3 Things from 2015 I’m Taking Into 2016

For several years now, I’ve written in a notebook almost every single day. Many times it’s an account of what I did that day along with thoughts and feelings about those events. Other times they’re deep spiritual thoughts, or frustration over a relationship that feels difficult, or angst over a life situation. Bits and pieces of my life, recounted on some sheets of paper bound together.2016

Looking back at this past year, it’s tempting for me to get stuck in the past few months, which haven’t been the easiest time of my life. Except to let those be the ones to color my perception of the entire year would be inaccurate, and, in a way, unfair. As I looked back through my daily writings from 2015, I saw difficulty, certainly—sadness over changing relationships, frustration over uncertainty, dismay over things gone awry—but I also saw so many moments of delight, good memories made, and perhaps most importantly, how even the unexpected pieces of life can have positive aspects to them. As I head into 2016, while there are things from 2015 I am glad to leave behind me, there are at least three I’d like to take with me as well.

  • The people we surround ourselves with have incredible power to shape our lives, in ways good, bad, ugly, and otherwise. This past year has brought new people into my life and added new depth, and sometimes complexity, to many of my existing relationships. For the most part, I’ve managed to find truly wonderful people that add so much to my life. As much as I’d love to cling to all these good people and keep them in my lives for as long as possible, I also recognize there’s a measure of impossibility to that, so I have to simply be grateful for the time we do have in each other’s lives. I don’t think I will ever be good at this part, but I am trying to be better at the thankfulness part.
  • Asking for help is hard, but okay. Just as people are in our lives to add joy, richness, and knowledge, they are also available to lend support. I like to think of myself a somewhat self-sufficient person, and I never want my family or friends to feel like I’m using them or don’t appreciate them, so asking for help does not come naturally to me. No one is capable of going through life completely on their own, all the time though, so sometimes the wisest thing we can do is know when it’s time to ask for help. This is something I’m only just beginning to see, and it will take me into 2016 and likely far beyond to fully grasp its importance.
  • “Never” and “Always” statements are quite often dangerous. To say we’ll always do this or never do that is often a refusal to acknowledge change. Life happens, often in very unpredictable ways. Sometimes rules have to be rewritten based on new information. We usually can’t see the future when we make a decision, so we make the best decision we can in that moment, with the information we have, and sometimes that decision lands us in a spot that we couldn’t have known about before. There are moral “always” and “nevers” I think are good to cling to, but many others that need to be tossed.

If it wasn’t for my habit of writing every day, I’m not sure I’d be able to sort through the haze of these past few months to identify these tangible takeaways that have threaded themselves through the entire year. While 2015 Brianna may not have enjoyed every moment of it, 2016 Brianna can learn from these insights and take them into the new year and beyond.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What have you learned in 2015 that you’ll take into 2016?

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I Didn’t Ask to Be Human

Being human can be so frustrating–in big ways, certainly, when bodies don’t work like they should or relationships are fractured or big plans fall flat–but in a thousand tiny small ways, too. The little, everyday messes that pile up until suddenly, I’m about to snap.

Photo credit: Flickr User Macro-roni, Creative Commons

Photo credit: Flickr User Macro-roni, Creative Commons

And it occurs to me: I didn’t ask for this.

None of us did.

We didn’t have any say in whether we wanted to be born, to come into this world with all its heartache and storms and irritations.

Yet, here we are. Moving through our days in all their chaos and joys, the dark mixed with the light.

My initial reaction to when I feel like I just. can’t. anymore. is to run away. To remove myself from the situation, set it aside, avoid it until maybe I have the strength to deal. Hibernation has often seemed like an appealing concept. This says something about who I am and how I’m wired, I imagine, though I’m not sure of what, exactly.

Sometimes it’s possible to escape, and arguably even healthy. But I can’t protect myself from all the frustrations of life. Even if I could, it would be unwise, for as much as I don’t want to be, I’m learning here.

We’re all just learning to be human the best that we can, really.

Figuring out how to navigate through a life we didn’t ask to live, but have been given anyway, and now have to–get to–choose what we do with. Escaping from my irritations is an appealing option, but someday there will come a time when I’m faced with a similar situation with no escape possible. How will I know how to handle it, and that I can handle it, if I avoid it now?

So instead, I have to choose to actively engage with all those frustrating bits about being human that I’d rather avoid. I didn’t ask to be human, but I can try to do it well anyway.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What frustrates you about being human?

25 Lessons in 25 Years

I recently turned 25. It’s not a ton of years, but it doesn’t feel like nothing, either. I’ve done some stuff. Gone some places. Learned some things. For this post, 25 things, to be exact.

25 Lessons

  1. Know what you’re about. What is the central, driving force of your life—not just for this moment, but for this season and beyond?
  2. Love what’s in front of you. As Mumford and Sons sing, “I will learn to love the skies I’m under.” Life doesn’t come with a fast forward button or a rewind, so be where you are and find the goodness in it.
  3. Things that are not fun while you’re living them (throwing up into a plastic bag at a London Tube station, for example) can make great stories later.
  4. Learn to let go.
  5. But also learn how to hold on fiercely, even when it hurts.
  6. Learning to tell the difference between the previous two is so, so important. And sometimes really hard.
  7. Good music can soothe your soul. Also brownies.
  8. Life can be as exciting—or boring—as you make it be.
  9. Read. Fiction, nonfiction, classics, children’s books—read it all. Read what you’ll love, read what you’ll hate, and everything in between. Read books, Facebook posts, magazine articles, tweets. You will travel, you will learn, you will cry, you will laugh. Read.
  10. As much as possible, don’t burn bridges. People may reappear in your life many times over, and you never know when it might happen or in what way.
  11. God is big, and good, and wildly confusing sometimes. Stop trying to completely figure him out. You won’t.
  12. But don’t stop chasing God. Yes, he’s confusing, but so much more than that, he is loving and good and in the end, worth it all.
  13. Don’t buy the cheapest plunger at the store. You will regret it.
  14. Write it down. Whatever “it” is. Thoughts, feelings, actions, hopes, dreams. Words will sort your brain out in ways you didn’t think possible, show you where you’ve been and sometimes clarify where you should go.
  15. Find the good people. They are out there, and they will color and shape your world in extraordinary ways.
  16. Eat well. Have some cake, a steak, the queso you love. Not as often as you might want, but not never.
  17. Stop trying to control everything. It won’t ever work the way you want it to. Ultimately, God has it. You may not like the way it looks, or the timing, or the exact way it all happens, but he can be trusted.
  18. Determine whose opinion matters. Most people’s opinion doesn’t. But for those ones, the good people, the people who love you and care for you and truly want what’s best for you—listen to them. Sometimes you cannot see clearly what’s right in front of you.
  19. Both figuratively and literally, life is too short to read crappy books.
  20. Make room in your life for the best things, even if it means getting rid of good things.
  21. Yes, it’s true you only live once, but don’t be a moron about it. Only living once is not an excuse to live recklessly with no thought of the future. It’s probable you have more days ahead of you, so make sure you can use those ones well also. Not just today.
  22. Love comes in many forms. Appreciate them all.
  23. Show up, both physically and metaphorically.
  24. Never stop learning. Learn about yourself—take personality tests that put into words things you’ve felt but couldn’t explain, be open to what other people observe about you, don’t be quite so scared to change. Soak in knowledge about any and everything, wherever you may find it.
  25. When faced with the choice between getting a good night’s sleep and going on adventures, pick the adventures. “I remember the day I was really well-rested” is not a story.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What lessons would you add?

Dear College Graduate

I graduated from college two years ago, and yet as I begin to see the social media chatter of those who are finishing up themselves, the emotions I was feeling at that time feel close by. Even writing this, I can feel the excitement again–but mostly, the overwhelming uncertainty. From what I know now, if I could have given myself a letter that night, here’s what I would say.

Photo Credit: Flickr User tajkd, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User tajkd, Creative Commons

Dear college graduate,

First of all, congrats! You made it! All that homework and studying and sleep lost has led up to this…a funny hat, a walk across a stage, and a pretty little piece of paper with your name on it.

Second, I’ll warn you right away: there aren’t any perfect words for a time like this. I could tell you to chase your dreams and to not let anything get you down, but those are vague, unhelpful sentiments. So let me tell you a few things I wish someone had told me.

  • There is no shame in doing the smart but un-fun thing to help you get where you need to be. For me, it meant living with my parents for over a year after I graduated. It was fine, but it felt weird to be trying to be an adult while living in my childhood bedroom. But it was what had to happen at that time. Living where you need to or taking the job you have to in order to accomplish something can be the smartest thing you’ll do.
  • Sometimes being a college graduate sucks, and it’s okay that you think it sucks. Feel what you feel. Maybe you thrive on the excitement of the unknown, or maybe uncertainty can leave you curled up in a ball, watching Netflix for hours on end. Neither of these feelings are inherently bad, they’re just different. It’s better to admit the way graduating is making you feel than try to act another way because you see someone else reacting differently. These are crazy times, and no two people will handle it in the exact same way.
  • The transition from student to…something else…is a strange one. It takes time and the willingness to be okay with one chapter of your life being over. You might think that once you find the perfect job you’ll immediately fall into the new routine with contentment and glee, and there will likely be some of that, but it’s a very big adjustment. Sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s hard. Look for the wonderful, and be prepared for the hard.
  • The season will change. I promise you. Whether you’re in elation or despair, it will not last forever.
  • Now about that diploma. It’s nice, at first—it’s exciting to see your name there, declaring you have a “Bachelor of Science” or whatever your exact degree was. But there will come times when you will glare at that piece of paper, wondering if it was all worth it. The loans (if you have them) will come due, and you will wonder all the more. Someday you might get a job that will prove to you it was worth it, but maybe the proof won’t come in as tangible a form as a paycheck. Maybe it will be in the enduring relationships, the classes that have helped you look at the world slightly differently, the sense of accomplishment that though schoolwork does not come easily to you you graduated. “Worth it” comes in all shapes and sizes.
  • Find something to enjoy about where you are. Whether it’s extra time to devote to a hobby because you’re un- or under-employed, free food because you live with your parents, or basking in the fact that you no longer have to do homework, there is something good about wherever you’re at right now. Find it. Relish it.
  • Last, and possibly annoyingly, let me remind you that there is a plan here. You don’t always see it, you definitely don’t always feel it, but God has his hand on whatever it is you’re in right now. I’m not promising the plan will always feel like a plan or that the plan will always be good in the definition of good that you know, but it is there.

So there you have it. Welcome to the World After College. It’s a strange place here, and it might take some getting used to, but I hope you learn to enjoy it.

We’re glad you’re here.

Sincerely,

Brianna

p.s. What would you say in a letter to college graduates?

Confessions of a Youth Leader: Some Things Never Change

I have never been good at sports.

Gym class was always my least favorite, especially the days when we had to play basketball. Being the kid who was picked last for a team was not a cutesy way of suggesting someone was left out, but an actual concern of my daily life. My childhood wasn’t terrible because of it, but anything involving sports are certainly not my rosiest memories of days of yore.

Now I’m a youth leader at my church. The thing I forgot about middle and high school youth group is that it, at some point or another, always seems to involve some sort of athletic activities. Games involving throwing, dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and catching are quite commonplace.

And, despite my additional years of life, my athletic ability has not increased accordingly.

If anything, it may have gotten worse.

Not being forced to participate in sports I don’t like anymore, when I do exercise, it’s activities I can do by myself, sometimes in the comfort of my own living room where not another living soul needs to see me. Basketball? Rollerblading backwards across a gym floor with a group of my peers? Wiffleball? No thanks.

But the funny thing about being a youth leader and not a student is that I’m no longer there for me. Yes, I’m there because I choose to be, but not with my own wants and needs specifically in mind.

Photo Credit: Flickr User seanmfreese, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User seanmfreese, Creative Commons

I recently posted on Facebook that sometimes I think I get just as much, if not more, out of youth group than the students do.

While my athletic ability has not increased, my insecurity about it has not decreased nearly as much as I thought it might have. A bit, but certainly not entirely. It turns out the lessons we talk about with middle and high schoolers aren’t just relevant for them, but also for me.

Because some things never change. Like the fact that I am still kind of terrible at catching and throwing things or anything involving needing to get from one location to another with any sort of speed. 

I am also, as I learned this past Saturday, terrible at climbing out of pits filled with foam blocks.

But it’s not about me. I might still feel insecure about my lack of athletic ability, but I’m not a youth leader to feel good about myself. If I feel a little insecure myself, but students feel comfortable and welcome, that’s what it takes. And in ways, it’s a good reminder of what middle and high school me often felt like, and what students might feel like too.

Maybe my own insecurity is exactly what helps me understand theirs.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you learned anything in your experience as a youth leader?

Life with Open Hands

Over the last few weeks I spent time thinking about what I’m thankful for. As I thought about how my life looks like right now, I came to appreciate in a renewed way how full of goodness it is, from people to my job to my living situation to my church to the variety of other activities that fill up my time.

And it’s times like these, when life is going fairly well, that my “I don’t like change” tendency kicks in in high gear. My own future looks reasonably steady, but it’s not necessarily that way for the people whose lives intersect with mine. It’s when I’m looking down the road, knowing people’s situations are going to change that will inevitably change me too, that make me want to stop time.  I want to wrap my right now in a warm fuzzy blanket, clutch it close to my chest and hold on for dear life.

That’s not a good way to live, for my own hands and arms that cramp as they cling so tightly, and for the things I squeeze so tightly they threaten to break.

Photo Credit: Flickr User  Lel4nd, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Lel4nd, Creative Commons

What would it look like if I lived differently? Life with open hands.

It would look like accepting the good things I’m entrusted with for however long I am supposed to have them, and graciously letting them go when they are no longer mine to hold. It applies to almost everything in life, from relationships to jobs to vehicles to houses to memories. Most of what we come in contact with on a daily basis is temporary.

Which, for a change-hater, is kind of terrifying.

This idea of living with open hands is more of an attitude than a daily, physical action, which in ways makes it all the more difficult. If all I had to do was physically open my hands, I’d be set. Done. But metaphorically opening my hands is a much more nebulous idea, yet somehow seems exceedingly important.

Of course, there are certainly times when we must hold tightly, even despite frustration and hurt and difficulty. Some relationships, jobs, vehicles, houses, and memories should be held onto, and that is well and good. But I’m learning there are less of those things than I once thought.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What would living with open hands look like for you?

When Hurt Helps Write a Different Story

Hurt is one of the unfortunate parts of life. At some point, we will all be hurt, cause hurt, be reminded of it at unwelcome times, and have to learn to work through it by forgiving, asking for forgiveness, and participating in the continual-ness of forgiveness. No part of it is really fun, but it will happen. You will be hurt. You will hurt.

More than once, and sometimes very deeply.

It is usually hard to make sense of hurt, to understand what, if any, purpose it holds. I’m not sure “hurt” and “making sense” are concepts that can be completely harmonized.

Sometimes though, there comes a time when you begin writing a story that feels similar to one that’s been written before. But the last one, perhaps through words and actions of your own, others, or some combination of both, took some ugly turns.

Hurt.

Left, right, up, and down. All over.

I don’t know that I can truthfully say I’m thankful for such stories in my life, but oh, have I learned from them. For that, I can be thankful.

Because this time, I can do things differently. I can choose different words. I can choose different actions, reactions, attitudes. This time, I’m letting past hurt help a present story turn out differently.

It’s not that all hurt can be avoided. Going to excessive lengths to avoid hurt can result in ugliness of its own, drawing into ourselves and missing out on the beauty of honesty and vulnerability. Some hurt isn’t a result of choices of our own.

But sometimes we have the opportunity to make new choices that make way for a new story. They are not always easy, popular, or fun choices–but they are good. And they are writing this story differently.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How has past hurt taught you to do things differently?

One Year Later: Reflections of a College Graduate

It’s been a little over a year since I graduated from college, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a while.

Except, I couldn’t. I thought about it–a lot. Even started formulating what I’d write.

But I couldn’t actually do it.

So I looked back at my posts from a year ago–things I wouldn’t miss about not being in school anymore, a reminder to myself that the years I put into school were not in vain, how much I would miss my college, my frustration at the seeming silence on how much of a change graduated life would be, the mantras I repeated in attempts to calm my nervousness, and my 20,002 feelings about not seeming to have any piece of my life together. Skimming those, it started to make a lot more sense why I haven’t been able to write about it.

Because this post I wanted to write of reflection and wisdom has been a year in the making, but many of the words I wrote a year ago are still true.

 

There are still moments when I am awash in nostalgia for my college days and the community there, and would give almost anything to go back.

When I look at the student loans I still have to pay off, I have to actively remind myself that there are lessons I couldn’t have learned in any other way, and that I would not be where I am today had I gone a different route.

Sometimes I still get frustrated that, though my education was a good one, there are parts of being an “adult” (I use that term loosely) I’ve felt unprepared for, because there are things that can’t be taught in classrooms.

My life still routinely feels a bit of a mess, like only a very small section of my “life pie” is figured out.

A year has gone by, but it sometimes seems I haven’t moved much at all.

 

Which is, I think, why I haven’t been able to write this post sooner. I’m a year older, but I don’t know that I’m a year wiser–at least not in the ways I may have expected to be.

There is no magic formula for learning to grow up with absolute grace and skill.

So I guess I am learning to be okay in that. To be okay that life is in the bumbling, the stalling, the frustrating, the ungraceful, the messy; and that there is goodness in those things too.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Because I Have Not Learned to Heed My Words

“Because sometimes the hardest person to grant grace to is yourself,” I wrote on Sunday.

Then I got to work on Monday, and the day did not go my way. Actually, the whole week kind of didn’t go my way.

“Overwhelmed” is the word I’ve been using most often to describe how I feel about my new job, and this week was no different. My overwhelmed-o-meter might even have gotten bumped up a notch. The amount of work I have to is probably about average, but because I’m still learning how to do a lot of it, everything takes me longer than it will in a few months or years. Emails clog my inbox, phone calls come in making requests of me that I’m not entirely sure how to handle, meetings and discussions are had about how to do things better better better…and I’m tempted to crawl under my desk and have a good cry.

Grace was the last thing I gave myself this week.

Internal pity parties? Oh yes. Wondering what right I have to sit in my office? Mmhmm. Discussions of leaving the country? Yup. (Mostly in jest…)

None of these are very grace-filled.

Considering my last post on the value I do have and my lessons in granting myself grace, I border on hypocritical.

“Hypocrite” might be a bit harsh. “In-process” may be more true, and fair.

 

Just because I write something doesn’t mean I instantly internalize it.

Just because I write something doesn’t mean I am done learning it.

Just because I write something doesn’t mean I am perfect.

 

This is what makes writing like I do, posting it here for the Internet to see, hard. I told the truth last Sunday when I wrote, “I am being reminded of all that I don’t know, and to be okay in it.”

And I’m writing the truth today when I say that sometimes I do a terrible, awful, hot-mess job of being okay with what I do not know.

These are the truths that are born when writing through something instead of writing after it. I have other stories I could tell with finished, wrapped-up, bow-tied endings where event A happened and I learned a lesson I applied to event B.

Real life is much messier than that though. It is made of tentative steps forward, backwards glances, sidesteps, trips, falls, leaps and bound, with the eventual hope of being further along than where I started.

If nothing else, my lack of grace for myself is making me more aware of the beauty in the gift of grace God grants me. It is a grace I can never earn, yet it envelops me and all my failings completely. I do a terrible, awful, hot-mess job of life sometimes, but God’s grace is so much bigger than that. It is grace that tells me I will never be good enough for it, and that is exactly the point. It is grace that is not mine to give, but to receive.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What life lessons are you learning?

Unsettled

I’m not a proponent of swearing, so I use this graphic with some hesitation…but the sentiment quite accurately describes how I’m feeling of late.

Seeing as it is now August, is has been just over 3 months since I graduated from college. A day before I graduated from college, I wrote about life-pie, how although a job I had been offered earlier that week took care of one sliver of my life, it far from cured the overall anxiety and fears.

A week after I graduated, I wrote of restlessness, of not knowing how to introduce myself now that I’ve shed the label of “college student.”

And three months later, I find my life still a-jumble, still unknown, still shaken up. I thought maybe over the summer I’d be able to figure a few things out.

Instead, I still feel as though bits of life are swirling about me. The dust has yet to settle, or even begin to do so.

When I graduated from high school, I thought things would fall into place fairly quickly for me after college graduation. It was only around the beginning of my senior year of college that it occurred to me my time to figure things out was waning.

Maybe, though, I’m beginning to learn that the dust doesn’t ever completely settle. Maybe life isn’t so much about waiting for the dust to settle, but learning to live as best as possible in the midst of the swirling. Maybe, as much as I’d like to, I won’t ever get to the point where I feel like I have it all together (or even parts of it together). And maybe we could all do ourselves a favor by admitting that we don’t have it together, instead of trying so hard to make it look like we do. Maybe we’re all just trying to find our way in the midst of unsettled dust.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~