By Elizabeth McNulty, FC 20
Where to next? Isn’t that the ultimate question? It’s a very common one for us to hear, especially since the year has been winding down and people are getting curious. It’s also a totally fair question. We gave up a year of our lives to serve and that year is running out. So of course, the question is being pondered in other’s brains, and looming in our own. However, that does not make it any less terrifying or daunting. When asked this question, I usually refer to a state of panic. I always think that I need to have a beautifully eloquent answer as to what my “perfect plan” is for the next chapter in life. I think about how I need to carefully word my answer to make my future sound successful, smart, and put-together because anything else will be a considered failing, right?
Society has a way of rating your own achievements and growth based on an often small-minded view of what success looks like. Go to school, get good grades, find a good job right away, get promoted, and make lots of money. While I know this schedule is a little dramatic, it is often at the very least a version of what people tend to see and expect. Truth is that I don’t have anything close to one of those “10-year plans” that people talk about. I don’t even have a 10-minute plan! Maybe I’ll open the fridge? Have a snack? In my humble opinion, success for me will not depend on how much money I make, how many connections I have, what awards and promotions I receive, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, all those things would be great to have and be recognized for, but I think true success depends on the little decisions I make every day that will either make me a better or worst person, and especially the people around me.
So here it is folks. The biggest failure for me will have nothing to do with my lack of worldly accolades. I truly believe that the biggest failure would be allowing myself to believe I am a failure simply because I do not perfectly fit someone else’s imposed view of “the successful person”. The biggest failure would be forcing myself into a mold that I was never meant to, and becoming a shell of the person I am suppose to be. The biggest failure would be living in this mold and making a lifetime of lukewarm contributions to society and the world, rather than really making my own unique and necessary impact on the lives I touch. The biggest failure would be cheating the world of what I have to offer by thinking that offer isn’t good enough.
So, for me, what comes next will be a job, and probably a few more after that until I find what I am best suited for. But of paramount more importance, what comes next will be a lifetime of using the lessons I have learned, as well as the lessons I will continue to learn, to help shape each decision I make in order to help make earth more like heaven rather than the alternative. Luckily for me, having had the privilege of participating in a year of direct service to a few different marginalized communities, I am now equipped with a fully stalked toolbox of those hard-earned lessons.
Ultimately where I’m called to go from here is not necessarily a “what” or a “where”, but a “who”. The question is not a matter of “where I am called to go from here”, so much as “who will I choose to be from now on”. At the end of the day, people are what matter, which is an all-too-forgotten concept. What will dictate my future is how I decide to handle situations, opportunities and, mostly importantly, the people that come into my path. I want to be ready if and when I do reach those pearly gates with a long list of people that I can say I helped bring. That is when I will consider myself successful.
The world has been graced with centuries of incredibly remarkable people who should certainly be revered as such. Their examples are great ones to follow and strive towards. But the world does not need another exact replica of these people, or their successes. Maybe exactly what the world needs is its very first Jenny Rose Anacan, Jill Foster, Isabel McCormick, Rachel Zanfardino, and even Elizabeth McNulty.
Elizabeth is an Outreach Worker at Downtown Cathedral Emergency and Hospitality Services, and was a Youth Mentor at the Bishop Foery Foundation. Visit our service sites page to learn more about Elizabeth’s current site and others we offer.