Almost half a year ago I made what was probably the bravest decision of my life so far: I quit my pursuit of office nine-to-fives and moved to West Virginia for a year-long gig as a missionary. I had never been to West Virginia before, and it was the first opportunity I had since graduating college to put my religious studies degree to work, so I wasn’t sure how qualified I was for the job. But despite my doubts, I felt compelled to apply. My time here hasn’t been without its struggles—adjusting to rural life, living on a modest monthly stipend, sharing a house with four other (very different) young adults. But I’ve also learned some valuable things about myself, my journey, and my sense of worth in the half a year I’ve been a missionary.
Money isn’t everything.
Having income is necessary, of course. I have a monthly cell phone bill and student loans to pay, and I sure as heck couldn’t make those payments if I wasn’t making money. But when my missionary pay switched to a monthly stipend after two months of weekly paychecks, I realized not just how important it was to prioritize my purchases, but how much I just didn’t need some of the things I was buying a lot before I started as a missionary. I treat myself every so often (a six-pack of my favorite brew, a CD I’ve been eyeing for awhile, a new So Worth Loving tee (of course)), but money definitely isn’t the source of my happiness. I think I’m actually more content with what I have now than I ever was bringing home a weekly paycheck.
Where you invest your love, you invest your life.
Mumford & Sons got that one right. You can’t plant yourself in a place among certain people and expect to not miss them when you’re uprooted. I’ve missed the Midwest nearly every day since I’ve been here. I miss my friends and family. I miss my hometown, where I went to college and some of my favorite cities in between. I’ve really learned to cherish my roots since moving to West Virginia.
Sometimes you need to let go of your desire to plan and just let life happen.
I never would have chosen to end up in West Virginia doing youth ministry. If I had it my way, I would probably still be in the Midwest, working jobs to build up my professional skills-set and maybe chasing dreams of being a writer. But sometimes life takes you to places and puts you in situations that you never dreamed of, and those places and situations wind up being the best things for you.
Everyone’s path is different and everyone travels their path at different paces.
Many people I went to high school and college with are currently earning Master’s degrees and building their careers, and I’m still not even sure if ministry is ultimately where I want to end up. Some people know exactly what they want to do with their lives when they finish their education. Some people’s paths take them in dozens of different directions before they find where their hearts belong, and that’s okay. Your worth isn’t tied to how you perform when you enter the working world. Also…
It’s okay to choose an unconventional job after you’ve graduated.
Despite the pressure you might feel, nobody is saying that you have to stick with salaried, 40-hour-a-week jobs after you’ve finished school. Opportunity comes in many different forms. Seize whatever you think is going to help you grow.
You’ve got skillz—really, you do.
Nobody is good at everything, but everybody’s good at something. And like my third bullet point suggests, sometimes it takes a change of scenery to figure out what you’re good at. I could get by in office jobs. But it wasn’t until I stopped working them that I realized that my talents didn’t serve them as well as I thought they did. Similarly…
People need other people.
Sometimes the encouragement and affirmation of others is exactly what you need to realize and embrace your talents. My current coworkers and supervisors believe in me and see my potential more than anybody I’ve ever worked with, and being surrounded by those kinds of people has made all the difference in the way I think about both my current work and my future pursuits.
Written and loved on by Erin Daly