I remember thinking this is a bad idea. But it was the first night of freedom, and lots of bad ideas were given birth then.
My roommates and I had met some random other freshmen in the courtyard at 11 pm, the night hiding faces and names. Half of the group was drunk or tipsy, laughing and staggering around. We all ended up mobbing our way down the steep hill that led down from campus to town, paying little attention to the inevitability of winding headlights in the darkness.
It’s a foggy memory now, which houses I got dragged into by the group I had just met. The parties were abounding just down the hill, signs reading “Freshmen girls drink 4 free”, and one after another we popped in to say hello. To grab something from the keg, or whatever. I was quiet in the corner, taking in all the new faces, and watching to make sure my new friends didn’t leave with strangers.
But by two a.m., I was exhausted. Another girl in the group asked if I needed a ride back up to campus, and seeing as I had no better means to get home, I crawled in next to her on my back in the bed of some guy’s pick-up truck and crossed my fingers we were headed the right direction.
It was stupid enough wandering into houses full of intoxicated people for the sake of being social, but climbing into a random truck without knowing the true intentions of the driver? Even more stupid. And up until that point, stupid was something I didn’t really do.
Climbing up the dark hills, sliding against the metal and staring intently at the stars above me, I couldn’t help but thinking to myself about my situation, about the life that I would encounter from then on out—
This is it. There’s no going back.
Facing the shadows
College then seemed the scariest and most exciting thing I had ever faced. I made it home just fine, but when I woke up in the morning, it hit me: my parents were not coming back for me. This wasn’t a vacation, a fun adventure, or a dream I could just wake up from eventually. This was my life, in my hands, and I decided what I would do next.
The easy little glass house that I had built in high school was shattered, and it was time to start over in a new town with new people and lots of risks. And that is just it: the hardest part about moving on past a scene or stage in our lives is simply that we have to turn away from what is comfortable, familiar, and look straight into the unknown.
I know a lot of people today who are in transition. They are moving homes, apartments, jobs. They are graduating from high school and going to college, graduated from college and facing life, or getting married. They are having their very first baby. And whether or not you are in small transition right now, or life-altering change, there are a lot of question marks. Where will I go? Who will I be? What will happen next in my story if I chose to move on?
The past and the present, though filled with moments of difficulty and desperation, are beautiful and nice for us to sojourn in because there we can relax. If we chose to take the jump into the future, leaving behind what we know and understand, our friends and family, or lives, become shadows. Nothing will be crystal clear anymore.
Anything could happen. Anything.
Following the terror
If starting college was scary, then ending college is terrifying. Just like that first night, careening over dark hills and fearing the worst, today I am lost somewhere between what I know and what I don’t.
My brain is wracked with dreams about falling off of cliffs and job interviews going south, my day-to-day is a weird dream where I look in the mirror and don’t quite recognize the woman I see. All the while, the phrase keeps repeating in my head: things will never be the same.
Ultimately, in whatever stage of transition you and I are in, whatever shadows we are facing today, it comes down to one major choice that must be made. We can move forward towards the terror, or we can run back to what we know.
Just like I could have given my parents a call and told them to come get me after that first night of college, hidden away in their basement until my mid-thirties, and only did what was easy for me, I have the option of choosing comfort or taking risks. Some days, I choose the first option. Some days, I’m brave enough to strive for the second.
We challenge God, challenge the future, challenge love, and challenge the imminent catapulting of our lives into unknown territory because we don’t get to control it. We assume the worst: God will forget about us, the future will hurt us, and love will destroy us.
That is the risk, right? It could all go to hell. So I guess we must decide: do we want a life that is comfortable, familiar, and bland? Or do we follow the terror and risk the hurt for the sake of something so much bigger?
Finding the future
I’ve done a lot of really stupid things since I hopped in the back of a pick-up truck the very first night of college. I’ve messed up big assignments, attempted all-nighters, turned down great opportunities and taken on really bad ones. I’ve risked and been rewarded, but I have also risked and gotten let down. That’s just a reality of life.
It might just be me, but I think sometimes we need to be a little stupid. A little foolish. Sometimes we have to take some outrageously bold steps forward into the shadows just for the sake of seeing what we can find.
Some of the most profound words I have ever read are, “I pray that I never experience all that there is in life to get used to”. I would expect someone successful, passionate, or driven to utter these words in the midst of some brave new venture. But if you can believe it, these words were said by a woman who was worn down, battered, dirty, smelly, and living in horrible conditions as a political prisoner in the Dominican Republic about 50 years ago.
Her name was Violetta, and even though she was already living a life of hardship and challenge, she prayed earnestly for the growth that discomfort and change would bring. She knew, even in her suffering, that standing still or sticking with what was easy would never move her forward or create the revolution that she wanted to see around her.
It is in the difficult, in the dark, in the dangerous, that we find the future. It’s going to take courage you don’t think that you have, demand sacrifice you likely don’t want to make, or push you past the point of no return.[clickToTweet tweet=”It is in the difficult, in the dark, in the dangerous, that we find the future.” quote=”It is in the difficult, in the dark, in the dangerous, that we find the future.”]
But you, me, we belong in the future.
It is in the future where we become all we were made for, where we travel down roads to joy and growth, and where we never get used to how challenging, how wonderful, how exciting life can really be.