I was so excited about college.
Finally, after four 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 dolls. 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 college, I felt confident about declaring a major in education. I felt fortunate to be so sure of what I was going to do.
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 whenever I had a practicum in an elementary school. 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 whose only worry is in finding the next acorn. 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. It told me that if I continued to pursue teaching, I was going to be miserable for a very long time. I knew there wasn't anything wrong with teaching. But it wasn't the path I was supposed to pursue. My mom tried to encourage me to stick with it, but I was convinced I needed to drop my education major. Still, that realization left me feeling confused and unsettled. What had happened to my plan?
A few weeks later I decided to switch my major to English. 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 distressing. I cried. I got depressed. I hated feeling like I didn't have a purpose or any goals. What I hated even more, though, 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.
A Bigger Purpose
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 the person 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 specific goals in mind, I began to find that my purpose rested solely in serving God one day at a time.
I thought my major determined my future, but God is much more powerful than anything I decide to major in. As an incoming freshman, my plans had blinded me to that. But when my plans 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. Working with Upward Bound showed me I have a desire to help students achieve their academic goals through counseling and support. While I've remained open to the possibilities, I believe my experience as a tutor could eventually lead to a career as a guidance counselor or psychologist.
I've learned it's important to understand that plans fail and things change. I also learned to lean on and trust in these words from 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, NIV). During my four years of college, I definitely experienced the renewing of my mind in many ways. Going through such a humbling process changed my life and my view of the college experience. And it gave me the confidence to truly believe that God's will for mewherever he leads me in the futurereally is good, pleasing and perfect.
Jill graduated from Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, in 2001. She wrote this story while still a student at Gordon.