Finding Perspective on My Own

Image credit: Kai Schaper

by Jennifer Gonzalez

I remember writing my college admissions essay for BYU when I was all of 17. I’m pretty sure I crafted a thought-provoking, 300-word missive on navigating the tension between what divinely-given academic and intellectual gifts and a genuine desire to be a stay-at-home mom while my children were young (because, of course, a SAHM is a pretty monolithic state of affairs, right? . . . Did I mention that I was 17?). Someday I wanted to get a master’s degree–probably when I was, like, 40 and “the kids” were in school or on their way to college.

If I could now talk to my 17-year-old self, I would probably just chuckle, pat her on the head and say, with a wink and no small degree of good-natured snark, “Let me know how that plan works out.”

After college, I worked for a year and promptly returned for that master’s degree. With my second BYU diploma in hand (and neither a ‘ring by spring’ nor a tuition refund), my 25-year-old self moved across the country and built a meandering but meaningful career in Washington, D.C. At 31, I left D.C. for California and three years of law school. Then, in an unexpected twist, I schlepped myself to North Carolina for a fellowship, with frequent trips back to Silicon Valley to work with a legal tech start-up. I’ll spare you the tales of my love life during those intervening years—but, it’s fair to say that I loved deeply and lost profoundly, more than once, collecting some now-humorous misadventures in the Mormon-singles and dating scenes along the way.

Somewhere during my first graduate degree, I felt a strong spiritual prompting that my academic and professional experiences had a purpose beyond learning or self-actualization or “helping me be a better mom some day.” In His infinite mercy, the Lord made sure I understood that these ambitions and opportunities were necessary for me to accomplish whatever it was that I agreed to do in this life. Honestly, I’m still not 100% sure I really know what that really means, but the perspective allows me to to stay open to the potential for marriage and family and still embrace my career and ambition.

But funny enough, tender mercies are not cure-alls for conflict and self-doubt.

See, there are days when I am filled with inspiration and hope–moments when I have divinely-inspired clarity and can connect the dots in my life in beautiful and inspiring, fireside-worthy ways. I am where the Lord has led me to be, doing what He wants me to do! And the sun shines and the birds sing, and I only hit the snooze button once or twice.

Then, there are days when I feel so. very. deeply. alone. I’m not saying that I’m “lonely,” which, to me, is situational (and something we all feel from time to time). The aloneness I feel transcends the I-wish-I-had-a-date-that-wasn’t-my-Netflix queue and also co-exists with the surrounded-by-family-and-friends-and-overwhelmed-by-love-and-connection experiences. My aloneness is a recognition that, at the end of the day, there is no one whose stake in this venture I call “My Life” is as significant or eternal as my own.

The part of me that craves simplicity inevitably raises a painful, complicated question: If my choices are being led by inspiration, does that mean that fulfilling my divine mission requires me to be alone? And, if so, for how long? (for now? for mortality? until my ovaries look more like raisins than grapes?) And if not, when did I make the wrong choice? It’s a terrible question—every possible answer is laced with some kind of sorrow.

As I consider that question, however, the part of me that embraces complexity eventually recognizes its intrinsic fallacy. The question demands that I only view my current experience in deference to the past and/or the future. Alternatively, hope blossoms when I find a way to be grateful and mindful in the present.

My Life, you see, is not a problem to be solved or a trial to be endured. It is a gift I am invited to embrace, to explore. It is an experience that, through God’s grace, may be consecrated and sanctified. When I change my perspective, I allow God to make holy My Whole Life–my joy, my sorrow, my successes, my mistakes, my utter and complete failures, and even my aloneness. That process, in turn, has the power to fill me with courage and strength, no matter where life, divine inspiration, personal ambitions, and my little Hyundai take me.

 

Jennifer GJennifer is an explorer by nature who is fascinated by the power of language and narrative to create change and solve difficult problems. She recently completed her JD at Stanford Law School and works as a Legal Fellow for the North Carolina Immigrant Rights Project, specializing in asylum and defenses against deportations. She is also the head of Legal Innovation and Product Strategy for AdviseHub, a tech start-up creating tools to help immigrants make empowered legal and financial decisions. In her past professional lives, she has been a writer, an editor, an ethnographer, a consultant, a project manager, an information and instructional designer, a writing and management coach, an aspiring screenwriter, a documentary filmmaker, and a teacher. Jennifer received her BA in English and an MA in Rhetoric and Composition at Brigham Young University. She was raised on the west side of Phoenix, AZ, is the second of six siblings, and according to her five adorable nieces and nephews, she is the undisputed titleholder of the ongoing Rockstar Auntie competition.

22 Comments on “Finding Perspective on My Own

  1. Such a powerful moving essay! This line particularly struck me…

    But funny enough, tender mercies are not cure-alls for conflict and self-doubt.

    My path has been different. I cannot pretend that I feel the same way that you feel. But when I read this I shouted inside YES. I have felt guidance, I have had the moments of sunshine that you describe. But I also have felt alone. Marriage is not necessarily a cure for it. Your beautiful words of inner struggle are universal. And living in the present and trusting in God is the way for all.

    Thank you for sharing something so personal and so meaningful. I see myself and I see others I love in your words.

  2. Such a beautifully written essay, it rings with truth to all women in every stage of life.

  3. Thank YOU for adding your thoughts! <3
    The older I get, the more I realize that, while our specific experiences in life may vary widely, our emotional experiences are surprisingly similar.

  4. Love this! And it was a good reminder of what sort of “life framing” is actually constructive. Interestingly, being a SAHM to five can raise similar questions (where did I mess up?) and alone-ness. I guess maybe some challenges can hit no matter the circumstances.

  5. Beautiful! I never thought I’d end up a stay at home mom with a law degree I’m not (currently :)) using but here I am. Somehow in having three kids and a husband I still feel
    alone at times… Or at least that my life is so wrapped up in the needs of a whiny 5 year old, a needy 2 year old, and an 8 week old who cries all day that I’ve totally lost the bright eyed 24 year old law student my husband fell in love with. When you chastise your spouse for wanting to talk politics during dinner because attempting a conversation is just not worth it you start to wonder where your life has ended up. But then, just like you, I remember to find joy in the present and in the process of becoming who I’m supposed to be. Thank you for the timely reminder!!

  6. Jenn, I’m so glad you wrote a post! You always have such wisdom and a masterful way of wording things.

    I especially love this line: “My Life, you see, is not a problem to be solved or a trial to be endured. It is a gift I am invited to embrace, to explore.”

  7. Great essay Jen! You have a way with words! As a single LDS woman in my 30’s pursuing my second graduate degree (like you), I often feel “where did I go wrong? did my choices lead me away from what I should be doing?” But I don’t think that’s the case.

    Like you, I am trying to be mindful of the great gift of the present and all it has to offer, despite being alone. I am trying to realize that my circumstances in life (or my choices that lead to my circumstances) are not nearly as important as how I am treating others and respecting myself. It is more important for me to be a Christlike person than it is for me to fill a particular mold or role. The highest calling is to love others and emulate Christ, not to be a wife, husband, mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or child. It’s not what circumstance you’re in, it’s how you’re living in that circumstance. Just my opinion. 🙂

  8. Thanks, Sarah… I LOVE this: “I am trying to realize that my circumstances in life (or my choices that lead to my circumstances) are not nearly as important as how I am treating others and respecting myself. It is more important for me to be a Christlike person than it is for me to fill a particular mold or role. he highest calling is to love others and emulate Christ…”

    So true! All of our roles and callings find their individual value as they lead us towards Christ and give us chances to be like Him.

  9. I love this! I love YOU! THANK YOU for sharing your strength and hope.

  10. Posts like yours are why I love this site! So beautifully written.

    I was single for a very long time. I have been married for the past five years and I agree with the other comments that being married does not mean that you never feel alone. I think that was one of the biggest surprises when I got married.

    I was very similar to you at age 17. It was challenging when my life didn’t turn out the way that I’d expected. I hope that we can do a better job of preparing young women for whatever their future may hold.

  11. Loved this. I had a different experience – Despite fears of marriage that continued for over a decade past my mission, choosing to go on a mission felt frighteningly like choosing not to get married. I knew God loved me, and I also knew he was telling me to serve a mission, so I took a leap of faith believing that if serving meant being single forever, that was what God thought would make me happiest. And I *didn’t* get married for over 12 years after after returning. I did develop an engaging career, go to graduate school, live in interesting places, and mature spiritually and emotionally. I gained social skills that have served me well, and developed different abilities than I would have developed as a stay-at-home mom. It’s not better – I think many of my peers who took that path thrived and developed just as much – but it’s equally valuable. God didn’t desert me because I was single – he cultivated me just as carefully as he cultivated my married peers, and prepared me for different things. I am grateful that I took the path I did. My singleness helped me become a better partner when the time came. But even if it never came, I was happy and growing, even among pangs of aloneness and the periodic pain of staying open to something that might not ever be. It turns out that emotional self-sufficiency isn’t just a survival mechanism in singlehood – it is absolutely critical to healthy marriage. I was a slow learner, and I’m glad I had the time to figure it out before inflicting my full-strength neuroses on an unsuspecting husband.

  12. Wonderful article Jennifer! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I had never heard the “ring by spring” hahaha. Too true!

  13. Thank you thank you for sharing your thoughts and perspective. Your essay came right when I’m trying to make these huge life decisions and I’ve been so afraid to make the incorrect one. I’ve spent so much time planning the future, that I forget about the present. This life is a gift.

  14. Thank you all for sharing your own experiences and thoughts. I’m so uplifted by all of you!!

  15. “Hope blossoms when I find a way to be grateful and mindful in the present.” A mantra for the world. Can you image if we only had the present? I have been working on this concept and letting the Spirit direct me today, instead of trying to out guess or manipulate the tomorrow. It is amazing how different my perspective, emotions, and relationships when I think less of tomorrow and figure out what is required of now. Thank you for a great read.

  16. I love this essay and the thoughtful comments that have followed. I feel less alone today.

  17. “It turns out that emotional self-sufficiency isn’t just a survival mechanism in singlehood – it is absolutely critical to healthy marriage.” Well said.

    The challenge of navigating aloneness and the challenge of navigating togetherness both provide nutrient dense soil for growth. As women we will all be in both situations. May we each have just enough rain and just enough sunshine in whatever ground we plant.

  18. Pingback: Working Hard for Our Money: LDS Single Women & Employment – The Exponent

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Google+
http://aspiringmormonwomen.org/2014/05/12/facing-aloneness-with-perspective/
YouTube
YouTube
Pinterest
Pinterest
Instagram