On Friday, August 28, I got in my car and drove three and a half hours north on Route 15, one week into my senior year of college. I was coming home not for an event, not for a surprise, but to see my counselor. After just two days into the start of the school year, I had a terrible panic attack, questioning every decision, questioning every thing I thought I knew. I knew I had to do something about it, because I could not begin senior year on the same foot that I had attempted to begin it on just a few days earlier.
On Saturday, August 29, I made a huge, game-changing, but incredibly thought-out decision. I am going to drop partnership, drop student teaching, in turn dropping my elementary education concentration and licensure path that I had spent my entire life wanting, and the last 3+ years working towards. I know you’re thinking “um..what?” While I’ve known I haven’t wanted to teach for awhile, it continued to be in my plan to finish out the degree I had dedicated my college career to, and allowing my post-grad life to be where I grow and follow the path that I wanted. But as we all know, plans change, and Jesus’ calling for me has changed.
As I sat there on the couch with my counselor, contemplating the thought of changing my college career, I started to worry. I worried about what my professors would think, I worried about letting my kindergarteners down, I worried about the add/drop date (which may or may not be, like, right now). I worried about graduating, about answering the question “how is partnership?” daily, about leaving my girls at Buckingham (partnership people stick together), and everything in between. I worried that this was a rash, quick decision, but the truth is, this was a long time coming, as I’ve been thinking and praying about this for months. I listed all my worries out loud, but my counselor stopped me. She flipped a couple pages in her notes, going back to the last time we met, and recited back to me what I said then. I had said “I want to work in youth ministry. I want to change lives, and I want to live my life passionately and for Jesus.” She was like “Emily, you want to live your life true to yourself. What will you have to do to live an authentic life?” This. This is what I have to do to live an authentic life.
I’m a person who loves deeply, who feels strongly, and strives to live true to herself, whose life motto is “live with joy and live to be you.” I’ve been struggling recently to find that joy, and that would be because I wasn’t living to be me, to be true to my dreams and aspirations. I want to change the world. I want to live adventurously, to live passionately, to wake up every day and go praise and share Jesus’ name. I want to be a full-time missionary one day, allowing myself to be changed by God’s grace and His love through everyone I meet all across this country and this world. I want to work with middle and high schoolers, introducing to them the unconditional love that the Big Man has to offer, showing them that all they have to do is let Him into their heart and His grace will carry them through. I want to walk alongside them through their own transformative experiences, as they learn how to step out of their comfort zone, and how to live authentically. THIS is what I want to do. And while I know I would have enjoyed my time in my classroom, I don’t believe it is fair to those five-year-olds to be there with them in-authentically.
So, maybe my college plan isn’t conventional, isn’t normal, is looked at by some with a face of confusion, concern, and worry. You’re right, I can’t major in “challenging people and teaching them how to grow” or “being joyful” or “loving Jesus,” but who says your college major has to be the deciding factor in where your life goes? It doesn’t. The real, true, purpose of college is to expose you. To teach you. To grow you. To show you how many different possibilities there are out there for you if you only take the time to explore them. The truth is, I can spend my life challenging people and loving Jesus, whether or not those words are written across my college diploma.
Just the other day, one of my close friends and I were sitting in my living room, wishing that going to college meant taking classes that actually interested you, that you were passionate about, and then allowing your passions direct you to a major, rather than a major dictate how you spend every Monday through Friday for the next X amount of years. And while I may not completely be able to do that, I do have a choice. I can follow the plan I created years ago through, follow the “known” route, the “conventional” route. OR, I could do me. I could be awkward, be joyful, and be true to myself and go where God is calling me to go, whether or not that road is already laid out for me. I can be comfortable with the uncomfortable, I can surrender my control and have complete faith. This decision is not an easy one. This decision is not one I can make without support and encouragement. But, this decision is me following my heart. This decision is me living true to myself and living authentically.
So, yes, the goal is to still graduate in May of 2016. The goal is to have the Liberal Studies degree which I’ve been working towards, just instead of my elementary education concentration, I will have a minor in Leadership Studies (how cool is that?!). But most of all? The goal is to live authentically. To live with the knowledge that it’s okay to create your own path, that it is okay to step outside of the box given to you if it means following your heart and going wherever Jesus is calling you. The goal is to be joyful, be adventurous, be passionate, and spread His joy and His love wherever I go. The goal? To change the world, and I believe that this step is one step closer to me doing just that.