Millennial Discontent: Settling Into Uncertainty

Someone once told me that the adult brain fully matures by 25 years of age. I recently turned 26, and I’m not sure that’s true. For one thing, I seem to have very little about life figured out. The 10-year plan that I had in my head at age 16 has not come true. I didn’t become a doctor and move abroad to work for an NGO. Nor have I met the love of my life and gotten married. Plans and dreams change, and for the most part, I’m alright with that. Though I have to admit that the uncertainty of life can become very unsettling.

As Facebook would have me know, many of friends are getting married. Many of my friends are already married with children. Many of my friends have stable jobs and are living settled lives in cities where they will stay for the next 10 to 15 years. I, on the other hand, am in grad school and considering switching my degree program. Unlike many of my peers in divinity school I don’t feel a clear “call” to a specific career. I don’t know for sure that I want to become a priest or a chaplain or professor of Medieval Christianity. When I finish in a year and a half, I may move halfway across the country, or perhaps to a different country, wherever a job may take me. The small city I live in is constantly in flux; friends move in and out of town and my life all too quickly.

Recently, I was feeling a bit down about all of this. I wondered what I had to hold onto in the midst of all of the uncertainty, where my life was heading, and how many of my friends would still be around when I graduated. I wondered if this degree program was a huge mistake. Maybe I should have stayed home in Wisconsin; maybe I should have majored in biology in undergrad after all and tried for med school. Millennial discontent seems to be a very real thing; choice is overwhelming and uncertainty is pervasive.

I’m about a month into my second year of grad school. I still have no idea where life is headed, but at a recent school bonfire I realized I’m not quite sure that matters. I can’t tell you specifically what it was about the bonfire, other than being surrounded by a dozen others, a mix of friends and people I hadn’t yet met. I talked with one student about his life in Hawaii, with another about her gardening habits and how difficult it was to adjust to a new place. Someone offered me an extra piece of chocolate to put on my s’mores. The sky was scattered with stars.

I was reminded that night that life has never been about certainty, but how we react to the present moment. And after all, the future is just a bunch of here and nows linking arms down the line. Recently, I heard a sermon that reminded me of what perhaps should seem like a very obvious fact: The future is not here yet and never will be. What we have today is the present and the people and places that surround us right here and right now. I don’t need to have certainty in life to sit around a bonfire and enjoy a s’mores with a community that I care about. I don’t need to figure out 10 years down the line, and in fact, I can’t. I don’t even know what I’ll eat for breakfast tomorrow. For now, my plan is to try and have peace with the present, to keep searching out small moments of wonder and community in the here and now.

Originally published on October 3, 2018.

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