How Failure Revealed My True Calling

Posted by Union Gospel Mission Apr 13, 2017 8:39:41 AM

In the last blog post, we talked about the paralysis and shame some people experience as adults because of their perceived failures in the past. Here's a story of how God used "failure" to inspire one young woman's passion for a career in serving others.

By Brittany Schave

My first job out of college was working in financial sales.  I was over the moon when I was first offered the position, and jumped at the chance to relocate to the Pacific Northwest.  After a few months in, however, I realized something terrible:  I hated the job.  It felt meaningless to me, and the constant sales pressure gnawed away at my core. 

When I first started the job, I did reasonably well and they congratulated me.  They were so happy to have me, they said! As a natural people pleaser, I felt happy with myself for having fulfilled their expectations, even if the job didn’t fulfill mine.   But as time wore on and the emptiness of my job seeped in, I became increasingly unhappy, which translated into my performance. 

My manager’s advice to improve was to metaphorically “shove my foot in the door,” but it felt like my foot kept getting bruised.  Every day I didn’t make a sale, I had to put a red ‘x’ up by my name on our marker board.  Sometimes I didn’t mark mine up, just to avoid the shame.  The job always felt like a shoe that didn’t fit. I had forced it on and was walking around uncomfortably. 

At the same time, though, I didn’t feel I could quit.  I had relocated to the other side of the country, was saddled with college debt, and could not escape the unrelenting feeling that to quit meant I had failed.

 I was trapped.  It was not unusual for me to sob in the parking lot before my drive home, riddled with anxiety and the fear that I could not meet expectations.

AdobeStock_91263257.jpegI knew what I didn’t want to do, so I should focus on what I did want to do, I reasoned.  In my free time, I started volunteering teaching English to female refugees.  Next, I began tutoring a third-grader who was at a kindergarten level in reading, writing and math.

It was during my time volunteering that I learned I felt most alive when I was teaching

I taught a woman from Somalia the alphabet.  She was able to show her daughters that she could, for the first time, write her ABCs. 

The third-grader I tutored, after months of hard work, began to show an excitement about reading.   One night she read “The Giving Tree” aloud to me, and instead of shutting down at words she didn’t know, she persevered.  There was something magical about witnessing that moment, it was as if a light had been turned on.  To see her read like that is for me one of teaching’s greatest joys.

I finally left my job this past January, and will pursue my master’s in teaching in May. 

I didn’t write this to suggest, “Throw caution to the wind! Quit your day job!” No, quite the opposite.  I worked in my soul-depleting job for over a year.  I paid off more than half my undergraduate student debt in that time.  After work I took classes at night, and volunteered on weekends.  I am grateful that I experienced all of it.  My time at that job allowed me to boil down my ambition, and in the face of failure it allowed me to find my passion. 


J.K. Rowling once said, “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.  I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began directing all my energy into the only work that ever mattered to me…It is impossible to live in life without failing at something, unless you’ve lived so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default.”

Let me be the first to admit teaching is not a glamourous job.  It will take me many years to earn the same salary as I did in finance my first year out of college. You work long hours for little pay and little credit.  For me, though, it was an easy choice. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.  It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

brittanyryan-9422-1.jpgI heard God’s shout to teach.

Brittany Schave is a native of Nebraska who currently lives in Vancouver, Washington.  She is pursuing her master’s degree in teaching at Washington State University. 

Brittany found her life's passion when she volunteered to serve others. There are hundreds of opportunities to do just that at the Union Gospel Mission. Click below for more information about volunteering!

Click here to sign up for a volunteer orientation. >

Topics: failure


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