everyone told me life was gonna be this way.

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Two years ago I was taking pictures in front of the fountain next to the friends who became family. We had just sat in rows of identical square hats, shook hands, and received an empty folder with a gold embossed logo on it. We hugged our people and thanked our professors. Later that evening we would all go to a concert in the park that our friends’ band was singing at. We danced and ate chips & salsa and no one mentioned the fact that everything was going to be different because in that moment, everything was good.

People kept warning me that the post-grad season is really hard as I prepared for my leap into the elusive “real world” two years ago. I hated that they were ruining my bright-eyed view of endless possibilities without a syllabus weighing me down. Post-grad might have been hard for them, but not for me. I belonged to community. I was a leader that people looked to for direction. I could do anything and the world was my oyster!

“During the process of rising, we sometimes find ourselves homesick for a place that no longer exists.”Rising Strong, my gal Brené (Brené Brown, that is. We’re not on a first name basis but I would like to think maybe someday we will be. We both were swimmers and have a tendency to cuss when we get riled up.) wrote this down and it has never hit closer to home than in these last two years.

During the process of rising, we sometimes find ourselves homesick for a place that no longer exists. – Brené Brown

It took me one year post-grad to realize that things were different after being homesick for the way things were, and just like everyone said – it was really hard. It took me two years later to realize that life is still good. It will probably take me a lifetime to figure out how to keep standing when the tide comes back in or the winds change.

I’m trying not to use the word “season” because it feels too temporary. And honestly, I’m trying my best to not refer to my life stage now as “post-grad” because it keeps my eyes fixed on the rearview mirror rather than on the road ahead. But one of the hardest things about this post-grad season is the undoing of what was sure. I went from being someone who saw myself as an example to look to – who was decisive and knew exactly what she was doing and why – to being relatively anonymous, having little to no direction at any given point in time and having to rebuild who I am from the ground up.

This might say more about me and my self-absorbed tendencies to view myself as way cooler than I actually am than it does about life after graduation. But if someone knows when the label “post-grad” has an expiration date, let me know, because two years later I’m still feeling like I’m in my freshman year of life.

I wanted to be able to follow a formula for success: get a credible job, move to an actual city, move in with friends to the same apartment and live across the hall from one another, meet in a coffee house every day at lunch, yell “WE WERE ON A BREAK” when you mess up and your heart gets broken, watch Monica & Chandler get married… you know, the typical 20-something lifestyle.

My formula for moving on was a gap year lived in my college town and then plans to move home with my parents to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a barista in Portland. I kid you not, this was my big life plan for after college. Four years of tears and student loans and I am still so grateful that God dreams way bigger than I do. Today, my life looks completely different than how I would ever have imagined.

It’s like someone pulled all of the yarn out of my favorite sweater and handed it over for me to recreate without a pattern or directions. Granted, I’ve never knit anything in my life (sorry Grammie, I know you tried so hard to teach me but let’s be honest, I was never a crafting prodigy) and I don’t know why I’m starting with a sweater, but it’s a ton of guesswork. Maybe this long piece here will turn into a sleeve and the part up top kind of looks like a turtleneck and those are hip now so that’s good… but I’ve got a whole load of tangled yarn yet and I don’t know how to make it fit. It’s still good material, I just might end up with a scarf instead.

There isn’t a pattern for how to move on to what’s next after the undoing. The undoing isn’t a sequential step-by-step process but instead it’s more like poetry or jazz, having some kind of form but is punctuated with unexpected twists and new melodies that you have to learn to adapt to. You can’t mix and measure your way to a perfect transition, that would take all of the living out of it because transitions have to start with an end.

Grads, your life as you know it is ruined – which sounds extreme but is actually the most wonderful place to start. There’s this quote in the Bible of when Isaiah sees God for the first time. He falls down and yells “I am ruined!” because he has seen something so beautiful and OTHER THAN that he can never live life the same way as before he witnessed it.

That’s what the undoing is like: a holy destruction of life as you know it, then making something beautiful out of all of it’s parts and pieces.

I hope you grieve the end because of how sweet those late nights and long weekends were. I hope you remember the magic of making your own community for the first time. I hope you bring with you the lessons learned and that you don’t forget how special of an opportunity it was to participate in higher education. And I hope that you always laugh at movies like Nacho Libre and never grow tired of finding a new taco truck on a street corner.

I also hope that you don’t try to shove these unique experiences into wherever you are next. The last 4-5 years were one of a kind. Any attempt at replicating them is just a cheap knock-off of the real thing that will leave you frustrated that you can’t recreate the original. Except for the Nacho Libre part because that movie is hilarious no matter what.

So be patient with yourself. Let yourself feel all of the emotions – the relief of being done with something you worked so hard for, the excitement of new possibility, the worry of not having a next step, the sadness of watching your people move to new places, the anger that happens when things don’t go your way, the loneliness that comes during the process of building new community, and the hope that comes from knowing that tomorrow will be better.

Welcome to the world, I can’t wait to see what you make.

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the truth about staying.

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“You might be part pitbull.” He said. To my manager, this is the ultimate compliment. It means that in his eyes, I don’t give up.

If he only knew that I am queen of the 3-month relationship, have quit more fad workout regimens than I can count on two hands, and frequently skip songs on Spotify once they get through the chorus, he might have said something different. But this compliment was proof to me that I’m growing up.

My fight or flight reflex is heavily weighted towards flight. When things get hard, I run. It’s embarrassing that my willingness to quit something for the sake of my own comfort has often defeated my will to fight back. In light of the world around me, I prayed for this to change. Comfort is just another form of oppression for those who don’t have the privilege to live without conflict. And I’m learning that seeing someone, truly seeing them, is the key to love – which is the ultimate fight.

Lately I’ve admired the fighters who always seemed to be running down the next thing in their way. They were constantly moving, constantly chasing, always finding the next challenge they could take on to bring about justice or create good.

I used to think choosing adventure and movement was more courageous. Like the ones who made the big move to a brand new city every few years instead of choosing to live in the same town they grew up in were somehow stronger.

All of that fighting the next fight is just another way to avoid finishing the job. During the fight, things get messy. It doesn’t always go your way and you might end up face down after throwing a punch or five. But if you move on to find a different fight in hopes that you’ll automatically be victorious, isn’t that just the same as the ones who run away at the first sign of trouble?

I don’t want to come off like I have it all figured out in my relationship with God, but I think He values staying a lot more than I do. He seems to say “Stay. Wait. Be Still. Watch.” to me far more often than he says, “Move. Go. Fight. Take up your sword.”

It’s like I’ve got these God-sized dreams and instead of sprinting after them I’m supposed to choose a neighborhood and buy a Costco membership. It’s uncomfortable and seems weird and all I want to do is move to the city where I feel like I can hustle my dreams into reality, but it was never about me and my ability. It was always always always about how God chose to stay with me even when I don’t deserve it.

Staying is hard, especially for the dreamers. It’s risky because it may mean that your community might see you when you’re weak. You might even look like you’re failing. I keep running because I’m trying to save face. I don’t want to need people. I don’t want to need God. My stubborn, flighty self wants to keep running and prove that I’m enough to myself and the rest of the watching world. But I’m only human.

Staying is where the good stuff happens. It’s how you plant the deep roots that keep you grounded. It’s where the growing up happens and even though it doesn’t get easier, it becomes familiar. Staying builds your grit muscles and teaches you how to keep standing, even when you find your knees scraped and knuckles bruised. Even when every bone in your body is telling you to move on or risk being found out.

Maybe the braver choice is staying. Maybe it takes a lot more courage to face the uncomfortable, disappointing and confusing middle and see it through to end. Maybe communities are more affected by the ones that keep showing up rather than the ones who make a big splash and leave soon after. Maybe we all need to stay.

So make a promise to yourself to tough it through the uncomfortable middle. Keep a white-knuckle grip on the place you’re at. Tattoo the word on your ribs if you have to. Whether you’re in transition or facing conflict or just seem to find yourself knocked down, keep standing. Your heart will thank you for learning to stay.

 

hurry up and wait.

hurry up and wait

One of my favorite jobs in college was working on my university’s catering team as a server for one summer. Not only did my coworkers rock, but in catering you got to go to all of the fancy alumni parties off campus and when those fancy alumni parties were over you got to eat the leftover fancy food. For a cheap college student, this translated into lunch for the next week which was a miracle in and of itself.

Serving teaches you a lot. For example, it’s true that the best test of a good judge of character is how well the person treats their wait staff. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a starting point: 1) tip them well, 2) call them by their name, and 3) be a kind person. Seriously, if you want to know if you’re dating a keeper, take them out to dinner and see if they are nice to their waiter/waitress. You can thank me later.

Other things I learned catering/serving are how to work on a team, the importance of making friends in your workplace – shoutout to the cooks who would sneak me snacks when I worked weird hours and had been starving since 7am – and how to be humble, gracious, and smile even though your feet are killing you. All essential life skills.

One of the sayings we used to encompass what we did on the catering team was “Hurry up and wait.” It means exactly what it says: hustle to get all of your preparation for the next thing done but don’t do anything too hastily, because Table 7 is still working on their appetizer and you don’t want to ruin their experience by rushing them.

Right now, I’m hurrying up and waiting.

Life post-grad speeds up and slows down all at once. I graduated in June 2015, I blinked, and Christmas decorations are being put up in the supermarkets. Time seems to be moving at an exponential rate with every year gone by (cue Keith Urban here). Life doesn’t move at 3-month or 4-year intervals anymore, and routine can make the days seem less like an adventure. There hasn’t been much change in my life since June, when normally by September there would be a completely different daily routine for me to navigate. For a change-junkie like myself, this was really rough to adjust to.

I believe that if you don’t like where you are, then you should change it (just another example of my change addiction). I once chopped off 9-inches off my hair just because I didn’t like where my life was headed and I somehow felt like this would fix it, but that’s a good story for another time.

Feeling stagnant and lame made me crave newness. I didn’t know what that meant, but I just felt in my heart of hearts that I should seek a new season whatever that may be.

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” // Revelation 21:5

I’m hurrying up because I know that God’s promises are true. The things that He has coming for me – a hope and a future – seem so near, like they’re right around the corner I just can’t touch them yet. It feels like there are so many preparations that need to get done before those things happen.

There is hurry in my life because I know that time moves faster and faster every day and I have a glimpse of what is to come. My natural tendency is to work work work until all of the details are figured out, but that’s not how God works. God works patiently and meticulously, not knowing the exact steps but knowing where He’s going. He is painfully patient and waits for me to catch on. So I will wait, too.

I know that has been promised to me will come faster than I ever anticipated and I want to be grateful for where God has me today. He has me here in my little college town, living with the best roommates a gal could ask for, and is telling me to just breathe for a bit. Rushing to the next season only takes away from experiencing the moments happening right now. Rest is such a gift and even though this season seems stagnant, there are so many things to be thankful for and find peace in.

Patience is hard for me, but I’m learning to stop and hold on to the “now” rather than trying to see the “almost”.