I didn't always know that I wanted to study theology. I went into college thinking I would major in political science and then go to law school after graduating. After a couple of dull political science classes, I switched my major over to sociology since it was in those classes that I felt most alive. Even though I loved my classes and major, I didn’t know what I would do after graduation. I didn’t have a concrete plan and I had not seriously considered seminary at all. In my mind, only people who knew they wanted to be pastors or church leaders attended seminary. During my senior year of college I was encouraged by a University Chaplain to visit a few seminaries. Thanks to a Lilly grant, I was able to visit several divinity schools. While I enjoyed my visit to each school, I did not feel any one of the schools was a particularly good fit. 

After graduation I decided to forego grad school since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue. Instead, I chose to participate in a program called Mission Year. I ended up serving in an Atlanta neighborhood called English Avenue. During the day my six housemates and I volunteered all over the city. I was placed at a clinic for uninsured folks where I mostly served as the bilingual receptionist. After volunteering during the day, my team would help run an afterschool program for kids in the neighborhood. Our free time was dedicated to cultivating relationships with local churches and in the community. The relationships I built with families in the neighborhood proved to be transformative for me so I decided to move to Atlanta semi-permanently after completing my Mission Year.

When I returned to Atlanta after a visit home, I was faced with unknown variables in my life. Where would I live? Where would I work? As Mary Oliver would ask, “What was I going to do with my one wild and precious life?” One of my neighbors invited me to live with her and her son until I figured these things out. She not only housed me but also fed me until I got a job. I am forever grateful for the hospitality and generosity she showed me during that season. I had a difficult time finding a job, in part because I didn’t know what kind of job I was looking for. Out of heightening desperation I took on three demanding jobs: I was a server at an Italian restaurant, a busser at a hotel restaurant and an on-call banquet server at Coca-Cola. I learned a lot during that season. Mostly that people with little education have limited options and they work too hard for too little money. Some days I felt like I was losing money instead of making money. At this point I began to pray.

After some prayer, discernment and resume pushing, I secured a job as a file clerk at a firm in Atlanta. During this time I was trying to discern whether I should pursue a law degree, a Master of Education or a Master of Divinity. I decided to visit Candler as part of the discernment process. I was pleased to be on such a lovely campus, to be greeted and welcomed by helpful people and the MDiv program promised to be a great fit for me. I was drawn to the idea of combining a rigorous academic curriculum with my faith journey.

The promise that Candler would be a good fit for me has certainly held up. When I started my first semester at Candler, I felt that God was saying, "These are your green pastures," and God turned out to be right (surprise!). I’m constantly challenged and inspired by my peers and professors. Furthermore, learning and growth don’t stop in the classroom—or even on campus, for that matter. One of my favorite things about the MDiv program is the emphasis on Contextual Education (ConEd). ConEd has allowed me to be immersed in communities outside of Candler. During my first year I completed my ConEd I at Campbell Stone Apartments, which is a residential/assisted living place for the elderly. I was one of the Candler chaplaincy interns and I was delighted that I had the opportunity to build relationships with residents in a way that was organic and mutually affirming, just as I had done during Mission Year. In addition to that I was able to preach for my first time during the weekly worship service. As chaplains we were also invited to put on programs throughout the year. One of my events was a ‘Manicure Hour’ where I gave residents manicures and one resident convinced me to give her a pedicure as well! I am deeply grateful that ConEd affords me the space and time to be with people in Atlanta in an intentional way that intersects with my academic learning. Although I did not always know that I would end up at seminary, I am so glad that I did. Even more, I’m glad that Candler is the place where I am studying.