There is something undeniably cathartic about a blank page, regardless of the medium. Something invigorating about the possibility of the words that might fill that space, and ultimately, something profoundly healing that occurs deep down in the sacred most spaces of my heart when possibility is transformed into written word: something with tangible form, something with purpose. It’s therapy. When I think of the times I do my best writing, it’s nearly always when I find myself in a state of desperation. When significant change is threatening to shake my foundation, when relationships get rocky, when the daily grind becomes unbearable [welcome to the last 6 months of my life]. When the weight of the emotions I’ve so actively and tirelessly attempted to suppress start to effervesce to the surface, forcing their way through my thickest skin, my most convincing face, corroding my nerves of steel, that is when I find it most critical I write. It is always beneficial for me to write, but there are times when it is simply and absolutely necessary I do so. The reality of this truth has become a much more prominent theme in my life in the last few months. This likely has a lot to do with the manifold, fundamental changes my life has undergone in the past year which have brought me face-to-face with a soul-craving I’ve let lay dormant for far too long. But as the New Year casts its many bright and hopeful promises and projections over the impending months ahead, making its presence known with every new gym membership, undertaking of previously put-off projects, and hopeful declarations for change, while I’m not big on resolutions, I am inclined to take a step back and reflect over the past year and dream about the things I long to see come to pass in the year ahead.
The year twenty-twleve has forever staked its claim for permanant residency in my memory and upon my heart, similar to a scar: painful in the moment, but ripe with the one hell of a good story. In April of last year, we received the perspective-altering diagnosis of cancer for quite possibly the sweetest woman I’ve ever known: my mother. I say perspective-altering, because lets face it, when that thing that always happens to everyone else finally happens to you, paradigms shift, perspectives change. Period. And more specifically, for me, when we got this news, all the things I’d been on the fence about were no longer worth fence-sitting over. It was time to choose a side, to quit living my life as though I am the only one affected by the decisions I make. Because you can bet that when perspectives change in this way, a reorganization of priorities will follow close behind. And so I packed up and moved. I moved back to the place I left, back to the place they say you can never return to: home as I once called it. And it’s true what they say you know, you really can’t go home again. But you can create a new one. It takes time, and imagination, and a
little ton of work, but you can create something new in an old space. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past 6 months… it might be a bit early to call, but I think it’s working.
To backtrack a bit, in late June of last year, I left my life in L.A., my incredible community, my job, my life, uprooted and officially moved. This is significant to reflect on and not skip-over because the choice to do this left me trudging through a mess of emotions, the likes of which I still have not yet mastered. While many of the questions I had been wrestling with for months suddenly became crystal clear in light of necessity, the emotional whiplash that followed wasn’t something I was familiar with, or knew how to navigate. I won’t dive much more into this now- feel free to read more about that journey here, here, and here. The point being, I went from a stable, steady, confident 20-something year old young woman who more-or-less had life figured out, to the precise inverse-of, in a matter of mere days. It was all business and planning and future until it wasn’t anymore, and suddenly the U-haul was packed and my cube was empty and the gas-tank was full in preparation for the 914 mile drive that, until then, had been but a hazzy point on the distant horizon. I was hugging friends goodbye when it hit me: everything I’d been preparing for was now present tense. There was no more planning to be done, no more items on to-do lists to cross off. There was only God, a long stretch of pavement, some really bad pop-music, and a critical dependence upon a calling I knew I’d received despite my best arguments. And it seems, there’s been no looking back from that moment.
As luck would have it, or more likely the divine kindness of the Lord, I rather quickly met a really amazing man who helped take the edge off something otherwise quite daunting, and seemed to possess this effortless talent for putting a smile back on my face, and a sunrise back in my mornings. And as life seems to normalize, at least in terms of that relationship, it seems as though all the chaos of the past 6 months is catching up to me with maddening force… and while I, in my best efforts, have tried to convince this really bright, talented and thoughtful man that I am “in fact, not very emotional…” [because until now, I really have not been one to process the world through the lens of emotion], in a hysterical, divine-comedy sort of way, it seems that this poor man ought not draw any other conclusion than to think of this frenzied girl he’s dating as nothing short of incredibly self-deluded. I feel like I’ve been lambasted by a vast array of emotions that I can confidently say I’ve never encountered before. I feel them deeply, each one with distinction and an acuity that is piercing and threatening. And on top of that, I feel an additional sense of guilt that this incredibly decent man [poor soul] had to enter my life during a time when I’ve felt so profoundly unlike myself. And yet the stability his friendship has provided me throughout this season has been one of the most outstanding blessings I could have hoped for. In fact, in my indubitable lack of futuristic giftings, I dare say it’s all the things I never even bothered to ask for, which makes it all the more bittersweet in context. He has pushed me at times when I didn’t believe I was capable of processing it, he has challenged me on perspectives I thought I had nailed down, and in time, he has encouraged me to be the woman I had almost forgotten I wanted to become. I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to help me
identify remember the things that make me come alive, make me tick, make me hope. And then he encouraged me to pursue those things. I don’t mean to sound trite, but no one in my life, save a few kind professors, has ever truly encouraged me to go after what I am actually good at. It’s always been impracticle, irresponsible, asking too much, and not enough at the same time, and always, fundamentally, misunderstood. And so, for years I let go of my dreams. I decided to live someone else’s in the meantime. But in the past 6 months, amidst the chaos and dissonance, I’m finding I’m beginning to rediscover my voice, in more ways than one, and I am finally ready to say: I hate that dream. The one I’m living. The one that’s not mine. And I’m done.
So I quit my job on Monday.
And there’s nothing lined up to take its place.
And that’s frightening.
And I feel like a crazy person.
And I feel liberated.
And I am choosing to trust the Lord.
And right now, from where I sit, despite all logic… that’s a pretty damned good start.
I’m reading this book right now, and among other influences in my life [see above], it’s really challenging me to think critically about my life beyond the places I seem to be stuck presently and all the events that have led me here.
As I mentioned previously, I am not especially futuristic. I tend to live every day as it comes. At best, my future planning capabilities might venture out a few weeks in advance in the case of a really special occasion. Take for example my decision to move back home. When it happened, it was an instantaneous decision. Seriously, ask my roommate at the time. She nearly had a heart attack when I came home from work to announce I had put in my official transfer request that afternoon when I hadn’t even known I’d do so that very morning. And in true me fashion, I made the move just one short month later, once again with very little vision of what awaited me at the other end of that 17-hour drive North, or what I even hoped to accomplish once I got there. And it’s the same reason I find this part of the entry so much more difficult to write than the last: it requires me to consider that which is not yet.
And while at face value this way of living may seem appealing or ideal, glamorous even, what I rather find is that it leads me to living in the present, but with very little direction. But it is important to know where we are headed… how else will we know when we are lost?
Your life can look a lot of different ways when you’re twenty-five: single, dating, engaged, married. You are working in dream jobs, pay-the-bills jobs, and downright horrible jobs. You are young enough to believe that anything is possible, and you are old enough to make that belief a reality.
Now is the time to figure out what kind of work you love to do. What are you good at? What makes you feel alive? What do you dream about? You can go back to school now, switch directions entirely. You can work for almost nothing, or live in another country, or volunteer long hours for something that moves you. There will be a time when finances and schedules make this a little trickier, so do it now. Try it, apply for it, get up and do it…
This is the thing: when you start to hit twenty-eight or thirty, everything starts to divide, and you can see very clearly two kinds of people: on one side, people who have used their twenties to learn and grow, to find God and themselves and their deep dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults.
And then there’s the other kind, who are hanging on to college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great because they don’t want to be lonely. They mean to find a church, they mean to develop honest, intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in kind of an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than they were when they graduated college.
Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. Walk away, try something new. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either.
–Bittersweet by Shuana Niequist
Excerpt from chapter: Twenty-Five
The entire book is like this: rich with insightful, and for lack of a more appropriate word, bittersweet truths. I read this very chapter to a friend the other day. A friend who also just quit her job, the same job I just quit, to move to another state where she knows no one in order to fully pursue her dream with one-hundred percent of her effort and heart. She came over to say goodbye actually, and when I finished the chapter, she looked me square in the eye and said:
How could you ever read that chapter and not quit your job?
I have no idea. Honestly. Obviously…
She also expressed upon the close of that chapter how she felt reassured and more confident than ever she was in fact making the right decision. And I’m so glad.
She’s training for the Olympics by the way. No big deal. Something tells me the world hasn’t even begun to see all that my sweet friends beautiful, fiery spirit has to offer. But we can revisit that point in about, oh I don’t know, say four years…
And so in this season, I dare say, I am asking myself less questions that sound like:
“what are you going to do?”
and “how much money will it make?”
and more questions that sound like:
“how will you accomplish the becoming?”
and “who will you be when you get there?”
and “where is there anyway?”
I certainly don’t have all the answers. I’ve only just begun to ask the questions. However, what I do know, I will strive not to forget in this season. The things I’m discovering about myself, re-learning and embracing about myself, they are valuable, and they are worth pouring my heart into. In this season, I plan to explore the things that make me come alive. The things that make me feel grounded and unfettered too, make me feel hopeful and inspired. Even when it’s not glamourous, even when it’s humbling. Call it naivety, call it stupidity, but I am still young enough to believe anything is possible. And I am finally old enough to believe that I am capable of turning hope into reality. Because it’s the only way I know how to not get stuck. And so I’m taking a risk. I’m walking away, trying something new. Hoping against all hope that my terror will keep me on my toes, keep my eyes on God and my spirit determined.
Perhaps I was wrong. When I’d said this season has left me feeling “so profoundly unlike myself,” perhaps what I’m feeling is instead something far more resembling my self than anything before and I’m only just gaining the clarity to recognize it. It is certainly possible that in all the time I spent investing in someone else’s version of me, I lost sight of the real thing. Perhaps I’m just now taking the time to notice.
My prayer is that at the close of 2013, as I reflect back on yet another year that’s flown by, I’ll see the bittersweetness of this season in all its rich context and the fruit of the tears that brought me to this vulnerable and healing place.
Happy NEW Year. May it prove to be nothing less.