In less than one week, I will be starting my last semester of college.
It doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago I was driving from North Dakota to Kansas, moving into my dorm room, meeting my roommate for the first time, and starting college classes. I am pretty sure it was just yesterday I added my roommate on Facebook, creeped on her profile, decided before I ever met her we’d never be friends. (Luckily, I was wrong about that. This has been our fourth year as roommates.)
Admittedly I write this post with a lot of homesickness on my heart. Having just spent four weeks at home, the longer I am home, the harder it is to return to Kansas. I love being home.
Last night was my first night back with the youth group I intern with. At the end of the night, my youth pastor’s wife asked if I was going back home. It took me a while to catch up with the conversation. I sort-of blank-stared for a minute before I answered. She meant if I was walking back to my on-campus apartment, but it didn’t register right away. My first thought was home is North Dakota.
I was rereading the book by Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts, and the beginning hit me. In it he writes:
“I could not have known then that everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God’s way.”
I’ll be honest: I don’t really like change. I used to work at a nursing home as a cook and dietary aide, and my boss was always trying to make changes in the kitchen. She had good intentions; she was working toward improving the way things worked. The head cook and dietary manager at the time are both older ladies (and by older I mean one was friends with my grandma), and they could spend an entire work shift complaining about changes.
And you know what? I was right there with them. I could join in their complaining from the time I put my hairnet on until the time I took it off. Mostly I would just nod and agree—never really offering many complaints because I didn’t want to bad mouth anyone, especially not my boss. And really, the changes never hurt anyone, except maybe when the changes resulted in people not wanting to eat the food. For instance, one resident refused to the tacos made with green tortillas because she “didn’t want to eat paper.”*
So I am not waving any foam fingers for more change. There won’t be any bumper stickers on the back of my car.**
But, it’s like Donald Miller writes: “Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning.”
And I know I need to grow, to change, to learn, to become.
There’s nothing new or revolutionary about me saying change is a necessary part of life.
Life is a series of leaving and returning. Changing, changing, changing.
“Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons,” writes Donald Miller.
We go off to college and return on break as people who no longer fit in our bedrooms with Backstreet Boys and NYSNC poster covered walls. We hug mothers who love and let go.
We change into people whose faith doesn’t fit like it used to. There are more gray areas and more questions. We travel to different countries, experience difficult cultures, realize nothing fits in the boxes where we kept our faith.
I have always had big dreams. Not impractical dreams—I pictured myself as more of a realist after all. But standing at the edge of the “end of the beginning,” I find myself whispering words I am too afraid to say aloud:
I am not sure if my dreams drive me the way they used to.
I’m gulping now and choking back tears. I was always so sure of everything. I had a plan. But looking off the cliff of my college years, nothing looks the way I thought it would. I’m not sure, but I might be having a quarter-life crisis. Maybe I just shouldn’t be reading Lamentations.
I’ve never been one to cross days off a calendar, but I am finding I am now. Not because I want tomorrow to come, but because I want my current stuck-ness to end. Yet I feel like my dreams are like quicksand or glue, and I don’t know how to go back or go forward.
Perhaps I want to do more than return to home. I want to return to the person who knew what she wanted. The one who got excited about working toward “The Plan.” The one who had hope and had no problem taking Jeremiah 29:11 out of context. People say this is a natural feeling, that it’s normal to have a crisis of direction—I just never thought it’d be me. I’ve barely tiptoed into my twenties, and I feel too young to feel this unsure.
At the same time, I know I am a hard-worker. I tell myself I’ll end up on my feet. I’m stubborn and resilient—I am German.
I thank God for friends who say, “You too?” Even in the middle of extreme loneliness, I know I am not alone.
Most of the time, I don’t know what words to pray, but I still ask God to be my strength when I don’t have any.
*I mean, can you really blame her?
**Seriously, I really don’t like bumper stickers.