Hardcore gardening.

Last semester was rough. When I say rough, I mean that it was the worst four months of my life, and that I am just now recovering, even though it is late February and the spring semester is almost halfway done.

To other people, I look like your normal college student: tired, short on money, hooked to caffeine but trying to quit, applying to internships like it’s no one’s business. I look like I’m adjusting well to the new semester. And I guess I am adjusted, not that twelve credit hours is much to adjust to. And I’m not stuck in a rut: I’m developing my PR and design skills, researching technology and education for a faculty member’s book, growing in my relationship with Christ, broadening my understanding of the world and where I fit in it, attending bible study with a group of authentic, lovely young women who aren’t afraid to talk about their personal suffering, abusive relationships, and opinions of feminism and social justice.

Bible study, or discipleship group as we call it, is actually where I realized how much I had come undone.

Ever since I graduated high school, my mantra has been “Academics don’t define me.” I was okay with that. But the more insidious side effect of defining myself by academic success was a deep, secret pride in my ability to handle whatever is thrown at me. And why shouldn’t I be proud? I’m a smart person. I’m good at stuff. People ask me for help in lots of things. I am a competent, fast-learning hard worker. Why shouldn’t I be proud?

Answer: I should be proud, but I should not build my identity on that pride. Whoops, too late, seems I already did, even if I didn’t admit it to myself.

Last semester was the long, grueling process of God weeding out that pride. Pride went deep, people. Every day was like being pummeled by sandpaper sacks filled with gravel, and every day I fought back by saying I can do this, it will be okay. To which God replied, Of course it will be okay, but that doesn’t mean you can do this. 

If I wasn’t stressed from 18 credit hours or my PR internship, I was too exhausted to do anything, which made me stressed because of the things I wasn’t getting done. I cried a lot. I developed a tic in my left eyelid which continued for three months straight. I felt guilty because here I was, student extraordinaire, completely crumbling underneath everything. I was weak when I should’ve been strong. I was frazzled when I should’ve been focused. I considered myself a failure – not because I failed any classes, but because I wasn’t thriving.

God worked really, really hard to get the message through my thick skull: who I am does not start and end with success. I am more than success, just like I am more than my academic prowess. The foundation I had been living on was just gone. Poof.

So now I am relearning who I am. This is my big identity crisis. It’s taken a while to get here, and I ignored it for a long time, but it’s time to throw back the metaphorical curtains and let in some good ol’ sunlight.

Which leads me to this blog and why I made it – to work through who I am via rediscovering what I can do. I can’t write poetry, but I can write a blog post. So we’ll end our little soul-baring trip with Things I Know For Sure:

  1. I don’t have to master living to have worth.
  2. Suffering sucks, but it happens, and it will be okay.
  3. I like writing blog posts.

I don’t write poetry.

Really. I’ve tried, for seven years actually, to write some kind of poetry, and nothing. But that’s not important right now.

Every English major worth their salt has a blog. I don’t know about salt, but I know about WordPress, so I picked a snappy little domain name and blog title and then left the site empty. For over a week it stayed that way. I didn’t know what to write. I could write about college and my search for a job, just like everyone else. I could write about my struggles with weight and self-image, just like everyone else. I could write about my relationship with Christ and spiritual developments. Just. Like. Everyone. Else. Writing is all about developing the voice and telling the story – and there I was, full of voice and without a story.

But now it is today, too late at night to get any homework done, too early to give up and go to bed, and my mind is spinning and for the first time I feel like I know why I’m writing.

The what is still a little hazy, but I can guarantee it isn’t poetry.