From the first time we step into our kindergarten classroom, inspirational messages abound from our parents, teachers, and mentors: You can be anything you want to be. You’re going to change the world. God has great plans for you.
Similarly, at my Jesuit undergraduate institution, St. Ignatius of Loyola’s quote formed the basis of our instruction: Ite inflammate omnia, or Go forth and set the world on fire. Now, as a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Languages, I have the swirling thoughts of many who are about to enter the “real” world: Is this it?
Fire combusts in a matter of seconds. To change the world requires the patience of months, years, lifetimes. The truth is, few of us will achieve work similar to St. Ignatius that dares to incite a new global change. This reality can drain the fervor of youthful ambition. In a society that idolizes young success as the ultimate dream, approaching this blank unknown can seem daunting.
How can recent graduates carry the passion of intellect and social change into a world that demands compliance and normalcy? How can I do what St. Ignatius instructs when my spark may never manifest itself into a flame?
It is the very thing which strives to dim our dreams – coming to terms with reality – that we must use to propel us forward. Graduate school and the eventual job search may be my impending reality, but I can still embark on a spiritual and invigorating journey within this context. Many go through life with a realistic mindset left wondering if there is something more beyond bills, television, and obligations. Why can’t reality itself be more? We must find adventure in the mundane and embrace the marvel of our own realities. The bleakness of a lifetime of normalcy will no longer intimidate because it is the reality we wish to live – it is unique.
With this mindset, the flames of change become a part of our realities in ways that our kindergarten minds could not comprehend. Engaging regularly with spirituality, social justice issues, and personal passions become routine but not repetitive. We cannot use our education for its true purpose without exciting ourselves about the beautiful life God has provided.
Tangible practices must fortify an altered mindset. Below are my suggestions for restoring adventure to your lived reality:
1) Pray. Try a new prayer practice. Imaginative prayer, journaling, walking outside, and listening to music can all be forms of meaningful prayer.
2) Create. Art, cooking, music, writing, and other creative pursuits remind us of the universe enveloped within each of us.
3) Engage. Having intentional conversations with others allows us to experience the unique personhood of ourselves and others.
4) Learn. Keeping up with current events, visiting a new place, and reading about your passions will serve to expand our vision.
Grace Spiewak has a B.A. in Classical Languages from Creighton University and plans to pursue an M.S. in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.