As the semester nears its end, not only have I been doing more homework than I think I’ve ever done in my entire life, but I’ve also been doing a lot of reflection on my college career. This is my last semester of classes before starting student teaching next year, which seems absolutely crazy to me. I planned on being in college for 4 years, playing college volleyball for 4 years, and then student teaching my last semester in 2018. Lesson learned: Things don’t always go as planned. But, what is really crazy to think is that these few years that have been my entire life and have shaped me in so many different ways, are actually just a smaller fraction of a way bigger picture.
However, you know how one thing people always tell you before you leave for college is that you WILL change so much? Well, those people are actually right. I am in no way the same person I was three years ago. In many ways, it’s not just about college. It’s about growing up and leaving home. It’s about meeting new people and going new places. It’s about all the experiences and circumstances we go through over a span of time that ultimately shape and change who we are. Even though these college years only make up a few of the total years of my life so far, they’ve been fundamental into shaping me into the person I’m going to be for the rest of my life.
It’s one of those cliché things to talk about, yet it is so, so true: every experience we go through, the people we meet, the places we go, the things we fail at, the things we’re successful at, and the choices we make, in one way or another change who we are. Still, we don’t really think about it. We don’t really like the idea of change. We make choices left and right, oftentimes without considering the impact it might have on our lives. We travel to places for the experience, but we don’t realize the lessons we might learn along the way. We create relationships with people, but we don’t think about how those people can affect our lives.
Be aware of how your circumstances are shaping your life—for the better, or for the worse.
I 100% believe that no matter what the circumstance is, people have the choice to let it change them for the better, or for the worse. When you’re ignorant to how something might be shaping you, you’re missing out on an opportunity to change your life, and possibly someone else’s life for the better.
In all seriousness, three years ago I was a negative Nancy. It didn’t matter at all how many different things I had going for me. I always saw the glass half empty. I always looked for the negative things, and literally found reasons to complain out of thin air. Even when I put on a happy face and seemed to be doing just fine on the outside, I was probably thinking something completely different on the inside. That was just who I was. Then I got to college, and nothing really seemed to change at first. Actually, it got a lot worse. I complained even more. I never slept because I was constantly creating problems in my own head. I stressed out over everything, way more than was actually necessary. I even almost transferred after my first year, or thought about taking time off, but didn’t because I felt like God was telling me that I needed to stay right where I was.
So, I stayed. But, the very next semester is when I got hurt and had my first knee surgery. After that, absolutely nothing got better. If you’ve followed my blog and/or know my experience, you know that this healing process has been a long, long road. But it’s not just about the physical healing process I went through. I’ve also been going through a healing process in my relationship with Christ, in my own heart, and in my mind.
It took me being broken down into utter helplessness to finally realize that there is a much bigger picture beyond the scope of the things that I can see. Complaining and facing everything with fear, doubt, and worry never got me anywhere. In fact, it made me miserable. I don’t imagine I was a ray of sunshine for people to be around and hang out with either.
It sure would have been nice if I would have learned that lesson a lot quicker than I did (like maybe before having four knee surgeries, having to give up volleyball, and having many of my plans turned upside within a span of two years). But in all honesty, “it’s chill.” It is an incredible feeling to finally be able to let the pain of the past go and move forward. Of course, I still complain. Of course the glass is empty from time to time. Of course I still get frustrated with my knee pain. Of course I still wish I could play even just one more volleyball game and end on a good note. But, I’ve been working on seeing the bigger picture and finding joy in life beyond my circumstances.
Now, I love to crack jokes and make people laugh. I love to be kind. I love to smile at random strangers, in hopes that maybe a smile was exactly what they needed.
Now, it irritates me when I hear people constantly complaining. It bothers me when someone doesn’t ever look for the positives in their situation. But, it also reminds me that I still have a tendency to be that person—and I don’t want to be that person.
Now, I constantly catch myself complaining and try to stop myself before I let it get the best of me. I take time to pray without asking, and simply thank God for all the good things instead.
Although I'm a different person now than I was before college, I'm still not where I want to be.
Life is way too short to complain about everything. It’s too short not to enjoy every moment we can. We’re way too blessed by a God full of grace, love, and forgiveness to live in misery.
I may not know everything that you are going through or have gone through in the past. I don’t know the circumstances that you’re facing or understand the depth of pain those things have put you through. I can’t say I’ve experienced everything that you have. But, I can say that we both have the same God. Whether or not you believe in Him, God is good and He loves you unconditionally.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to diminish or make small the tragedies in your life. Those tragedies are important. Those things that broke your heart and soul are important. The burdens you carry, the pain you feel, and the suffering you go through are all important. There’s a time and season for it all. I simply hope to remind you that in every season and trial, we still are called to be joyful. God’s will for our lives is not to be miserable. It’s to seek Him, and find joy in Him beyond our circumstances. Don’t waste your life being miserable. Don’t let your circumstances define your joy.
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18