Finding your sweet spot
It is your senior year of high school. You just got the letter in the mail saying “Congratulations, you have been accepted to Union College.” But after the celebratory hugs and fist bumps, you begin to panic. How do you know what you want to study? You don’t even know what you want for breakfast half the time. It’s okay, though; the first year is all generals anyway. Right?
Your second year rolls around and you start to think, What I am I going to do with my life? Your first-year merit scholarship just got cut in half and you had to take out more loans. Panic sets in again, so you declare a major based not on your passion, but on your affection for a certain someone who takes a lot of those classes. They could be “the one,” so you need to spend as much time near them as possible.
Twelve months and one broken heart later, you are no closer to deciding what you want to do than you were freshman year. The Records Office is sending you emails about the dreaded graduation plan you need to prepare. Reality sets in. No matter what you do now, it’s going to take longer than the “standard” four years to graduate. You start searching Craigslist classifieds for a part-time job to offset the cost of adding another year to your education.
Does any of this sound familiar? Having spent the lesser part of a decade in higher education, I can attest to the anxiety of being undecided. Five changes to my major and a year as a student missionary later, I finally found my calling.
Union’s Quest for Calling program seeks to help you figure out what you love, what you are great at and what you are passionate about so that you can find the sweet spot that is your calling. A few weeks ago, the program held its first retreat at Timberlake Ranch Camp in Marquette, Neb.
Everyone’s calling is different, thus we take different pathways to get there. This retreat, which is slated to happen again next year, serves not as a one-stop ticket to a career of your dreams, but rather a utility belt of resources you can use while on your journey. “Everyone needs a Q or an Alfred,” stated Tamara Seiler, humanities division office manager and on-campus “calling champion.” “You are the hero of your life, and you need a mentor to guide you.”
Brenda Erickson is one of those mentors. Sitting at the camp, many listeners found warmth despite the cold weather as Erickson, a seasoned calling retreat facilitator, led a discussion about connecting one’s passions with calling. She calmly advised, “Never ‘should’ on yourself. It is full of shame and guilt.” Erickson believes your calling is what you love to do, and it doesn’t have to be a career, either; it can be a hobby as well.
Before arriving at the retreat, attendees were asked to fill out an assessment which consisted of more than 100 questions to help determine one’s spiritual gifts, such as mercy, kindness, administration, faith, discernment and compassion. Knowing your aptitude for certain gifts means knowing yourself better, which leads to a better understanding of your calling.
After settling into their cabins upon arrival, the attendees headed to the main meeting area. A mixed group of faculty, staff and students sat together and shared their top three spiritual gifts and discovered their personal styles (whether they were more task- or people-oriented) and ministry passions, which include (but are not limited to) righting a wrong, meeting a need, solving a problem, serving a cause or changing a life.
At the end of the retreat on Saturday afternoon, each participant set up a giant Post-it note around the room and wrote their top three gifts, styles and passions at its center. Then everyone walked around the room to each others’ notes and wrote a few calling suggestions based on the three elements listed.
Many participants found the exercise rewarding, as many suggestions either matched their majors or gave them new insight and direction on their journey towards self-discovery.
Though the retreat was not as well attended as it could have been, Seiler has big dreams for the future. She wants the event to grow “as big as Project Impact. In three years I would love to have a campus-wide calling retreat with no other events to compete with, where the whole school shuts down and really comes alive for calling.”
Do not waste time haphazardly guessing where your strengths lie. Union College provides resources that can make your journey through college much more satisfying and fulfilling. Check out Quest for Calling’s online resources by heading to www.ucollege.edu/calling. You can also stop by Teresa Edgerton’s office in the Career Center or Seiler’s office in the humanities division to learn all about StrengthsFinder, the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs and all sorts of other opportunities to discover your calling.
Kyle is a senior studying language arts education.