Fall break is coming. All I have to do is make it to Wednesday. Sometime between 10 and 11, I hope to be on the road to spend a couple days with my parents. I don’t care if I’ll be sleeping on a pull out couch in a tiny apartment. I don’t mind that there will be weird smells and crappy internet. There will be family, there will be laughter, there will be love. There will be rest. As odd as it seems, I think I’ll need it.
I’m only taking 12 credit hours this semester, the least I’ve ever taken, and I feel like I’m still waiting for the semester to get hard. I feel like I should be more stressed out, scrambling to get things done. But I’m not. I don’t feel like I’m working that much–maybe because I’m enjoying a lot of what I’m doing and don’t really see it ask “work”. My friends say I’m lucky, but it’s a frequent source of anxiety for me. If I’m not working hard, then I’m wasting my time. Could I have taken another class, crammed in more credits to make sure I graduate on time, even with a double major? The deadlines for add/drop have long passed, and nothing would have worked in my schedule anyway. It’s a useless worry, but I’m prone to fretting.
My mom keeps reminding me that I only took 12 hours for a reason–and if I’d taken more, I probably would have wished I had taken less and wouldn’t be doing very well. I bite my lip and mutter something or other about what I think I should have done. She confronts me again. You’re taking a math class, which you knew would be challenging for you, as well as two writing classes. You knew you needed the extra time in order to do well. I still hold back, figuring I should be better at handling these challenges since I’m a junior. She presses one last time. You have ten pages of writing due every week, plus other reading assignments, sic papers plus a term paper, and several short stories due–on top of homework and tests for your psych classes. No wonder you’re tired. You’re working hard and you’re doing your best. I finally cave. When she puts it like that, I guess I am doing a lot. But it doesn’t feel like it, usually. It feels like I’m still…waiting.
Waiting is okay, but missing what’s right in front of me isn’t. I have unprecedented opportunities this semester. A lot of my friends are busy and stressed out with classes, life hassles, and generally trying to make it. I feel guilty sometimes, like I have it way too easy. But because I don’t really have a lot going on, I’m better able to love on them. I had a conversation with a friend of mine one day after classes. We talked about how awful Mondays could be, how there should be something to brighten the beginning of the week. It got me thinking–what was a practical way to encourage people on a regular basis in a way that was creative and personal? I decided to ask a bunch of people for their mail box numbers. Most of us don’t get mail that often, but when we do, it pretty much makes our day. I send about 20 people mail at least once a week, because I want them to know that they are loved and thought of, even when life is hectic and seemingly impossible.
This is the type of thing I’m made for–loving people, reminding them of their worth and value, letting them know hey are not alone. This is the kind of thing I long to do with all of my words and actions. I have been loved in incredible ways, and I cannot help but pass that along to others. But that’s hard to do when you have a ridiculous amount of anxiety in social situations. It’s hard to do when other people don’t have the time to hang out and you don’t know how to become closer friends. It’s hard to do when you do not have the energy or strength to be involved in campus organizations. I admit that I’ve pulled back a bit this semester. I’m adjusting to a laundry list of new things and I’ve become hyper-cautious, aware that I am not as strong as I have pretended to be and that if I push too far, I will break.
There is a difference between isolation and solitude. In isolation, I think and believe that I am alone. I make no effort to reach others. I have no desire for other’s well-being, only that my own sense of loneliness is idolized. Some might say that, according to the amount of time I spend in my room huddled away from world, I isolate myself. I don’t. In my solitude, I have the space to breathe, avoiding the brink of exhaustion and social anxiety. I can get my schoolwork done. I can rest when my body and mind require it. And in my times of leisure, when I’ve got nothing pressing on my plate, I can put myself to good use copying quotes and coloring pictures and writing letters to put in people’s mailboxes. I get to think of others, and in so doing be filled with joy and gratitude for the people I know and what God has done in their lives, how He has used them in my life, and how He will continue to do good things with and for them. I get to think of the stories we have to tell, the stories He is writing with our lives. I get to love.
Mid-terms are coming up, as they always do around fall break. I woke up this morning and spent three and a half hours finishing notes and studying for a test I have on Monday. I had lunch–an hour or so break from academia. I revised two papers in order to be prepared for a meeting with my professor, also on Monday, to discuss the portfolio I have to turn in before leaving for fall break. With better judgement, I took a nap before waking up to write and finish the ten pages I have due on Tuesday. Today has been more productive than I ever expected, but there’s still something I’ve yet to do. There’s a stack of index cards to my left, waiting to be inked and sent out. I’ve still got some loving left to do, and there’s no other way I’d rather spend my Saturday night.