What to Expect When You're Expecting (to Graduate), Part I
Part I: At the Crossroads of Comfort and Coming Alive
It’s 7 pm. The white Christmas lights that are lined with postcards from my semester abroad and the ones that are wrapped around my headboard are twinkling against their respective walls. There are two kittens curled up on top of each other at the foot of my bed and I have set up camp in the chair that barricades me into my “reading corner.” I just finished a short story I was assigned in creative writing that dug its claws deep down into my writer’s soul and as I type a Bath and Body Works candle spits fumes of vanilla marshmallow out into the air.
I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave.
This feels like home. In all the comfort a powder blue vintage desk and two purring kittens can provide, this feels like home. A sense of rest that had previously been sacrificed in the name of classes and an internship and figuring out what I’m going to do after I graduate in December comes to greet me like an old friend. I want to stay in this room and read Oscar Wilde and drink tea and lock away all my post-graduation anxiety in a bulletproof, high-security vault somewhere in the Swiss Alps. I want to cover my ears, shut my eyes and chant, “I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening!” as the fear of the unknown New Year tethers itself to my every other thought. I want some peace and, at this moment, I’m willing to sacrifice reality to get it.
Two months ago I thought I was going to stay in Nashville and pursue songwriting after my December graduation date. One month and 29 days ago God asked me to let go of that plan. Since then, all the doors that have opened up as possibilities have been far away—as in different countries—from the city I always assumed would be home. I have been soaking in the freedom of getting to dream of new possibilities, but it is also daunting to imagine myself in Greece or British Columbia or South Sudan and what that would mean for my sense of security. Could I really be called away from a life filled with twinkling Christmas lights and holiday-scented candles?
I wish I didn’t have to admit that I like comfort. As millennials we romanticize the idea of adventure and “living authentically” without ever addressing the reality that it is our human nature to crave consistency. I have backpacked by myself in Ireland and slept on the floor of the Serengeti and dreamed about writing stories in refugee camps, but I like comfort too. I have found that they are not mutually exclusive and my desire for the familiar does not negate my desire for adventure. They, however, refuse to coexist, and I have to choose which foundation is worth building my newly-founded adult life on. Both desires require the sacrifice of the other, and I know in my heart of hearts that there is only one sacrifice worth making.
I am reminded of a time ten months ago when I started running as a nearly 200 pound 5’3” female. The first month of training was excruciating. I was out of breath after two minutes of 12-minute-a-mile jogging and there was embarrassingly little muscle in my legs to support me so I constantly had swollen ankles and aching knees. I wanted to quit more than anything. I was still living and breathing in my comfortable, unhealthy state so why was I subjecting myself to such torture?
I had a decision to make: would I let the pain, the very well-intentioned growing pain, keep me from the life I was made for or would I trudge into the discomfort, trusting that the risk far outweighed half-hearted stability? I remember repeating to myself over and over again, while running up hills and rounding the last half-mile of my first 5K, that there is no easy way out for the things in life that are truly worth having.
Sometimes the looming inevitability of post-graduation feels like being the overweight girl learning to run again. There is no easy way out—no magic diet pill that will zap away all the unwanted problem areas of adulthood, no fad juice cleanse that will clear your system of prodding questions of purpose—there is just a decision you and I have to make. Will we let our lives be defined by our desire for comfort or our desire for meaning and adventure? Will we put down our control in anticipation that our hands will be filled with a much greater treasure? Will I trust that giving up a queen-sized bed in a city I have tied my heart and soul to is a small price to pay to really come alive in who I was made to be? The world does not need more people in pursuit of comfort and high-salaried jobs; the world needs more people who feel a sense of responsibility to carry their dreams and passions with courage.
The inward questions for my own heart in this season of life called early twenties echo one that Mary Oliver asks in her poem “The Summer Day” -
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”