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The Infamous “What Should I Do with My Life?” Question

Monday, January 28, 2019 by Maggie Blake - ACE 24, Washington, DC

What Should I Do With My Life? Maggie Blake

“What should I do with my life?”

I've faced this question at two particular moments in the last few years. The first time I approached this question was during the semester that I spent studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. One day, on a train ride to a town in the west of Ireland, I got an email that set off little alarm bells in my brain: “Apply for the ACE Internship & Early Admission!” I deleted the email immediately. My sister had been a member of ACE 21 and I had seen just how challenging the ACE experience was for her. Why would I voluntarily choose to go through two years of challenge and stress?

Maggie Blake - ACE - 24 - What do I want to do with my life?After a day of sightseeing, my friends and I found a small, dark pub to grab a pint and listen to some live music. We started chatting with the locals. I told a new Irish friend that I was studying abroad for a semester away from Notre Dame. He immediately lit up. “Notre Dame? I just interviewed for a program at Notre Dame! It’s called ACE. Have you heard of it?” Indeed, I had heard of it. In fact, I had just deleted an email suggesting that I apply to the same program. As I talked to my new Irish friend, I heard in his voice just how excited he was about this program. And I was excited with him.

The more that I thought about ACE, the more I felt drawn to the program. As a lifelong student of Catholic schools, the idea of working in one felt warm and inviting. I also loved the idea of being placed in a new and exciting city. So here I am a few years later, teaching social studies in Washington, D.C.

As I now consider what direction to go after I graduate from ACE, I am once again facing the infamous “What should I do with my life?” question. The fantastic friends that I traveled with through these two years are embarking on so many awe-inspiring paths. My teacher friends will go on to be even more fantastic teachers, consultants, lawyers, doctors, and policy makers. They are quite literally changing the world. I am so grateful to have said “yes” to the special human beings that I have met through ACE.

"ACE was just a first, wonderful step for me."

So, what do I do with my life now? I think about all of the different paths that I could take and I am overwhelmed by the possibilities. What if I take the wrong path? How do I know which one is the right one? But then my mind goes back to Ireland, to my discernment about ACE. I know that this ACE thing is going to be hard, so why do I want to do it? Why would I put myself through it? Because in the end, my ACE experience has taught me so much about myself and about the world around me. I have learned how to teach critical thinking skills to some frustrating seventh graders. Most importantly, I have learned about the importance of hard work and the profundity of human connection. Connection with my students, my community members, my ACE cohort, and the people that I love that live far away from me. As I look to my future, I hope to continue to say “yes” to the things and the people that bring me joy and challenge and impact. ACE was just a first, wonderful step for me.

Maggie graduated from Notre Dame in 2017. She is in her second year of teaching Middle School Social Studies at St. Francis International School in the Archdiocese of Washington.

Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows at ace.nd.edu/teach.