Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Early Midlife Crisis

It’s not uncommon for young people to have a “midlife crisis” twenty years too early. Sometimes when you hit your early or mid twenties, it feels like you are still searching to find your niche, while your peers appear to have it all together and know exactly what they are doing. In some ways I think this affects homeschool graduates in a unique way because our lifestyles are often different from the norm.

My sister and I were homeschooled back in the day when homeschooling was weird and suspicious and even illegal in some states. (This gives us Ancient Veteran status and goes to our heads.) However, even though homeschooling was weird, it was okay to be weird. Our lives were at least predictable. When you finished your sophomore year, you started your junior one. When you finished your junior year, you started your senior one. Questions from others about the future were shallow and polite and didn’t weigh heavily on our radar screen.  

However, after graduation, my sister and I, like many homeschool grads, opted for non-traditional paths towards higher education. Some grads choose to postpone college for a year or more while they start a home business, which is something my sister and I did. Some people choose to take college classes part-time via distance education, which my sister and I also did. Some people work part time and attend school only part time, which I did for my master’s degree. Some choose to go right to their chosen field and skip college altogether by choosing an apprenticeship path. And some grads simply want to take a few years to experiment with their strengths and weaknesses and mature a little before making formal decisions about their future path. None of these options fit the paradigm of going to college for four years immediately after graduation and instantly getting a high-paying job in your chosen field.

In other words, your post-highschool future as a homeschool grad may seem a little freaky to others. Your life might not be tidy. It might be unconventional. It’s popular nowadays to prattle about the value of  “following your dreams,” or “listening to your heart,” or “daring to be different,” or “dancing to the beat of your own drum.” However, if you actually try any of that and go against traditional societal norms, people may think you’re a fruitcake. And while we can usually handle other people thinking we are fruitcakes, sometimes we can become discouraged by self-doubt and our own uncertainty. Are we just floundering? Should we be doing something more... “official”? More traditional? More focused? Are we just spinning our wheels and wasting our time and talents? Does everyone in the whole world have it all together except us? Before we know it, we’re smack dab in the middle of a midlife crisis.

How do we handle an early midlife crisis about our future?

First, remember the following verse: For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) We may still be sorting out our plans for the future, but we don’t have to stress out about it. God has planned out opportunities for us before we were even born. We should seek God’s direction, but meanwhile do what is at hand to do and trust God that if He wants you to be doing a different set of good works, He’ll direct you to them. He prepared them in advance for you and if you’re bent on following Him, He’s not going to stand by and let you accidentally wander off into a bunch of useless junk that benefits no one.

Second, remember that societal norms are not somehow God’s standard for our lives. We may or may not fit societal norms. Honestly, they’re irrelevant. We may always be the odd duck. In fact, we probably will be. The majority of my life has been outside the traditional route. I used to think fondly of the time when I would finally have an “explainable” life to outsiders and have finally concluded that it will probably never come. So be it. What matters is if we are pleasing the Lord, not whether we’re fitting in with everybody else. It may be a lonely road. In fact, you can probably count on it. But it doesn’t matter. The path of obedience is frequently lonely. It can be a good sign, actually.

Third, success is ultimately not measured by the size of our bank account or the string of credentials after our name. Obedience and love are the foremost measures of success. But as Christians, even more important than our success is the fact that God loves us and we are His children. It isn’t about us, it’s about Him. He doesn’t love us because of our good deeds or because of what we can do for His kingdom. He loves us because He loves us, the end, kthxbye (translation, “Okay, thanks, bye.”) We don’t have to earn His favor or His love any more than we have to earn our parents’ love. They love us intrinsically because they’re our parents and we’re their kids, not because of what we DO.

Fourth, don’t listen to gloomy thoughts very much. If self-doubt pops up, pray earnestly for wisdom, purpose, and direction, but don’t make a habit of giving credibility to doleful feelings. They will always, categorically, world-without-endedly, make you feel more doleful. I have never yet had a hand-wringing “I’m a failure” session that made me feel less like a failure. I have had many that made me feel worse.

Lastly, while they are bad masters, sometimes feelings of discouragement and self-doubt can be used by the Lord to cause us to reevaluate what we’re doing and where we’re going. Sometimes the Lord uses periods of frustration in our lives to spur us to new heights and new adventures. But those new heights and adventures don’t have to look like other people’s heights and adventures and they probably won’t. I highly recommend reading the book Start, by John Acuff. It gives helpful guidance and encouragement on what to do next in life. Remember that God can and does steer moving trucks. He is perhaps less likely to move an impassive hunk of granite, although He just might give a hearty nudge to the granite too. I love that fact that God is bigger than our fears, passivity, and inertia.

Don’t let an early midlife crisis bring you down. It’s okay to be different. Yes really, it is!

Written by Raquelle Sheen

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