I’ve been told that I ask a lot of questions. Whenever I meet someone, I’ll ask them about their life and their passions; small talk is boring and I like to get to know people. When friends are telling me stories or talking about their problems I’ll ask about how they felt, what they experienced, etc. so I can truly understand what they’re saying. I like to know things. But no matter how many questions I ask or how many things I try to learn about others, life itself doesn’t always work that way.
If something happens to me, I want to know why. If there’s something I want to do, I want to know how and when. I have this incessant need to know what’s going on around me and what’s going to happen at all times and while I always saw that as a good way to keep tabs and maintain control over my life, I’m beginning to see how much of a burden it can be. The need to know everything is not only exhausting, but it’s absolutely impossible. People can say that sometimes “ignorance is bliss” and that’s great and all, but other times ignorance can drive you absolutely bat-shit crazy and that’s not always easy to deal with.
But sometimes I just don’t know. I don’t have a clear vision of what my future will look like. I don’t know how I’m going to do on an exam or a presentation or an interview. I don’t know why someone did what they did. I just. don’t. know. And nothing infuriates me more than that, but I’m learning.
I’m learning because I can’t practice faith without the not knowing.
I’m learning because I can’t know everything and still celebrate the little surprises in life.
I’m learning because I can’t grow from mistakes or pain if I know enough about my life to avoid them.
I’m learning to be okay with the unknown and just live in the now. Sometimes overthinking and over-analyzing who I am, what I’m doing, or what I’m going through won’t lead to better answers or any sort of closure, it’ll just lead to more confusion and self-doubt.
So, like Jon Bellion once said, “maybe I don’t know, but maybe that’s okay.”
*featured photo by @navetography on instagram
As spring break is in full gear for students everywhere, social media seems to be overtaken by pictures of the beach or videos of friends in exotic places. I remember clicking through photos of sandy beaches and palm trees as I sat outside… in a lawn chair… with five inches of snow at my feet and a fire as the only thing keeping me warm(ish). Needless to say, my spring break was a little different than some of my friends back home. I mean, who could turn down camping in southern Indiana in the middle of a snowstorm? It was obviously a well thought-out plan. My friends and I spent the entire trip joking and laughing about every little situation we got ourselves into (like pushing a van out of the mud at 10 a.m. or forgetting to pack lunch for a 6+ mile hike), which made the memories even greater. But at the beginning of the trip, my friend said something to me that really stuck. She mentioned how some things seem a lot bigger when you’re up close, but as soon as you step away, suddenly they’re not so large.
Maybe you think that’s profound or maybe you think it’s ridiculous, but either way, I loved it (shout out to you, Riley!). We went camping at Clifty Falls, which is right on the border of Indiana and Kentucky and very close to some smoke stacks that were part of an energy plant. From our campsite, you could see the stacks peeking through the tops of the trees, but they seemed so small and distant. But once we started our hike and were standing right next to the stacks, we realized just how large they really were. It was like being in a big city for the first time and realizing that pictures will never do justice for the enormous skyscrapers towering over you. Whether I was standing next to these smoke stacks or passing a waterfall or sitting at the top of the trail as I looked at the land beneath me, I couldn’t help but to think about perspective. I started to think about times where I was faced with a problem that felt as if it was towering over me in the same way those smoke stacks were. A problem that, when looking at it, made me feel uneasily small and insignificant. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt like that – who has felt helpless in the shadow of a problem looming over them. But then, like Riley said, as soon as you put things into perspective and take a few steps back, that thing is no longer as big and scary as it was up close.
I think the reason I like this so much is because we seem to quickly put things into a perspective that enhances what we see, rather than diminishes it (or maybe that’s just me?) We put our problems under a magnified glass expecting to solve them that way, rather than taking a step back and changing our perspective. Maybe that mountain you’re facing isn’t really a mountain at all, but you’re standing too close to see how to get around it.
I could have easily examined everything that happened on that trip through a lens that made the bad seem worse and the great seem not so good, but I didn’t. I changed my perspective, and even though I could barely feel my toes and I constantly smelled like fire, I saw the trip as something wonderful.
Take a step back.
Change your perspective.
There’s a lot of commotion going on in the world right now. With opinions that differ in more ways than one and people butting heads over the desire to be right, I feel as if there’s been a dwindling of hope spreading across the nation – an epidemic of moral losses as everyone searches for a political gain. But the problem doesn’t lie outside of us – it’s not something we can put limitations on or negotiate – the problem lies within us.
I have a thing for encouraging shirts. No matter where I’m at, if I see a shirt with an encouraging or optimistic phrase on it, I have to buy it. It all started when I bought a shirt that says, “peace starts with empathy.” This shirt is my favorite, because it reminds me to be empathetic (understanding or compassionate towards experiences or people without having firsthand experience) no matter what the situation is. I think this world could use a lot of empathy right now. We seem to have collectively looked at the world, pinpointed a problem, and settled on the quickest and “easiest” solution possible, but the only reason this “solution” seems easy is because it doesn’t require any real change within us – it leaves all of us free of guilt while also leaving us free of change. But we can’t have both.
We need to change. Not laws or legislation, us. We need to be more responsible with our actions, more careful with our words, and more generous with our hearts. We need to make a point to reach our hand out every chance we get instead of stepping over all the people who have fallen and expect them to be okay. We need to get rid of this, “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” mindset and start helping others – the change may start within ourselves, but an individualistic mindset will lead to individualistic actions, and this world is in desperate need of collective actions.
Stop giving people reasons to feel alone. Stop giving people reasons to believe nobody cares. Stop giving this world reasons to lose hope. Let’s start a new epidemic – start filling yourself up with empathy and spreading light and love everywhere you go. The world is too dark of a place to keep it all inside.
Have you ever seen a movie or t.v. show or even real life where a person is running through a hallway, rushing to get to a class or a meeting with stacks of paper, a cup of coffee, and other miscellaneous items in their hands, when all of a sudden something happens and they trip, sending the paper and everything they were holding flying, only to scatter everywhere? I feel like life can be like that sometimes… or a lot of times. Just when you think you’ve got things under control enough to get to where you need to be, something sends you flying. Maybe things weren’t exactly “under control,” but they were being handled.
Something about this semester has me feeling like that person who just tripped. Last week, I got caught with a terrible cold and had to cancel an important interview because I just couldn’t leave my dorm. Then, I drop my phone as I’m walking back from class, breaking it and leaving me phoneless until I go home next week. On top of that, I have two very important interviews on the same day, it’s midterms, I accidentally scheduled two presentations for the same day… the same Friday, and then a personal issue comes up that leaves me at a complete loss for how to respond to the situation. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like God looks down at me and thinks that I can handle more, when in reality, I’m still trying to pick up the papers from the last time I tripped.
But then I remember a conversation I had with a few of my friends a while back. We were talking about a similar topic – about whether or not God gives people more than they can handle. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, because there have been plenty of times where I have been overwhelmed and wondered why or how I got into such a situation. But during the conversation with my friends, I was reminded that life never gives you more than you can handle. God never gives you more than you can handle. Sometimes you’re just given what feels like too much to help you realize just how strong you actually are – just how much you can actually handle. If you’ve ever worked out or trained for something, you know what it’s like to have a goal in mind that at the start feels impossible to reach. Runners start out with a mile a day, but strive to run a marathon. Weight lifters start with just the bar, but aim to lift hundreds of pounds. Musicians start with scales, but dream of playing sonatas. We start out small all the time and work our way to become something so much greater. The only difference between those examples and the everyday growing that happens in life, is in life we don’t always set such explicit goals – we just grow stronger.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of our lives that we don’t realize the strength that we’re gaining from lifting the weight of life. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time to wallow in self-pity and complain about all that life is throwing your way – sometimes we just need to get that negativity off our chest. But at some point, we need to look at the wreckage of our lives and realize that the best thing to do is build from it. When you’ve tripped and the papers you’re holding scatter every which way, take a deep breath, pick up the papers, and walk it off. You’ll be okay.
We were fit into a mold the second we were born. This mold is one that grows – think of it like the spray on shoes in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It stretches to keep fitting us as we grow, but it is a mold nonetheless. This mold is made up of rules and expectations that are attached to our beings, and the threat of what will happen when we break them is greater than our desire to actually do the breaking. We are pawns in a game that can only be won by queens and kings. But it seems to me that the threat of breaking these norms is only great because the system (the game, if you will) has been the same for so long that people can’t bear the thought of something different. But rules were made to be broken, and I like to think my generation is pretty good at doing just that.
I have the utmost respect for my parents and other adult role-models in my life. However, if I hear the phrase “because that’s just the way it is” one more time, I will lose my mind. The “way it is” is the way it was set a long time ago, and we live in such progressive times that I, and anybody else for that matter, can’t honestly be expected to follow in the same footsteps as my parents or my parents’ parents or any generations before. We are expected to get a decent paying job, have a decent family, and live in a decent house. But I don’t want to live a decent life. I want to live an extraordinary life.
This game we are forced to play isn’t one that I want to be a part of. I have never cared about being rich or living an overall stable lifestyle because I know that with my goals that’s not something that I’m likely to have. I expect instability and a few bumpy roads along the way. But as long as I’m taking part in something that brings me joy and benefits not only me, but the people around me, that’s what really matters. I know quite a few people my age with this mindset – one where the price of the game isn’t worth it. I hope someday this can become a more widely accepted perception of life. I know there are people out there who are working jobs they hate and walking through life just to get through the day, and I know they are doing that because they feel like they have to. But it’s about time we realize this is not the way life has to be lived.
We need to stop mourning a life we don’t have because we feel our dreams died before they even had a chance to live.