Is vocational discernment an option for the completely broken (I mean complete and utter train wreck)?


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). :frowning: 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?


Oh how I feel for you.
My husband an I have hit an all time employment low right now.
I get it.
I will pray for you. :hug1::signofcross:


There seems to be quite a few people here who have problems relating to poor social skills. I recommend that someone start a thread and invite like people to join you and practice on one another. Maybe some extrovert will join you with a helpful hint or two.



First, let me say that I will be keeping you in thought and prayer.

Second, please realize that a religious vocation is NOT an escape or a last resort. If you see failure as a “sign” that God is calling you, I fear that you will be crushed if you attempt religious life. I’m almost certain you will not be accepted into a healthy community. And, if for some reason you were, you will find that religious life is not a place to escape yourself.

Third, I do not understand why you think that the humanities is a realm for the wealthy or well-connected; I say this as a tenured professor in the humanities at a major university, and one who can hardly be regarded as coming from either a wealthy or well connected background.

While I do empathize with you for the pain you are no doubt experiencing, I think there are issues that require more than can be provided by online discussion. PLEASE seek counseling. Start, if you will, by going to a well trained religious or priest, or else a lay person who will be understanding of and sympathetic to your religious convictions (but who will not see them as an “out” from facing the other issues).


I don’t think God would ruin you just to force you into considering a vocation to the religious life. You have to want to serve God with all your heart. Having no other option is not a reason to join a convent. I doubt they would even consider you under these circumstances.

That said, lots of people go through periods like yours. When I graduated from college (the first in my family) I though the world was my oyster. Boy, did I get a cold hard slap in the face with reality. The world does not give a hoot about me. It doesn’t even know I exist.

The best advice I can give you is:

  1. STOP worrying.

  2. LOWER your expectations. Not everyone is destined to have “a career”. Most people just find jobs they can stand, and can do reasonably well. They don’t have to like it, although that is a plus if you can find a job you like, which rarely happens in my opinion.

  3. Realize, like everyone else out there, that there is nothing special about you. You don’t “deserve” anything over and above what anyone else has.

  4. Find happiness in WHERE YOU ARE and WHAT YOU ARE. There is no happiness anywhere else.

I hope I don’t come across as uncharitable. I don’t mean anything uncharitable. I know where you are coming from. My parents kept telling me how smart I was, how talented I was, how good looking I was (really!). Looking back, I now realize they did me no favors setting me up like that. When I got out in the world, I realized the only place left to go was down! I have a college degree, and lots of extra education and training in the healthcare field, and I ended up mopping floors in a hospital. But you know what? I kinda enjoyed that job! There was no stress, I made friends and had good benefits. I eventually had to quit because it was too hard physically.

The reason, I think, that I enjoyed that job was because of the list above: I lowered my expectations. I stopped worrying. I found happiness where I was, and accepted myself the way I am. There’s nothing special about me, except to Our Lord! Put all your cares in His hands, and lean on Him.

Also, if you can move in with your parents, that might be a good idea. I did. It didn’t kill me! :smiley:


First, your writing is clear, concise, and elegant. There must be work for someone with those skills.

Next, you had a loving father who is probably with Our Loving Father. Listen to both for guidance.

But I noticed a few red flags: generalities such as " I tried everything" and " life is a complete train wreck". Generalities of this type can be an indicator of depression which often locks a person’s thoughts into a " No Way Out" supposition. Get some treatment for this problem: cognitive, medical, nutritional. Also it is never too late to get grief counseling or a twenty year follow-up.

The thing I see is that you have many talents, have been resourceful, but had difficulty sustaining your various careers. I, too, have had such struggles through death and illness in the family and with my own injuries and illness. I am fully convinced now that God has been helping me by all of these traumas and changes.

Introverts have their problems, but so do those poor extroverts. They are sometimes so " out there" that they miss some basic common sense that us introverts might see more clearly: :smiley:
Marriage? convent,? Who knows? Maybe you are already living the lifeGod intended, suffering and all. And maybe there are ways to work with your life so that there is less unnecessary suffering.

At 31 you have lived a lot but there is so much more ahead for you. I’m still struggling at twice your age.

Feel free to PM me if you want a friend to just hash this out with.


I think that sometimes, things don’t work out so that we would still that we were not meant for them… simply because a vocation that is meant for you, would give you joy. I’m still searching for mine too. It’s normal that other things - paths that are not your vocation - would either make you unhappy, or not work out. However, I can’t say how it is in your particular case, cause it could just be that certain trials were allowed in your life for another reason. In any case, I don’t think that this is something to worry too much about… I mean don’t be anxious whether this means a vocation, or not… in time, it will be clearer, if you discern. You can just start with prayer, and trying to come closer to God. THe closer we are to Him, the easier it is to discern. I’d focus on that right now, and with more grace and healing, then transition into discernment if you’ll feel drawn in that direction :slight_smile: remember that God leads us with peace and joy… when you’ll find your vocation, you will have a peace about it, though there might be conflicting feelings when you’re distracted etc. God loves you! He allows certain things to happen to bring further good out of them, even if they weren’t what He caused - I mean the distinction between His direct will and permissive will. But no matter what happens, He can bring you closer to Himself.

I thought I’d share this blog post with you because it talks about our weakness and how being broken can bring us closer to God :slight_smile: and part 2

I often feel broken too in my life but nothing is impossible for God!

God bless you :slight_smile:


I don’t have an answer about the discernment of a religious vocation, but I can relate to the train wreck thing and just want to reach through cyberspace and give you a hug if that’s okay. :hug3: I stumbled and bumbled my way through various dead end attempts at careers. Later I even lowered my expectations to just finding jobs that I could stay at for more than a few months. And now I’m on disability because I do have a weird combo of psych issues that if one doesn’t preclude a type of work, one of the others will. Financially I got so behind in life because of all this.

I don’t necessarily agree that there’s something wrong with you psychologically unless you know of something that doesn’t seem right. The world has gotten more complex and the expectations more high pressured since I started out. Outsourcing and other changes in the workplace have created more of a divide and some gaps from what used to be. The white collar and professional career occupations such as you’ve tried are harder to break into and there’s not the stability and certainty anymore (I don’t trust those Occupational Outlook type reports much :rolleyes:). Then there are your low-paying, stressful and often thankless service occupation jobs - fast food, retail and call centers, etc. Trades are sort of looking up, though - I think people are beginning to realize that college isn’t the be-all and end-all for every person.

Are you a creative person who just really doesn’t fit into society’s neat boxes? I sense that in your writing, tell me if I’m onto something. Maybe you’re the entrepreneur type. But I know, it can also be frustrating to hear that when you don’t have a handy money tree to start up a business - I’ve been there too. :cool:

Maybe you could spin your travel experience into something. I have agoraphobia and haven’t been much of a traveler for quite some time - I see being able to travel and adapt to different places as a specialized skill. Travel agent, tour guide, English teacher in a foreign country . . . :shrug: anything there sound like a possibility?


Sometimes, it seems that it’s out of one’s failures and miseries that God’s love shines through so that that person will become a witness of God’s transformative grace. I was just watching Karol: A Man Who Became Pope (the story of Pope John Paul II’s life). His choice to enter the seminary was during a time of great strife in his life. Do not let your misfortunes confuse your discernment; God will call when he is ready, not necessarily when you are ready. Maybe it’s possible he’s calling you at a time like this. This is what formation is for; to discern and prepare. Nobody goes into formation a perfect person. Maybe talk to someone who can help you discern. It’s possible God lead you towards law and the humanities because the humanities are important to the Church. Who knows.

Please consider watching this (though I understand her type of struggle was different from yours, it might help):

as well as part two.

Please note, I’m not a vocations counsellor but I hope what I said helps.


Hello Iwillrisenow,

I came across your post while searching to find out about discerning God’s will. I am sorry that you are going through difficulties. There is a lot of great advice offered. The thing I would like to add, if you have not already been doing so is to reach out for the Lord’s help through prayer! I had been out of work for 6 months when I got a job that I lasted in only 3 months. I had originally prayed to thank the Blessed Mother for help getting the job, but as I started to have difficulties, I begged her to ask her son, our Saviour to let me keep the job. I did not, but I came to realize, it was not because the Lord did not love me, I was not where He wanted me.

I had returned to a faith that I had let lapse due to my own foolish pride and bitterness. I seriously considered ending it all but the Lord delivered me. I started to listen to podcasts like “Christ is the Answer” and “Daily Bread”. After losing the job that I thought was going to change my life I was deep in despair. While I am a male who does not nearly have my life together as well as you do. I won’t argue that there are certain advantages to being a male, however I am much older than you are, and therefore I was sure that I would never get another job. I requested intercession from St Cajetan and St Jude through novenas to each of them. . Before I had even completed the novenas I got a job offer. It was not what I wanted to do but it helped me to afford food and job search expenses. And 2 months later I got two job offers commensorate paywise to what I had been making before.

Now, I have been fortunate to receive a great deal of assistance from my family, do not be too proud to accept help from family if they can help you, or from the government. Remember that pride is a sin and humility such as what might come from work that you might consider beneath you or accepting charity is a blessing from the Lord and a reminder of His love. While I agree with some other posters that it doesn’t seem to be a good reason to discern a religious vocation because there is “nothing else left” I would not presume to know the Lord’s will and how he chooses to act in Your life. I would think that if you are not so moved by His love for you that you could not think of doing anything else, you are probably not called, but, again, I would not presume to say. The reason I suggest “Christ is the Answer” is because Father Riccardo makes the excellent point that loving the Lord means submitting ourselves to His will. And it is hard to know what His will is without having a personal relationship with Him which we can develop through prayer. careful study of the Scripture and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
I hope this helps!


Oh I feel for you… there have been some great replies so far, so I will not repeat what they all have said. That being said, the Apostle Paul was a complete train wreck too, and look what happened to him! Paul is one of the people from the bible that I really look to in my life and is a role model for me. God wants people that need him… have faith!

May God bless you and fill you with peace and serenity in your heart today and always. I will pray for you.



You know, I’ve been in your shoes, and to a good extent, I’m still there. So well I know the feeling of having wasted ten or fifteen years, having to withdraw from graduate education, the crushing burden of debt, the down job market, and the general sense of isolation. So, I’ll share a few pieces of wisdom I’ve gleaned along the way, in the hopes that you might be able to take some comfort from them.

First, there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Don’t listen to those who would say otherwise or who would simply consider introversion a lack of social skills, for you likely know as well as I that such is not the case. We can all be very sociable at times; the introvert simply depletes himself through it and needs plenty of time alone to recharge from it. I consider my introversion a great grace; it gives me the patience to spend time in meditation that others might not have.

But yes, the world is full of extraverts, and for us to attempt to be like them and “market ourselves” in order to get a job or the like can leave us with a very cheap feeling. So what I’ve learned is not to try. Drop any pretense, and drop any idea of what you think you should do, and simply offer your will to God. If you’d looked seriously into the religious life, then you’d know that you’d be doing it eventually anyway. Yes, the unknowing can cause some anguish at first, but frequent acts of faith and meditation on those passages of the Gospel wherein Christ promises His provision for the faithful can help much.

In any case, though, think of your present hardship as your share in the sufferings of Christ. We all must bear the Cross in our lives, but so many, when it is offered, push it away. However, it is the sweetest gift He can perhaps offer us, for it binds us to Him so much more closely in His sacrifice, and transforms us even in the midst of our trials so we can share all the more in His glories. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass greatly stresses this sacrificial aspect of the Mass; I would recommend regular assistance at this form of Mass to any suffering, alienated introvert.

Next, any spiritual director will tell you that we must never make any important decisions in a time of desolation. So, don’t discern entering religion now; it is not the answer to your present quandary. Trust me; I made that mistake. Put it aside for the time being, to be taken up again if and when the Holy Spirit wills it. Look instead into what you have now, what you can do to cooperate with God’s sanctifying grace now, in this very moment, bleak though it might appear. And sometimes, that is just as simple as taking up your cross and following the Lord, or, as the great Kierkegaard might have put it, taking a leap of faith.

I’ll just have to leave it at that; a spiritual director can fill in the more practical aspects of this course of action. Just know that our good Lord allows things like this to come to pass in order that He might become more intimately part of your life, and you of His. Take no thought for the morrow, for He is more nigh to you at this moment than you might think.

Be assured of my prayers.


Nice post! :thumbsup:


Hi There,

Your post finally got me to register so I can reply.

I certainly hope things improve for you and I read such a call for help in your post! With regards to vocations, though, some advice that I recently gave to a friend came to mind. He was talking about how lonely he was and how things in his life weren’t going where he hoped. He also spoke to me about his failed attempts at a few relationships recently and how that was adding to his stress. I told him that he needed to concentrate on getting his life in order and figuring out what he wanted and needed from life (and seeking to fulfill that) before attempting a relationship. A relationship won’t complete your life and give it meaning. A relationship adds to an already complete person. I think vocations are like that. Seek to balance your life and find an even keel, be happy in your life and then look into whether a vocation will be the relationship you wish to share your life with.

I hope that makes sense.


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