When I Grow Up...11:30 AM
You know, life seemed so much more exciting from ages 7 to college freshman. (Why start at seven? Because I refuse to acknowledge the dirty little, lying little, screaming little brat I was before then. Not that I changed much.)
That may seem odd. After all, I'm a college junior now, with a job and a boyfriend and the rest of my dreams coming true around the corner. But that's just the thing. Those dreams are here now. And the dreaming suddenly became reality before I gave it permission. Which leaves me with little dreaming left to do.
And where's the fun in life without dreaming?
Maybe it's not that dramatic. After all, I spent a perfectly entertaining afternoon scrolling through apartmenttherapy.com and planning how to renovate my imaginary studio apartment into a bright, fresh space with my limited DIY abilities and budget. Actually, I crushed those starry-eyed dreams by Googling prices for washi tape, cinderblocks, and cheap rugs. (Dear Google: when I type in cheap, I don't mean "redo your living room for under $2500!" cheap. I mean like, "I'm paying for college on a part-time job" cheap.) Still, I can't help monomaniacally researching and conjuring and hoping above hope that if I pray hard enough and think hard enough and want hard enough, then all my plans will unfold just as I want them to.
The real reason I'm on my little web space is to revisit the age-old question, What on earth am I going to do with my life?
I'm on the brink of full-blown adulthood. I take home a paycheck every two weeks. I own a car. I'll graduate in two very quick years. Most likely I'll be married after graduation. And then once the children come, I'll be a mother for 18 years.
Everything needs to stop or slow down or something while I sit and think about this a bit. See, I pursued a certain idea of who I was and what I wanted to be up until my sophomore year of college. Then I stopped trying to be anybody and fell into a gloomy, purposeless, angry, tired escapee from Jesus' love (with more bright moments than that dark description allows).
Who I wanted to be: a world-changer. A leader. Someone who relentlessly cared about people Jesus-style -- literally living and eating with hard-to-love people 24/7 and never letting the sleepless nights get to her. I thought myself an intense extrovert, a people person, with constant, off-the-wall energy and quirkiness.
And in some ways, those parts of me still exist. People rock. I love every aspect of them. I get sucked into projects and can go days without sleep to obsess over them. And I can be genuinely caring for the long-term (something that surprises me, actually -- my jerk streak with offhand blunt comments and selfishness competes with a tenacious desire to love and be faithful).
Except that I learned -- the hard way -- that there are other parts of me that make up my core personality. And when I ignore them, I fall apart in incredible ways.
It started last summer, when I came home exhausted from spring break, became a brand-new girlfriend, and spent two weeks with my family before flying to Colorado to help with a kids' program for a month...among people I didn't know.
I do this to myself all the time -- bite off more than I can chew and then try to stuff it down my throat instead of spitting it out and taking a more manageable mouthful (like pulling off five academic classes + everything else I wanted to do at a tough school).
I had zero access to family or boyfriend except on weekends, which I spent in mandatory relaxation with the rest of the crew. Our day was scheduled 24/7. The internet and phone service was spotty even when I got access to electronics. I tried hard to connect with my coworkers and they tried too, but it just didn't work -- and I guiltily felt like that awkward, needy person that girls feel obligated to make friends with and pray daily for strength to "love her as Jesus loves her." My coworkers went hiking on the weekends and swing dancing after work finished. I went to bed. Or talked as long as I could to my boyfriend, who I missed every single second of every single day.
I prayed so hard to learn to love that place, to find enjoyment in ministry, to focus on the right-here, right-now instead of pining for free time and alone time and boyfriend and family. Everyone else loved it -- they fit in -- it was like their freshman Hillsdale College experience. I wanted to go home as soon as I woke up every day.
I grew tons during that month...in the sense that God forced me to find my joy and comfort in Him alone. And I knew He wanted me to be there. But it also killed a crucial part of who I was as a person. I didn't know it at the time. I beat myself up about not being spiritual enough or social enough like everybody else I worked with. Then I counseled at another camp two weeks later...partially because I thought I hadn't learned my lesson to detach myself from the things of this world and to rely on Christ alone. That week went much better.
And now, this summer? I did nothing ministry-related, beyond VBS. The Bible study I wanted to start never happened. Instead I worked full-time and visited my boyfriend as many weekends as possible.
You know what? I am happy. I am so happy not being in a leadership position or doing anything intrepid and bold and radical. I am so, so happy learning to get my selfishness under control, learning to deeply know, love, and care about another person (a man, no less!), learning to be faithful and joyful in the small things at a retail job. I grew so much this summer -- becoming so much more comfortable making small talk, interacting with all different kinds of people, not taking customer misbehavior perfectly, and figuring out budgets and finances.
I am more introverted. I need a family of some sorts to serve and operate well. I need to be loved. I need to stay busy. I need the structure of a work day and the freedom to come home and do my own thing. I need to get together with friends for coffee, and I need to be myself. I am a conflicted and confusing personality.
I no longer want to do something big and bold. I want to do little things well. I want to love my family well. I want to get married. I want to talk to more people at church. I want to pray and read obscure parts of the Old Testament.
And if God calls me to something big and huge, fine. He'll give me the strength to either suffer or triumph. For now, I'm content in this mundane, everyday, quiet, small life.