the problem. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I began to pray.
As I searched for God's help, a question began to form in my thoughts: What is college for anyway? Is it a way for me to accomplish my dreams? Obviously not, since my dreams were shot to the ground. I felt foolish, selfish, and out of sync with who God wanted me to be. Wasn't college supposed to get me in sync with who God wanted me to be? To allow God to mold and shape me as his own? Without any goals in mind, I began to find that my purpose rested solely in serving God one day at a time.
A Bigger Purpose
I thought my major determined my future, but God is much more powerful than anything we decide to major in. As an incoming freshman, my plans had blinded me, but when they fell through, my eyes became open to what God could call me to do, whatever it might be. From that point on, I tried to see my classes as opportunities to explore my gifts, keeping an open mind and heart concerning the unique calling God has for me.
I was thoroughly amazed by the way God used what I'd considered a "disruption of my plans." Through the English department I became a writing tutor. I also worked one summer with the Upward Bound Program, an adolescent tutoring program, which showed me I have a desire to help students achieve their academic goals through counseling and support. As a result of these experiences, I'm now thinking about becoming a guidance counselor. (I just might end up in a school after all!)
In college it's important to understand that plans fail and things change. It's equally important to have hope in Paul's words to the Romans: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will ishis good, pleasing, and perfect will" (Romans 12:2).
During my four years of college, I definitely experienced the renewing of my mind in many ways. Going through such a humbling and sometimes painful process changed my life and my view of the college experience.
I'm so thankful now for what was a very trying period in my life. And
I encourage other students to understand what an English professor told me: "College is a place to find God's plans, not finalize them." As author Elisabeth Elliot has said, "Surely [a college education] is to draw out (the root meaning of the word educate) the gifts God has given, whatever they may be."
I hope that instead of conforming to the pressure of planning out my life like I did in the past, I will remember to trust God and his desire to "draw out" his will for my future.
Jill graduated from Gordon in the spring of 2001. She's currently working as a chiropractic assistantmore proof that we never know where God's plan will lead us. She's still hoping to work with youth in some way in the future, either as a guidance counselor or a psychologist. Until then, she's trusting that God's placed her where she is for a reason and that he'll use her wherever she goes.