Some thoughts on the Brightest Night of the Year

Rynek, Przemyśl, Poland

Monica Wojciechowski
6 min read


December 25, 2018

A light can be bright, but can a night be bright? Yes. It just takes some Light to see that the night was, in fact, the whole time, bright.

Tongue twisters aside, here’s some of what to most might seem like a ‘night’ during these past two years:

  • being immensely confused about whether to / how to change careers
  • wasting time studying for the GRE and wasting money taking it
  • wasting money on a trip to Notre Dame
  • leaving a job with no immediate replacement
  • being unemployed
  • receiving several ‘not enough experience’ or ‘not right now’s from companies I applied to

…and some of the incredible adventures to follow that helped me realize that ‘night’ was in fact bright the whole time:

  • moving to Poland
  • graduating from a coding bootcamp
  • traveling to Asia for the first time
  • learning to scuba dive
  • hiking in snow-covered mountains
  • spending two weeks learning about the essentials of a free society in Slovakia with an incredible group of people
  • picking hundreds of apples, raspberries, blueberries, in what was an especially fruitful (literally and figuratively) summer
  • sharing a home with my inspiring 95-year-old uncle
  • spending my birthday and Easter with Grandma for the first time
  • loving my ‘never-ending-until-it’s-time-for-it-to-end’ summer (aka being unemployed)
  • learning that “It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement.” -Isocrates
  • exploring more of Poland than ever before with my brother on what I called our ‘Tour de Pologne’ (Poznan -> Gdansk -> Hel -> Warsaw -> Rzeszow -> Katowice)
  • FINDING A JOB! IN POLAND! IN A NEW FIELD! THAT I TRULY ENJOY! (officially a Junior Frontend Developer at an awesome company called Netguru)
  • making a bunch new friends (from 9-months-old to 90-years-old, and everything in between)
  • and today: spending my first Christmas in Poland with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Przemyśl

But what I’m really at a loss of words for, is not what happened this past year, but how, and thanks to whom. God is great.

I realize many of you may very well know (or have correctly assumed) that I left my job in the US and moved to Poland. What many of you don’t know is that leaving my job and moving to Poland was not an overnight decision, but about a year of serious deliberation and searching for my next step in life. Along the way, I happened to rent a book at the library that started to pull the pieces together. The book was a biography of Pope John Paul II called Witness to Hope.

There’s a particular moment of late 2016 that will likely always stay painted in my memory. I was standing in the library with two books in my hand - one about Abraham Lincoln and the other about Pope John Paul II. I didn’t want to rent both, because I’m not the type of person that can read two books at once. So, in what seemed like a very inconsequential decision at the time, I rented the biography of JPII. If I had the chance to learn about only one of these two influential figures in history, I asked myself, who would I choose? The answer was clear.

And so the journey (I didn’t know I was on) began:

Every night after work and whatever activities filled time after work, I would read about 4 pages a night - about the pace of a tortoise - because with every page read, I would be jotting down notes or quotes of about the same length. I had never actually looked forward to reading a book before. It was a pretty awesome feeling.

But given that half my notes were about the Pope and half about the author’s words of wisdom, I decided to reach out to the author with a word of thanks for introducing me to the figure I had always heard about, but never really knew. After learning that the author worked in the same city as I did, and happened to run a two week program in Poland the SAME TWO WEEKS I was going to be there that summer, there were too many coincidences to go unanswered. I knew I had to reach out. And so I did.

In the months to follow, I had the chance to meet with the author, who told me more about the program, and simultaneously found myself becoming more and more interested in Theology and Ethics. So much so, that after a couple months devoted to studying, I took the GRE, asked professors for letters of recommendation for grad school, and thought I had everything figured out. UNTIL I visited Notre Dame - the only school I was genuinely excited to apply to - and nothing clicked… Not the conversations with current students, not the conversations with professors, not the atmosphere… nothing. After flying from DC to Chicago, renting a car, driving two hours to Notre Dame’s campus, spending a full day in meetings with professors that seemed more serious, than seriously in love with their field of study, I was exhausted and confused. To add to the aura, it had been pouring rain all day, even as I was getting back in the rental car to drive back to the airport. But then, as if there hadn’t been enough signs that this was a bit off the path that God had in mind for me, there was one more clue not to be missed: as soon as I turned left to leave the campus parking lot, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and the brightest sun came out…

…so not grad school.

Back to square one? Nope! Nothing is for nothing. Sometimes clouds are there so you realize the sun is missing. I learned not only that I did not necessarily want to go to grad school (something I may have regretted later in life if I hadn’t tried), but also that I could still be interested in Theology and Philosophy and Ethics, without formally ‘studying’ them on a university setting. It’s one thing to study art, and another to paint a beautiful picture.

And speaking of painting pictures: later that month, one of my old professors asked me to help with some data visualizations for his site. I had helped out with some projects from time to time since college, but it wasn’t until then that I thought my little side gig could be anything but that. If I was enjoying looking at a screen after looking at a screen all day at work, though, there had to be a good explanation. It was a challenge, and challenge is what I truly missed.

What I thought was God’s way of calling me towards a PhD, was really his way of calling me to Poland

…to the home-away-from-home that gave me the ancestors and traditions and hope and faith that could teach me more about truth, goodness, and beauty than any formal academic setting ever could. And hence, the 2018 described above - and the peace that comes with watching in awe as God helps put the pieces together.

God loves you and is always waiting to be seen. In nature. In people. In random library books. In the pouring rain. Even at night. You just have to open yours eyes and open your heart. Merry Christmas and A Happy, Healthy, Hope-full New Year.