You’re familiar with that rugged feeling of not knowing what you want to do with your life. The terrible tension of trust and worry, obedience and fear, as you step out into the unknown future. Yet you might not guess how difficult it is to know what you want to do with your life, too. 
A few weeks ago I had a little taste-tester of the smorgasbord of post-university anxiety, which was pretty foreign to me. What am I going to DO with my life?! What do I even WANT to do?! Senioritis hit me with an unexpected jolt, the woah-I’m-not-a-student-for-much-longer revelation, the student-loan-screwdriver drilling holes in my financial head.
What am I going to do? A simple question.
Well, um, Kayla, you do know the answer to this one.
You’re going to be a teacher.
Who knew it was going to be so counter-cultural for me to obey.

“Kayla, where have you applied for college?” A curious high school classmate asks me, at seventeen years old.
“BTI… oh, um, a little college in New Zealand. Not big or anything,” I reply matter-of-factly amidst the slam of silver-grey lockers. “I’m going to train as a teacher.”
“It must be so good to know what you’re doing with your life.” I imagine them, my class who all seemed to be stressing over college applications or DTS choices (there wasn’t actually as much stress as I often perceived). Yet this is what I faintly remembered from the overtones of our conversations in creaky high school hallways:
It must be so good.
Oh, it is. Not worrying about college applications and SAT scores, being able to visualize the next few years and read all about it on the blue-and-white website.
But knowing what you want to do with your life can be hard, too.

I grew up in an odd juxtaposition of being planted firmly in a solid location, among a mixture of people as fluid as the sea I could view from our parking lot. Youth With A Mission… or should I say, Jesus… had that beautiful way of catching people whose “options” had turned a corner, and showing them he really did have an epic plan for their life, without and with college degrees to your name. I saw it countless times, often forgetting what tremendous courage it took. Many DTS students turned away a university education– their American cultural expectation, to follow Jesus, to know God and make him known through short-term missions training and/or long-term staffNot that all YWAMers haven’t gone to university or were uneducated, far from it! But as a YWAM kid, I convulsed at the thought of doing anything remotely like formal education, it seemed so lacking in adventure! I wanted to be counter-cultural, not do what was expected of me. However, by high school I had thawed to the idea of university, in that I knew training was necessary for teaching. I wanted to be equipped as much as possible (I was YWAM-kid long enough to have “be trained” stamped on my heart!).
All of a sudden, my very clear plans to not-plan got interrupted. I stumbled upon the possible idea of Bethlehem Tertiary Institute and moving to New Zealand. I was a junior in high school when my mum first suggested it– a small Christian university that specialized in teacher education. Sounded perfect, and in Aotearoa, the land I’d longed to call my home for all my life. But wait, I’M A JUNIOR. I’m not supposed to know this. I’m not supposed to have this planned out. I’m supposed to rely on God and he’s gonna show me a DTS location and then I’m going to go on wonderful adventures and then go staff somewhere. I want to do that. Hah. Two years later, I sat in 4201 as a Year 1 Bachelor of Education (Primary) student. So much for not having plans– that possible idea had become reality
“Where did you do your DTS?” There’s a slight pause. I’m about to answer happily, when they realize… “Oh, wait, have you done a DTS?” 
I’ve heard this dozens of times in the past two years. It’s common courtesy, a point of congenial conversation and I hear in the same cheerful category as “where are you from?”. However, I still have to answer in the negative. No, no, I haven’t. And for me, that’s counter-cultural. 

My parents never pushed me towards a Discipleship Training School, I never felt ‘expected’ to do one, but with so many peers and close friends going off to their various parts of the world for those infamous ‘six months’, I couldn’t help but feel the stinging prick of “missing out”. I wanted to go! I really did! I want to do that entry-course to the missionary organization I cared so much about. I want to go deeper in God and travel the world to share with people about him! But BTI came first. So I went. College was never, never criticized, and “training to be a teacher” was always met with reassuring smiles from YWAMers and non-YWAMers alike. But I started to wilt despairingly– not from people’s questions “when are you going to do a DTS?”– but from the cost of obedience. 
As a missionary kid, I would get this thing we called “visionary overload”. It looked something like this. Often I wanted to be in at least five countries at once doing three schools or training courses at each YWAM base (School of Illustration and School of Writing), all the while basically “changing the world” and championing all this amazing Jesus-loving stuff– but I could only be in one place at a time. How could I choose? What path should I go after? And what if I really did choose a journey against the status quo, whose culture would I counter?
I can see a piece of paper laminated, pinned, and faded on the back of a wooden bathroom door. A memory called out from a time before life decisions, before high school or college. A principle forever pinned on my heart– on all of our hearts as YWAM kids, as missionaries, as anyone obeying Jesus– also known as YWAM Foundational Value #3:
Hearing God’s voice. 

Oh, he said BTI.
And you know, some days, that’s all I have to go on.
Not knowing what to do with your life is unnerving, difficult, and sweat-inducing. 
But sometimes the knowing is just as hard. 
You can’t really be flexible, which I used think was the only thing necessary if you wanted to follow God. If your best friend says come visit “Kansas City” or “Notre Dame”, you can’t even consider it an option unless it’s in your regimented break time. If a speaker comes to your church on Sunday and talks about a new ministry or internship to join, you don’t even have the chance to ask is it really you, God? (I mean, you could, but Jesus just smiles and says “What do you think, honey-one?”). You can’t decide to switch majors, or add minors. Doesn’t really work at our school that is training teachers. You can’t go home every Christmas, Easter, nor see your friends graduate from high school. You can’t send monthly support letters for the work you do with children, and due to privacy you can’t post photos of those children on Facebook so everyone could see.
But you can write, at least a little bit.
And you can remember.
Just as the unknown holds so many promise-filled wonders, so knowing what you want to do with your life can be beautiful, too.

“I’m gonna talk like Miss Norris,” announces a seven-year-old Kiwi girl mimicking an American accent.
“Do you know why I sit at the back? It helps me focus,” another gem of a student told me matter-of-factly one afternoon.
“I like you, Mrs. Norris,” gushes the boy that is more grin than face. A smile that would win anyone over.
It doesn’t matter if they consistently call me Mrs. Norris and I feel like my mother (best compliment ever) or don’t raise their hand because they are way too excited to answer my question, it doesn’t matter if the rubbish doesn’t get put in the bin or paint is splattered on the desks. It’s okay if I’m pulling split-ends off my hair trying to figure out planning and it’s okay if I’m fiddling with my tea mug in the staff room because I’m trying to muster up the courage to introduce myself to strangers. It’s okay if I haven’t ever read the picture book they’ve handed me or if they unconsciously correct my accent in pronouncing “Tiddler”. 
Twenty-five faces look up at me with wide eyes and rapt attention, and as I hold a story I’m intoxicated by their adoration.
I get to do this? 
“…These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road…” oh, live love infiltrated into our everyday lives.
Maybe hearing God’s voice– obedience– can be an adventure after all.
A few weeks ago, I choked on mouthfuls from a buffet-table of post-college worry. What am I going to DO with my life?! What do I even WANT to do?! I cried out desperately as a student in the midst of university lectures.

I chuckle at that now. Yes, I don’t know what next year is going to look like. The unknown is not always too fun, and it’s often crazy, intense. 
But this past week, in between crumpled newspaper and plastic cups of water-colour paint, my anxiety dissolved away, being teacher in a real third grade classroom.

What do I want to do?

I want to teach. 

And I eagerly pray for the guts to walk this road, whatever my culture.