An unorthodox case of “NFP working”

I got a call last week from a couple we taught NFP to a few months back.  I knew that they were recently married, so when I saw the woman’s phone number come up in our phone I thought “Oh, maybe they have a question about the rules relating to NFP”.

Oh, boy did they.

The question was “I’m on cycle day XX, which makes me a week late.  I’m never late.  Am I pregnant?”

Hmm.  Over the phone.  It might surprise you that by listening to her observations over the past month, I was actually able to tell her that yes, she was pregnant but that it might help her to confirm with a home pregnancy test.

Newly married.  Open to life (thus, NFP) yet still with a vague plan to postpone for “maybe a year” (her words).  Now pregnant.

“We plan, God laughs.”

While part of my was slightly flattered she called instead of immediately peeing on a stick, I’m not gonna lie, this is probably an NFP teachers worst nightmare!  You teach a method.  Method fails.  Couple gets pregnant when they didn’t want to and blame you and your method.  Eeekk gads.  I was already freaking out a little on the inside, but I remained calm.  I know NFP works.  I’ve used it.  I’ve seen the data….

Yet this is the uphill battle we users of NFP face, everyone has a friend that “tried to use that method has like a bazillion surprise kids” and therefore knows that it doesn’t work.  With contraception as the default mentality, everyone still thinks you’re crazy for not using it.  And everyone knows that eventually, you’ll end up pregnant when it wasn’t perfectly planned according to your will.  And isn’t that horrible?  Not being in complete control?

The reality is that to some people, no, many people, yes it is that horrible.  And while I do believe God equips those He calls, there are life-threatening situations when pregnancy needs to be avoided.  So here I was, a little NFP teacher stuck where most NFP users are.  Between trying to appease the world’s desire to “space and control” according to our will yet still using morally licit means and being open to THY will (Matthew 6:10).

Back to the situation.  Facing a woman trying to postpone, now pregnant, and couldn’t quite figure out what happened.  So as their personal NFP teacher (important – read: not book or internet site from which you learned an NFP method) my husband and I met up with her and her husband to go over their chart from the last month.

After 5 seconds of looking at the chart, I could immediately tell what happened.  There was a confusion about a rule and then there was breaking of this rule.  There are rules to NFP and although that doesn’t sound like fun, there are rules to most forms of birth control, licit or not.  Like “must take pill everyday at the same time”.  Science has helped us determine the fertile periods of a woman’s cycle and in order to use that knowledge we must follow certain rules.  Not following certain rules is akin to not really using NFP.  And yes, NFP may have a few more rules, but its also morally licit.

So there is “knowledge of rules” and there is “adherence to rules”.  For NFP, the ultimate check-and-balance is that the later is correlated to “motivation to postpone having a child”, since the intended and likely result of marital intercourse during fertile periods is having a child.

After talking with this couple, it was clear that in their ideal world they would maybe have postponed for a longer time, but in reality they both felt this was God at work since they were in no grave danger of having this child now.

So the question is, did NFP work?

It depends on who’s answering.

Rules were bent and yes, flat out broken.  To say that the couple had no control over what happened and that God completely interfered to make this baby happen would be a mistake, since there were clear rules that could have been followed to statistically improve the unlikeliness of conception.  Yet who’s to say God’s will wasn’t done by this pregnancy?  At the same time, this couple’s hearts were at ease with taking this risk.  Being unsure of the rules/signs and choosing to act in spite of that uncertainty.  Choosing to take the risk.  There have been times in our short marriage where we have been in the same position of uncertainty and have felt uneasy about willfully taking a greater risk of having a child and have chosen the more conservative route (although there have also been times that we have not!).  Although we can try to say “no” all we want, God still must be present to make that child a reality.  It can’t happen without him.

Who can know for sure?  Who knows.  But I can say that by believing the theology of God’s plan for us as male and female and respecting the natural, two-fold purpose to sexual intercourse (babies and bonding), using NFP can help bring a couple understanding how to bring their will to one with God’s will.

In the meantime, its beautiful to know a couple that so lovingly accepts their gift from God (they gave Him a window of opportunity – and broken rules aside, it was still a veerry small window – and He gave them a baby!) and still seeks to use NFP in the future :)

The tricky question is now, how do they answer if NFP works in 30 seconds or less to the average Joe/Jane (complete with the common misconceptions)?  Any ideas?

Take 7 (7)!

I’ve been in a bit a of a funk lately due to several things going on in my life and those close to me right now.   So in an effort to focus on the good that I have been provided (and in honor of Thanksgiving coming up next week) I’m going to do a little “7 Things I’m Thankful For” quick-take.

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Words cannot describe how thankful I am for my husband.  He is my solid place.  My comforting place. My laughing place.  My best friend.  He listens to it all and he loves me unconditionally.  Married life with him has changed us both in ways that has made us both much better people, more than I could have imagined it would.  He is in this 1000% and I love him more each day we bring each other closer to God.

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I am thankful for the Eucharist.  This week I needed a good long sit with my buddy and at Mass on Wednesday I feel like I just basked in Him.  I really need to go to Adoration and let Jesus help me sort this all out but on Wednesday I felt like I was able to just sit and tune out the rest of the world.  I needed that.

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I’m thankful for my “job”, for the opportunity to get paid to do research that I love.  Although most days classify as boring and I really wouldn’t be able to tell you what I did, I feel so grateful for the opportunity to research something that no one else is, and to get paid for it!  I make my own hours and for better or worse, because that sometimes involves sitting in lab at 10pm on a Friday night, I know that I’m ultimately in charge of this project.  I like that freedom.

Me explaining my research at a conference while my little brother awkwardly takes a picture :)

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I’m thankful for my comfortable life.  We have two cars (provided by our families – well, mine was), we just bought a home, we have the most comfortable mattress in the world, we can use the miles from conference trips that allow us to visit our families regularly, and we’re still able to tithe and provide for our bills each month, despite neither of us having a “real job”.  I know we live frugally but I can easily say that I do not “need” anything.

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I’m thankful for my health.  And my husband’s.  Within two weeks of getting the swine flu he was almost 100% and  somehow I never got it.  Also, my ankle sprain from September is basically completely healed and I’ve been working out regularly.  Our basketball team is even in the playoffs next week!

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I’m thankful that my husband found cheap plane tickets home to see my in-laws for Thanksgiving.  Seriously, who cares if we have to fly on Thanksgiving Day (pshhawww…), those things were less than $300!

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And….I’m thankful that on most days I get to carpool to work with my husband!  Who knows how long this will last (well, actually I have a firm idea, I’m hoping its around May when he graduates…) but I know that we’ve been very fortunate to work in the same place for the last three years.  It’s been key in helping us form a strong foundation in our relationship and marriage.  Who knows what the next stage of life (a.k.a. the “real world”) will bring!  Maybe our offices will be next door!  (but probably not…)

If you enjoyed these, step on over to Jen @ Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

We all need reminders

I love those little Dove chocolates with the messages in them.  They’re like the new age fortune cookie.

Today I had one (yes, I realize its only 10am…don’t judge), that said:

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That was the perfect thing I needed to hear right now.  I actually just stopped for  second and was about to say a prayer to ask for the same thing before I even opened up the chocolate.

Isn’t it funny how even a chocolate company knows our human tendencies are to be selfish and think the world revolves around us?  To focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do?  How throughout our day we need reminders like this if we’re ever to be the people Christ called us to be?  This isn’t stuff relegated to churches on Sundays.

And I just found it in my chocolate!  Who knew Dove knew about original sin.

What I learn from my international office-mates

I wanted to start a little series about the interesting things I’ve learned from my international office-mates.  I would say “Chinese office-mates”, but we do have one Koren post-doc and who knows, we might get a few new students next year so I’ll keep it general.

For those of you that I’m already offending, please hear me out!  Anyone who is in grad school, especially in the sciences/engineering knows that domestic students are a minority.  Actually its more like an epidemic when you consider how few American students we’re actually educating.  At our school (and I think this is pretty typical of most research schools) international students make up about 70-75% of the student body.  In our research group, two of us are American and 6 are Chinese/Korean (including my boss) so we fit those statistics quite nicely.

Chinese is spoken in my office by default. For me, this should be a good thing since it should allow me to practice my Chinese, which I had almost all  but forgotten, but more often than not this semester, its just made me angry.  I’m not proud of this, but too many times this semester I’ve just been really upset about the lack of American students and upset at the fact that I can’t keep up with the conversation around me.  I think it hit again this semester since we got three new Chinese students.  And my boss is Chinese.  Seriously?  And somehow I am the one put in charge of organizing what few social events we have and making sure our group is cohesive.  Again, not that I was justified, but the best way I can explain it is that I felt like I was a driver in a car full of a bunch of people sitting in the back seat talking with each other.  Instead, I’d much rather enjoy driving the car if someone could sit up in the front seat and talk to me, you know?  I guess as pathetic as it sounds I’d really like to just have a friend that I can commiserate with in my research group.  One who doesn’t resort to another language for every conversation other than the ones that they need something from me.

Grad school is lonely enough already!

So now that I’m done wallowing (I wouldn’t be posting this if I was still there) I have realized that hey, as the senior student, if I make an effort at talking to people, they will talk back!  Eventually.  [I have to relearn this skill every semester apparently.]  I really do learn a lot from my international office-mates and I would even venture to say we’re friends now.  So my point is that I wanted to start writing these entries as a reminder of the good/funny/interesting/thought-provoking things that we talk about, so that next time one of these whining bouts start, I can re-read them as tell myself “See?  Look at what a better person you’re becoming for having the work situation that you do!”

So for this week, here’s a few recent things I’ve learned:

  • In Korea, Christmas is celebrated by going out to a club and dancing. Yeah, it sounds pretty much like a glorified/drunken Valentine’s Day where you get drunk and go on a blind date.  More commercialized than in America.  No family activities whatsoever.
  • You don’t have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas in Korea either.
  • One of the new students approached me the other day asking me where I got my wedding ring from.  We had a talk about it and I asked him about how he’s going to propose.  He said he’s going back over the winter break and doing it as soon as possible.  I said “Oh, so she’ll move here?” and he answered “I hope so.  My life here is miserable.”  What a good reminder that I’m not the only one making the best of this situation. Some people have it much worse.
  • Another office-mate married his wife and then 9 days later moved to America.  She was only able to join him the following year.

That’s all for now.  I’m sure I’ll have many, many more…

Family resemblance

I love my husband’s childhood pictures.  Wasn’t he a cutie?

little mikeyAnd by *wasn’t* I mean, *still is* :)  Just look at him, ever the scholar!

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So will our future children get his gene’s or mine?  (or the more probable, 50/50%).  Hmm…I don’t know…after all my side shares a strong family resemblance….

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Take 7 (6)

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I’m still getting a hold of this blogging thing.  Trying to find the optimal length of post that will still get read.  I think I’m realizing that shorter is better!  Bare with me.  I guess sometimes I just have a lot to say :)

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I think my posts would also be more interesting if I could upload pictures which would involve finding my camera cord. Have you seen it?

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My brother-in-law and his girlfriend/wife are here visiting this weekend with the intent of checking out the school/city because THEY MIGHT MOVE HERE!

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This has me more excited than you possibly know.  I would love, love, love to have family in the area and plus, they are so much fun to hang out with.  Win, win!  Luckily the weather is cooperating this weekend and I’m pretty sure she’s already smitten.  I think the cost of living here in Texas is a plus.  And as my friend Natalie posted on her blog, Texas is owning the Top 10 for Strongest Metro Economies and they live in California, so it’d be a good move for them too!

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I have been newly motivated in my quest to finish my research.  Two possible factors this week for said motivation:

  1. Office-mate brought in his adorable baby twice this week and I got to watch her while he had meetings.  She likes me! A lot.  We have fun together.  This made my day(s).  I didn’t even mind staying until late last night because of the lost time during the day.
  2. I watched my other office-mate get creamed during our group meeting yesterday for lack of contribution this past month.  I don’t want that to be me next time!

So I seem to be motivated out of a combination of positive reinforcement and pure fear.  But hey, its working!

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When I unpacked from my conference this past weekend, I was really able to unpack.  Not just put clothes in the hamper and leave the suitcase/makeup bag all ready to go for the next weekends trip.  It feels good to put that suitcase up and know that I won’t use it for the rest of month!  (until Thanksgiving that is…)

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Mass this past Sunday included my favorite prayer for the Penitential Rite, which I forget how much I love and miss it when it’s not included  ( I guess this just one of three options and is up to the priest each week, right?).  It helped me as I was pondering the concept of community this week:

Priest: Coming together as God’s family, with confidence let us ask the Father’s forgiveness, for he is full of gentleness and compassion.

All: I confess to almighty God,
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord, our God.

Very uniting.

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I bought two plants this past week.  Basil and rosemary.  And then I proceeded to massacre the basil plant with one meal of Thai Basil Chicken.  I think I will need a basil farm if I plan to make that often!!

Enjoy these?  Please check with Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

“Having Kids is Manly”

That’s what my husband told me yesterday.

Does that sound right to you?

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FYI, this is not my husband, nor my baby.

I think I (and possibly other women my age) was brainwashed with the idea that having kids was womanly, and that every woman should avoid it because its oppressive.

But manly?

Let it sink in.  I think he’s right.

Let me put it in context.  We were talking yesterday and I was remembering over a year ago at one of my bridal showers, we did the game where my husband had answered a list of questions before the shower and then during the shower I was supposed to publicly guess what his answers were.  And there was some sort of punishment involving bubble gum if I answered incorrectly (all I remember was massive amounts of bubble gum in my cheeks!).

One of the questions asked was “How many kids does he want?”

Just to keep it interesting, I answered X.  It turns out his answer was X+1.

I found that hilarious and that was the one piece of bubble gum I was happy about eating, like it was some sort of display or how manly my husband was! (I promise his answers to those other questions were wrong!).   He said he wanted more kids than I did!  Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

Anyway, I was recalling this event with him (again) and while I could originally think of a few reasons why at first thought I wouldn’t think having kids is “manly” (most obvious being “that’s woman’s work and a man should have nothing to do with it”),I couldn’t put my finger on it right away why having kids would be manly, although it felt right.  Here are a few reasons I’ve since come up with:

  • Having kids means the wife has to bear kids, enacting her “most womanly essence” (for lack of better words) which during pregnancy/birth is also a vulnerable state.  Men must provide a counterpart by supporting and protecting her, and its manly to want to do that!
  • Having kids means you’re leaving a legacy.  Leaving a legacy is manly? ( I don’t know about this one)
  • Having kids (more dependents) brings out the good qualities in a man because it motivates them to work harder at finding/keeping/advancing in their job to provide better.
  • Having more kids means having to provide for more kids.  Being up to the challenge and responsibility is an impressive characteristic and this type of courage is manly.  Being scared and worried about how your family size will work out isn’t.

And I think these are the most profound:

  • Looking at our biology as Jenelle posted here, a man’s anatomy literally sets him up to give – external (whereas women are receivers – internal).  Giving is part of a man’s nature and embracing that fully (by literally giving life as much as possible for him) could be considered embracing his manliness fully.
  • Being open to children, especially a lot of children, means that you’ll have to give out a lot more love, which involves being and acting more Christ-like.  Yes, Christ-like is different than manliness, but its included in there so I think it might count.

Ok, so maybe all those reasons were similar.  What do you think?  I know its mostly women that read this blog, so what do the men in your life think?

*Just want to clarify that I am talking about the idea of being open to having kids/a lot of kids making you manly (as a man) and not necessarily the act of having them.  I understand infertility is very real and we cannot control our biology.  That’s like saying a woman is more womanly because she’s able to have more children.  Not what I’m trying to say.

Community at its finest hour

My husband is someone who prides himself on knowing everything about the area he lives in.  His special talent is high school trivia and one of the first questions he’ll ask you is what high school you went to.  The man knows every high school in Los Angeles.  He’ll ask not in an elitist way (like people who ask which college you went to in order to compare to themselves), but to find out where you’re from, because ultimately he doesn’t just know the high school, he knows the area around the high school, the things to do in that area and the culture of the people there.  He believes that where you’re from will give him a better idea of what experiences you’ve had and what values are likely to matter more to you.  It’s not a fool-proof approach – especially when he met me and I had lived everywhere! – and he understands that outliers exist, but what he’s looking for is something that matters to almost everyone: a sense of community.

When I met him, he had just moved to Texas for graduate school so the “What high school did you go to?” trick only worked for people from his hometown, er, metropolis.  So it was a cool trick but let’s face it, he only knew those high schools because he lived there for his entire life! That’s a gimmie.  Before long though, I realized that when he met people raised in our new city, he was asking the same question!  He’s lived here for much less time than I have and already he knows the ins and the outs of the city, (almost) all the high schools, the developing neighborhoods (useful when it came time to buy our home!), which restaurants the locals like to eat at, where a certain type of music comes from, etc. It might be quick to write this off as a weird passion (which I guess it still is) but he intentionally does this in order to build a sense of community with those around him and to feel a part of the community himself.

Having a sense of community and feeling like you belong is something that matters to everyone and I really enjoy this part about my husband since he can be a little more outgoing than I am.  He’s gotten us in touch with the city and as a result I’ve learned more about where I live than most people probably do in cities where they just go to school.  We feel like we can call this city our home now.

Apart from where we live, people find communities through their interests, like sports or other hobbies (like blogging!), or where you work or go to school.  Our desire to have a sense of community and belong to a group is natural, but sometimes it can overshadow what is true and good for us.  How many school age kids get involved in communities of ill-influence, with drugs or other dangerous behaviors, because they are searching for a sense of belonging and to fit it?  For as much as our community can support us and have the power to shape our lives in a positive way, it can work in the opposite way too.  Everyone knows that peer pressure is an extremely effective measure to get people to conform.  People with addictions who have friends suffering from the same vices can have an even harder time overcoming them.

A sense of community and bonding with others, while very important, cannot be the end all be all to the purpose in our lives.  There has to exist some objective measure by which we can determine if something (like a community) is a good or bad influence in our lives.  How can we determine that?  I love my sports and school communities, but when I was discerning my religion and faith in God, I knew I needed to look for something deeper than just a feeling of closeness with people. I already had other communities that satisfied my social needs, so ultimately if I wasn’t looking for truth in God, why have religion at all?

[Just to clarify, I’m not saying my faith shouldn’t include that (if it’s a community reflective of God’s loving nature, I believe the community will be striving to reflect that.  This is more of a what comes first, community or God.)  This can be hard to distinguish because while our Church is made of people who continue the work that Christ left on Earth, we are still just all sinners and we’re all working towards that closeness with God, so we will by definition be imperfect.]

Figuring out what is a “good” community is the hard part.  I see many churches that advertise the demographics of their congregation like the fact that their service attracts diverse groups of people, it must be good.  Or others that seem to do the opposite and claim a “small, close-knit Christian community” in order to almost foster a sense of exclusive belonging like a replacement for the perfect family relationship that everyone desires.

Along those same lines, I used to be concerned about the fact that a Catholic Church would be SO BIG.  Shouldn’t it be smaller and more intimate? That would make people feel better, feel like they were important.  But if the face of the world should be renewed by Christians, then why should we be limited to a small-close knit community?  Ideally there would be no borders, no exclusivity within Church walls.  Truth is truth, and the more people who know it, the better!  I’m no anthropologist, but from what I know about human nature its natural to want to break off into tiny groups in order to have a sense of identity and importance.  You can see this today on a college campus or in the political sphere where “identity politics” reign.  I do understand that these small groups can have tremendous benefit for educational instruction and social purposes (for example, educators have shown that smaller class sizes and higher teacher to student ratios are beneficial for learning).  But in terms of truth, it should be universal and open to everyone otherwise it’s not really true, right?  Ultimately it is a blessing that the Catholic Church is so large, that so many people have joined the mystical body of Christ.  By its definition the Catholic Church means universal, salvation for everyone, not-limited to just those of the original Jewish tribes.  Go to Mass and you’ll see all types of people, but to advertise statistics of colors and races of people would be limiting the scope of the Church and why it’s here in the first place.  It’s Christ centered, not “us” centered.

I remember the first few Masses I attended, the “sense of community” felt different from anything I’d experienced before.  Everyone seemed so quiet and focused on something.  I took that as acting cold and unfriendly towards me and other outsiders (self-centered much?).  I’ve realized that the feeling of community in a Catholic Church is different because it extends beyond ourselves. “Communion” in its truest sense isn’t limited to union with each other, but extends to Christ himselfEspecially during Mass.  Mass is a time to all come together to be “refueled” for our work in this world by contemplating and focusing on God and Christ in the Eucharist, not really to socialize with each other. There are other times for that.  This shift in focus to a communion with God rather than just each isn’t just a mental focus, it plays out in physical aspects of Mass as well.  I recently heard from a friend that during the Our Father prayer, the traditional way of standing is with your hands folded in prayer rather than the more modern trend of linking hands with your neighbor, which reflects more of a protestant influence (apparently my RCIA class wasn’t that thorough…). The explanation she gave was that while it’s great to love our neighbor and we should show outwardly signs of love for our neighbor daily as God commands us to, ultimately what connects us all is Christ in the Eucharist as children of God. This is what makes the Church what it is! We’re all connected regardless of our feelings and actions towards one another, despite the times that we don’t show love or don’t feel like showing love to our neighbor.*  Another example is during the wedding Mass, the couple stands facing Jesus during the ceremony (except for the part of exchanging the vows to each other)  to physically show who connects the couple and what the focus and purpose of the marriage is (to lead you closer to God).

It’s great that my husband can find common things to talk about with people because he’s interested in where they grew up. This makes for an interesting conversation starter and serves as a good way to build social communities.  I also love the fact that I have friends that play basketball together and a thriving young adult Church group who I can turn to in order to find strength in about our common struggles.  But I believe the only withstanding, truly renewable source of community with each other, with everyone, is to focus at the deepest level, beyond where you live,  what sports you like, or if you have a personality traits that fit well with mine, on what we have in common: our Creator, our innate dignity as human beings, and our salvation through Jesus Christ.

The love and spirit that we receive from our union with Christ is what overflows from us to allow us to start and have thriving relationships with others.

“You cannot give what you do not have” and as Catholics we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  While that may not feel like what the rest of the world is telling us “community” should feel like, when we are all together during Mass in the presence of the Eucharist with all the angels and saints, it is truly community at its finest hour.


*[I’m still not entirely convinced of if that means it’s bad to link hands during the prayer. Since the Church is all about outwardly signs I don’t imagine that this tradition is set in stone and can’t evolve slightly, as long as we’re focused on Christ together and not distracting anyone.  Still working that one out.]

Crazy career path = successful marriage?

A large portion of the conference I attended this past weekend was to have an opportunity to network with the organization that funds my current research.  In order to get me pumped up about working for them and for them to line up future employees, there were several workshops about what their research interests/needs are, as well as workshops that focused on how we can further ourselves professionally, including how to find a job that is “the right fit”.

I think this idea of finding the perfect job right out of school is debilitating for many people my age.  I’ve heard of many students (as well as myself) who are so concerned with the job search and the “doomsday” feel it seems to bring.  What if they don’t like the one they choose and their stuck in a horrible, boring job for the rest of their lives?  The pressure is almost too much.

In one workshop, a man made an analogy that almost knocked me out of my chair:

“Don’t worry about having the first job you ever take fulfill you completely.  Most likely you won’t.  You’ll accept it and then a year later realize its not for you, but its just important to get your foot in the door.  See, your generation is very different than mine.  In my generation, your job was like a marriage. You get your job and you stay with it the rest of your life, no matter how much you don’t like it and want to try something new.  Nowadays, career paths are much different. You’ll have many jobs over the lifetime of your career and its very rare to stay with just one job.”

So…what does that say about our marriages now though?  Is our job not like marriage anymore, or is it just like our marriages now?  Why do we put so much pressure on the idea of our careers fulfilling us completely anyway?

I’ve heard about this trend before but I’ve never thought of it in terms of marriage and to have the man blatantly make the analogy was like being hit in the head with a 2×4.

Do you think the career path trend reflective of our “non-committal” attitude?  Or am just a random coincidence that I’m looking into too much?