Rethinking “Follow your Passion!”
Just before graduating from college, I was convinced I had a foolproof career plan. My plan was to aggressively pursue a job in publishing, what I deemed my impossible dream job. Since it was unlikely that God would open those doors for me right off the bat, then I would just kill time with some communications-related work until I made it.
Little did I know that God would soon flex His power and toss my plans to the wayside.
For as long as I can remember, I was the one who tried (and usually failed) to bring books where they didn’t belong. I would sneak Nancy Drew to the dinner table, thinking if the book stayed on my lap, no one would notice. When bedtime came too soon, I would keep reading Harry Potter under the covers with a flashlight. Every reader recognizes the wonderful rush that comes with immersing yourself in flowing prose. We marvel at how words on a page can make us jump out of our skin or send a dagger to our hearts. I couldn’t get enough of the feeling, so I knew I had to be a part of the magic at some point in my life.
The dream job fell into my lap much sooner than I could possibly imagine: just one year after graduating college. The moment I received the offer, I felt invincible. Forget my long-term goal: God clearly wanted this to be my life’s work! For the first year of my employment, I gave my job everything I had from scrupulous late-night editing to crafting detailed storyboards.
The rose-colored glasses came off on one Friday evening.
My friends were expecting me at a party, but at 8:30 pm I was still holed up in my office, frantically cleaning up a manuscript for a demanding client.
The glamorous publishing life I imagined didn’t exist outside of Hallmark movies. I wasn’t prepared to read manuscripts a dozen times while suggesting edits that were either completely ignored or that forced me to rewrite entire books. The magic that would transport me to other worlds was gone. Words on a page just became words on a page. Reality hit me hard: reading and writing no longer fulfilled me, not even at my own leisure. The realization was clear, but the thought of abandoning the one path that I believed was meant for me was terrifying. Plus, I didn’t want to switch careers and start back at the bottom.
It took many late nights of scrounging the internet for jobs and writing cover letters, but I finally received an offer. This was my ticket out, and I took the job immediately: a job that required me to move to another state and spend three months recruiting college students for political activism. Instead of writing and editing in an air-conditioned office, I would now be spending my time outside, chasing down college students in between classes to convince them to become active citizens on campus.
I didn’t want to do this, not in the slightest, but I knew I couldn’t spend a second longer in publishing. I had also learned that sometimes we need to take the unpleasant, unavoidable turn to get to where we need to be – especially in the political world, where the only place to start is at the bottom.
Those three months of fieldwork were miserable. Convincing college students to take on more responsibilities and start a political club usually fell on deaf ears. I put over 12,000 miles on my car. Every evening, I would collapse on my bed and pray that the weekend would come quickly. At times, I felt like God had abandoned me during this period of uncertainty and painful growth. How could I have been so wrong about what He was calling me to do? Why did God let me go down this path?
I didn’t realize that God was actually sending me small blessings every day – I was too stricken by frustration to notice. I didn’t appreciate how I was able to spend valuable time with family who lived close by. I was able to soak in mountainous greenery from dawn until twilight. I even devoured eight books on Audible.
That bitter pill I didn’t want to swallow actually had a lining of sweetness. At the time, I wasn’t consistent in prayer but had I been, I would’ve noticed. Much like our ability to notice a friend in a crowded room, I would’ve been able to see God during a trying time.
Sure enough, completing the fieldwork yielded so many wonderful opportunities in politics, including my current job as a communications manager at a non-profit. I would say that it’s my dream job, but I’ve learned my lesson. The plans we make are rough drafts, but God can enter our lives at any moment with a red pen to show us an even better story.
God certainly had a sense of humor as he improved my rough draft. He gave me the “job of my dreams” early on to show me it was anything but, and the “in-between” communications job became the career that fulfilled me in every way. It was quite the flex on His part.
Humor aside, God was actually teaching me a valuable lesson: Having a love for stories and books didn’t mean I needed a career-making them.
(That and anyone who thinks they have their career figured out at 22 may need to check their ego.)
Especially in the years following college, it’s crucial to keep our hearts and minds open to engaging changing interests. Changing career paths is never easy, even if we aren’t venturing outside our fields of study, but staying at an unfulfilling job only stifles our God-given passions that are meant to light up the world.
If we surrender to God’s will and step into every new chapter with faith in His goodness, we can never go wrong. God puts desires on our hearts for a purpose and when he wants us to move, he will open doors for us, just like he did for me.
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Laura was born and raised in Northern Virginia and loves everything about the DMV despite the horrifying traffic. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with a degree in English and Creative Writing. She currently works in Washington DC as a communications manager for a non-profit.