How do we figure out the best fit for our lives? Namely, how can be discover what we're good at, where we belong, and what we're called to do? We’ve all grappled with these questions, perhaps at many junctures of our lives. No matter our pursuit or level of success in our own eyes or in the eyes of others, life is a journey and a regular process of reevaluation.
My Russian Friend's Journey
Evgeni, my Belorussian-then-Russian-friend-turned-U.S.-citizen, addressed this question head on as we sat in a Starbucks catching up awhile back. Our acquaintance goes back many years, when he was a student at a local graduate school. We were able to help him in a small way to plug into the local community.
“I arrived in the U.S. as a 19-year-old college student. My parents were shocked I wanted to go to school so far away, but I had made up my mind to get over to the U.S. to begin a new life. I knew my prospects for success in the U.S. would be much greater. But I didn’t realize it would be so hard.”
“Thankfully, I found a home with a loving Christian family during my first two years in Kansas. They literally adopted me into their family. So much warmth. I am forever changed by that experience.”
He paused. “That is why I appreciate you, Caroline. You are doing the same thing for these students. I believe it makes a lasting impact.”
Forging A Viable Professional Path
An accomplished translator and interpreter, Evgeni seemed to have found his best fit. Yet when we met, he found himself at another juncture in his own life.
“This has been my worst year ever for work. And I’m not sure when it will change.” That comment came over a year ago. In the age of Trump, interest in and work related to Russia has picked up significantly. (I'm not sure if, when speaking these words at the time, he envisioned his work picking up in this way.) With strained U.S.-Russian relations in a myriad of arenas, Evgeni is paying attention. And keeping busy!
A Natural Trigger for Reflection
Coupled with that is a milestone birthday, a natural trigger for reflection. I told him when I had turned 40, it was like a blur. Life was so busy with kids, I barely had a moment to come up for air.
But Evgeni is single. “It gets lonely,” he admitted. Over the last two years he has lost two close friends to sudden illness. “These losses,” he confided, “have made me think even more deeply about my life.”
A New Direction?
Last time we had visited was two years earlier, in a small party gathering held at our home. It was the eve of his first-ever trip to Japan. I am well acquainted with Japan and my Master’s degree is in Japanese Translation & Interpretation, so I had a lot to share with him before he left.
Since that business-related trip, he has returned to Japan once for a personal vacation.
“I’m fascinated by the Japanese culture and I think I’m falling in love with the country and its people. So I’m wondering if I should pull up my roots here and move there. Just go for it.”
Evgeni’s eyes lit up as he proceeded to dive into his experiences in detail. We had walked many of the same roads, visited the same sites, tasted some of the same foods. But years – in some case decades – apart.
I appreciated his fresh eyes and enthusiasm. I’ve lived in or visited Japan four times, the last time in 2010. His evident fascination and affection for the country stood out.
“Japanese seem pragmatic in their approach to life. Most everything is orderly, as I had imagined. They seem to stick true to their promises as well. I find them to be very reliable people.”
“Russians are more irrational and unpredictable in their approach to life. We do want to believe in the basic goodness of people, but so much corruption has tainted the experience of the average person. We have become a cynical and suspicious nation.”
While I admit my experience with Russia and Russians is limited, I hate to pigeonhole. I know there are cynical, suspicious Japanese and open-hearted Russians.
In fact, I was sitting with one of them.
We returned to those questions, “Where do I fit in? What is my best fit?"
Evgeni was asking himself such questions again. I ask myself the same questions often, as seasons change, people come and go, new doors open and others close. We “arrive” only at one place to move on to the next.
We’re not static beings; time and circumstances shape our lives and move us along. We have a role to play, but in cooperation with – not counter to – the creative work of the Master Designer of our lives.
When we do run counter – like Jonah in the Old Testament of the Bible did, running away from God’s command to a different city, an easier path – that Master Designer gets us back on his plan, sometimes gently, sometimes with more force.
I looked intently at Evgeni. Where will he go, what will he do?
I lift up a silent prayer for him to discover the path – that best fit – he should follow in the next season of his life.
How about you? Where do you fit in? How have you answered that question in the past? What about now?