Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm at a Crossroads: Religion or Writing?

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I'm currently at a sort of crossroads. With the California Student Aid Commission being jerks about my Cal Grant (I SHOULD be eligible for one more year as I've only received 3 years worth of Cal Grants AND I'm one of the students that actually needs the money as I have none to pay for school), I've been forced to think about what I'm going to do when I graduate from college in less than a year. Okay, looming graduation date and Graduate School applications are also making me think about it. It takes me a while to really consider everything before applying to schools as I take my education seriously.

Lately (as in the past couple of weeks) I've been feeling as if I'm not meant to pursue a Master of Arts in Religious Studies or Theology. Have I ever mentioned that I always dreamed about going to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to study Creative Writing? Maybe it's because I've been so disillusioned with my undergraduate Religious Studies education or because I've been stifling my love of writing for something more practical (teaching Religion). Maybe it's this nagging feeling that I should be in Vancouver (which I've had for nearly 5 years; it started almost at the same time I returned to the Church) or maybe it's my undying desire to attend UBC. I don't know. All I know is that a Master's in Religion or Theology is not currently appealing... and I feel like I'm going to need major guidance soon.

I've been getting a lot of older women (and occasionally men) come to me for questions regarding Catholicism. It's kind of weird that in my neighborhood I've kind of become the "go-to" person to ask. An older lady from a couple of blocks away asked me to teach her how to pray the Rosary (after word of mouth from neighbors) and I gladly help with these things. I don't think I'm qualified to help with many things and try to direct them to the right people for the heavier things but I answer whatever questions I can. I refuse to get paid for it though I've been offered. Sharing my faith and my love of Catholicism is something I love to do without asking anything in return. It's when I answer questions others may have that I am most happiest and it makes me re-think the Master's in Theology but deep down I don't feel it. Again, I don't know if it's the disillusionment of my current education, if it's my selfish desire to attend UBC and focus on writing, or if I'm just scared that I just am not qualified enough teach Religion.

I'll admit that I occasionally feel like some sort of fraud. I feel like I know so little that I should not even offer my opinions on certain theological issues that come into conversation. All I know is that I love God, I love our wonderful religion and the beautiful heritage we have. I'm happiest when I'm praying, contemplating, and learning. I cannot get enough of learning about Catholicism but I'm always "still learning." I'm miles behind most of my friends but that's okay.

With writing... it's always felt like a natural extension of who I am. For me to write what's on my mind is like breathing. My best friend growing up, Rudy, recognized it from an early age. We've been friends since we were 5 years old and I can still remember that he'd give me notebooks and pens for my birthday as a gift. He did that until I turned 18 and he moved away with his own dream of entering the Marines. When he still calls, he asks me if I'm still writing and I assure him that I am.

Needless to say, I have no clue as to what to do next. I can either continue my love of learning about Catholicism (and this time at an actual Catholic university, not a CINO) or if I should just pursue my dream of writing for a living. Of course, I can always write about Catholicism and thus do both but I'd need to learn more about the Faith before being able to do so. I don't know. I have a lot to think about.

If y'all can say a little prayer for me (either about these decision or maybe finding a way to fight Cal Grant so I can receive it my final year), I'd greatly appreciate it.

Anyway, I'm still not feeling all that great so I'm going to take it easy. :) Maybe I'll watch a movie and try to take my mind off of all of this for a little bit. I hope y'all are having a good start of week! :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!


Elise said...

Who says you have to choose?

Emmy Cecilia said...

Who says I have to choose between an M.A. in Religion and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing? My non-existent funds and financial responsibilities towards my family. I can't do both.

Cole Matson said...

Just from what you've written here, it sounds like the reasons for continuing with a Masters in Theology/Religion are all "shoulds": I should learn more, I should get proper training, I should do something practical. Whereas the Writing degree reasons are all deep desires: to write, to live in a certain place, to trust in a dream that God has put in your heart.

Maybe it's because this is what I hear all the time from my Jesuit spiritual director, but the Good Spirit invites; the Bad Spirit pushes. It sounds like the promptings from the Good Spirit of God are all on one side. I think you can trust that God is leading you to follow them.

And for what it's worth, I'm finishing up a Theology degree as well, and can't imagine doing another similar degree anytime soon. (I will be doing a PhD in Theology, Imagination & the Arts next, but it's very different from my current program, because it's a mix of theologians interested in the arts and artists interested in theology, of which I'm the latter.) There's a big difference between academic theology and learning about the Faith in a way meant to mold you and deepen you in faith. If your goal is the latter, as I suspect it is, another academic theology program won't necessarily get you any closer to that goal.

K. Suzanne said...

Emmy, you're on my Mass intentions for tomorrow. <3 As long as you're earnestly seeking God's Will, there's no reason to worry. He'll lead you. You know that. :)

Elizabeth of Hungary said...

I'm with Cole, because I've been struggling with same sort of thing lately. (Great advice from that Jesuit, Cole, that actually helps me a lot!)

Just recently, I had become convinced that "acknowledging your passions and dreams and goals and then acting to follow them" is really selfish, and "sacrificing" or "taking up your cross" actually means "making yourself miserable for Jesus."

But upon further prayer and reflection, I think this is a trap that people who honestly want to follow Jesus can fall into - ok, God, I don't really think "this" (whatever "this" is) is for me, but it's not objectively bad, and all things are possible with you, new creation in Christ, even though I don't like it if it's your idea it will end up being ok, etc... And the whole time we think we're being faithful and following God and denying ourselves and blah blah blah...

And the whole time God is saying, "Hey, crazy person that I love! Yes, you could conjure up nerves of steel and do this and it would be fine, and you'd be good at it, but it isn't really who I've made you to be, and that's okay. "

Hear the Gospel from this past week, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly . Suppressing your heart, and your gifts, and your deepest desires, and those strange "I can't explain why I feel led this direction but I do" feelings will not lead to abundant life.

One last interesting thing I heard last week: Col. 3:15 "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart." The "rule" here is not "have dominion over", but rather more along the lines of "decide, judge, arbitrate, 'umpire,' etc..." When you don't know what to do, see what gives your heart the peace of Christ, and let that be the deciding factor.

And hang in there, girl, you're in my prayers!

Cole Matson said...

I love and completely agree with Elizabeth's comment!

Blessed John Henry Newman said, "God has created me to do Him some definite purpose. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another." I think one's deepest desires are hints as to that purpose.

Elizabeth of Hungary said...

Oh, and the other thing I forgot to mention last night was that I'm getting ready to leave "what everyone tells me I should do" to pursue a PhD in theology and teach undergrad, which is what I actually want to do, and am passionate about. So feel free to do the writing thing, because I'll be right behind you picking up the teaching. 't'sall good. :)

Lindsay said...

I, too, have wanted to be a writer for a long time. Blogging helps me exercise those muscles since I am not a professional writer. I am in campus ministry, though, which is a great fit because it helps me combine my loves for Catholicism and young people with my knowledge of the same. Have you considered finding a job instead of continuing straight on through school? I don't know how the Cal Grant works, but I do know that even if you end up going back to school full-time, you can re-defer loans you've had to start paying by leaving full-time school.

(I should also mention that I always thought I'd be a career teacher, and now I'm not, and I am so much happier. I made bold choices, but they worked out exactly the way God wanted.)