Most of those years were spent feeling restless, unfulfilled, and not very useful. Now I am shocked to find out where I really was useful all that time.
There were good reasons for my feelings of being unfulfilled, including positions without enough work, being in positions that weren't suited to my particular skill set, etc. I looked for other jobs and thought about grad school and my purpose in life and envied Isaac's clear sense of direction. I often felt like that fresh-out-of-college kid in contrast to those around me at work who were settled into careers. In my first year or so here in Dallas I also felt intensely new and lonely and fought against my tendency to keep to myself.
So, in light of that, I've been really amazed recently to hear three different people in my office talk about my early years in this office. One guy shook his head and said, "Oh.... Kacie saw me in the years when I was newly back from overseas, feeling useless and angry. Oh the things Kacie saw and talked to me about."
Thing is, this guy is older, he is a leader, and he's a hero to me. And yet, years later, I discover that while I was so busy feeling lonely and useless myself, I was one of the few who witnessed and talked to this man through an extremely difficult time.
Another guy recently told me that the first time he talked to me was the first time after returning to the US that he talked to someone that he felt truly understood what the transition was like and what he and his family were going through. Apparently those conversations about culture shock, transition, etc - meant so much that he's pointed other people to me that he knows that are going through those things.
How odd! From my perspective at the time, this was another older, settled guy who was far beyond me, and it just so happened that I knew something about culture shock and so could carry on a friendly conversation about that common ground. I just never guessed until recently that those conversations I was having were so much more than conversations, and that simply understanding and relating was so needed and refreshing.
In Chicago, too, where I knew I was that Christian girl (working in a very secular working environment) that didn't party hard like most others. I assumed that I'd leave that office and hardly speak to anyone again. I felt like I hadn't built deep relationships. Now, mostly thanks to facebook, I'm in touch with most of those co-workers, and those conversations about life continue. It makes me wish I'd taken so much more of an effort to know them.
Lesson learned. My job is always two things. The actual duties of my job description AND the ministry of friendship to those around me. Never take the second for granted, or I could be losing the most important opportunity of all. And now, now when I do actually know the people around me and know what they're going through - do I let the fact that I am now busy at work preempt stopping and really love them?