Friday, August 25, 2006

THE Question, Part 2

My many discussions off-shooting from THE Question have exposed me to what I call an American “stereotype”… that somehow, your life is on hold till you go to college. What most folks have no idea of are some of the other tremendous opportunities for service and experience in your “after high school years”. For two examples, the National Evangelization Teams (NET), or traveling dramas with Leonardo Defilippis' St. Luke's Productions.

While a College education is a good thing, it's not necessarily for everyone. For some reason, the minute we turn 18, we’re just supposed to be itching to leave home. Certainly a healthy spirit of independence is good -- but that doesn't mean every young person must leave home that quickly. Think for a moment what most young adults go to college for: the learning, the degree, the friends, the “life skills”, and the biggie: the experience. For one thing, it’s interesting to note how many working adults are for whatever reason not even using their college degree in their job. And second, who’s to say that one can’t learn, enjoy friends, gain life skills and healthy independence, and expand your experience aside from a college campus? My dad often likes to point out that many homeschooled students are privileged to graduate from high school with well-rounded life skills (such as those being learned by many college students) already developed.

I am not in any way discouraging or being unappreciative of higher education, I am merely pointing out that many young adults turn 18, graduate high school, move from home, and leave for college simply because it is “the thing to do”. And this shouldn’t be anyone’s main reason. One who goes to college should do so not just because it’s expected of them – but with the whole-hearted intention to make the most of such an opportunity.

My generation is very blessed to have the option of many outstanding Catholic colleges that have been founded within the last 20 years. I receive newsletters from and know students at such places as Thomas Aquinas College in CA, Magdalen College in NH, Christendom College in VA, and University of Dallas – all fantastic, orthodox, relatively small, and very formation-strong Catholic Colleges (among others). It is exciting and wonderful to see the well-formed and truth-equipped youth adults who come from these places, and great to explore these options as my first probabilities if I am called to go to college.

As for this year, I'm remaining at home to continue praying and discerning God's plan, as well as continue directing my movement, which by the grace of God is growing all the time. I smile because it seems that many who hear this assume I’m to have so much time on my hands…when in truth, I’m already realizing that I need to be careful not to over commit! I am thrilled to be teaching Religious Education at two different parishes this year (to 7th and 8th grade, and preparing them for Confirmation!). In addition, I am continuing violin lessons and active involvement in several church choirs, cantoring for Mass, as well as teaching piano and violin students from my home and being hired as assistant teacher for the Joliet Area Suzuki Strings Group. I have one more year in 4-H and will be blessed to remain a member of the Little Flowers Catholic Girls Club, as well as participating in this year’s unit study with the Saint Faustina Club on China. Mix in tutoring my sister in English/grammar, sitting in on a weekly Physics class taught by a homeschool dad, assisting with the Little Flower Buds Club, and various babysitting jobs, and “bored” will continue to be a word without use in my vocabulary. :) In between all this, I hope to find time for sewing and art projects, reading, writing, journaling... and of course, blogging!

3 comments:

Petrus said...

Nice post, Claire. I heartily agree - and its great that you're using your time in helping others!!

Hannah said...

Claire,

It seems that you're finding good ways to use your time and talents, and I commend your eagerness to be an instrument for Christ's work. If I may offer a bit of advice, though, I think you might be working too hard to establish a tension between "having plans" or "doing the done thing (ie going to college)" and being open to God's will. As far as I understand, you're not going to college (at least, not yet) because you're busy and happy at home, and because you don't feel that you know God's will for you yet and you want to discern more. That's all fine and good, but perhaps you should consider that going to college isn't really a vocation per se; it is actually designed to be a place where young people can figure out what they should be doing with themselves for the rest of their lives.

I suppose I just worry because I've known too many people who declared that they were simply open to doing whatever God wanted them to do... and then they did almost nothing for several years. This may perhaps be a greater defect in men, who suddenly find themselves in their thirties, unqualified for any particular career and still waiting for a sign from heaven instructing them what to do. But for young women too, they shouldn't necessarily feel that they need some special calling to move beyond the familiar atmosphere of their family home. In my experience, very few 18-year-olds are yet confident of their direction in life. College opens opportunities for exploration, to help them find one, and you can (and should!) certainly continue to pray for God's guidance in the midst of undergraduate studies. You don't always need explicit divine sanction before making any plans; obviously we should always try to keep our eyes on Him, but God can often use our natural talents and inclinations to guide us in the right direction.

Please understand, Claire, that I'm not telling you to go to college. There are many valuable ways to live a life, and you seem to be happy and thriving with your various hobbies and clubs and religious activities. Still, college would almost certainly give you many new and valuable experiences that your homeschooling could not make available to you. And, since most women want to become mothers at some point, the years of youth before marriage, when you have the freedom to explore avenues like college, are precious and few. It's something to consider, anyway.

Claire said...

Even though it's been a great while since these comments were posted, I did want to briefly respond. :)

Petrus: Thank you for your kind words!

Hannah: Thanks for your thoughts, and for reading my blog. ;)

I do realize that college is not a vocation (at least not your lifelong vocation), but should hopefully help lead you to it. And I have no doubt that attending college – particularly a truly Catholic college – would offer, as you said, many new and valuable experiences. I am definitely not closing that as an option, either. I enjoy receiving publications and newsletters from several of the fantastic Catholic colleges mentioned in my post, and hearing from friends who are students there.

I believe that these after-high school years are a season of life. A season of continuing growth, service to God and others, exploration and expanding of the intellect, and of course lots of prayer and active discernment of the course of my lifelong calling. College is one way to spend this season – but there are many others that are no less beneficial.

And truly, to all of us, no matter what season of our lives, is present a danger of slipping into “unproductiveness”. Each of us are called daily to gaze inward at our focus and be sure we are using our time and talent, energies and abilities to the fullest for God’s glory.

Please keep me in your prayers and know I do the same for you!

Joyfully,
Claire