I want to apologize in advance for a long post, I’ll try to make this as short as possible.
I graduated in 2012 with a degree in philosophy and no idea what I wanted to do for a living. I considered swim coaching (I was a collegiate athlete), going back for an advanced degree and teaching (my academic passion is Catholic theology/philosophy/apologetics, and it still is a long-term goal of mine to get a degree and teach at the high school or college level in the subject of our faith), and a few other things, but prayer and discernment pretty much ruled those out.
Then I met my wife. She was a senior in nursing school, and an Air Force recruiter came into her class one day to talk about the benefits of pursuing nursing as a career in the military. I was struck by the idea to look into the military myself (my Grandfather was a military aviator, and my Dad was an AF officer as well), so I got in touch with a recruiter, and she suggested that I apply to become a pilot, as I had a very competitive package that I could put together for consideration. Fast forward 3 years, and I am an officer in pilot training, married, with a 6 and a half month old daughter.
My family life is wonderful. I couldn’t have asked God for a more beautiful, holy wife, and our daughter is the joy of our life! I also believe sincerely that God led us here for a reason, and until recently I had no doubts that it was because He was calling me to be a pilot. It’s a demanding life, to be sure, but I have met so many wonderful and happy families in the piloting community, men and women who make it work in the military, courageously enduring the time away from each other, the deployments, the long hours, etc. especially as those long hours start to balance out after pilot training. Furthermore, piloting provides a very stable and comfortable means of supporting my family long-term.
However, I’m not really enjoying it at all. I don’t know if that’s because the training environment is highly stressful - every flight is graded, the sheer volume of required knowledge is the equivalent of an entire year of college classes in a single semester’s time, and the instructors hold us to a strict standard and aren’t terribly patient when we fail - if it’s because I feel that the 50-60 hour weeks are taking me away from my wife and daughter too much, if it’s because I feel as though my spiritual life is slipping somewhat as pilot training has made it far more difficult to maintain my prayer habits, or if it’s simply because I’m bad at it. I have faced on a number of occasions the prospect of elimination from the program, managing to scrape by with no room to spare, my check pilots telling me they were on the fence about whether or not I should be allowed to continue. They tell me I work hard, have a great attitude, but for whatever reason, I’m struggling far more than my classmates. On top of that, I’ve spent many days of the past few weeks sick and unable to fly, which has resulted in my getting progressively further behind. All in all, I just haven’t found the experience to be fun or fulfilling in the way I would hope a career would be.
I apologize if it sounds like I’m complaining. I believe God brought me here for a reason, I’m just having a hard time discerning what that is. And other than my wife, I don’t really feel as though I can talk to anyone about this. My parents are very supportive, but they also tend to see these doubts or questions as obstacles that need to be pushed past at any cost. My friends here would hear all of this and worry that I just didn’t “want it” badly enough, or that I thought too much was out of my hands. And our pastor here, unfortunately (though not unexpectedly for a small base in the middle of nowhere) isn’t the sort of wise and holy priest I would trust to help with any sort of spiritual direction.
So I know these things: I am called to holiness, as we all are. My primary means of realizing that call are as husband and father, leading my family to sanctity. My career/job must serve these ends, by helping me grow in holiness and by providing me a means to provide for my family. I enjoy being in the military, and I believe in what I have been called to do by serving my country in this capacity. But I am filled with doubts as to whether or not I am in the right place or how best to soldier on in spite of my doubts. I want to do what God is calling me to do, but I feel as though I’m hoping against hope that that will include a job that I find enjoyable and fulfilling, rather than one that, so far, has had me waking up in the morning dreading what the day will bring on the flight line.
Above all, please pray for me. If in addition, you have any advice, I would greatly appreciate it!