Monday, August 10, 2009

the new life

Here we are. Graduates, renters, employees. All prerequisites for living "real life."

Why don't I feel any different? I feel the same way about life as when I graduated three months ago, as when I graduated high school 4 years ago, as when I entered a new high school or entered marching band for the first time - aflutter with all sorts of uncertainty, doubt, and anxiety. I'm 22 years old, have a bachelor's degree, and an-almost-full-time job. Shouldn't I feel like I've got that "real-life" hold on life?

I think what I've come to realize over the past four years at college

[not that college necessarily makes us wise or that we can only learn life-altering lessons while away at a$120,000 four-year institution, but still - college is a place that, if you allow it, can cause you to think about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and all other such things that require a shaking of the soul in order for us to step back and examine who we are with a somewhat more objective view]

is that I am never going to feel ready for whatever task might lie ahead of me in life. I did not feel ready to enter high school. I did not feel ready to enter college, and travel 12 hours away from my family to live with someone from a state to which I had never been and of which all I knew about was that they made cheese. When I graduated 92 days ago I definitely did not feel ready for that commencement ceremony. It was one of those moments where life just comes flying at you and hits you in the face with: "hey! change is here!"

Commencement weekend was a blur. It was a whirlwind, busy saying goodbye to friends, hanging out with the family, packing, finishing papers, internships - anything and everything involved with four years of life in one place finished in the span of five days. So.much.happened. during those four years. I look back and I am a completely different person than I was four years ago. The freshman Ashley would not recognize the "real life" Ashley in career goals, friendships, political standpoints, religious standpoints, and a number of other things. But yet I am still the same person. At my core I have the same life goals, the same values, the same aspects of life that I treasured four years ago. I think the difference is that now I could tell you what many of those things are. I have a deeper understanding of who I am as an individual, of what makes me tick.

I think that is the difference between being "ready" for real life and actually being prepared to live it, whether I realize it or not. I am never going to feel ready for whatever new and unknown thing might come my way. But the trick to succeeding at these things is to remember that everyone else feels the same way. The epiphany I had this summer was this:

there is no magic ingredient to being an adult. There is no sudden "ready" feeling that comes upon us as we enter the adult life. At heart we're all the same: we're all nervous, anxious, seemingly unprepared for the mysterious paths ahead of us. That epiphany is a two-fold blessing. It comforts me to know that I'm not lacking some essential requirement for being "grown up" - that I didn't miss some stage of development along the way where I was completely and utterly prepared for adult life.

But, most importantly, it teaches me to enjoy life to the fullest at any and every moment. Each stage in my life is a lesson and a goal reached in and of itself. It was easy this summer to be anxious for that job, that apartment, roommates, money: to know exactly what my life would look like for the next year or so. But somewhere along the way I learned to release (at least some of) that anxiety and just enjoy this uncertain time. Never again will I be in this position - free to learn what is best for me, my soul and my relationship with Jesus Christ. To learn, apart from the Wheaton bubble, how He wants me to interact with the world. It's a time of experimentation (okay, not 60's-style), of mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and most certainly not a time of complacency. It is when I am complacent that I am most bored, most prone to wander from the Lord, and most prone to be unhappy.

This moment of my life is just like any other moment I will encounter. For now I will [attempt] to treasure it for its individual worth and importance in my life rather than as a limbo stage for the rest of my life. This is the rest of my life. It's time to stop waiting for it to start and just begin to live.


Paranai said...

Ash, I couldn't agree more and my line of thinking is definitely running parallel to yours. I can't wait to talk to you soon!

Maggie Thomas said...

this is very well written, ash. i think you've said what a lot of us graduates are thinking. love you!