Being 20 years-old means I have a reoccurring conversation with people older than me as they attempt to impart their wisdom. It usually goes like, “Sarah, you don’t need to have everything in your life figured out right now.” This phrase is followed by a detailed re-telling of all the things they did when they were my age that they regret. Not going to school. Going to school. Getting married. Not getting married. Moving. Staying. Speaking up. Backing down. Taking the job. Leaving the job. I just stand there smiling and thinking “So what your saying here is…I don’t have to have everything figured out but I had better ‘listen to my heart’ and not screw this up. You’re brilliant.” I try not to be that cheeky out loud.
Telling me I’m “doing just fine” is something that really annoys me and I feel terrible about it. The reality is that whether or not you approve of my life choices, I still may or may not be happy with them. And being that I’m not too terribly concerned with whether or not you think I’m doing fine, those kinds of comments make me feel trapped and anxious. I’m glad you like what I’m saying or doing with my life, but I’m still really, really, really scared that someday I’m going to end up regretting everything I’m going to do in the next 5 years.
I am notorious among my friends and family for freaking out about that one day ten years from now. You know what I’m talking about. Most (not all) of us have had panicky moments when we realize that we have no game plan and if we fail freshman biology or don’t get that job or don’t stay with that one career we picked out as a sophomore in high school we are never going to be able to lift our face from the dirt. Okay that might be extreme. But I also have anxiety. Which automatically adds ten points to all anxiety scales.
I think a lot of this pressure is acquired when we’re really young to be honest. When I was a junior in high school I was really bored so I asked my parents if I could do PSEO, or early college. Although it wasn’t nearly as boring as the year before, I was anxious to please everyone and was very quickly pressured to be and act a certain way. It’s nobody’s fault. I don’t think anyone did anything wrong. I think I was a naive, 16-year-old who wanted people to think she was smart…as opposed to the 20-year-old who is writing this and also wants you to think she is smart. I gained a reputation for being cheeky and impulsive and that identity stuck with me. Because it was early college I felt like I need to know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and so I picked a major…or a few… and called it good.
Two years and a million panic attacks later, I’ve completed my internship in International Studies and discovered some really ugly things about myself. I’m not sure if what I picked out to do with my life when I was 16 was accurate to who I am. Someone told me something about being true to my calling the other day. Uuuuhhhh but like…when? And which calling? The one I felt when I was 6 or 16 or now? See, its not that easy.
I don’t know a lot about what God has to say about our “callings.” He doesn’t seem to map everything out perfectly for us, although I’d argue some people have it really easy 😉 But despite my Father’s infinite wisdom and sermons and the numerous books I own and read and the older friends that are endlessly telling me I’m “doing just fine” I can’t seem to figure it out. There is this one verse in the Bible though that makes a lot of sense to me on this topic. Its in Hebrews and the author is talking about faith. And in verse 11:6 he writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must first believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” I feel like the only thing I have to offer God is my curiosity and my questions. All I ever do is seek him. I don’t seem to be doing any finding of anything. No direction. No plans. I feel more guilt and fear than I do anything else. But isn’t that the point of faith? Faith is believing and seeking even when you’re NOT being rewarded. Or it doesn’t feel like you’re being rewarded.
When I was in London last summer someone asked me what my aspiration in life was. I told her my aspiration was to have zero aspirations and always be happy right where I am. I really wish I was better at that than I am right now. I wish I didn’t base so many of my feelings on whether or not I felt like I was being rewarded for seeking God and doing the right thing. BUT I still think I would answer that question the same way I did last summer…which would be hard considering I just turned 20 and now people want to know where I’ll be when I’m 30. Happy. Happy is where I’d like to be when I’m 30. Regrets or otherwise.