April 26, 2013 by lucieromarin
So now, I, who have been all advice and certitude recently, must write a post full of questions. I’ve written before about the gradual horror that grows upon one who realises that, not only is the vocation she has faithfully pursued for the best part of her youth not going to appear, she’s also in the position of having to find and establish a career and financial security fifteen (or even twenty!) years after everyone else.
Well, for every misery memoir in the world, there’s also a book by someone who has created a great life for himself or herself after many years stolen by experiences far more tragic than a bit of failed vocation discernment and too many hours spent scrubbing brass. Obviously the thing can be done. I wish that I could add to those stories, and write a post headed the Ten Ways to Get Your Life in Order if You’ve Started Late…but I can’t.
Now, before anyone reminds me that God/tragedy can strike at any time, and that one who works hard from the age of twenty can lose everything at forty, while one who starts at forty may be rewarded unexpectedly at fifty etc etc, let me say that, yes, I realise this, but the fact remains that we are supposed to make daily prudent decisions about practical realities, and that includes setting reasonable goals for financial independence. The reality of Divine Providence does not erase the reality of personal responsibility. We have a duty to trust; we also have a duty to do our best. We submit our hopes to God; we are not, however, told not to have any hopes. This post is about that responsibility and those hopes.
The question I have, for those of us who are starting out late, is this: what are those hopes supposed to be? I can see a few options here:
1) Retain the identical hopes of our twenties: I will find a happy-making job, establish financial security, make a place a home, and I will realise these dreams in the next five years instead of over a period of ten or fifteen years;
2) Retain the essential character of those hopes, but change the expectation of their fulfilment: say, okay, I’ve probably missed my chance have a stable home and job by the age of forty, but maybe I can aim for fifty or sixty;
3) Change the character of our hopes: say, okay, I’ve probably missed the chance to own my own home, but maybe I can still work towards being able to rent alone and have dependable savings for my old age;
4) Give up hoping for anything in particular: say, well, I’ve missed my chance, and I just need to learn to be grateful for not being homeless.
Am I wrong to think that there is only one correct set of aspirations? Perhaps some people discover through trial that they are meant to be attached to nothing, while others are purified by the conquering of discouragement or fear in the pursuit of security?
And I wonder if this experience is for men as it is for women? Do they have a comparable nesting instinct? If they wake up one day and realise that they may never own their own home, do they care? Or does the prospect of flatting with other guys into old age actually fill them with delight?
We know that Providence is constantly at work, but where do we see it in this situation? Does Providence mean simply not being homeless? It seems to me that any word which comprises everything from a King’s castle to a beggar’s doorway is so elastic as to be almost meaningless, and I wonder if we should not look for signs of Providence in the material goods that have been given or withheld, but in other ways. Every state of life has its rewards as well as its struggles, and God’s blessings aren’t limited to the realm of property. Can we think of any possibilities here, without resorting to pious aphorisms?
I have no answers!