Last night, we did a neat activity in my church small group. When we arrived, two tables were covered in about 50 different photographs, all evocative images depicting various people, settings, and objects. Our small group leader asked us to select one picture that described where we are now in this season of them, then later asked us to pick a picture, in light of the knowledge that God loves us, where we believe that God would want us to be right now. I wish I could find these photographs to share, but they came materials that a Christian organization uses for evangelism, so they are likely copyrighted.
True to my indecisive nature, I looked at every single picture before I chose one. I then asked myself, "Where am I in life right now?" The answer immediately popped into my head with one word, "Moving." I picked the photograph that conveyed the most movement to me: a young woman and a young man running through a train station, limbs and torsos blurred, arms extended towards one another, as if they were running to catch a train and the young man was reaching out his hand to pull the young woman along.
My life is moving forward right now, I know where I'm going in the immediate future, and I know the steps to take along the way. I know where I will be completing my practicum for the next two semesters, I likely know what new job I will take next fall, I know when I will be proposing my dissertation, I know (probably) when I will be applying for internships, and I know what sorts of internships sight I will apply to and have some ideas of where I plan to apply. There's a lot that I don't know, a lot of very important details yet to be decided, and still much flexibility in all these plans, but I know enough to feel sure of where I'm going and to feel confident to run towards these goals. I'm no longer the insecure, clueless first or second year graduate student, feeling like I'm swimming aimlessly and trusting that in some unknown way my classes and experiences will lead to a doctorate degree and a professional license. I recently told one of my classmates that I feel like we're at the last lap (which we're not), and that I feel like we're rushing towards the finish line now. There's still a LOT left to do, but how to get to that once elusive finish line is now much more clear to me. And I'm busy pursuing all those things this semester, much busier than previous semesters. I've had weeks when I've been stressed and exhausted, but God has answered my prayers and the prayers of others to give me energy to mostly thrive in this schedule. It probably helps that I now have a better idea of what the coming semesters and years hold for me and how the things I'm doing now directly relate as steps toward a goal that is being achieved.
I feel good about all these things. But when I looked at the picture of the two in the station, it felt frantic and stressful to me. The two were not sure if they would reach their destination, but they were running like hell to try to make it there anyway. They were reaching out to one another, but their hands weren't quite touching. In the same way, I feel like some things in my life just aren't connecting as they should be. I feel like my busyness is causing me to sacrifice some things for now, and honestly, I sometimes feel like I'm flat out dropping the ball on things I should be doing, but just don't have the time to complete or the mental energy to even remember to do because I am so focused on more demanding things. I don't feel as frantic as the photographed two, which I'm grateful for. In the midst of this busyness, I don't feel nearly as stressed as I could be, and there's been a lot of peace throughout this semester.
For my second photograph, I chose a picture of a young man, a college student I assume, walking away from the camera, toward a beautiful collegiate looking brick building, red backpack strapped to his back, surrounded by old trees who are just beginning to turn into fall colors. As his left foot is turned sole towards the camera, there is obvious movement in this photograph, but the entire scene is crisp and clear, no aspect is blurred in motion. I imagine this young man walking at a steady pace, towards his destination. He's not wearing himself out, he's not tired, he could stop if he wanted to, he's walking slowly enough to notice his surroundings. I believe this captures what God wants for me because I believe that he wants me to keep moving, that he wants me to pursue these goals I'm currently pursuing. I don't think he wants me to change directions or stop, but I think he wants me to continue moving forward at a more steady pace, less frantic, and I believe that he wants me to experience more peace while I move. To feel confident, to trust that my steps are sure. I don't think he wants me to rush nor miss out on what is present all around me.
Afterwards, my small group leader told me how he experienced sadness when I said that I'd be finishing up in a couple of years, "I'm sad for selfish reasons." I almost cried when he told me that. I know it's almost two years away, but for all the excitement I experience about moving forward and reaching my educational and career goals, I will be very sad to leave the people and this place that I have come to love. I shared with him my recent realization that if I decide to stay an extra year, to finish my dissertation and/or become a more competive internship applicant, and if I spend that extra year here, I'll be very happy with that. I thought I'd be eager to leave this place, but it truly has become home to me, a delightful, satisfying surprise. If I am led to stay or return, then that would be amazing. As fast as I seem to be moving, I'd love to slow things down and savor all of this.
Wow, I really am in such a different place than I was just over a year ago. As busy as it may be, I absolutely love this season.
PS - I updated my blog roll. It makes me happy :)