I frequently remember a time when this blog was a means of sharing my world with people that I couldn’t be with any longer. Occasionally, I glance back at older posts and grimace as I read the posts I made over a year ago, in which I promised to write blogs on a weekly basis. How optimistic, how naïve- I laugh.
I laugh at the thought of how grown up I believed myself to be, even just a year ago.
I laugh, remembering when I thought I could control my schedule enough to lend my mind to creative writing, blogging, or composing.
I laugh in pity at the college freshman who thought that the world was easy, and that surely with all of the friends and ‘important’ connections she had made, she would be secure for life.
Because none of it was true.
Dearest reader, whoever you are, please know this: You are never secure in this world. Life changes so quickly. People leave – People you love leave – and sometimes, if you aren’t rooted well, You leave too.
I speak from experience.
I’m in the second semester of my second year of college, now. I began the year fresh off of a 10-week summer internship in the worship ministry at a great church in the midwest. I was three months into a new and wonderful relationship. I was tired from the summer, but full of optimism; memories of freshman year, still vivid and bright in my mind. I had been placed on a new ministry team with some incredible people, I had opted to rent a townhouse off campus with some friends, and I brought up my car from Florida. I was excited for the year to come.
Quickly, I realized that things were very different. Many of my friends from last year did not return to my university, for financial reasons. In addition, living off-campus put an unintended obstacle between myself and my on-campus friends. As an extrovert who began to find herself alone more and more, this started to eat away at me.
As fall semester progressed and the usual music major busyness came to a boil, I found myself more and more unhappy. Not only was I increasingly alone, I was too busy to find time to vent my emotions through music or writing (my cathartic outlets of choice). To top it off, my new ministry team was not gelling, musically or relationally (especially by comparison to my team from freshman year).
I began to have anxiety attacks on a regular, almost-weekly basis. I started to sink into depression. I couldn’t find the energy to wake up for classes, some days. I frequently overslept. It was never intentional. I was always so drained that even with two separate alarms clocks set, sometimes I wouldn’t wake up. When I would finally wake up and realize I was late, I’d have a breakdown. I hated myself for not being able to function. Friends were life-savers, letting me copy notes from those days, but they knew something was wrong.
I would come home after classes and sleep. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat, or sometimes I’d eat a lot all at once. Every weekend, with only two exceptions my ministry team would leave and be gone for the entire Friday-Sunday weekend. I began to dread each weekend, knowing we wouldn’t achieve the level of excellence we had the potential to; feeling like I wasn’t even valued as a part of the team. I’d sleep every van ride away.
I began to lose the motivation to even try to look good for class. I’d throw a hat on my head and maybe some mascara, hopefully remember deodorant and leave. (This may be the norm for some people, and if so, that’s great! I’m not bashing it. But it’s not characteristic of me, at all. At all.)
I got sick four times over the course of the semester, each time knocking me down for at least a week, hindering my studies and keeping me from social life. The fourth time, I was sick for two and a half weeks with strep throat and bronchitis, simultaneously. I felt like I couldn’t catch a break.
The culmination of emotions and feeling alone and unvalued brought me to a deep depression that I had never known before. There were days and nights that I actually felt darkness. I never knew darkness could be tangibly felt. I was cold and numb. Always numb. Like I couldn’t even feel. Like it didn’t matter if I ever would.
(Before I continue, let me take pause here to tell you that I have never been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. I do not claim to have any sort of continuing disorder or understand the struggles of those who do. I have had panic attacks during stressful times in my life, yes. Those began in high school. I remember depressed feelings in my childhood, but they were all centered around times of drastic change.)
My boyfriend was a constant source of encouragement. He has a gift for making the best out of situations. It’s one of the many things I love about him. My mom sent me self-help books in attempt to get me to be happy again. I knew the place she was coming from, and she just wanted to help. The concern that my parents and closest friends showed was what I clung to. But it didn’t make me better.
I hated myself. I hated that I was feeling the way I was and couldn’t pick myself up out of it.
That’s when I finally opened up my crushingly naïve eyes and realized that that was my problem. Of course I couldn’t pick myself up. I was never, ever meant to.
I realized what I hadn’t been seeing: I was trusting in myself. After years of leading worship in churches and focusing so hard on keeping myself humble, I realized that somewhere along the way, I started to put my trust back into myself, instead of in Christ, where it belongs. This was the result. This was my self-made pit of darkness.
Fast forward to today. I am no longer a Songwriting major- I am now pursuing a combined degree in Music and English. This allows me the margin of time necessary to rest and be creative. Being immersed in English and literature studies also helps me to maintain a “composition” state of mind, which allows me to write more fluidly when I sit down to pen a song or poem.
The Lord is teaching me to healthily cope with the things I cannot control in life, including school deadlines, team dynamics, illnesses, and so on. And though it is not a quick or easy process, I’m better for it. These lessons need to be learned.
And so I laugh.
I laugh at the freshman version of myself who thought she had things figured out.
I laugh, because I thought that having dealt with all these problems before meant that they wouldn’t return.
I laugh at the moment I thought I was secure and humble.
I laugh that I could ever envision a life in which I didn’t struggle.
I laugh because I didn’t even know what I was setting myself up for.
But now, I laugh because I am becoming stronger in Him for it all.
I laugh because I know better; I know Better.
Friends, if you think you know that your trust is in Jesus, but everything in your life is going right, you will eventually be tested in this trust when everything is going wrong. It is then that the depth of your trust will come to light. Be prepared.
“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.”