“What do you want?”
I’ve had this question posed to me a number of times over the past few weeks, relating to various aspects of my life. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” “How do you see this transition panning out?” “What do you think of us?” “Where do you want to live?” At the root of all of these questions is one single idea: What do you want?
I’ve never liked answering this question because I always feel like the answer I give binds me to something that may change later on, as if it obligates me to a course that I am not yet ready to commit to. However, it’s a question that needs to be answered before any type of result can be seen.
When I moved out here to Washington, DC, three years ago, I thought I knew what I wanted. During undergrad I had interned with the State Department, and that semester broadened my understanding of the foreign affairs world. When the internship ended, my answer to, ‘What do you want?’ was, ‘To work in foreign affairs, and ultimately for the foreign service.’
Upon my return to Washington after college, I landed a job and started gaining experience and contacts in the foreign affairs-related world, keeping the answered question in the back of my mind, ready to be recited whenever asked. But the longer I worked, networked, and better understood DC, the more I realized that the answer to the question wasn’t that simple, nor was the road to that goal clear. But I kept working, waiting on God to open doors and lead me down a path to the goal I had set in my mind.
But relying on God means giving up control, and in a city like DC that’s not an easy thing.
DC has a culture of being ‘self starters,’ ‘ambitious,’ and ‘goal-oriented.’ Phrases that dominate resumes don’t always translate to trusting divine providence. Sometimes the best way to achieve the goals we set for ourselves is through patience, and when working in environments that demand constant movement, patience and faith are not easy asks.
I’m constantly reminded, though, that God is faithful; he got me to this point, opening doors, bringing people and opportunities into my life at the right time. I think of when I interviewed for my first real job here in Washington: The organization was much more conservative than I considered myself to be and focused on religious freedom, which was never an issue I had ever thought of as a focus for my career. Despite these hesitations, when I walked out of the interview every gut reaction possible was telling me that I needed to accept this position, even though I had another, better job offer on the table from the organization with which I had interned for the summer. Trusting that this was right was ultimately the decision that led me to Capitol Hill. During my time working for this organization I realized how important it is to have congressional work experience in order to succeed in DC; ultimately, I also gained enough background in international religious freedom issues that I was able to transition into a role focusing on that from within a congressional office. My department head became a mentor to me, and without her insight, instruction and encouragement in my life, I would not be the person I am today.
As I look back on my life and my accomplishments to this point, I can see God clearly working and moving, guiding my footsteps. His plan for me, at least until this point, has been better than anything I could have planned myself, and I have no reason to believe that the future will hold anything different. So maybe the best answer to that question isn’t “what do I want,” but rather, “what do you want for me, Lord?”
Not my will, but yours be done, right?