There has been a lot on my mind lately, so I decided that maybe I should write a post. It’ll probably be all jumbled and really long, but read along if you want.
I am smack dab in the middle of a huge transition. I have finally left Charleston, and I am waiting to move to Nebraska. I was thinking today about how crazy it is that in less than two weeks I will be moving my life–literally everything of mine–to a new state. The baby is leaving the metaphorical nest–if all of Illinois (or just Rockton and Charleston) is the nest. It’s insane. And exciting. I am so pumped to go. But I am sad to leave at the same time. But this big move is almost unfathomable to me, it’s hard to comprehend. But if it’s anything like going to Spain was, it won’t hit me until I’m there. But even that provides comfort: I went to Spain by myself for four months and thrived, so how hard is going to a new state?
Although they are similar, they’re also very different: I am moving to this new state for I’m not sure how long but probably the next six years, and I’ll need to establish roots in many different places. This is scary and exciting for me. As an introvert, it’s challenging to put myself in new and unfamiliar situations. But I’ve learned to be more extroverted, which probably has accompanied my process of recovery from depression (I say process because I don’t think I will be fully recovered, and although I am better, what does it mean to be “all better?”).
The scariest place to put myself in, at least right now, is church. I experienced fantastic community at Christian Campus House (CCH) at Eastern. My time there over the past year really helped in the healing process–both for me personally and in relation to me going to church (or not going, really). My sophomore and junior years, when I was dealing with more depression than I am now (again, I won’t ever be immune from it), I didn’t really go to church much. Church is not an easy place for most people with mental health issues…I would have so much anxiety about going to church alone that if no one could go with me, physically walk in and sit with me, I wouldn’t go. The thought of walking into a church where I could possibly not see anyone I knew was really scary. The thought of having superficial conversations with acquaintances was really exhausting to me at that point in time because it meant putting up a facade and saying I’m doing okay when I really wasn’t. And my aching especially in that time was to be seen and loved. So for a long time, I didn’t go to church much. And then last summer I went to CCH Bible studies and met some people. So in the fall, I went there and met even more people. I went on fall retreat and connected with so many people that after that, I no longer had any anxiety about walking into church by myself because I knew I would see people that I knew. However, CCH doesn’t hold Sunday services in the summer so I faced the choice: would I go to church somewhere this summer, or just not? One big lesson I’ve learned over my senior year is that you get out of community what you put into it, and I think that if I had gotten involved in community sooner, I would have gotten “better” faster…that is a regret of mine. I knew that I needed to commit to going somewhere, because I’ll have to do that in Nebraska, so if I can’t do that in Charleston, what makes me think I could do it in Nebraska? So I went to The Fields Church in Mattoon every Sunday I could, and almost every time I went I as alone. It’s scary, because I didn’t know anyone, and if I had had more time, I would have tried to connect more than I did. But me simply going proved to myself that I can do it to a deeper extent in Nebraska.
It’s been interesting to see my fears dissolve…the thought of getting involved at a new church in NE was scary at the beginning of the summer. But I know it’s not impossible to do and it’ll help me get settled, and that’s dissolved away to almost nothing. I was probably more excited than scared and sad about moving, but for most of this summer it has seemed the other way around. Honestly, I think a lot of that was sadness knowing that I was in Charleston but would have to say goodbye soon. I said goodbye. It was bittersweet. (More on that later). So that’s dissolved. I got an apartment. I signed the lease. I’m packing. As my departure date nears closer, the excitement builds.
But here’s the reality: my life right now is made up of a ton of endings. My undergraduate career has ended. My undergraduate job has ended. I’ve had to say goodbye to professors and friends, employers and coworkers. No goodbye is easy. No goodbye to someone you have a significant relationship with is easy. One of the last things one of the cooks at my (former) job said to me was, “have a very, very good life, Jocelyn.” He said it in such a sincere way, it just sticks out to me even now. It’s possible that I may never see some of these people again, and though I may dramatically say “oh my gosh that’s so sad” when someone tells me to have a good life, it’s the reality. Now social media has changed this to an extent, and a lot of these people I can keep up with via Facebook and vice versa. But still…goodbyes are hard, because we are wired for relationships. In an ideal world we would never have to say goodbye…but it’s not an ideal world. The fact that we get sad about relationships ending shows that they are a worthy pursuit. So there’s some bittersweet sentiment in that, that the fact that we’re sad over goodbyes is actually a good thing. What higher calling is there than to walk through life alongside people?
I don’t like these kinds of endings. These kinds of endings are painful. Nevertheless, as I’m facing all these endings, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m filled with excitement and hope as I walk into this new chapter of life. There is much to be thankful for (I think I just read that line in If You Feel Too Much…). I am thankful for my time at Eastern and all of the people I met there and the things I experienced. I’ve probably said these things in other blog posts or instagrams, but it’s true…
I love looking back and seeing ripple effects. I can say that because I went to Eastern, I impacted people’s lives and people’s lives impacted me. In my mind I have the image of throwing a pebble in a lake and seeing the ripples: the ripples change things. I had no idea what going to Eastern would entail when I moved in, but probably the biggest surprise is that I’ve impacted people in being there. In my life, I’ve been really aware of how people impacted me. But I never thought I had influence on anyone else.
My time at Eastern has shaped who I am today; that’s undeniable, because I went through a ton while I was at Eastern. And I can look back and see how everything fit together, and it is awesome. It makes me so thankful. I have so much gratitude for everything that’s happened the past four years because it has so profoundly shaped who I am. I can look back and see how God used certain relationships and circumstances to grow me. I am not the same person that I was starting my freshman year; I’m a better person, I’m a more whole person.
Something I realized as I was processing leaving Charleston is that my time there served a purpose. I can see what that purpose was, to grow me, and everything that Charleston was meant to do, is done. As hard as it was to leave, as sad as I am, I know that I can’t stay there. I have to move on. Staying would only stunt my growth. That was a hard realization, because I wanted to stay there with all of my friends and basically just repeat everything. But it’s a good thing, to have to leave. It’s sad, but it’s good. I think the sadness comes from knowing the significance of the place and everything that happened, and also the familiarity of life there. Leaving means going into the unknown, unpredictable, uncontrollable. We want control and will do whatever it takes to get it, which is futile because we’re not meant to have control. But having a sense of control reorients us…it gives us something to cling to, to know that things are okay.
I am grateful for Charleston. I am grateful for the people I met there. I’m grateful for the things that I went through, even the bad things. I’m grateful for what i’ve learned. I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for God.
I’m grateful for the professors I’ve had that have influenced me for the better. And I know–I want to be like them. I want to have influence on my students. I want to inspire passion. I want to walk alongside them for a little while and help if I can. I want to expose them to foreign literature, helping them open their perspectives. I want to help mold them. I know that if I can be like these professors I have in mind, then I’ll be great.
I want to live life as authentically as possible. I strive to be open, because I know that not only does openness foster authenticity, but it encourages others to be honest. When I take off my mask, others can take off theirs. And most of the things we hide from others, ironically enough, are common struggles that we all face.
I have been reading books that sing along to this tune. Some good ones are:
–Scary Close by Donald Miller
–Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (well, all of her books, let’s be honest…)
–Carry on Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton
–If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski
-Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs (currently reading this)
The common theme about all of these is that it involves vulnerability. I have found in my life that if you take that brave step to be vulnerable, it encourages others to do so, and good things happen. We all want to be known. We are built for community. I was reminded of this as I celebrated the wedding of a dear friend. I looked around the reception hall and realized, this old tradition proves this point: the newly married people will throw a party right after to celebrate this huge life event with family and friends. Weddings are meant to be celebrated with other people. Life is worth living with other people. Having good community makes all the difference. I got a taste of that this past school year, and I am eager to start the process once again, because it is worth it. On a human level, we are meant to connect with people.
When I look back on my life, I can say without a doubt that God gives me a purpose in life. When I was at my most hopeless, I was in despair because I felt like life had no point. I need God because he gives me meaning. I have clung to that and other truths through dark times. Although I have to say that using the verb cling probably isn’t entirely correct, because it wasn’t me hanging on. It was God. I am so prone to run away, but something I can take comfort in is that God is always holding on to me and he will never let me go, though I try to let him go all the time. I find it hard to sing the line of a worship song that says “through every storm, I will hold to you,” because I know that I do not hold on to him when i need to. But life doesn’t make sense without him.
I’ve also learned that I have these standards about what my relationship with God should look like. But my relationship with him doesn’t look like I think it should. And that’s okay, because I can hang on to the fact that no matter how many times I doubt my relationship with him, I am still his. Nothing I do can make him love me any less–nothing I do can make him love me any more. I don’t have to earn his love; I can’t earn his love.
One thing I am learning is this: I think God is honored when we feel our emotions fully. Because he made emotions. And we’re so good at suppressing emotions. So i think when we are willing to fully feel them–not shy away from them–that honors him. Because it’s not easy to do. It’s courageous. It’s easier to shield ourselves with unhealthy coping mechanisms. But choosing to feel them fully is saying, “I am choosing feeling the full extent of this sadness (or whatever other emotion) right now instead of numbing myself with _____.” Because it’s not only acknowledging our unhealthy coping mechanisms, it’s heading into uncontrollable territory–into battle. It’s choosing to not avoid it, like is our natural tendency. It’s essentially embracing pain–something that is often overwhelming. It’s something that can overwhelm us, something that can win. But I think it honors God because it’s living authentically. It leads to a wholehearted life. This process transforms us and in turn transforms others if we are willing to be vulnerable. And it’s acknowledging that you can’t do anything to fix it other than to feel it. God’s grace is sufficient for us in our weakness. He will bring us through.
I was looking at a chandelier and was impressed by the detail. And since I’ve been thinking in metaphors and analogies lately, it made me think of how detailed God is, how he crafts our life through all the things we go through. Everything that happens to us is a part of his masterpiece. I was thankful for the things that I’ve gone through so far because I can look back and see the general purpose of it all. I want to be a chandelier. i want to show God’s glory through what he’s done in my life. I want to love people like he has loved me.
So that’s a bit of what’s been on my mind. I’ve been reflecting a lot. It’s kind of fragmented, but that’s because I have so many thoughts. Even though there have been a lot of endings lately, I am excited for what’s to come. It’ll be an adventure.