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Walking without a destination

The past year felt a bit like the calm before the storm. Like a brief period of rest where I actually had time for myself before going back to busying my calendar with commitments. So, as I extend this time of exploration, I'm excited to grow in my faith, to keep taking care of myself, and to figure out what's next without trying to hurry it along.

market of clay pots

Last Tuesday morning I woke up to the news Simone Biles had to withdrawal from the U.S. Olympic team finals. It was a sad, heartbreaking moment to know circumstances had taken such a turn. But as I read why, I also felt a sense of pride in seeing this brave woman stand up for herself and her health.

Three days prior to the unexpected events on the gymnastic floor, I sat in the front seat of my dad’s car making my own unexpected turn. Though mine was more like a slow-burning fuse that took weeks to finally implode two weeks ago.

I had planned to move to Nashville at the end of August for grad school. But now I am deferring a year and staying put. Which is not something I do well. In college, I was constantly packing my schedule and running from place-to-place. I’ve lived in a total of three different cities in the past two years. Five of those months were spent living out of a suitcase at my sister’s house during quarantine. So, it has been a while since I’ve just been settled somewhere, which felt fun and exciting until it didn’t anymore.

I started to realize that when I first moved to Cincinnati where I currently reside it was a temporary arrangement. I was just making a stop here for a year before heading to the next place. But along the way, I accidentally became settled. After a while I grew to like my low-key life with fewer responsibilities and more time to simply exist. For a while it felt like, “Okay this is nice but eventually I need to get back to real life.” As if I couldn’t count it as real life unless I was constantly rushing forward to the next step without stopping to enjoy the present.

I am unsure what the next few months will look like, they could hold so many different things, and I am excited for the adventure of TBD. I am excited for the freedom to explore life in the present, instead of skipping forward to the next chapter too quickly. The past year felt a bit like the calm before the storm. Like a brief period of rest where I actually had time for myself before going back to busying my calendar with commitments. So, as I extend this time of exploration, I’m excited to grow in my faith, to keep taking care of myself, and to figure out what’s next without trying to hurry it along.

But don’t be fooled, just because I’m at peace with this sudden course correction now does not mean it was an easy road to get here.

In fact, changing my mind is the most difficult task I can ask of myself. Because I don’t quit. Maybe I fail sometimes but quitting means I didn’t even try. And that’s the weak choice. At least that’s the logic my brain spent 24 years perfecting. When I broke it down, though, I realized what I was really telling myself: Being miserable was better than being… (weak, a quitter, a failure, etc.). I was telling myself I didn’t deserve the kind of joy and peace I had missed out on for weeks as I unhappily dragged myself toward what I told people I was doing next without stopping to consider if it still made sense.

I spent a couple weeks shaking from crying so hard night-after-night stuck in overwhelming feelings I spent daylight hours trying to avoid. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I was holding too tightly to everything and everyone around me out of fear and anxiety. Yet I still kept telling myself those same lies that somehow this was strength. Pushing forward with a decision that no longer felt right or brought any kind of joy only because I told people and myself I would.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten was actually me eavesdropping on a conversation between my dad and my sister where he told her at any given point all you can do is make the decision that’s right for you at that moment without worrying about past or future decisions. There’s a fallacy I learned in economics called the “sunk cost fallacy,” where we basically stick with something because of what we have already spent on it. But past costs can never be retrieved, whereas potential future losses can be avoided. I think about that fallacy in terms of life. I sometimes limit myself to decisions I’ve already made with a similar idea of sticking with what I’ve already spent time, energy, prayers on without weighing the future gains versus losses. Similarly, I sometimes get so caught up in seeing the big picture and planning too far in the future to focus on what makes sense right now in the moment right in front of me. So, when I notice myself trying to make decisions based off the past or the future, I remind myself of my dad’s advice.

Or as a very emo Anna in Frozen 2 would say, “Do the next right thing.”

My therapist asked me once if I’m bad at giving myself choices. When she said it, I immediately knew the answer was yes. But I didn’t fully get what it meant until I sat on the edge of my bathtub at 1am one night paralyzed and overwhelmed by the feeling of being so stuck all I wanted was to escape into the nether, so I could take a break from the real world. I stood by my sink brushing my teeth and talking to God when the floodgates opened. They didn’t close again for an hour probably. I felt like I had no free will or control over my own path. I couldn’t see another way than the one I had chosen to walk down a year ago. Even though, I still had so many options in front of me, I couldn’t see them because I am bad at giving myself choices. I am bad at changing my mind.

It’s funny how different decision-making is from choice-making. I can decide once the choices are clearly laid out in front of me. But giving myself the space, the freedom, the grace, the permission to create those choices is another story entirely.

That night as I sat in my bathroom barely able to catch my breath, I begged God for someone to tell me it was okay not to go. The two things I needed were more time to figure out what I want and people to reassure me it is okay not to know yet.

And God answered that prayer through phrases from loved ones like…

“I think that’s the harder, more mature decision” “That takes a lot of emotional awareness to say” “Either decision is brave” “I’m sorry you’ve been going through that, but obviously I support you in what’s best for you”

In the end, it did not take much to make the decision clear. It just took opening myself up to the twists in my path I did not expect but wanted to follow so badly. It took quieting and humbling myself before God enough to hear his voice tell me a better way existed. A way that might not have all the answers figured out yet, a way that might still be a little fuzzy to me, but a way that holds Him in every corner and brings more peace than I had experienced in a couple months.

Because most of the time there are choices. In fact, oftentimes there are even multiple good ones that God will bless us through once we pick. It’s the gift and curse of free will. When we treat it as a curse, we become burdened by it. We fall into the sinful, prideful patterns of trying to control it ourselves or trying to collect all the answers. Like Adam and Eve in the garden. But every negative has an opposite and far more powerful positive reaction. When we take God’s gift of free will as a method of stepping deeper into His presence, we can let go of control, of expectations, of our own Earthly plans, and we can instead discover true peace and joy in His far greater will. We often limit God’s will. We make it finite. We seek it incompletely because we act as if His will can only encompass one path, one choice. It’s far more beautifully complex and infinite than that, though. We cannot even imagine the breadth or depth of His will. We can, however, see and hear and feel small glimpses of it every day if we incline our hearts toward Him and allow Him to guide us.

When you reach the fork in the road, it’s not usually about which path you take, but rather how you take it. Walk with God, and trust in Him to show up as He always does wherever you may go. Sometimes faith looks like following God’s voice in a specific direction. But other times, it looks like intentionally seeking Him in whichever direction the wind may take you.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9


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