by Magdalena Hudson | Oct 3, 2021 | Advice, After College, Blog, During College, Guest Post, Spiritual Life
I’ll begin by spilling my heart. I have the deepest respect for you all who are OCF students and I would do all I could for you.
So, what is mental health and what is ambiguity? Basically, mental health is an ability to cope with stress, connect with others, and have a positive outlook on life. As Orthodox Christians we would say “having peace and joy in Christ.”
Mental health is, of course, variable and it ebbs & flows with different circumstances.
Ambiguity is simply an awareness of “I know that I don’t know.” For college students, ambiguity can be a regular state of mind. For instance, “I don’t know where I will be in five years,” or “I don’t know how many of my friends will remain friends once we graduate,” or “What does life (Christ) want me to do as my vocation.”
Mmmmm. With each class and each relationship our mind can take on new colors, not unlike the veritable kaleidoscope. For lack of better language, I’ll call that “normal” for a college student. The question is, “So what,” or “What can I do about it.”
I would say that, fundamentally, we try to absorb and accept an attitude of surrender to Jesus Christ. Doesn’t that sound impossible? Not really. An attitude of surrender is a gift from Christ that grows slowly, up and down as we age. The strategy is this:
- A. I don’t know.
- B. Christ knows.
- C. I try to trust Him.
We certainly don’t know the future. We never say to someone, “Things will get better.” The person we are talking with might die later that day. We are not God. We can’t predict the future and we don’t have access to the details of exactly what is coming. That is a great gift from God, to help us cope in the present moment with less concern.
But, there is a ‘control freak’ in each of us. We are tempted to over-control our circumstances and the circumstances of others. Our control-freak tendencies can lessen as we learn to trust in the guidance of Christ. I would add that control-freak tendencies come from fear and our fears can lessen as we learn to live more with Christ. It is much easier to detect control-freak tendencies in others than in ourselves. Lord, have mercy. And, He does.
Truthfully, we don’t even have full access to the details of the present moment. We are limited in our ability to be aware of our pre-conscious and surely, our unconscious. That’s what human existence is like for all of us. All humans are children of Eve and Adam. And, we don’t have much knowledge of the motivations and deliberations of others, even those close to us. I know an old couple, married happily for 65 years, who walk hand in hand. The wife said, “I know my husband like the back of my hand but I will never fully understand him.” That is real life with mega ambiguity. We don’t know much about the full back-story of anyone so we try to cut them slack in our minds. My own personal attitude is to try to say, “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have… even Biden and Trump.” Of course, I have no idea if they are for not, but I am more stabilized and joy-filled if I can maintain such an outlook.
I’ll conclude by saying that I have much ambiguity in my life and so do you. We walk together and we do the best we can with what we have. Father Hopko often said, “Stay close to Jesus.” Together, let’s try to do just that.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Albert Rossi is a licensed clinical psychologist and Christian educator who has written numerous articles on psychology and religion. He has published two books through Ancient Faith Publications entitled, Becoming a Healing Presence and All is Well. Dr. Rossi was a member of the SCOBA Commission on Contemporary Social and Moral Issues for six years. He hosts the podcast Becoming a Healing Presence on Ancient Faith Radio.
by Demetri Maroutsos | Sep 21, 2018 | After College, Parish Outreach Guide, Preparing Students for Life After College, Transitions
Every kid has a dream job. Whether they want to grow up to be a doctor, veterinarian, ballerina, athlete, astronaut, scientist, a mom, a dad, or even the president, it is up to them to choose a path to follow. We, as college students, are in the ‘refinement’ section of choosing what we want to do, where we want to work and for whom we want to work. But, our human hearts crave more for our careers, we don’t just want a job, we want meaning in our work and in our lives.
Vocation is a word commonly discussed among Orthodox college students often in the context of where they want to work in the future. Let’s take a second to learn what it really means. Vocation comes from the Latin word, vocare or “to call,” therefore, vocation itself doesn’t refer to your future job, but to your actual God-given calling: to love. God calls us all to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Vocation runs so much deeper than the job you hold or will hold.
God calls for us to become like Him, to “take up our crosses and follow Him” (Matthew 16:24). But what does that mean for us college students? It means we have to live our whole lives in God, and no matter where the journey of college takes us, following Him will always be the goal. Look at the saints! They were able to do follow Christ, all while being themselves, each on their own path. The saints led their lives celebrating their individual talents and skills as doctors, army officials, chefs, monks, bishops, emperors, mothers, fathers, and Christ, too, was a carpenter!
Luckily, our God knows us all so intimately, and He has bestowed on all of us that same calling. Your life is not going to be a straight line, there are going to be hundreds of twists and turns and sometimes you might really have no clue where to go. If you accept your vocation (to love the Lord and your neighbor) everything else in your life will fall into place, not your way, but His way. His way may not be the way you always saw yourself going–its pretty much never going to happen that way.
For me, when I decided I wanted to become a doctor, I could retrace my steps to the conversations and experiences that pushed me to be where I am today. But along the way, I had no clue how to distinguish any sign from the background noise, everything was just happening all at the same time and I was just trying my best the whole time. Today, I still don’t know where my choice will take me, but I am excited for every step of my journey, and I have faith that the Lord’s will be done. Ask me again in five years if I knew where I would be standing at that point, here’s a hint: I HAVE NO CLUE. If life was that predictable, it’d be boring.
And while modern times have made us value money and status above all else, a word of caution from the wise–do not let your job be the foundation of your identity. If you let your job become your source of self-worth and you begin to see people in terms of their salaries, you may be allowing your career to become your idol. Instead, ground yourself in Christ Jesus, and perform your job, no matter what it may be, with love and for His Glory.
Pick up the phone when God is calling!
If you feel like you may need some help, pray to St. Xenia of St. Petersburg. Check out more information in the link!
by A Guest Author | Jan 24, 2018 | After College, Guest Post, Parish Outreach Guide, Preparing Students for Life After College
Hello from the beyond! The scary unknown that is post grad, the uncharted territory of working adulthood.
An update: Upon graduating from Pitt and passing on the OCF baton, I embarked on a new great adventure. I am spending the next two years as a teaching fellow with the Alliance for Catholic Education (which you should all check out: ace.nd.edu) and am spending the next two years teaching middle school language arts in Mobile, AL while pursuing my Masters of Education from Notre Dame.
Though I’m still a novice at this working thing, I’d like to reflect and share with you some humble thoughts.
1. You’re probably going to spiritually struggle more.
College is hard, no doubt. I don’t need to tell you that. Being on your own and navigating your relationship with God, establishing a personal faith life, etc. all the things OCF warns you about and supports you through are valid struggles. But that’s the thing — OCF is there for you. You have a support team, a lifeboat of other Orthodox college students captained by a spiritual or lay advisor who help you navigate the turbulent waters of college.
When you leave OCF, you leave the lifeboat. You’re now aboard your own little dinghy, all alone, still not really sure how to sail the waters. If you’re like me, you’ve moved WAY far from home or anyone you know. This is another huge change in your life, but without the structure, comfort, and help of OCF.
2. That being said, OCF will still help.
OCF has gifted you with an arsenal of friends, mentors, and resources. Use them! Reach out to your friends when you struggle, those who have gone before you and have this whole working thing under their belt, those who are also experiencing it for the first time, and those still in the safety of senior year. Reach out to your chapter spiritual advisor, a speaker you particularly enjoyed. Admit you are struggling and embrace it! The soil is fertile for growth, all you need to do is nurture it. You’re going to be changing and growing in so many ways — don’t neglect your spiritual struggles and changes but give them the tools they need to flourish.
3. Love God, and love your neighbor.
Maybe this is more Emma – specific advice, as I spend my days with a hormonal group of 60 middleschoolers. Sometimes, it’s really hard to love them. Like, really hard, especially when they ask you to go to the bathroom for the fifteenth time that day after you already said no the first fourteen times.. No matter what field you go into, you’re probably going to have to work with people you’ll struggle to love. In college, you often have more choice about the groups with which you surround yourself — your roommates, study buddies, club members. In work, not so much. You might not like your boss or your co-workers. But, you have to love them. And don’t just love them because you have to, because it’s a a commandment. Really try. Get to know them. Find Christ within them. In doing so, you will find Christ within yourself. And your work life will be a whole lot easier.
And of course, never forget God. Pray. Love. Give glory and thanks. In a way, we always talk about the things that change in our life — college, working, where we live, who are friends are — but it’s so much simpler than that. The one thing in our life that never changes is Christ and His love for us. So, while you’re in the midst of these crazy changes, remember the constants. And you will be just fine.
Emma is the former chairman of the OCF SLB. After graduating from Pitt, Emma joined the Alliance for Catholic Education as a Teaching Fellow. She currently lives in Mobile, AL where she teaches middle school language arts and is pursing her Masters of Education from Notre Dame.