Monday March 13, 2017

I Want to Change the World! Now What?

By Joshua Romo

I, along with many other students, have struggled with the same question ever since I began my journey here at the University of Dayton: “What am I called to do with my life?”

For most of my life I was self-righteously satisfied with my answer being, “I want to change the world.” While this desire has not changed nor do I ever expect it to, I quickly realized that this statement was inadequate. It lead me well during my high school years, yet when the time came to start actively making my own decisions, this overwhelmingly vague goal was suddenly more misleading than guiding. At times, it even lead me away from authentically discerning my vocation.

The main problem that arose was that I began to limit my definition of “changing the world.” I’ve always associated societal change with service and social work. Although there is much truth to this, I began to convince myself that it could only be accomplished through specific means such as the Peace Corps or non-profit work. All else became inadequate. Thus, I saw a single “road” to the majestic destination of “changing the world” and my own “road” (chemical engineering) was headed for some place of irrelevance. Furthermore, the vast “fields” of student organizations, employment opportunities, and programs to be involved in left me clueless as to which would get me to that single road that I so longed to be on. Soon enough, I found myself stuck in the middle of an intersection of countless roads, trying to discern which one was the right one.

Our journey of discernment is so personal and unique to us, that it often appears to be a process of getting to know yourself. When I attempt to discern my vocation without taking into consideration my own history, experiences, interests, and passions, I find myself back in the middle of that intersection, confused and overwhelmed. However, I did not get to this conclusion on my own nor do I blame anyone for my being there. In fact, I am convinced it was part of God’s plan for me to find myself lost in my journey of discernment. It made me stop, sit down, and think about how I came to be lost in the first place. I was lucky enough to have an amazing and supportive community at my fingertips in the form of my family, friends, and mentors. It was my family who reminded me that while I do have a passion for sustainability, human rights, philosophy, religion, and service, I have always loved the problem-solving and creativity that engineering challenges me with. They told me that it is what makes me unique as a child of God. It was my friends who walked with me in my time of darkness and encouraged me to seek answers through faith. They lead me to a spiritual director. Finally, it was my spiritual director that encouraged me to value prayer as a time of reflection. He helped me see that my faith is my compass in discernment.

Since then, I have started to no longer fear times of darkness or uncertainty, knowing that I can find safety in prayer and reflection. I realize my creation in God’s image means that it is only through interaction with Him and that which contains Him that I can find the courage to follow the road I believe I am meant to be on. The odd thing is: He is within everything!

Thus, to discern our vocation is to engage in a relationship with God. God is within us, within others, and within the things you are passionate about and find beautiful. We engage with God-within-us through prayer and reflection. For me, this takes the form of journaling and contemplation. We engage with God-within-others through vulnerability and reaching out to our supportive community. For me, this takes the form of deep, meaningful conversations with good friends and reaching out to my family and spiritual director. We engage with God-within-passion by following our passions and listening to our hearts. For me, this takes the form of philosophy, photography, writing, service, and adventure seeking. Finally, we engage with God-within-beauty by finding God in what is inspiring to us. For me, I look to nature and the lessons she contains.

If you are like me and find yourself often saying, “I just want to change the world, serve God, and help people!” I pose these questions to hopefully guide you in your discernment process:

  1. What are my interests and what am I passionate about?
  2. In what do I see God most?
  3. What is my favorite way to communicate with God?
  4. Who do I look up to as mentors on my journey that can help me get to where I want to be?

It is uncertain as to where reflection on these questions will lead you, but I nevertheless invite you to join me on this lifelong journey, for it has lead me to some amazing places. Do not be afraid of the dark forests of uncertainty that you are sure to encounter, but instead be strengthened by the countless others that are with you, for indeed, you are never alone.  

Edited by: Barb Miller and Ben Swick

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