With less than a month before graduation, I’ve had time to look back on the last four years of college and take in everything that has happened. I think it’s safe to say that I am a completely different person now than when I started and have grown in so many ways. I have had some of the best experiences in college, from winning the natty to going to Sutton’s every Tuesday to enjoying a drink at TRU with housemates. But with the good also comes the bad, and even though I’ve had some amazing experiences at this place, I have also gone through some pretty tough and painful times.
I think we tend to overlook the bad in our lives and jump straight to the good stuff. I know I do this a lot. I believe part of this is due to a contrived image of perfection that we feel like we have to offer people. But another reason could be we don’t want to believe we don’t have our crap together. We think that by showing others our weaknesses and struggles, we don’t seem to look as perfect or put-together or as good as the next person. We don’t live up to this so-called potential that society has sanctioned for us so we make sure our Instagram feed is absolutely perfect and show our glorified highlight reel to friends, family and total strangers —because some of us want even the people that don’t know us to think we go through life effortlessly.
What would happen if we challenged that notion? What would happen if we posted raw, emotional pictures on social media? Would we be judged because we’re being too vulnerable? Would we be overlooked because what we post isn’t important, pretty, or cool enough, let alone aesthetically-pleasing? Would we be loved by our so-called friends if they knew that we weren’t perfect?
A couple blogs ago, I said I would be as vulnerable as possible with my writing and my thoughts – these aren’t made-up fantasies that I live, think or believe. All of the experiences I’ve shared have been super honest and personal. I think any writing needs to be this way in order to tell a story. And because of this I think it’s time that I share one of the hardest times in college for me and tell more of my story.
Junior year — the year right before things start getting “real.” It started off like any other year would: super busy, jam packed with school, work, YoungLife, friends and sorority functions. I started dating one of my best friends, did extremely well in school and was on fire for The Lord and life in general.
Then, spring semester started.
All of a sudden, I felt empty. I felt my world crashing down and didn’t know why or what to do. I felt apathetic about everything. I never wanted to do anything, I didn’t want to be around people and I thought so many horrible things about myself. Insecurities creeped into my mind and consumed my every thought. I no longer believed that I was a beautiful, confident child of God. I believed I was never good enough, worthless, and the farthest from God I had ever been. I was depressed — or at least that was the conclusion I had come to. I didn’t have any other explanation for it.
It was hard for me to get up each morning and try to “do life.” It was hard for me to put a smile on my face every morning and act like everything was okay. And some days, the smile never appeared simply because I was too tired of faking it. Relationships were strained, nothing seemed important and I felt like my life was spiraling out of control. The worst part was that I had no idea how it got to this point or why any of this was happening. And on top of that, I felt so selfish for feeling all of these things. There were people so close to me that were going through things ten times worse and who had problems that seemed infinitely more important than mine. I felt like a nuisance. It was horrible and I just wanted things to end.
I questioned a lot of things during this time period — my faith, my future, myself. I had so much time to think and try to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you have a lot of alone time. But as much as I tried to fix myself and figure out what was going on, I slowly started to accept that sometimes, it’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes, it’s okay to not have things all together and be happy and love life. Sometimes, it takes some pretty low periods like these to mold a weak person into a stronger one.
Thanks to a few wonderful people (and an unbelievable Healer and Redeemer), I’ve slowly began to bounce back from where I was a year ago. It’s been difficult and part of me thinks I’ll always struggle with self-esteem issues, self-doubt and insecurities. Even today, I think back to who I was last year at this time and those thoughts of unworthiness start creeping back in. I think about shutting the world out and shutting myself in.
It’s not easy — to speak about a time when my physical, emotional and mental health was at an all time low, especially because I’ve been that perfect person to so many people for so long. But I think it’s necessary to speak out and speak up. I think it’s necessary because it’s an experience that has shaped me and made me a stronger person. It’s necessary because I don’t want people to think I have it all together all the time. Because I don’t. I am more than just my social media, more than the things I do and more than what this world has labeled me as. It’s necessary to talk about the hard things because there are other people going through the same exact thing and don’t know what’s going on and don’t have anybody to turn to. It’s necessary because before this happened to me, I thought those feelings were abnormal and there was something wrong with people who felt those things — the reality is that belief is simply not true.
Throughout this whole process, I kept asking, “Why?” Why did I have to go through that? And the truth is I don’t know why and I may never know the reason. But I do know that sometimes we go through things without warning. We deal with things unexpectedly and don’t know the how, what or why of anything.
But I think it’s how we confront these things, learn from these things and build from these things that really matter. I could’ve let this dark period consume my life and take over everything. And despite how easy that could’ve been, I didn’t.
“Most of us think of paradise as a place where nothing has ever gone wrong. I disagree.” — Maria Goff
“We’ve all experienced volcanoes; not everyone has the ability to see how they become islands of beauty later. Emotional burns, scars and brokenness don’t just go away by themselves. They need some time to cool. While they do, we need to find a way through them and eventually they need to be built upon…We don’t need to run from the lava anymore, but instead imagine what it might become in time.”
Don’t let the lava in your life burn you up and swallow you whole. We can go through some real crap in our lives and choose to let that crap define us. The great news is that when we don’t have the strength to deal with the crap, Jesus helps us turn our lives back on again and show us who we are despite the crap. If I’ve learned anything from my struggle, it’s that beauty can come out of pain, hardships and darkness, even when it seems utterly impossible. There will be eruptions and the lava will flow —but the lava will eventually cool. And when it does, you have the chance to heal, rebuild and start over.