If you could read my journals from the early 2000's, you'd read the story of a terribly stressed out girl. In 2002, I graduated from high school. But I was home schooled and completely unprepared for life in general. I was confused about what I needed to do next, and how to do it. Should I go to college? I thought about it for a very long time, weighing my options. Some said that if I didn't go right out of high school, then I'd never go and would end up stuck in a tiny, unsatisfying town for my whole life. Some said that I should take some time off and explore my options. Everyone else told me to pray about it. They said that God would reveal what he wanted me to do. So, since that was the only available option with a built-in solution, that's what I went with. I prayed and I waited and any time that I heard a bump or saw something particularly lovely or strange, I wondered, "was that my sign? If that was my sign, what did it mean? What if when I was wondering about that thing, my real sign was sent and I missed it? What if I've ruined everything by thinking about that for too long? I'm thinking about this for too long! I'm going to miss it!" And then all the registration dates passed and that was "God's sign" that I should just stay put, I guess.
A year later, I'd finally decided that God definitely wanted me to go to college. But then I learned that there are thousands and thousands of colleges from which to choose. So, really, we're back at square one but with thousands of options instead of only two. I was stressed to the max. What if I went to the wrong school? It could throw off my entire life. My whole world could be out of balance! I could end up in a totally different career, married to a totally different person having completely different babies and grand children than I was supposed to have and how do you come back from that? There are no do-overs! You can't screw this up! And also, if it's not what God wants from you, then you might as well crawl into a ball and die because it's all worthless. So on top of all of the options--keep your eyes and ears peeled for The Sign.
Finally, I couldn't take it any longer and I decided on a college. I used the fact that I was accepted and that I got enough loans to cover my first two semesters as a sign enough (little did I know that they'll pretty much accept anyone who has enough loans to cover the first two semesters). But despite my sign, I spent the better part of the next three years wondering if I'd made the right choice and second guessing every thing I'd done up to that point. Because after college comes a choice in major and then where you will work for your whole life. And meanwhile, you'd better be looking for a husband because in all reality you are a woman and an English major--are you really going to use this degree?
So most every girl that I knew, and I fell into this as well, started treating every man on campus as though they were our future husbands--until we found out that they were not our future husbands. Every guy you bump in to--you imagine how you'll tell your grand kids that you met at the cafeteria waiting for them to refill the egg burgers. How romantical.
It was out of control is what it was. This is an example of a simplified version of a very typical late night conversation:
"Tom said 'hi' to me, today in class. But he didn't say 'hi' yesterday. Do you think he noticed something about me, today? Do you think he'll ask me out?"
"Totally, he'll ask you out."
"He's so cute. He has curly hair."
"Yeah, and pretty blue eyes."
"Yeah... he has blue eyes but I was really hoping for a guy with brown eyes."
"Honey, if God wants you to have a man with blue eyes..."
"You're right. Oh, this is so exciting! Know what else? Derrick asked if he could sit next to me, today, and then reminded me that it was Spicy Chicken Sandwich day in the cafeteria. How does he know that is relative to my interests? He has brown eyes... Maybe that's a sign that I should be talking to Derrick and not Tom. I'm going to call my mom!"
The next day:
"So, Tom asked to borrow a pencil and I was super excited but then at lunch I saw that he was sitting with Tiffany."
Twenty minutes later on the phone:
*crying* "I don't know, Mom. He just... I thought he really liked me! How could he go out with her?!"
I feel terrible for these mothers who had absolutely no realistic idea of the romantic relationships that their daughters were in.
But eventually, I got so tired of it and I broke. There was my job(s), and school and on top of all of it, I was being expected to follow this additional life plan that was booby-trapped and filled with bunny trails? I couldn't take it anymore. I stopped going to class. I did all I could to not get put on academic probation--but little else. I couldn't even read. In The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood talks about how she would look at a page and the letters would all swim around like alphabet soup. This is what it was like for me for an entire semester. That's when I stopped going to church and started drinking and everything started to make a little more sense. I realize that's horrible advice, but it worked for me. Except the drinking part--I was very proud of the way that I keep promises and I'd signed a covenant saying that I wouldn't drink at school and it didn't make me feel good to be a liar. I didn't drink much by the way. I still don't drink much--relatively speaking. Just enough that when I came back to campus, I could sleep without a panic attack.
I cut my priorities down to class and work and just taking it one day at a time. It drastically improved my life and little by little I came to believe that maybe there's not a right way and a wrong way to get to the end of our life. After all, I'd quit thinking about it all together and I was still alive.
Over time (years--I'm still working on it) I went from viewing my life plan like this:
I just want you to know that no matter what--nothing will be ruined. Just go. Just move. Or stay. Staying is going if staying is your choice. Just accept that you get to choose and nothing is irreparable.
"Go in excellence and safety."