“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” – Jim Elliot.
Yesterday, I found myself wrapping up my first semester of travel with my job in a very ironic way. As I stepped foot into one of my schools, I had the realization that it was the very first school I had entered earlier in the fall. Walking inside, it all came back to me—the nerves, the fast talking, the sweating through my blazer (not just because of August heat in Kansas), and the general awkwardness. I had to laugh a little bit because I’ve definitely learned so much this fall that makes me much more at ease within my job. I’ve learned to embrace my quirkiness and just own it, even in front of high school students. I’ve learned to relax and take time to build the relationships because that’s what makes life so sweet. It isn’t that I’m doing things perfectly because I know I constantly need to improve. I have a desire to be self-aware. Without it, I think there can be no growth. It just hit me in that moment how content I am with my life and how happy I am that I have felt a great deal of growth in the last six months.
So, I wanted to take a moment to address a topic that I think many of my friends and peers continue to struggle with today. I see a large amount of individuals my age struggle with the fact that they don’t know what to do after graduation, after the four (or five, or six) years of working towards the finish line. We each have had that amazing, pivotal collegiate experience that makes us think “there can be nothing better than this”. I can honestly say that I attended the best university in the nation (and how lucky am I to share that experience with others on a daily basis!). But to my generation, the “millennials”, it is incredibly hard to lose this part of our identity that is so associated with the classroom and learning. In the past 20 years, it is who we were made to be. If you got a liberal arts degree, an engineering degree, or a business degree, you were made to learn by the end of college. And then the dreaded question all of the sudden becomes “So what’s next?” from teachers, family members, even friends who just want to wish you well.
I’m thankful for where I am in my life because I have the opportunity to experience growth, to always keep learning. But I know myself, and I know that I won’t always know the answer to the “what’s next” question. Similarly, I continue to see a lot of soul searching from my peers. I see a lot of individuals who struggle to find an identity. I see friends who return back home. I see friends who travel far away and start a new job. It’s so hard to make a transition, answer that next-step question at the age of 22 when the possibilities are endless. We are a generation of passion, of chasing dreams, and decisions are frustrating. Thus, I have made the goal to be content, like Jim Elliot said to “be all there”. Do I know what may be five years away? Not exactly, but I know where I want to be right now and I am so happy to continue in this endeavor.
Recently, I attended church and caught the tail-end of a message that I found to be very inspiring. It provoked me to think about the idea of contentment. The message was about how each individual possesses their own SHAPE. Much like a fingerprint, SHAPE is unique to each person and can sustain you through the rest of your life if you use it well. I’d like to share the acronym below.
S—Spiritual Gifts. These are much more than a talent and are closer to your calling. Sometimes, it takes a while before these can be revealed, and I’m sure that as my own life goes on more might be revealed to me.
H—Heart. This is where your passion lies. I love when I’m talking to someone and I can see them just light up or are “geeking out”.
A—Abilities. These are natural gifts that can be applied at different times during your life. For example, I have a couple of friends who have a strong ability for organizing and they are great at administrative work. My abilities tend to lie more in the relationship building categories.
P—Personality. This can be what makes you tick or go about your day-to-day life. Think about how extraverts vs. introverts operate in the world, for instance.
E—Experience. Everyone has different events that occur in their life that affect where you are and who you become. There will be bad and good experiences in every life, but it is where you find yourself with them later that matters.
I view being content as finding fulfillment and not necessarily having to look towards the future for that happiness. It is not settling. Instead, it is finding a silver-lining, remaining optimistic about your life today. SHAPE is what makes you unique and can help as you are soul-searching, no matter where you are in your life. So, whether you are looking for that next-step or settling into the first six months of professional life like myself, I hope that you find the drive to be content.