By: Abi Hillrich
I’ve loved clothing as long as I can remember. When I was three, my mom introduced a faux velvet black dress to me in the pile of dress-up clothes making a home in our basement. I worshipped this dress, wearing it everywhere and as often as I could. I wore that thing (that eventually came to be known as my LLBD—“long long black dress”) for years. In seventh grade English class, when asked to write a practice essay for the SATs about the pros or cons of requiring uniforms in schools, I remember having a particularly difficult time expressing how much picking out my clothes every day meant to me. It’s an expression of personality, each individual piece a work of art, and the combinations of pieces even more so. My coming-of-age story involves finding my personal style in eighth grade, amidst too many mini skirts and skinny jeans and skin-tight Abercrombie & Fitch tops.
My mom also taught me how to sew when I was young. I’ve always had access to a sewing machine, and was gifted my own in middle school. I grew up wearing clothes my mother had sewn herself, and I worked at making my own with thrift store patterns, cheap fabric, Tim Gunn’s voice blaring from my laptop, and season after season of Project Runway. I used to imagine myself on the show, early-20s, with hair surely a shocking pastel. Making clothes felt like, in these moments, what I was made to do. I loved clothes, I could sew, it was the dream.
Shelby Farthing experienced something similar when choosing her major. A freshman philosophy and theology double-major, Shelby said it was a struggle to come to this point. While in high school, she took an English course at a community college near her home, and felt invigorated by it. Reading, learning about the structure of genres, and delving into the meaning of European-style literature were things that she found she truly enjoyed. Because of this experience, and her natural desire to write as a cathartic means of expression, Shelby considered being an English major when entering college.
However, she too experienced a struggle when her love for literature was rivaled by her love for philosophy. A desire developed in her, during teaching in church, to be used by God however he felt fit, and she at first mistook this desire for a calling to full-time ministry. Prayer and consideration of this calling brought Shelby to Greenville University’s JKL Academic Hall. It felt like home, she said. Able to relate to the professors she spoke with, and the way they told her of their own callings, she knew that something about this choice was right.
She learned in her visit that ministry is more broad and undefined than she’d imagined, that God’s purpose for her may not fit into the now-too-tight box she’d interpreted. Pursuing God’s will is something Shelby has learned to view with peace and grace, a promise of enjoying the benefits of God.
Giving up this dream of being an English major was still extremely difficult and full of a fair amount of mental turmoil. Shelby hopes that in a parallel universe perhaps she lived to be a Shakespearean historian. However, there is a lot of joy to be found where she is right now, seeking God’s will in the seats of intro-level philosophy courses. Though this isn’t the only path she could have chosen, Shelby believes that listening to one’s calling is a lot broader than it may seem. To live within God’s will is largely according to the condition of her own heart, she believes, and she is continually excited about how God will use her here.
Gianna Paden distinctly remembers filling out career projection tests in middle school, and receiving the career that she expected: medical doctor. Not only was this a path she had chosen for herself (taking as many general education science courses in high school as she could), but it was what she felt that her small town expected from her. Graduating in the top three of her class, Gianna’s path seemed pretty well-determined from the time she entered high school. She has always been intrigued by science and loved the outdoors, fascinated by understanding the workings of the world. Growing up, it seemed that this goal of being a doctor just made sense; her interests and strengths aligned perfectly with her dream.
However, traveling more during her upperclassman years of high school shifted something in Gianna’s worldview. She began to notice how other cultures, particularly in Guatemala, place little value in career. It was a clear difference from America’s culture, where we relate success and performance to occupation. These differences prompted her to question everything she believed about what she was working towards. At the forefront was the pressing question: what is the basis of my plans for the future? It was extremely difficult for Gianna to distinguish between what others expected from her and what she desired for herself.
When she graduated and began pre-med courses at Greenville College, she still had these questions. She began to feel as if she put more work into her classes than other students, and struggled to achieve the grades she desired. This feeling, combined with doubt, cut her deep. Comparing herself to other passionate, intense, unaffected students, Gianna remembers wondering if she was actually meant to be a doctor. This led her to believe that she wasn’t good enough to be a doctor, that she lacked something essential in order to pursue her dream.
Fortunately, this doubt led to a place of peace. It was in this searching that Gianna found the nursing program. She felt at home there, and though challenged, she wasn’t pushed beyond what she could handle. Not only did nursing feel easier, it felt right. Nursing contained everything she loved about being a doctor: the act of helping people in their vulnerability. Nursing was a much better fit for her temperament, and didn’t require her to sacrifice her goals.
There seems to be a cultural push to do everything, be everything, and follow every passion you can. Stemming from a desire to find fulfillment and purpose in a world full of distraction, it’s easy to find yourself caught up in dreams that don’t fit quite right. However, there’s a quiet, peaceful value in recognizing what you’re good at and devoting—sacrificing—everything for a path that may feel familiar, like home.