“Finally fulfilled.” That sounds like I’ve found the answer, huh? Like I’ve completed the journey, like I’m moving on to the next adventure, like I’m better than ever before.
Man, do I wish that were the case.
I didn’t want to write this. Not at all. I haven’t wanted to do much of anything lately. It’s been a struggle. I’ve always been a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a procrastinator, but this is different. It’s more.
I’m still having a hard time explaining it. I’m not sure what it is, when it started, where it came from, why it’s happening, how it’s affecting me. I just don’t know. I feel really empty; loneliness has crept in now more than ever.
But I’m not alone. I know that.
I have wonderfully loving friends. I know that.
My Father, the Creator of the universe chooses to know me and love me. I know that.
I have unlimited support through family, friends and church family. I know that.
But I don’t feel it. At least not for the past few weeks, months, however long.
Middle school was difficult for me (wasn’t it that way for all of us?)
I say that not to call back those horrific memories–please leave those photos in the past where they belong–nor to be melodramatic (typical Danie), but to make the connection.
I was on the phone with my mom one morning on my way to class, a routine of ours. Our casual conversation dove a little deeper and I confessed,
“Mom, I don’t think I’ve felt this badly since middle school.”
Her silence pierced me as I felt tears wet my face and knew the same was happening on her end.
We never talked about it, never discussed the things I went through, the thoughts I had, the me I was. But she knew; she just knew. She knew I wasn’t happy with myself, with everything going on around me, with how and who I was. She knew I was facing an obstacle, struggling to overcome, even if I didn’t know what that looked like.
She didn’t know, though, that I didn’t feel like I was enough. Enough for her and my dad, for my sister, for my friends, for the boy I had my eye on, for my teachers, for my cheer coach, for anyone. She didn’t know that I lulled myself to sleep with a concoction of daydreams featuring a better me and punishing thoughts toward my failure, toward the me I was. She didn’t know I was searching for hope, grasping at puffy clouds that looked promising, yet were nothing but vapor.
I’m not sure when it passed, when that dark cloud finally rolled away, I just know it did. It went away and we didn’t talk about it. It was over, finished, gone. I was better and that was that. When my sister neared middle school, we mentioned it for the first time. We vaguely spoke about why she wouldn’t have the same experience, the advantages she had in personality, time and setting itself. The conversation ended as quickly as it began.
I liked it this way. Talking about it felt too much like confrontation, something I hate with everything within me. I would have to face it head on, with words and thoughts and full conversations I couldn’t just walk away from. I didn’t want that, and the opportunity never arose, so it passed like a distant memory.
The next four years (yay, high school!) passed with few reminders of the years prior, as did the first half of college. Middle school happened, it sucked, it hurt, it left scars, but it was over. Done. Move on. So I did, and it was beautiful.
My time at UA has been everything I dreamed it would be and more. The friends I’ve made here surpass any level of description of what a friend should be, and I’m just so truly grateful for it all. I’ve begun to learn how to be content with myself, to realize I am enough through Christ (he equips us for all things), to be happy and confident with who I was made to be.
So I never thought I would be back here, back in this place of lonely, dark, “am I enough?” I had left it behind with my (exceedingly more) dramatic, middle school self; what reason could I have to ever find myself there again?
That’s the question I keep asking myself. What reason do I have to be here, to feel this way? I look around to find beautiful things and people far better than anything I could ever ask for. Why am I not beyond pleased, or at least content, with all I have? This year alone has been full of pure, top-notch adventure, everything I want with my life. So what’s wrong with me, why aren’t I happy with all of this?
At some point my mind began filling lulls with reminiscent thoughts, tracing its steps back to my dark hole. The fear of facing it jolted me, brought me back to reality. Yet I eventually welcomed the memories, allowed them to wash over me. I remembered how I struggled to connect with others, how I was once not good enough for a certain group, not the right fit. My mindset shifted as I began to assess my current friendships, doubt slipping in through the cracks and replacing what I once knew to be true.
My friends aren’t actually my friends; my memories and current situation got muddled. The don’t really enjoy me, they just tolerate me because they don’t have any other choice. If I just work on altering bits of my personality, changing my reactions to situations and tailoring myself to fit the mold, I could change that. It will take some effort, but I can totally swing it this time.
Transitioning, shifting schedules and friend dynamics convinced me I’d done it again, pulled a classic me and ruined everything. Doubt snaked into my college friendships for the first time as memories were made without me, as other friendships grew stronger and I saw myself being replaced. My initial reaction to ignore my likely over dramatic feelings quickly turned to a self-medicated situation: I would work to be who I felt “they” wanted me to be.
A day of failed attempts to change, to be better, changed a declining staircase into a steep, slick slope. There was no more traction; I was down by the time I realized I was falling. My mind raced to over analyze every syllable of the words spoken around me, of glances and accidental eye contact with friends and strangers alike. My skin didn’t feel like mine; I suddenly was trapped in these walls of myself, but I didn’t know how I got here, or more importantly, how to get out. I could feel, see, hear myself slipping away from those closest to me, but there was no next step, no place to grab hold and pull up.
It spiraled from there into every aspect of my life. Boys don’t like me for X number of reasons: work on your appearance, be nicer, learn to flirt (LOL at that); do anything, just don’t be you.
My teachers aren’t impressed by me: compare what you do and say to that student they love, make yourself more like them, think like they do and you might be smarter.
My family seems uninterested in my life away from home: be more like your friends whose parents ask about their classes, be more successful in school and work, find a boyfriend they’ll love.
My classmates aren’t entertained by me: be the perfect balance of funny and chill, stop being so spastic and annoying, be smarter, but not too smart, be confident in who you are; wait, don’t actually be you, just be confident in who you want to be.
My Bible study is unresponsive and inconsistent one week: be more like other leaders, be open with your girls, but not too open; be inviting, but not pushy; if you were more fun they’d enjoy this more.
My head feels fuzzy just writing it all out.
Finally I realized I had to talk about it, all of it. I couldn’t bear the weight alone anymore. The day I realized I had somehow returned to my darkness, I did the one thing I never did before: speak.
“It’s okay to not be okay.” I’d heard it a million times, but it never sounded as welcoming as it did in that moment, as it does today. I needed someone to tell me that it was totally fine for me to not be totally fine, to not be the bubbly, enjoyable person I want so badly to be. We’re human and fragile and soft and malleable and sometimes we get a little bent out of shape.
I’m pretty sure I’ve said recently, “I’m broken.” But I’m totally not broken. I’m bent, twisted, maybe a little banged up, but still in one piece nonetheless. So there’s hope in that. That’s the other difference from the time before: hope. I have something to hold onto, an ever-present friend in times of trouble, a loving Savior who constantly and consistently reminds me who I am and who He made me to be.
God never promised me (you, us) there wouldn’t be really, really difficult times, times of pain weighing more than I can bear. He told us to be ready for that, that surely it was going to come. Yet He did promise us that we would never, ever see a day that He was not beside us, guiding us through, making a way, shining a light. We just have to follow. But sometimes that’s really hard and you just don’t have the motivation, the willpower, the strength, the desire.
There will be days when you feel like everything is against you. You will be tempted to throw in the towel, to beat yourself down, to tell yourself to suck it up and stop being dramatic, but hear this, friend: it’s okay to feel this way.
But don’t do it alone, and don’t forget where you’ve been and what you’ve come through. Listen to the Father’s gentle whisper of loving truth: you are enough because of Me.
Fear and pain knock us down–hard. But even now, in the midst of my funk, whatever it is, I can look back and see my Jesus all over that time in middle school. I can see God’s hand holding me, protecting me, nudging me to the next step, all the way to here, to now. I can’t express how grateful I am for this hindsight, for seeing His faithfulness in my own life in a situation scarily similar to now, because I know that if He was faithful then, He will be faithful now and in the future. Our God doesn’t change. He is constant and stable and unshaking and certain, all the things we long for and cannot be; He has been faithful always and will never stop. It just won’t happen.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
So even as I sit with my mind in a cloud of who-knows-what-emotion(s), forcing my fingers to keep moving through the lack of willpower, I have hope. A simple turn through his Word, a line of a song, a glimpse of love brings me back to His safe embrace, the reminder that He is bigger than whatever this is. He brought me through once and He’ll do it again, and again, and again, and again. And He’ll do the same for you.
Finally I can rest assured in that, even when I don’t feel like it.