This past month has been really weird. It has not at all been what I expected for my last semester of college. I hate it when life does not go the way I think it will.
I rarely cry, but in less than a twenty-four hour period, two weeks ago I broke down into a snotty-nosed sob fest four times. The best part is that a damn government letter set it off. I am not a huge fan of the small-town Wythe County circuit court right now. Apparently my driver improvement course did not count because it was taken online instead of participating in an 8-hour in-person class.
Now I am not a hypersensitive baby. Obviously some deeper heart issues have been simmering. This semester, I have been feeling a little lost, a little sad, a little lonely. The feelings make random, abrupt, short visits. The gray cloud sets in, and I do not understand it. As quickly as it comes, it then blows away. It’s a strange funk. I thought I just needed to settle into the semester, but all of a sudden, spring break is almost upon me, and I still have not figured this period of life out. I try to write it off and move on, but the unwelcome funk just keeps revisiting.
As those feelings simmered, they just needed a catalyst to make them boil over, for which I have Wytheville to thank. While the clouds are held at bay, I am beginning to figure out why some of those feelings have arisen at all.
In high school, one of the best-kept secrets about college is that freshman year is not always the party everyone makes it out to be. Another well-kept secret is that the last semester of college is almost equally as challenging. I was not prepared for that reality.
Last semester was supposed to be the hard semester. This was supposed to be the fun one. Last semester I kept my nose to the grind. My schedule was packed, and I prided myself on being able to handle everything as efficiently and successfully as I did. I thought it was a kind of hell, but last semester I was in the zone – my controlled zone, more precisely. I was doing school. I like school; I’m good at school. I am an expert at school.
This semester has thrown me for a loop, though. I was so excited to come back and have more free time. I knew I had one semester left, and I wanted to make it count. I wanted to do all of the things I had always wanted and not yet done. No regrets. (See my previous blog post for more on that topic.)
Yet, as I embrace outdoor adventure and wedge clay and spend more than fifteen minutes in Commons for meals, I am not satisfied. I am more lost than I have been for the rest of college.
Like many, being busy makes me feel like I have purpose and importance. Too much of my self-worth comes from how much I can accomplish in a day. I still have plenty to do this semester, but there is more free time, too. It freaks me out. I am used to designated school breaks where I get to step back from the work and relax. I am not used to a whole semester where I have to decide how to delegate my time and energy with things I’d like to do but don’t have to do. What? Fun clubs and stuff? Is it okay if I do that? My packed schedule and assignments have usually decided what I do for me. I have recently been challenged to intentionally waste time and spend a little time for myself. Because really, is watching a movie wasted time after all? It is probably rejuvenating. I look around and other people are still really stressed. I am not. Simultaneously, I also still have plenty to do in class, but it seems stupid. The thing about being an English major is that you don’t really learn any new skill. You just read new material and analyze it like you have been for all of college. It is getting a little monotonous. There are other graduation requirements like my senior honors project that I have not been investing in as I should; that is starting to cause some anxiety. But I just don’t want to do it and I do not care as much as I have in the past. I think this is called senioritis. Ha.
Failure and Judgment
New activities are hard and challenging, and you are far more susceptible to failure when you do them. I like being good at whatever I do, and obviously that is impossible as I roll a kayak or attempt to center clay. Like any true perfectionist, I like failure as much as cats like taking baths. In truth, a few doses of failure are probably good for me, but that does not make it any less exhausting. I am not easy on myself, either, and I am self-critical. I not only expect to be good at anything I do; I expect to be the best, and I am unsatisfied when that does not happen. Rationally, I know such a standard is preposterous. But this is my hardwiring. I am learning to work with the way God has made me. It is good to be efficient, to be my best. It is not good to constantly condemn myself. I am trying to remember grace.
I am doing all of the things a first semester freshman would do as a second semester senior. That, friends, will mess with your head. I am trying to be present and take advantage of opportunities and friendships, but I am also ready to move on. I waffle between the two, because I know college is a valuable time and the not-so-fun working world is next. When else will I get to read and hang out with a bunch of my peers all the time? Yet one foot feels like it is already out the door. Even as I invest in people, I wonder, “Why am I doing this? I’ll be out of here in seven weeks!”
Control & Trust
Ultimately, a lot of this restlessness comes from my tendency to be the conductor of everything in my life. Usually things go the way I intend for them to. Despite my directions, life seems to have steered a different path this time. Not being in control is hard and scary. Fortunately, I remember that I am not totally in charge after all. Through whatever weird period this is, I am reminded that God is good, all the time, no matter my circumstances. Particularly as I have these slower moments, I look to him, and he speaks. He wants me to trust him. He is the captain of my ship, but I have been monopolizing the steering wheel. As I seek him, I am rediscovering the power of prayer. I never stopped relying on him, but he is proving to be faithful when I depend on him. I have been trying to do life a little too independently. These past few weeks, I have seen so much more clearly the way he moves and the way he provides for me, even if my struggles are small and “first world.” Random people have dropped into my life, and they have provided so much guidance and reassurance. There are mountains and valleys, and when I am in the valley, the mountain becomes higher. A lyric line in one of my favorite worship songs says “I lean not on my own understanding. My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.” It’s true. He is far greater than I. I am going to let him be the director he is and allow him to work through me. He is faithful. His mercies are new every morning, and I will hope in Him.
This post is pretty personal, but I still publish it for two reasons. I like updating those that care about me, and this is life right now, unawesome as it is. Second, honesty is important, especially when the standard “How are you?” response is “Good,” regardless of the way one actually feels. If you’re not good, that’s okay. I hope by being vulnerable I am opening opportunities for others to know that they are not alone. Expectations of how life “should” be are often not how life actually is.
I am doing alright. The funk comes and goes. Either way, I am re-learning that regardless of how I feel, this is where I am. The Lord can make good out of that. He will be my daily portion.