Spoiler: I don’t have a dream job anymore.
My college’s motto was literally “Dream Big!” when I started attending. My professors told us to have bigger dreams and told us over and over that we should figure out what we were passionate about and build a career around it. The idea was that God creates you to be passionate about certain things. When you figure out what those things are, then you sort out a way your passion is connected to God’s kingdom, and then obviously that’s God leading you to a career.
Now, I am in no way trying to speak for everyone in the world here, but in my experience, this works about as well as wishing on a star.
See, I’ve tried this twice. Since I was a little kid I planned on having a big family and being a stay-at-home mom. Ten years ago I thought that by 22 I would be married (another piece of nonsense they tell you a lot at a Christian college is that if you really really want to get married, God will definitely make it happen because…because He will! Don’t ask for biblical support! Just take our word for it! HE DEFINITELY WILL), pregnant with my first child, and working to adopt my second. I’ve always been passionate about adoption. My whole life I’ve wanted to raise an unfashionable number of children, most of them adopted.
And here I am: twenty-two, single, no kids. No job. Sometime in my last two years of college I realized that having kids isn’t a good idea for me. With all my health issues, any kid of mine would probably be one of history’s biggest losers in the genetic lottery. Then I got my diagnosis and found out that it can be pretty dangerous to have kids if you have ET for a number of reasons. And as I said, I am single, and the financial stability necessary for adoption looks very different for one person versus a couple.
So I figured out something else I was passionate about. I started working in catering. I loved it, and I was good at it. I was more confident catering than I was doing anything academic. It felt like God had reawakened a passion for food and serving others, and that I wasn’t going to miss out on life because I couldn’t follow my first passion. I had to deal with a lot of negativity from people informing me that I was wasting my life. Incidentally, did you know that taking a full time job catering after graduation can have negative effects on your entire future? It can. It can lead to paying off student loans, practicing good communication, and (gasp of horror!) in some drastic cases, a life of serving others. You know, like Jesus did. Heaven forbid.
I loved it. But I couldn’t handle it. Food service goes hand in hand with weird, long hours and stress. Over time, it got to the point where a good day was one where I could see out of both eyes and make it the whole day without throwing up. So I had to quit.
It’s been really hard; for me, catering/food service career was “dreaming big”. I narrowly chose to attend college over culinary school. Recently I was offered a job as a cook, and it hurt to have to turn it down. A year ago that would have been my dream job. If I didn’t have cancer it still would be.
Another thing people tell me quite often is that I’m young and I don’t know what will happen. That’s true. And it’s also kind of my point. I might never get to be a mom, no matter how passionate I am, no matter how much I dream. Or I might turn out to have a big family of my own a few years down the road. Or maybe I’ll end up doing social work and building up other families. I guess the problem that I’ve had with the “find your passion and pursue it” thing is that it puts me at the center when I have no idea what is going to happen. As Gandalf would say, “Even the very wise cannot see all ends,” and I’m not very wise at all.
In the past couple of years I’ve had to repeatedly take the things I’m passionate about, the dreams that I had for my life, and return them to the loving hands of Christ. And I’m going to be honest: a lot of the time it has seemed unfair that God would create me with all these dreams and desires and passions that seem to be entirely superfluous to whatever plan He is working out in my life.
Despite all the verbal messaging I received over the years about finding my passion and proceeding from there, I don’t really know that many people whose lives have worked out that way. In watching the lives and choices of people I respect, I see a willingness to go where the Lord leads, regardless of how passionate they feel about it or how it fits in with their dreams. Particularly I have seen my parents and other family members commit in faithfulness to something they didn’t necessarily want and wouldn’t have chosen, because they were called by the Lord. And I’ve seen God do incredible things through that faithfulness.
George MacDonald wrote that, “As I cannot do as I please, I must please as I do.” I think that’s where I’ve ended up now. I can’t do as I please. But I am growing in faith that God will guide me and make me able to do whatever He calls me to in the vast uncertainty of my future, whether it’s some new dream job or not. I hope that joy and maybe even passion will follow later, but if not, God is still good. And I believe that when I know Him fully, as I am fully known, I will understand the purposes of all the dreams and passions and gifts that God has given.