What is something you wish you’d known at an earlier point in your spiritual path and/or career?

Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference

Something that’s been an important part of my journey is that I’ve struggled with chronic depression. I’ve had depression, deep depression, on and off through my adult life, which is kind of an interesting thing, because I’ve also had these really powerful experiences of God, and I sometimes don’t understand how the two things can coexist. But, in me, they do. Part of what I would tell my twenty-something-year-old self is to have faith that there’s meaning, and that through listening it’s possible to find our way through the darkness. There were some junctures where I felt pretty hopeless. It’s important to understand that there are things we can’t see and can’t know, and that there really is meaning even if it’s small. It doesn’t have to be world changing.

For more of Barry’s story, click here

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

Hannah Whitall Smith has this great line in a letter she writes to her daughter, “I make it a practice to never live with regrets.” I agree with that a lot. I told you that I regretted not getting an advanced degree, and when I think about things that I regret in my life, choices that I’ve made, that’s probably one that I have.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

I’ve certainly had struggles in those areas–personal life, work life, and career life–so the things I might have wished to have known would probably be different in each of those arenas. But one general message I’d send back to younger me would be that whatever fear, confusion, destabilization you’re experiencing is natural, and that all of your heroes and role models feel equally fearful and destabilized, but that it need not paralyze you. This too shall pass. Courage–coeur, from the heart–is to go towards or be with that which gives you fear, and then when you’re tempered by that fire, you’re stronger for next time. So–persist. Listen for the opportunity or invitation to change you. Understand that you can’t change others, but that you can play a role in their change, and persist. When I’ve been heartbroken, or terrified of hurting others, or of doing something which might seem to be for the greater good but which will cause some people to feel angry or disappointed, I made it, through the grace of others who’ve made such moves letting me know that on the other side, there’s joy again, and stability, and a better way.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

That question kind of goes against my personality. I am not a person who looks back and says, “Oh, if only.” It just isn’t in me. There are lots of choices in life and I think I’ve always felt, “Don’t agonize over them. Make a choice and make it work.” So it’s hard for me to think of something in that way-what do I wish I had known then-would it have changed something. I feel like I’ve been really lucky. I wouldn’t have changed anything. If I am giving somebody else advice who’s agonizing over things, one of the things I say is, “If a decision is hard, it’s a sign that it doesn’t matter what you choose.” Easy decisions are when this is obviously what you need to do. If you can’t decide, because it could be this or that, it’s not a big deal, pick one!

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:

I think fearlessness is a really big thing for me, and part of that just comes with age and experience. As I’ve gotten older, I’m not worried about what people think, but really rely on what I know, feel, sense, intuit to feel confident that God is speaking through me, and not worry about outcome.

For more of Gretchen’s story, click here

Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:

If I were to give advice to my younger self, I think it would have been in the period where I knew I was a Quaker but didn’t have a meeting membership, and hadn’t found a community. My advice would have been to try harder, either to find another meeting or to talk to somebody about that, because I get so much out of being an active member of a meeting. It’s easy to say, “I can be a Quaker, but I don’t have to go to meeting every Sunday, let’s have brunch or whatever.” I think that’s laziness to some extent. We’re super fortunate here in Philadelphia, because there’s 106 or so meetings in the area. I had to go halfway across the city to find one that really clicked for me. I should have done that earlier.

For more of Gabe’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

I wish I had known that, for the most part, people do not judge you for the biggest mistake that you make. For the most part, people are still going to love you, trust you, and support you. Making mistakes is part of what you have to do to learn, to do something new and be creative. You’re going to do things that don’t always work or that you have to redo, or you didn’t know something important that you learn and do it over. I always want to do things right and have people think highly of me and all of that. For the most part they do, but also, that is just part of being human. Part of doing something at all worthwhile is that you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to do things imperfectly, but that’s okay. I wish I’d known that; it’s also something that I am continuously learning.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

I believe that it’s not possible for any of us to get outside our own heads. We live in our heads. There’s that David Foster Wallace guy, who gave a talk at Kenyon College that’s what it was about. I’d be disingenuous if I said I was a fully practiced master at always recognizing when I was in my own way. But I can’t say that when I was a younger person, that I was aware of that as fully as I am now. One of the beauties of a place like Earlham was it really challenged you to get out of your own way. I feel lucky that, in formative years, I did have mentors and peers who were really pushing on me to get out of my own way.

But I also remember in college–it’s interesting watching people react to Black Lives Matter right now, because it reminds me of women I went to college with who were challenging the patriarchy. First time a lot of us guys had heard all this. And I remember, my freshman and sophomore year, personalizing a lot of what they said, instead of just listening to them, which I learned to do later. Just listen to what they were trying to say. And in listening, realizing that there were personal things that I needed to wrestle with, as a man, in thinking about this. And the second piece is, while I struggled with that, there’s no reason why I couldn’t been supportive of them. As I’ve gotten older, I wish I had found the level of confidence, personal confidence, that I have now, at earlier points along the way, so that I would have been better able to get out of my own way, and more supportive of the people who worked with me and for me. That would have been a helpful thing to have been better practiced at when I was a younger person.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):

One of the things that Rufus Jones taught me deeply was that final big answers are not available to human beings, and they are not going to fit together it into any deep intellectual package; that it was ok to be comfortable with not knowing. I don’t know how you teach somebody that, especially somebody who grows up smart, doing well in school, for whom knowing the answer comes easily: to learn that not knowing the answer is important.

For more of Doug’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

I think there was a time, a long time ago, when I realized that, “Oh yeah, this isn’t about you,” and I wish I had known that earlier. Especially when you find yourself in one of these weird roles where you’re a public Friend, or that sort of thing, it’s really good to remember, “This isn’t about you.” Maybe somebody can’t tell you that, you have to figure that out. But I was really glad when I finally figured that out. It made me a better person, I think, and helped me do my job better. I wish I had known how draining managing staff can be sometimes. It’s not any comment about my current staff! But honestly, there are just things that come up between people, and there are hard decisions that have to get made sometimes in our organization for its health and for individuals. I didn’t realize how draining that can be, how much time it takes, how much emotional energy it costs, and so that would have been good to know. The other thing that comes to mind is — and I don’t know an easy answer for this — but, what’s the balance between one’s individual calling and their family, and how does that get held together in a way that’s good for everybody? You make your choices, and you do the best you can, and you still scratch your head and think, “Did I do that right?”

For more of Colin’s story, click here


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