Monday, May 28, 2007

School days are back again

The job change (which is not yet official) has forced me to do some serious thinking about where I'm at now and what the next step seems to be.

In Landmarks (the book, not the cultish self-improvement group), Margaret Silf describes how prayer can allow us to see the way forward, but that this way forward is rarely a clear path. Instead, through prayer we can illuminate a small patch of ground ahead, and once we step into it in faith we can then work on figuring out where the next island of light will be. The image is that of stepping stones across a river - the next best stone is not always clear from the shore.

This image has stuck with me, and I find myself turning to it now - I am not sure how I will make this next step work, but I have the sense that this is where I need to go.

When I first found out I was losing my job, I was frustrated and angry - how dare they drop such a change on me so suddenly?? I had made plans assuming the job would remain! Even though I often spoke about not particularly liking my job, I was counting on it. How rude to just take it away!

Then I was scared and worried - what would this mean, practically speaking? How would we make ends meet, given that my spouse is still in school? I am the sole breadwinner at the moment! Of course we have no dependents (which certainly makes this situation easier less stressful), but we do have non-negotiable obligations like rent and utilities and a need to eat. Unemployment insurance is only 55% of pay, not very helpful when we are not doing much better than scraping by already, with every penny carefully counted and every expense examined.

Worry gave way to more practical concerns - we can qualify for loans (hooray for spouses who study practical things that bankers are happy to fund like law). We can find other jobs. Friends and family were supportive - oh, here's a job! Here's another possibility! There is a clear sense that if things got worse instead of better, there would be people around to help us out.

Practical concerns also included school: my plan had been to start part-time, as I have (had) a flexible job that would allow me to simply work around my class schedule. Finding a new job that was as flexible was highly improbable, and there seemed to be two true options to consider: defering school for another year, until The Spouse was finished law school, or starting school full-time and hoping the government chose to be generous in awarding student loans.

Having "mijoté"* these two possibilities for a few weeks, I found that I was being drawn to the idea of full-time study - there are really really neat people also starting their studies this year, and studying with them would be amazing; the people involved in my discernment work are quite encouraging, suggesting that starting classes at this point (early!) in my discernment process is fairly normal and even recommended, since liking or not liking studies could certainly impact the process itself; even the principle of the college (a wonderful, sweet, obviously brilliant but soft-spoken man) encouraged me to start and mentioned the possibility of bursaries if financial concerns were the main stumbling block.

As the magic 8-ball says so well: "all signs point to yes." Do they ever!

Most encouragingly, having decided that I would attend school full-time, I am feeling comfortable and excited and at peace - all signs of a good decision. It's so strange to try to reconcile my self-image of myself from a year ago, when I thought that I might "some day" want to be a minister but hadn't yet found the courage to speak it aloud to anyone beyond my circle of intimates, to now when I am enrolling in seminary and being introduced to people at church functions as a future seminary student. Eeek! But yay! but eek! (hence the blogging. "Eeek" translates to good blog output!)

If I complete this degree full-time in the expected manner, and my various discernment committees all decide this is indeed the right path for me, I could be finished seminary and ready (?!?) for ordination as a deacon as early as three years from now - wow.

I think that for now I will continue to contemplate the small circle of light I see before me, and see where that leads.

*Mijoter = french word literally meaning "to simmer" (i.e. cook at low heat for a long time); used figuratively to mean "to ponder", but generally not in the active way suggested by that english term. A semi-conscious, sometimes quasi-passive "allowing to sit" (simmer!). But my english intuition is that "Having simmered these ideas" isn't really appropriate.

No comments: