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A year of service

| Thursday, November 7, 2019

It’s an understatement to say that senior year can be scary. Maybe you have been employed ever since you did that summer internship junior year. Maybe you’re the person who is applying to ten jobs a week, even if you can’t really see yourself at any of those jobs. Maybe you’re researching grad schools non-stop, half-heartedly filling out applications you don’t even want. Maybe you are signing up for another GRE exam, or considering and re-considering taking the LSAT about a hundred times. Maybe you still have no idea what you want to do yet, and you thought that you’d have figured it out after four years. If one of these is your current situation, or even if something else is on the table, consider this: a year of service. It’s quite possible that you’re not yet ready to make any huge career decisions, and, even as fast-paced as college life can be, it’s okay to not be ready.

Many of us had not considered doing a year of service (or a gap year as some may call it) until late in the fall semester, around the time when applications for many programs started to be due. Yet senior year should not just be a countdown to impending adulthood, but rather a time to get excited for all of the things our lives may become. “Figuring your life out” does not have a deadline. It is a process, one that will probably not end after a year of service, or even once you begin your first “real” job.

We are writing this from Newman University Church in Dublin, Ireland, where we are volunteering for the next year as members of the House of Brigid. House of Brigid, or Teach Bhríde in Irish, is a one to two year service program where recent college graduates help give back to the Catholic Church in Ireland in anything from liturgical music assistance to retreat planning. It is also a year for self-reflection and growth; as we live together in a faith-centered community, we have the space to contemplate which paths in life we feel called to take.

For House of Brigid fellow Madison Loftin, Dublin wasn’t where she expected to end up a year ago, but she’s glad it is. Among other things, these two years are going to teach her how to take her time with becoming who she’s supposed to be.

For House of Brigid fellow Shane, a ‘gap year’ always had the connotation of putting life ‘on hold’ for a while, of ignoring life’s important decisions while you were still young. But after his first year, he learned that taking a year to gain some perspective on life, away from the shared anxieties on campus, was anything but wasted time. It gave him a sense of life’s real priorities.

House of Brigid fellow, and Saint Mary’s graduate, Katherine Dunn remembers her own stresses during senior year all too well. At first she didn’t want to even consider a year of service because of the expectation from others to “get a real job” and because she had already taken a gap year before college to serve with NET Ministries.

Our time on this earth is so very brief. God is asking great things of each one of us and sometimes that means we need to have the courage to do something that not everyone else is doing. It took the Saints their entire lives to become who God meant them to be. Why not allow God to work in your life in a dramatic way?

So yes, your senior year is going to be full of lasts. You’re allowed to savor those and you’re allowed to mourn an ending of a huge chapter of your life. Tears will almost certainly be shed on graduation day, but remember that this is also a beginning. We are all standing at the edge of a long, winding road. You don’t have to know where you’re going yet. All you have to do is pick up your bag and walk (or maybe get on a plane to Ireland).

Shane Jenkins 

class of ’18

Katherine Dunn

class of ’18

Madison Loftin

class of ’19

Nov. 5

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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