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.
I hope you do not feel discouraged on days where love is put in the spotlight. I hope that seeing heart-shaped everything and couples going the extra mile does not put a damper in your mood or cause you to scrunch your nose and walk away. I hope the bright pinks and reds do not cause you to shade your eyes and turn towards the shadows. I know it’s days like today where everything becomes a constant reminder of all that you don’t have. And I know that reminder feels more like a hit than a hint, but I hope you do not feel hurt. I hope you never use your lack to feel bitter towards someone else’s gain.
It seems to me that this world is full so much negative that a day dedicated to love itself can’t even be appreciated. The everyday mumbles are no longer shushed and the groans grow louder because as more love is shown, more hatred is shown with it. The holiday becomes too “commercialized” as it picks at our every insecurity and fills the lonely with a sense of dread and the not-so-lonely with a sense of urgency to do more. But if we could take this holiday, commercialized or not, for what it’s worth and just simply love, maybe people on both ends would be better off.
MLK Jr. said that only love can drive out hate, so why is it that on the day where love shines the brightest, the darkest shadows are formed? The sooner we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and happy for others, the sooner light can spread until it’s filling every nook and cranny that plagues this world with shadows. Even if your heart is broken or you have never known a love that has defined love itself, let the love that you do know or the love that you do have pour out of you. You get out of life what you put into it, so if you put in light and love, you will receive exactly that.
I tell you this with love.
Happy Valentine’s Day.