Please welcome today’s guest writer, Abby Paternoster. Abby graduated this spring and is enjoying staying in Grand Rapids a little longer. She is raising funds for a local non-profit while planning her wedding for next spring.
[Photo courtesy of Calvin College and in honor of Chase Froese, whom I will always want to be more like.]
I have been letting myself down for as long as I can remember.
I must have decided early on that I wasn’t going to let myself dream of being a princess or a ballerina. My earliest written expression of this is in a diary entry describing a dream to join my third grade crush in the army. Army morphed to FBI to SWAT to member of a task force to extract human trafficking victims from brothels around the world, which was my secret dream when I walked onto Calvin’s campus in 2012.
Each of these dreams died for the same reason: I am a 5’3”, 95-pound woman with sports asthma. I’m pretty sure tasers were invented for people like me.
In an attempt to accept my lack of physical strength I decided I should pursue social work so I could provide support to victims of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. I wanted to be that person that walks alongside these incredibly strong individuals as they pursue lives of their own choosing. Not quite as sexy as putting pimps behind bars but still incredibly rewarding and highly respected.
To sum up why this dream died, I’ll use the words of a dear friend: I have almost zero capacity for running into a brick wall repeatedly with no progress. I like to know the way forward and then I like to speed down it. My academic, social, and professional lives are driven by an innate need for efficiency that not infrequently (although unfortunately) drowns out any semblance of patience.
I want to help people who need it. Desperately. I want to express care and love for people who have felt endless rejection. I want to be someone who empowers people to flex their leadership muscles and push themselves out of their comfort zones.
I’ve had a lot of stereotypes in my head about what kind of person it takes to be all those things I just listed, and to be honest I don’t really fit any of them. I’m not good at being a “behind the scenes” person, even when I’m trying really hard to be. I’m not good at sitting in difficult, seemingly endless emotional spaces with people. I’m much better at writing than I am at speaking. I have always been a “tough love” kind of gal with a strong aversion to sugar-coatings. Every personality test I take puts me in the “dictator” category.
I am not the person I always thought I wanted to be. I am not made to fill so many of the roles that our society attributes to caregivers. But I have still seen God move through me. He has already used my writing to reach more people than my spoken words ever have. He has opened doors for me with organizations I care about and I have found meaningful, important work to do that fits my skill set.
If we truly believe that every square inch of Creation belongs to God and is being redeemed by him, then we must also truly believe that all of us who are pursuing the will of God have work to do for the kingdom of heaven, and that he has given each of us different skills for a reason.