This is where I am in life: I’m 31, female, single, friendless, and about to become jobless yet again. A little background: my father got very sick around the time I started high school and died seven years later. My family was under a huge amount of stress and financial burden during those years, and for years after. As a result, my life over the past 10-15 years has been a complete train wreck.
I’m a convert and didn’t become Catholic until a few years ago. Because of this, I never got the early insight into what it means to be a woman in God’s eyes and, instead, was encouraged to pursue career-career-career at all costs (though my dad did try to talk with me about not having to go to college…bless his soul, he really was a very smart man with a lot of insight in so many areas and I miss him terribly). This has failed miserably. Though I’m relatively intelligent and have managed to get into two top graduate programs in my country (U.S.), I left one after the first year and am about to leave a second one three years in due to misguidance about the job market, the realization that only wealthy and well-connected students can succeed in my fields (law and humanities), and an unfortunate string of abuses in the current situation. Meanwhile, I am an introvert and really struggle with the self-promotion that it takes to be a fabulous potential employee today (e.g.- social media presence, bubbly personality, constant social interaction and networking, etc.). For the first time in my life, I have no idea what to do next. No idea. I’ve tried everything and everything has failed. Having to live on the streets is suddenly a very real possibility if I can’t figure anything out in the next several months.
That being said, I’m not lazy. I’ve never so much as touched any kind of drug. I do not expect others to support me. I’ve taken all kinds of jobs (retail, teaching, plenty of temping, part-time project-based assignments), to keep my head above water and, for the most part, avoid credit cards and loans (apart from student ones). I’ve moved abroad multiple times and lived in different parts of the U.S. with minimal contacts and social networks, having to rebuild from scratch each time (and, unfortunately, losing what I’ve built once I leave each time). But now I’m stuck in a horrible, soul-destroying trap: no place to call home, not enough practical skills to support myself, not enough contacts or social ability to build the network needed to have a successful career or find a spouse. And every attempt that I make to get out of this trap fails.
I don’t want to pursue career for self-indulgent purposes, like fame and fortune. I really wish I had the skills and personality to be something useful to society, like a nurse or teacher (tried that one too-- terrible at it unless it’s limited to one-on-one or small groups, cannot survive hours upon hours of it daily). But I don’t and do not have access to them either. I tried to get teaching certification-- the field is extremely overcrowded. And the “nursing shortage” that we keep hearing about seems to be a myth…not to mention, entering that field would require enrolling in yet another graduate program and sinking a great deal of money into yet another field with a vague promise of “maybe” a job at the end.
I’m completely burned out on these career pipe dreams and really have no desire to become a “career woman”-- never did, but got swept into the societal madness on the issue and now I’m too old to marry without the burden of over-education and the financial damage that comes with it.
The only thing I can really do is write but where does that leave me? Not with enough to make a living wage unless (once again…) I get very, very lucky on a regular basis with projects. Everything is fleeting-- there’s nothing that I can see doing for the rest of my life because I’ve been burned so many times: having to try another job, another field, having to move yet again. I’m exhausted. God is really it at this point-- nothing else is a must do
Now, to the issue of discernment. I wonder if all of this disaster is God’s way of showing me that nothing in the world will ever work, that I have no option but to follow Him. Of course, I am well-aware that religious life means living in community and usually requires some kind of skill that reflects the charisms of said community (so it’s right back to needing practical skills like teaching, nursing, etc.). Sometimes I think my ideal vocational situation would be something like an old school hermit, living in the mountains somewhere and writing but…due to all this miseducation I’ve accumulated, I have student loans. So discernment with any kind of order may not be an option, let alone a life in complete isolation.
So…long story short (no worries if you just scrolled to the end of this one): is it advisable to discern a vocation when life is a complete train wreck? The only reason I am asking is because of the possibility that God prompts us when we’re at our lowest points. Before everything went to pot I was discerning marriage…now I’m in an awkward position where I’ve started talking with a few potential spouses, but don’t yet know them well enough to say, “Yeah, so my life is actually in shambles right now.”
From what I understand talking with religious orders is something like interviewing for a job due to the very earthly (and understandable) process of sussing out potential candidates that the order will have to live with for a very long time…and I am so broken down right now that I cannot deal with yet another forum of evaluation where I have to try and look as perfect as possible. I might try talking with them, but be upfront and honest that my life is a complete mess and that they shouldn’t try to see me as a “potential” anything. Hmm…
Also, if you’ve faced a similar dead end moment in your life…what did you do?