Embracing uncertainty and learning to dream

“…I feel like I have the space to breathe and let this season be what it needs to be: a gift.”

I don’t have a plan for my life right now. I don’t like that I don’t have a plan but here I am, plan-less. Anyone who knows me well certainly knows that this is not my normal state. I am an A+ type A that normally has the primary plan, an alternative primary plan, and at least two backup plans (you know, just in case). I like linear trajectories. I like clear and concise sequences. I like logical transitions and a straightforward story. In short, I like having plans and I like things to make sense.

Up to this point in my life, the sequence of events followed this pretty closely. I did well in school, so I went to college. I studied chemistry because I’m good at it and I did undergraduate research because my biology teacher in high school told me I should. I found that I liked doing research, and I didn’t know what else to do, so I went to graduate school. Everything followed a nice clear path and I was setting myself up for a good career. That is, until I got to graduate school and realized that I didn’t know if I really wanted it.

In the middle of my second year of grad school, I finally asked myself the questions I had never thought to ask before: What do I want to do with my life? What are my dreams? What am I passionate about? Where do I feel called to bring my gifts in this world?

And you know what? I didn’t have any answers. I didn’t have a clear vision. And that scared me because my plan-loving brain struggled to settle into that uncertainty. At first I frantically tried to search for an answer, but I just found myself stuck because I didn’t know how to know which one was “right”. I tried to pray about it, but I was so afraid of being in a place of uncertainty that I couldn’t settle down enough to really hear Him. So eventually I just shoved everything away and went back to the status quo. These were clearly questions for later (and clearly questions God did NOT want to answer), so I was just going to leave them alone until it seemed like God was going to be a bit more perceptive of my anxious cries.

At the beginning of this year, I felt like I was being asked to pick these questions back up again. At the time I was in a new but serious relationship and discerning carefully about my future with him. With that naturally came the question of if/how my graduate career might fit into the broader context of my life. This time, though, as I asked these questions, I tried to be less frantic, to give myself space to wonder and dream and get excited about the possibilities. I didn’t do it perfectly, but I could tell I was talking to the Lord about it in deeper freedom. The problem was, I still wasn’t getting a clear answer. There was still no plan.

And now, in the wake of a breakup and lingering questions about what my life will look like in the coming months, there is still no plan. And for the first time in my life I’m okay with that.

Looking back, one of my biggest mistakes in this whole process is not involving the people in my life sooner. Part of my franticness was because I felt like I needed to have it all lined up, to have everything packaged up in a nice little before I was ready to show people. The problem with that, though, is that you can’t discern in a vacuum. You can’t figure it out on your own. You need God and you need family and you need friends to support you, encourage you, tell you that what you’re thinking about makes sense and that you’re not crazy for thinking it. I came to this realization after I finally told my boss about what I had been anxiously thinking about but left unspoken for the past nine months. I had expected him to be surprised. I had expected him to be upset that I was thinking about leaving. I certainly didn’t expect him to simply ask me what I needed and tell me that he would do whatever he could to support me and get me where I needed to go. I had expected criticism. What I got was love. All I can think now is… why didn’t I come to him sooner?

In the midst of all this uncertainty I am finally learning to lean on the other people in my life and I have to say, y’all it is SO MUCH BETTER than going it alone.

With this newfound sense of support, I feel like I have the space to breathe and let this season be what it needs to be: a gift. A time to dream. A time to pray. A time to dig deep into my heart and ask the Lord to show me the desires He put there and guide me in how He wants me to speak them into being. I don’t have a whole lot of things figured out, but I am starting to dream, and I have a few ideas.

The one thing I’ve been getting consistently is a deep ache, a longing. A longing so deep it makes me burst into tears. A longing to find other women who have suffered like me and tell them, “You are not alone. I see you. There is hope and healing for you. You don’t have to suffer alone.” It’s important for me that these women, whoever they are, feel like their suffering is seen, that they are cared about, and that they are given what they need for healing. I don’t know exactly what that needs to look like yet, and the exact vision for that could change with time. It could cover different aspects of life in different seasons. Right now I’m discerning pursuing this longing in helping other women struggling with reproductive health, to help them find rest and healing for their bodies. I have also considered at some point moving in a more spiritual direction and accompanying women in that way. And it could all be one big beautiful mess all at once. I don’t know. All I know is that I have this ache in my heart and I’m waiting for the Lord to show me how He wants me to pursue it next.

So, I’m going to give myself time to wait. I don’t need to make a decision today, or tomorrow, or next week. This time, I’m going to be patient and enjoy the uncertainty of it all. Because this is the fun part. This is where the Lord can draw close and draw me out. This is where His dreams can be whispered and grown and brought to life in my heart. I don’t want to rush through that. In the meantime, I have great friends and I have a lot of support, even from my advisors, to help me make the best decision I can. I’m doing okay right now, and I’m just going to embrace that.

Who says you have to have your whole life figured out at 25 anyway? There are so many adventures still to go.