I graduated from college in the spring with my bachelor or arts degree. The logical thing that many of my friends are talking about, or that people are asking me when they find out that I graduated, is what is next. For many of us we are at least considering grad school.
So a lot of people ask me what I am doing next and I say “well, I’m looking at grad schools.” which is totally true. But then people say “oh, where?” which is a Totally. Reasonable. Question.
And then I mumble something mostly incoherent about maybe looking at seminary a little bit and then I try really hard to change the subject. Part of it is me not wanting to talk about it because I’m not sure. But I’m also considering social work and I’m happy to talk about that. Yet I feel embarrassed to tell people that I want to go into ministry.
Even my three best friends from my college who I have lived and cried and cooked and slept and watched horror movies with; I find it hard to talk about it with them. These are people who I have stood in front of and said “does my chest look any flatter in this?” and had them look at me, tell me to turn, and given me honest feedback. These are the very first people who got my pronouns right when I threw that at them a couple years ago. These are people who get me like nobody else gets me. And I just can’t figure out how to talk with them about it.
One thing that tells me is that I am SO not ready. But it also tells me a lot about myself and the microcosms I have placed myself in.
My college is basically the communities that I align myself with condensed. If my communities were juice my college would be super concentrated orange juice. As independent and free thinking as my communities claim to be there’s this whole problem once you step a little outside everything they are OK with. Here, I made a chart to explain:
Obviously I am somewhat joking with that, but it’s really how it starts to feel at times. In a lot of ways it is just as confining to identify along some alternative lines as it is to identify along conservative lines. If I told people at my school that I planned to go into marine studies, environmental activism, sustainable food production, or start up my own small business that somehow involved yarn, acoustic guitars, and wood pellet stoves? Nobody would bat an eye. Because those are acceptable things to do with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology.
And if I (as in me, specifically) told people that I was going to go into social justice work, LGBTQ activism, run for some kind of political office, or start a non-profit those would be OK, because that is what people expect me to do. Those things make sense.
Ministry doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make my peg fit in the hole that they’d like to place me in. When I first started considering ministry I sent our alumni director an email asking for any grads from my college who had gone into ministry or religious leadership. There were four. A fifth had gone to seminary but dropped out. It’s not what folks do in my circles. Even the people who go to church back home don’t go to church at school and, if they do, they certainly don’t tell people or, good heavens, invite them along. When I started going to church people gave me funny looks when I told them. “Oh, I can’t meet on Sunday morning… I have church… I’ll be back on the island around 12:30…” Even the people in bible study didn’t regularly go to church. These were people who, at a school with the demographics I have described, set up a bible study group. But they didn’t go to church.
So it is hard for me to talk about and to explain why I want to go into ministry, or why I might want to, or why I am considering it. I feel like I’m being judged just by throwing it out there as a possibility. I can’t explain my calling without feeling like people think I’ve just gone off the deep end.
Maybe embarrassed isn’t the right word. I think it is more along the lines of “fragile” right now. My feelings and aspirations are fragile right now. Did you ever have one of those crystal growing kids as a kid? Those very first “strands” of crystal that start to come together are fragile. Poke them and they will disintegrate, and then the crystal that forms will not have that solid base to grow from. Let them sit still and uninterrupted and they become solid and able to withstand pushing and poking. Let me sit with this. Let me sit with it and not be questioned and poked and prodded.
Don’t give me all the reasons why you think that I am a bad fit for ministry. I promise you, I have thought of all of those and a hundred more. I made two lists, reasons I should and should not go into ministry. The “should not” list is multiple times the length of the “should” list. If there is anything I do not need right now it is discouragement and reality checks.
I hope that people don’t take my unwillingness to talk about all of this as a way of saying that I am embarrased of what I want to do. It’s really just that I’m confused and fragile and I really don’t know if I can handle being shaken up and questioned right now.