DIVINE INTERVENTION: God + Intentionality in College/Career Path


By Jaylin Paschal

I was always a "Christian," whatever that means these days. I prayed before dinner, and before bed. I went to church, although not as often as I should have. I was in Bible study. My paternal grandfather was a pastor, and my grandmother could recite scripture like it was spelling her name. Every Christmas, we read the story of Christ before opening presents and maintained that Jesus was the reason for the season. I believe in God because it was what I knew to be true; what my parents told me and what their's told them and so on.

I never really had a relationship with God until after my eighteenth birthday, or the beginning of my college experience.

It's March and my senior year of high school, and I still don't know where I'm going. I was hellbent on getting out of Ohio. Desperate, even. Not because I hated my hometown or needed a break from my family. Not even because I thought there was something "bigger"-- I just thought there was something more.

I worked hard in high school. I graduated with honors in AP courses, was the editor-in-chief of our school paper, was in student government, edited our literary arts magazine and was on a winning constitutional theory debate team. I won Most Likely to Be President and Best Dressed. I had my first poem published by 16; I had articles in the city paper and I had been running my own blog for four years. I scored a 30 on the ACT and had community engagement under my belt. In my mind, I did everything right. I thought that I deserved to go to a prestigious school in a great city. And maybe I did "deserve" it. The problem was, I felt entitled to it.

You can imagine my disappointment when I realized that despite being accepted into schools in Chicago and D.C., I could only afford to go to Ohio University. And even more sickening, going to OU would still put me into debt and put a strain on my family. It's worth noting that OU is a fantastic school with an extremely competitive and world-renowned journalism program, Scripps, which I was fortunate to get into. But it was in the middle of nowhere, inhabited by more cicadas than people, 99% white and most importantly--not what I envisioned for myself. I cried, I whined, I sulked. Being completely dramatic, I shut down. I wasn't really writing, wasn't creating and really wasn't looking forward to my future anymore. All of this is embarrassing to admit now.

Anyway--it wasn't until I stopped my complaining and began to have an optimistic and appreciative outlook on my future at OU that I got a call from Howard University in late June, offering me a full scholarship. With about a month to completely change all of my plans, I kept wondering what made them change their mind on my scholarship award amount.

I don't believe that it was simply coincidental that my shift in "luck" happened immediately after (literally maybe a week after orientation at OU) my shift in attitude. I maintain that God was teaching me a lesson; one about entitlement, appreciation and fairness. And most of all, I came to understand that what you "deserve" is not always what God has in store for you; that what you think you're working hard for may not always be in the cards. It wasn't until I accepted this that I got what I was asking for. [You can read more about this here.] Since then, I've been appreciative of every opportunity that's come my way.

And then my journey at Howard began. I can put a lot of little cheeky, pretentious things in here about how I belong at Howard; about how I was placed here. (Like the fact that Howard U and I share a birthday, March 2.) But instead, I'll talk about how God has been slipping me notes of affirmation as I matriculate through my undergrad experience.

The feeling "pulling" me out of Ohio was really distinct. It felt magnetic and mandatory. That feeling had come to me often in college as I was getting into the swing of things. Every time I trusted that feeling and went where it was pulling me, I ended up exactly where I needed to be.

Sometimes, when I didn't get that "feeling" and was actually certain something was wrong, I still received affirmation. For example, I was put into a class by a, frankly, incompetent  guidance counselor that I tested out of. I shouldn't have taken the course, but didn't realize until it was too late to drop it. That class taught me more about myself as a person and a writer than I'd ever know. That professor shifted my life course. I needed to be there, even though I didn't need to be there. Everything is intentional.

I wrote about how my summer out of freshman year, I couldn't manage to get any of the jobs I thought I wanted. Looking back, being forced to freelance that summer 1) presented me with the freedom to pursue several creative endeavors and 2) learn that I was in the wrong field; that my passion was storytelling but my path was with creative brand strategy. If I had spent that summer interning in some newsroom, I don't know if I'd be able to say things like "I'm working on a campaign for Ulta" or "Yes, I'd love to help with Industrial Bank's social media strategy." I can walk into a JCPenney right now and see a brand that I worked on a marketing campaign pitch for. So while I thought I was being punished with rejection, God was really just making sure my hands were free to do the work that mattered (aka catch these blessings).

Anyway, I work really hard to listen to God now; to hear his message over all the noise.

Not that I'm a perfect Christian suddenly, or that I always obey what I hear. My focus isn't to get to chapel more often or to obtain moral absolutism. I'm building an authentic and personal relationship. I'm at a point where God and I have running jokes, where I believe that everything is intentional, where I know that God is only good, despite my younger self always believing that I was being punished--he may allow bad things to happen, but he doesn't make them happen. Much to the church's dismay, I am questioning God. I'm asking why I'm here, why things happen, what to do next, etc. I don't believe that any reasonable god would throw you into this world and be mad at you for trying to understand it. My relationship with God is conversational--I talk and He talks back; I ask and He responds; I request and He requires.

All and all, I'm more appreciative of life, opportunity and forgiveness. And I'm sure He has a lot more to show me.

Jaylin PaschalComment