the common thread.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hello, friends.

I know it's been a while. Like, quite some time. Like, seven months since I've sat down to write, and for that I don't apologize, but I do recognize that I think I want to write tonight. I've stopped apologizing for a lack of updates on my blog, instead finding and creating space to write when I feel the urge to. And tonight is one of those nights. 

It's a quiet evening in October, and a lot has happened in my life over the past few seasons. I'm not sure where to begin, and I really struggle with formulating these types of posts. You know, the ones where I haven't written in a while, and I want to share updates about what life has been like, but also want space to process what I'm learning and seeking and understanding. I often look for the common thread, something that connects seemingly dissimilar things, in order to tie life events together to share concisely, but also process and understand deeper. 

I believe the common thread through the last seven months of my life has been centered around the theme of life lessons. So much of my life is now spent realizing the phrase "hindsight is 20:20" holds a lot of truth. The last seven months have been full of life lessons, things I'm still learning, 24 years into life's adventures. Do we ever stop learning? No, and I'm choosing to start seeing these lessons, intricately tied into the big and the little bits of life, as pieces of wisdom I hold with me as I continue venturing further and further. 

With this in mind, here are a few life lessons I have cataloged over the past few months, written back to myself in the seasons when I needed it most. My hope is that some of them speak to you, resonate with you, or provide hope for whatever season of life you are in. 
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There is a light at the end of the tunnel.


Hey kid. Remember when you woke up everyday in April wondering if graduate school would ever end, or if you would ever get hired, or if you would have to take up your parents' offer to move back home, while you took some time to "figure things out?" There's always a light at the end of tunnel. You probably couldn't see it that clearly, especially when you were neck deep in HTML formatting your capstone website, but it was still there. And even if you couldn't feel it, you were moving towards it. Running towards it actually, so quickly that commencement weekend flew by faster than you could remember it.

And remember that stormy Friday morning at City of Hope, where you were celebrating with Paul and his family at annual Bone Marrow Transplant reunion? And you got the call from CSUMB with an official job offer? Remember the weight off your shoulders, the smiles and hugs and high fives, and the sigh of relief that felt different from all the other ones in your life? That was you bursting through the tunnel into that bright, shining light. All those late nights, all those resumes, all that "networking," research, prayer, and trust, was worth it. You did it, kid. And I couldn't be more proud.

It's okay to celebrate.



Life isn't easy. You know that far too well, looking at this past year and this past season of life. And celebrating still feels weird. We know that, too. But look, if you don't take a little time to celebrate, you're going to get caught up in all the things that need to get done, finished, accomplished, and not pay due diligence to all the things that are already happening. How can you not let yourself celebrate, when family comes together, and the Central Valley summer evening is too perfect? How can you not let yourself smile and laugh at the strange nuances of weddings, how can you not let yourself dance alongside your siblings and your partner, and be filled with joy watching two people you love deeply begin their life together? It's okay to celebrate, even when things still feel a little broken, and we don't know for certain what the future holds. Because right now, where you are, there are things to celebrate. There is life to be thankful for. There are people who love and care about you. So it's okay to celebrate.


And remember that it doesn't need to be a fancy occasion, with a cocktail hour and catered dinner to be a reason to celebrate. Maybe it's just getting through a really tough season of life with someone you care about. That's a reason to celebrate too. Don't forget how you felt on that first morning in Hawaii, where you snapped this photo, a heart full of gratitude and a soul that yearned to celebrate and enjoy life exactly where you were in that moment. So raise a toast to the big and the small, because celebrations are important. They don't need to be huge, but take time to acknowledge where you have been, and where you are headed next.  

Fresh spaces can be scary.


Unfamiliarity and being uncomfortable go hand-in-hand for us. That's okay. Sometimes fresh spaces, even though they seem to be exactly what you want, can be really scary. Moving to a new city, surrounded by people you don't know, can be overwhelming. And that's normal, it's okay. You have to pull up GPS to get a grocery store. And once you get there, it takes you even longer because you don't know where the butter is, and where the salad mix is, and how to find the granola bars you like that used to be in the last aisle in your old supermarket. When everything is new, it's scary, and hard, and feels like a pair of shoes you haven't had the chance to break in yet. But it's okay. You know how to make those shoes start to bend in the right places, create little bits and pieces of home that alleviate some of unfamiliarity, and fear.


So don't feel pathetic for putting up your old family fruit labels on the wall, because they bear much more than the family name. They bear the weight of familiarity, strength, perseverance, and where you have been. Don't feel bad for putting the same photos on your fridge, because they show people who love and care about you, and would be more than happy if you picked up your phone and called them -- even if it's just a chance for you to hear a familiar voice. Making a house (or renovated residence hall apartment) a home can and should be done on your terms. Making the unfamiliar familiar is your process. Fresh spaces can be scary, but they are also temporary.

Be confident in yourself.


"Confidence isn't something that you get. It's something that you are." Remember that one fortune cookie you got in high school that had this message hidden inside it? And you liked it so much you put it on your dresser, and read it each morning as you got ready? Because you knew you had confidence rooted deep within you, hooked into the corners of your soul, ready and willing to grow with each new experience and adventure ahead. Maybe it's because this feels much more than just another graduation, or internship, that you had to literally move cities to start this new job, pick up your bags and roots from some place you called "home," to start this new season -- and I know confidence has been hard recently.

But that same confidence that took root in you from a young age is still there. Maybe it's been hibernating, but with each conquered experience, move, journey, conversation, it continues to grow. It continues to spread within your bones, allowing you to make the decisions, choose the directions, and strengthen your voice with each new day. Be confident, kid. You've got this.

We're always alright.


You're not much for crying at concerts, but when Alabama Shakes started playing the riff to that familiar tune, you knew the water works were on their way. Because that song meant so much more to you than a catchy tune. You played it everyday on your commute to work in Boston, you listened to it on drives to City of Hope to see Paul, and back again when you just needed a reminder that everything was going to be alright. You danced around to it in your apartment during the (seemingly) never-ending job search, when there was too much homework to do, and frankly, when you just didn't want to give a shit about things for a moment.

So what's different now? Because you start saying, "um, everything?" take a moment to think about it. It's really not that different. Sure, you're not riding the T into Cambridge, stuffed into the red line with all the other commuters, but the song still puts a smile on your face because you know you're alright. That things are alright. And if they don't feel like they are at this very moment, take a moment to think a little deeper. At the root of things, your foundational needs are being met. You have so much to be thankful for. So whatever storm you're facing right now, just know you're alright. You're always alright.

Things will get better.

I know it doesn't feel that way right now. But if all of these life lessons could be summed up into one, big, piece of wisdom you can take with you, it's that things will get better. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not a week from now, but things will start getting better.

Look for the little victories. A great meeting with a student. A wonderful weekend spent with your best friend. Cooking a delicious meal. Blankets, beer, and baseball on TV. Cheering for your favorite contestant on Jeopardy. Becoming friends with the students who work at the sandwich place on campus (and might be able to memorize your lunch order soon). Fresh laundry. Good music. Coffee and scripture in the mornings. Answered prayers. Building a church community. Weekly phone calls home to mom and dad. Laughing with your coworkers in staff meetings. Creating "home," again, and feeling you are making progress.

The little victories are like little road signs along the way that remind you that things are getting better. You are doing okay. And above all else, you're not alone. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, and great are You for journeying with me in this season. Morning by morning, new mercies I see. Things will get better because you recognize and acknowledge this, daily, in your life.

Great things are coming your way, kid.
Keep learning, keep striving, keep venturing.
You're doing just fine.


Respectfully submitted,
Leah

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