Right now the stage I'm at, predictably, is learning more about consecrated religious life and the different Orders and communities. After a while of considering and praying and discussing, the Lord granted me the favor of being able to finally schedule a visit with the Dominican Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Michigan (near Detroit) and a Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Sioux City, Iowa. I'm excited! I'm sure the results of these visits will be very important, but they will probably not involve me gearing up to enter the convent any time soon since I am taking another year to finish up with college and write an undergrad thesis in religion, and then am hoping to be accepted into Teach for America so that I can spend more time discerning, wrapping up loose ends, and paying of debts. That will take at least 3 years, but I figure an early start certainly doesn't hurt, especially since I am sort of new to the church (I was baptized Catholic at about 2 months and have been flirting with her for a while).
One of the biggest obstacles for me right now, I think, is probably convincing others and even being fully convinced myself that the call to contemplative life is 'legit'. By that I mean that life as a contemplative can, for those called to it, truly be a life in service of humanity and God. I feel satisfactorily convinced of this after prayer and research (soon after I asked God for an answer to this, the Carmelite monastery I will be visiting sent me some material on contemplative life that really opened my mind), but others in my life are not. Primary is the campus minister of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter at my uni (it's interdenominational, but overwhelmingly Protestant/non-Catholic), who has talked to me about how he basically doesn't think the contemplative life scriptural. Of course, this is probably mostly in part because he hasn't embraced the Catholic faith (though he was raised Catholic up to his First Communion and now attends and serves at an Anglican church) and so does not understand or see things the same way the Church does. Still, it would be nice to be able to discuss with him why I feel a legit calling to contemplative life is possible. I have some ideas, but they're difficult to articulate and I am only beginning to understand them. Any thoughts and other input are appreciated.
Sorry if that was a little rambly; thanks for reading! :)