I’m trying to think of what has been on my mind in all the leftover space. To be honest, I haven’t been hashing through any grand or lofty issues. Sometimes I just get very quiet and contemplative and content with the present moment. That has been happening a lot lately. I’ve just been appreciating life and where I am right now, soaking in time, praying quiet prayers, and generally flying under the radar. I really love flying under the radar: not in the sense that I am underestimating myself, but in the sense that I know myself, I’m secure in where I am and where I’m going, and I like having ambiguous areas in my life that only I know about.
A steady theme in my life this year has been the idea of becoming autonomous- not relying on anyone else or anything else for my identity, yet being part of a community and loving it well. I’m so prone to dive in and latch on to places, ideas, people, and when the time comes to move on, the rip is anything but clean. I leave kicking and screaming and finding hollow places in myself that I try to cover will all these external things. Not anymore. I’ve brushed up against that elusive balance between independence and interdependence. We all need people and places and seasons, but not as saviours.
I wrote the above over a month ago. As the end of first year approached, I began reflecting on the past eight months more often, in quieter moments. It’s funny how little memories remain impressed in my mind. They seemed so insignificant at the time, but really those little moments were mini turning points, pulling and twisting me into change and a new perspective. Looking back, I was so right. I’m done school now. I’ve said good bye and, somehow, I’m not very sad. Of course, I know I’ll be going back next year but the old me would have tried to hold on to little pieces of this past year, attempting to preserve them. Now I’ve come to realize that good friends, good places, good experiences are a gift to be enjoyed and thankful for. There are always endings, but there are always beginnings, too. Life ahead is full and promising.
I remember one night, in the middle of winter, I was in my room, wrapped in a blanket, and suddenly I had this clear thought: “Christy, what do you actually want?” It wasn’t a selfish question. I had been frustrated with myself and cloudy areas in my life that didn’t seem to be working out in a very clean or ideal way. When that question dropped in my mind, I was reminded that I was drifting toward a very problematic path of living in a way that seemed “right” because it was the direction that I perceived most other people to be walking. However, when I thought about it truthfully, I realized that it didn’t fit with who I was at the time. I was trying to shuffle myself into a “norm” rather than being honest and making decisions for myself.
That moment released a dozen others just like it over the next few months. Surprisingly, staying true to myself and the direction I knew that God was guiding me in allowed me to love others in a more free and accepting way. I think it made me more secure in myself. It’s a strange paradox: focus on yourself, and you will be freed to live for others. I’ve been trying to unravel it for a while because it can be so easily misinterpreted or misunderstood, but it is something essential that I had been missing for so long.
It might be the difference between people pleasing and loving people. I think before I would have said that I was “living for others,” but really I was trying to bend into the person I thought they wanted me to be. That isn’t helpful for anyone. Rather, maybe this paradox should look more like: know yourself, and you will be freed to love others. If I were to nail down one part of me that changed the most this year, that would be it. Know yourself, love others.
For me, this “knowing myself” part meant allowing myself to own opinions and speak them. It meant exploring who I am as an artist and understanding who I am not. It meant balancing time spent with people and time alone. It meant figuring out a new rhythm of prayer and listening to God. It meant staying healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally. This is only the beginning of my personal list. There are so many things that tangle and cross to converge within us as humans, and it is the untangling and massaging out the knots that teaches us who we are, one lesson at a time.
Autonomy. It’s something I didn’t know I needed to grow in until it happened. I’m seeing now how being a Christian is a lifelong journey. I am constantly being taught and changed by God and it is always intriguing to me how God is going to grow me next. It is such an adventure, and it never fails to challenge me, perplex me, and bless me in hundreds of different ways. Like I said, endings always trail into beginnings. Life ahead is full and promising.