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