The hidden benefits of not “making it” in an expected path

I’ve been intrigued lately by a college basketball story.  Caitlin Clark, superstar of Iowa Basketball, had her heart set on playing for UConn and coach Geno Auriemma.  He never called.  I would think, especially in the context of high school sports and longing for the “one perfect thing” that might have been crushing.  This week Clark did indeed get to play on the same court as UConn – as a superstar for Iowa.

Was Iowa the “right” place for Caitlin?  How do we know what is the “right place” to nurture our talents, and find a place where we are most well used?

I have my own college “failure” story.  My last year as a music major at Umass, it was finally the year it was “my time” to make it into an esteemed performing ensemble.  I was ready.  I was over prepared.  My audition was cancelled due to a freak snowstorm.  The seatings were determined that semester, for expediency, based on the last semester.  I never actually played an audition for anyone. I was placed merely in the “top” of a lower ensemble.  I was crushed.

So I quit.  Not the music major completely (I was almost done) but I left the performing ensembles that semester.  Would I have been able to still improve my skills and learn in the the ensemble I’d been placed into?  Yes.  But my heart wasn’t in it.

What else happened in that time?  Well, suddenly I had a lot of free time in my afternoons, and certain days of my week.  I set up an internship for credit with a gifted music teacher in the area.  The internship was in addition to my future student-teaching experience.  I would receive credit, but I could have taken any academic course.

That internship was an incredible gift to me.  I learned skills I didn’t know I needed.  I worked with fabulous students in real life situations that were fun, and challenging, and memorable.

I worked with a mentor teacher who let me reflect on my own journey and find my way into my gifts and skills.

I can’t ever say for sure that taking that path was the “best” for me – I only went down one path.  But I do know that no matter which direction I chose, I brought my effort and skills with me.  That was my space of improvement.

I seem to be in that place again right now in some ways.  I have yearnings to serve Quakers (my religious community) in certain ways.  My skill sets, and what’s needed, is often other ways.  I can serve folks in the ways I am asked, with technology and communications information (I”m still learning quite a bit about all of that!). I can also put myself in situations of a differnt kind of ministry – what I have called “gospel minisity” – building beloved community by deep listening and speaking to what I see in the moment.  That feels better to me.  But, it’s pretty self directed right now.  That path also has growth into gifts. But it’s not paid work, or has a title, or any clear direction.

It feels a lot like embarking on a new internship, designing as I go, and finding mentors along the way.  That early time had a lot of fear and hesitation int he beginning,  This does also.  But it still feels like the way to go.

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