Not a damn clue

Post-grad is hard. I’m not going to sugar-coat it, or pretend like everything is fine. This season of life sucks.

It’s lonely. It’s unsettling. It’s full of constant change. It feels purposeless.

This season of life is probably one of the hardest I’ve ever experienced. Life changes… a lot. And nobody really prepares you for it.

Friendships change.
Schedules change.
Finances change.
Spiritual life changes.

Everything changes. And if you’re anything like me… you don’t do well with change. Well, unfortunately, this season of life has been a constant change. I’m over three months post-grad, and I still feel so unsettled. Nothing about my life is “normal.”

I went off my anxiety medication a couple months ago.
I got a new job.
I got a new car.
I got a new boyfriend.
I lost a best friend.
Another best friend got married.
I’m not in school for the first time in my life.
I’m living back at home.
Finances are hard.

And I have not a damn clue what I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now.

When I left APU, I had a pretty clear idea of who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to do. Three months later and I’ve never felt so confused about my calling or my career. I’ve never felt so confused about who I’m supposed to be, where I’m supposed to go, or what I want to do… and that’s discouraging.

And even still, there’s so much in this season to be grateful for. I have a job, even though it’s not my favorite. I have a roof over my head with my loving parents, where I’m not required to pay rent. I have a loving boyfriend who makes me a priority. My friends that I still have — we talk a lot and they’re my greatest support system. I’ve made new friends, too.

If I’m being completely honest, it’s difficult for me to have a thankful heart in this season. It’s difficult for me to remember what I’m grateful for because life is just… hard. But maybe that’s why we go through difficult seasons — to remember whose we are and how to be grateful. God is good, y’all. Even in the hard seasons. Even in the droughts. Even in the valleys. He is good, and he provides for his people.

I’m discouraged. I’m anxious. I’m uncertain. And I’m unsettled.

But through it all, I know I’m being carried. And that’s enough for me.

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Be Bold

As a woman in her early 20s, it’s really easy to compare the way my life is going with the way everyone else’s is. It’s really easy to think that because our timeline isn’t matching someone else’s, we’re failing or falling behind.

Welcome to the last couple years of my life.

It would be so easy for me to fall into the trap of comparison and continue asking “why not me?” Why don’t I have a job? Why am I not successful? Why am I not married yet? Why am I not knee-deep in my career? Why am I still single? Everyone else has these things…why not me?

But when I step back and think about it, I realize that it’s so beautiful that my path looks different than theirs. How exciting is it that we get to walk such different roads and share our journeys along the way? I often wonder what the world would look like if we stopped trying to compare each other’s walks and simply sat with one another on those journeys.

No, I don’t have a job. No, I don’t have a boyfriend. No, I don’t have my own place or a steady income or anything figured out. But I don’t need to, and that’s a beautiful thing. My future is in the hands of the most articulate artisan in history, and He knows what lies ahead so I don’t have to.

Trusting the Lord…trust in general…is risky. It’s vulnerable. It’s bold. But in this society of perfectly crafted, social media driven lives, vulnerability and authenticity are the most bold things we can be. It is bold to embrace uncertainty. It’s bold to sit with someone in their journey that feels so much more successful than yours. It’s bold to encourage others. It’s bold to simply be.

As I’m smack dab in the middle of this awkward, uncomfortable, uncertain season, I want to be bold. I want to sit with those who are thriving. I want to sit with those who aren’t. I want to sit with my friends who are moving forward in their lives in the most beautiful ways. Success is not linear, and neither are our timelines. My encouragement to you and to me, is that we would be able to let go of expectations and simply be in this season; be trusting; be patient; be vulnerable; be bold.

 

What They Don’t Tell You About Post-Grad

Graduation. It came, it happened, it went. It was a weekend of exciting celebrations and ceremonies, accomplishments, hugs, and all those fun things that come with graduation.

But then we blinked and it was over.

As soon as I entered this post-grad season, and even before graduation happened, I was hit with a lot of emotions and other things that I wasn’t prepared for. Nobody had told me what to truly expect–they only told me about all of the exciting things that come with graduation.

So, I want to tell you what they don’t tell you about this graduation and post-grad season.

  1. You will get emotional about leaving the place you’ve called home for four (ish) years. It’s okay to feel emotional about the fact that you’re leaving this familiar space. You’re leaving the place where you have immediate access to your friends and to everything you need. It’s okay to be emotional about that.
  2. Post-grad can be lonely. I came home after graduation, and yet, it still feels lonely. I don’t have as many friends at home as I did after my first and second years of college. Because of that, I do spend a lot of time by myself. I didn’t expect this to happen, but here we are. So yes, post-grad can be lonely.
  3. You probably won’t find a job right away. This one hit me hard. I expected to be the girl that would find a job by March, move home for a week or two, then get started with the rest of her life. Newsflash: that didn’t happen. It’s almost a month post-grad, and I’m still looking for a job.
  4. Post-grad can be discouraging. Oh BOY do I wish someone would have told me how discouraging the job hunt can feel. Applying for over 60 jobs and getting rejection emails, or never hearing back, from most of them is a DOOZY! It’s okay to feel discouraged. It’s okay to feel unsure about what you decided to get your degree in, and it’s okay to feel uncertain about what’s next. Just don’t let that discouragement and uncertainty control you.
  5. Life after graduation is incredibly different. Every summer when you leave school to go home, you know you’ll be back in the fall. Except after graduation. You arrive at home, potentially with no job, realizing that you won’t be back to that place in August, and you’re not entirely sure how long you’ll be living at home, either. The dynamic has now shifted. Being home as a college graduate is a different ball game. I didn’t expect it to feel as different as it does, but it does! And that’s okay. The best you can do is embrace the difference and roll with the punches.

Nobody prepared me for what post-grad was really like. I had no idea what to truly expect. This season of post-grad has been far more difficult and discouraging and unmotivating than any season I’ve previously been in. All you can really do is float until you land, and enjoy the ride.

Understanding White Privilege

For a long time, I hated the term “white privilege.” It made me feel like I was being lumped in with the rest of the white supremacy crowd, and it made me feel like my own culture was being forgotten. However, understanding white privilege for what it is, is an important part of living in the 21st century, especially as a white, 22-year-old female.

I saw a tweet the other day that one of my classmates shared from a black man who, for the first time at 45 years old, put a Bandaid on that matched his skin tone.

Forty. Five. Years. Old.

I have had the same color Bandaids since I was born, and they’ve always relatively matched my skin tone. This was never an after thought.

I have never once had to worry about being watched in a store because someone thought I would steal something.

I have never been questioned about my race.

I have never been denied entry to a facility because of my race.

I have never had to answer to someone because of my race.

Until now. I am answering to myself and to the public, because as white people, we need to understand the privilege we hold. Once we have a relatively decent grasp on that understanding, we need to use it to speak up for our brothers and sisters of color; we need to use our privilege as white people to advocate for those who have less privilege.

Discriminating based upon race is not acceptable. It never should have been.

Jesus wasn’t white, so as white people, especially as white Christians, we need to stop using Jesus as an excuse to justify our privilege. Jesus would be sitting with the black man. He would be sitting with the Indian woman and the Asian children. He would be intertwining the white folks with these other cultures because God made us to be intercultural. I don’t believe that the Lord made all of these beautiful cultures only to keep us separated; we are supposed to immerse ourselves in one another’s culture and understand what it means to walk in each other’s shoes so we can advocate for and understand one another.

“White” does not mean “better.” It does not mean “superior” or “special” or “more deserving.” White means white. White is associated with privilege because unfortunately, that’s the hierarchy we live in. Because of this deep-rooted societal issue, it is now our job as white people to tear our high-class veil of privilege and replace it with a multi-colored, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic veil that welcomes people of any and every corner of the world. We need to be advocates. We need to stand up for those who are less privileged because of their skin color. If we let our privilege go to waste merely for the sake of benefitting ourselves, then we have no privilege at all; we have cowardice.

 

Letting Go

Letting go is really hard. Letting go of friends, family, dreams, ambitions…it’s hard. But I’ve noticed lately that even letting go of the negative things is hard; the things that have plagued you from your past; the character flaws you have; the demons that haunt you at night…it’s so hard to let them go because they almost become a source of comfort. Even though you know these things are unhealthy for you to hold onto, you do it anyway because they’re all you’ve ever known.

Let things Go

We were not meant to hold onto things…especially those things that are unhealthy. We were not meant to bear the weight of these things. They’re far too heavy.

Something I’m in the process of learning to let go of is jealousy. I am an incredibly jealous person, but the only person that hurts is me. The only one that suffers from my jealousy is me. The only person my jealousy haunts is me. Jealousy steals so much of my joy. It prevents me from enjoying the things I love or being happy for the people I love. What’s worse is that often times, jealousy comes from a place of distrust or fear of the unknown. But something else I’m learning to let go of is my need to control everything. It takes too much energy and wastes too much of my time when I try to control everything. How much more beautiful life is when I let go.

Letting go sucks. Even when it should seem so easy and so beneficial to let go of the things not meant for us to hold onto. I think letting go becomes easier when we find comfort in the Lord and in good company and the good things in life, rather than trying to hold onto things that have plagued our hearts for far too long.

So I ask you, will you let go with me? Will you open your hands and surrender those nasty, unfit, burdensome, shackling things that steal your joy and your true comfort? I really think life will become much happier when we stop living in the fear of the unknown and instead release those things and find excitement in what the unknown could bring.

Letting go is hard…but I think I like the alternative better: freedom.

Labeled.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since fall 2014. It came out of nowhere, and hit me like a ton of bricks. It felt like the impact of a car accident or the spontaneity of an earthquake. For four years I suffered, openly and honestly, but I never considered being medicated.

Until last October.

At the beginning of my fall 2018 semester, my anxiety and depression were running rampant. I would wake up every morning and immediately start crying, calling my mom in an uncontrollable, anxious fit. I had no idea what was wrong with me or what was going on, or why my mental illness was all of a sudden so severe. I had been in a good place, I had been handling it well and managing it like I always did: with lots of prayer and lots of essential oils.

But this time felt different. I couldn’t put a finger on why I was feeling this way.

A caveat about my story: while I had been struggling for four years with these mental illnesses, I never received a formal diagnosis from a doctor or a psychiatrist. I never felt like I needed one; I knew what I had, and the way I was managing it seemed to work.

After a few weeks of waking up in tears, not eating much, and feeling ridiculously nauseous all the time, I decided to see a psychiatrist. This decision was not made lightly; it came after conversations with friends telling me that waking up feeling sick and crying was not normal; it came after my mom begging me to go on medication because she’s seen the effects of not treating mental illness properly. “Alyssa, when something is broken, you go to the doctor to get it fixed,” they would tell me. “You don’t just wait around hoping it heals itself.”

But that’s exactly what I was doing. That’s what I had been doing for the previous four years and it was working just fine. Or so I thought.

After a few days of still resisting going to the doctor, I finally gave in. “Okay,” I told my mom. “You can call the doctor.” While I promised to see the doctor, I did not promise to go on medication. I was still severely resistant to that idea.

The morning I went to see the psychiatrist, I was emotional and uncertain; nervous and nauseous. I was happy my mom would be there, though. He started asking me a large variety of questions: what do I study? What’s my relationship with my brother like? Where did I grow up? He asked me things about my whole life, not just about my brain or my mental illness.

Then it came…the diagnosis. “You have generalized anxiety disorder, accompanied by mild-moderate depression.” He prescribed me with a mild anti anxiety/anti depressant called Lexapro.

As he wrote the prescription, it took everything in me not to break down. I felt like I now had a label…one that I had avoided for four years. I left his office feeling like I had my diagnosis tattooed on my forehead.

Accompanied with this feeling of discouragement, though, was a mild feeling of relief. I can’t explain what that relief was from, but it was there. Subtly. Quietly. It was there.

I began taking my medication the next day. It took a few weeks to kick in, but I could feel it changing my brain. It started with my depression. A couple weeks after taking it, I realized I was laughing again. I was more motivated to finish my school work and I was desiring more social interaction. Staying in bed didn’t sound as appealing, but going out was finally exciting again. Once my depression was letting up, then the medication got to work on my anxiety. I woke up one morning and didn’t feel nauseous…a feeling I hadn’t felt in over four years. Making decisions got easier. Even little ones like minor decisions about my schedule. The medication was working.

So why am I telling you all of this? To brag about my experience? No. To tell you that everyone should go on medication to fix their problems right now? No.

I’m telling you this because I was so resistant to medication for such a long time, that I lost four years of my life fighting a battle on my own that needed an army to be fought.

I’m telling you this because I want you to know that needing to be on medication is not shameful. I felt so much shame when I started taking my medication because I felt like this was a battle I was supposed to win on my own; I felt like needing help made me weak. I cannot even begin to tell you how wrong I was.

I’m telling you this because I need you to understand that asking for help is not weak. Asking for help and accepting it is perhaps the strongest thing you will ever do. It’s humbling. It’s terrifying. And it’s worth it.

You were not made to fight your battles alone, and you certainly were not made to live captivated by your mental illness. You were made to live unshackled, dancing on the wings of life.

I’m always here to talk openly and honestly about my struggle with mental illness, and I want you to feel free to do the same.

Here’s to healing.

You apologized again, didn’t you? But why did you apologize? You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, as you replay the argument in your head, you realize he’s the one that started it. Not you. So why are you apologizing? Oh, well. He probably got mad because of something you said. That’s probably why he was ignoring you in the middle of your argument, too. He claims it’s because he doesn’t want to lash out at you, but you know in your gut it’s because he’s merely avoiding the conflict as you sit on your couch consumed by it. So obviously since you can’t seem to let it go, and he seems to be fine avoiding it, it MUST be your fault.

What about that boundary you crossed? Oh, shoot, you’re right. He didn’t make boundaries with you so you were left to control them on your own with no accountability. So obviously, it’s your fault for feeling like utter shit when you cross them, compromising yourself yet again. But isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? You’re his girlfriend, and he needs to be pleased, too. It’s not all about you. Why are you making it about you? This is normal human behavior. It’s normal to compromise yourself and what’s important to you for someone else, isn’t it? I mean, he loves you, right? I’m sure he does. He totally does. He tells you that all the time. That’s why when you get home from his house you lay on your bed crying because you’re having yet another meltdown from feeling dirty after crossing another boundary. You thought you wanted to, and in the moment you did, but now that you’ve done it you don’t feel like you can take it back. So you don’t. And you continue to feel like crap until it becomes so normal that you become numb to the discomfort, so maybe you start enjoying whatever is happening ever so slightly. But really, you’re not.

So…you stopped talking about that thing that’s super important to you, huh? Obviously he doesn’t care about it too much because his eyes glaze over when you talk about it. Even though your mom points that out, you defend him yet again because he loves you and he wants to hear about the things you care about. Right? I mean, you care enough about the things that are important to him to learn about them and try to become knowledgable about them so you can have discussions about it. But really, you don’t enjoy it; you just enjoy making him happy. Gosh, don’t you wish he would return the favor? Yeah…you do…but it’s okay. You can just talk about something else.

When did you start to compromise the things that are important to you to make him happy? You don’t remember, do you? Because it happened so gradually and it felt so out of your hands that you just let it happen. You found yourself being willing to compromise your life-long dreams to have that super fun marriage with the white picket fence and the fun weekends. Except once you step far enough back to look at the big picture, you realize that you wouldn’t be living with the white picket fence; you would be living with the ratty, messy yard and the lock on the door that feels impossible to open. You would be living with the crippling debt and the constant arguing about whether or not you’re gonna go to church that weekend. You realize that you’ll have a really fun life, but it wouldn’t be substantial or fulfilling. So you decide that it’s time to let go.

So you finally broke up with him, huh? Do you feel free? Do you feel relieved? Probably not yet…but look at you. You’re finally putting yourself first. You realize that your faith and your dreams are far too important to put on hold for someone that wouldn’t do the same for you. You finally realize that you are worth the important conversations and you are worth the boundaries. You are worth the arguments and the staying. You realize that it isn’t normal to go through your day wondering what you’re going to apologize for next. You realize that it’s okay to recognize when things aren’t your fault, and it’s okay to sit in the discomfort of an argument.

You realize that you are worth so much more than compromising yourself for someone else who will NEVER return the favor.

You realize that you are valuable, and that you deserve to be treated like you have value.

You realize it isn’t normal to be begging your boyfriend to fight with you just so you can have one honest conversation that doesn’t feel like you’re barking commands at him.

Congratulations, my dear girl. You’ve finally walked out of an emotionally abusive relationship. The next steps won’t be easy, and the healing takes a long time. But give yourself grace. Every tedious, gross, emotional step of the healing process is so worth it. And one day, you’ll wake up and you’ll realize that you’re free. You don’t have to live under his shadow anymore because you have your own. You’re finally you again, apart from him, and that is the most freeing feeling you will ever experience. Here’s to healing, to grace, and to loving the sound of your steps walking away from the things not meant for you.

Thoughts…

Hey friends.

Long time, no chat. It’s the middle of week 3 of my last year of school, and I’ve just got some things on my mind I thought I would share with you (feel free to send me some advice // responses to these things)!

Wow. My last year of college. How CRAZY is that?? In the midst of this season, I find myself going a million miles an hour in a million different directions with a million things on my mind. Taking time to just sit, rest, and be is extremely difficult for me; even when I do take the time, it’s distracted rest. So, I’m in the process of learning how to slow down and take time for myself.

While I’m trying my best to be as present as I can be, my mind is often consumed and occupied with thoughts of post-grad (not to mention the 43892578329 things on my current to-do list). I’m excited to jump into the real world and the workplace, but I’m also quite terrified. Much of this season has been filled with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. I’m doing my best to lean into who the Lord is calling me to be in this season to prepare me for the next, but man it’s hard.

I have a lot of responsibility this year. I’m Editor-in-Chief of ZU Magazine, our on-campus, student-led magazine, which is SO much fun. However, it is a lot of responsibility that I’m not so sure I’m capable of handling, but I’m doing my best. Beyond that, I’m a high school youth leader for my church, and I love every second of it. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding…getting to love on young people is such a blessing and never a space I thought I would find myself in, and they are teaching me so much. God is good, and I’m so glad He called me into that space. They have stolen my heart and challenge me every day.

My classes are ridiculously hard, but I’m managing as best I can. (Sense a theme yet?) This semester is really unique and so cool because I’m truly seeing my knowledge of political science and journalism come together, and I’m really enjoying that experience. It’s also very challenging because my political science professors are not quiet about their opinions of the media in general, so I feel like I have to defend my craft quite often…but much of this season of life is learning to advocate and stand up for myself and the things I love!

I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t scared for the future. I have less than 8 months until graduation, but I feel like that isn’t enough time. It will fly by, and I don’t feel ready for what comes next…but I also feel more ready than I’ve ever been. I’m trying to enjoy every moment, but also prepare myself as much as I can. I’m so excited to step into who God has called me to be, in the field He has called me to…but man, oh man is it TERRIFYING! I’m not quite sure where my confidence will come from or how I’ll achieve my goals…but I do know that I’m called to something great and I can’t wait to see it unfold.

Thank you for listening to (err…reading, I guess) my little ramblings. I would love to hear from all of you! Advice, suggestions, prayers, money (ha ha just kidding). Seriously, though, I value your feedback and opinions and words so much, and you have all been one of the biggest parts of my journey. Thank you for stickin’ with me these last four years. Here’s to my last year of college and to the rest of my life.

I love you all.

Break My Heart

There’s a really popular worship song called Hosannah. In the bridge it says “Break my heart for what breaks yours…everything I am for your kingdom’s cause…”

This has been the theme of my spiritual life for the last year or so. I didn’t necessarily ask for it…but most of the time the Lord calls us to things we may not ask for. However, in the midst of this difficult theme, I have had some of the most rewarding conversations, realizations, and revelations.

A few years back, when I was a senior in high school, I was angry. I was filled with so much bitterness and hatred and hurt that I became angry, hard-hearted, and cold. I wanted very little to do with God and even less to do with His people. I became less liked in my social circle, and many people at my school were afraid of who I’d become. It wasn’t until I let the Lord back in and asked Him about my anger that He finally broke down my walls and snapped off my chains.

From that point on, I had to re-learn how to hurt and feel my emotions in a healthy way. It was hard. It was painful…but it was rewarding. Out of that experience came a beautiful heart that is soft and willing to break for the Lord.

I have always struggled with the bit of edge that seems to come with my personality. However, I am an advocate. I love my friends and I love those around me. I love the broken and I love the sick. I love the orphans and the misfits and the people that the rest of the world seems to shy away from loving.

I don’t do this because of me, though. I do this because this is what the Lord has called me to. He has called me to listen and learn. He has called me to be broken-hearted for the brokenness of the world.

When my friends are hurting, or when I encounter a new person who is hurting or has a difficult story, I feel it. My heart chips and snaps, my stomach turns, and my insides twist. I feel it. The burning sensation in my chest and the weight that gets pushed on my lungs is a sign: I am hearing this story for a reason. I am here to show love and mercy and grace. I am here to listen and be an advocate. I am here to point this person to the One who redeems all sins and heals all wounds.

Even though it’s painful, I will continue to allow my heart to break for what breaks the Lord’s heart. Not because I want the glory, because I don’t…but because if I don’t allow my heart to break for what breaks Him, the world will continue to be broken and unchanged.

God is good, even in the midst of our broken circumstances, and He is always in reach…even on our heaviest nights.

Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Dear Daddy, Love Princess

Dear Daddy,

Happy Father’s Day! You deserve the world. I hope you always feel loved and appreciated, not just on Father’s Day.

Daddy, you are one of my best friends. Our relationship…our life…has been quite unorthodox. You were gone a lot while I was growing up. There were a lot of missed birthdays and Christmases, Fourth of July parties and Easter services at church. But regardless of how often you were gone or how many things you missed…I never felt unloved by you. I ALWAYS knew how much you loved me. I always knew how much you cared about me and how much you valued me and our relationship.

My favorite memory of you being gone was writing letters back and forth. Each letter contained a quiz so you could always stay up to date on getting to know your growing girl. I loved having my daddy as my pen pal, and every envelope, without fail, was s.w.a.k. You have always made me feel special and like the most loved daddy’s girl on the planet, even from the other side of the world.

When you retired from the Marine Corps, I was entirely unsure about what our relationship would look like. Many of my friends (since I was in high school at that point) had their dads around their whole lives, so they were already ultra close with their dads. But we didn’t have that. Not yet. You worked relentlessly to build and rebuild our relationship where your deployments had broken it. You were so persistent about our daddy-daughter dates, our ice cream outings, and making sure that even when I felt weird about it, I could talk to you about any and everything. 7 years later, and I can confidently say that you are one of my favorite people to talk to.

You are my biggest fan. My number one supporter. My confidant. My hero. You never doubt me or my abilities. You always pick up the broken pieces of my heart and make sure that they are carefully placed back without a trace of injury.  You work tirelessly to provide for our family and you never skip a beat in doing so. You have never EVER made me feel uncared for. No matter where you were in the world, I always knew that my daddy would come home to me because we had to be taken care of.

You have set the highest bar–the highest standard–for how my future husband must be. Seeing the way you have cared for and loved momma unconditionally my whole life is so inspiring. You have never let me doubt myself or deem myself unworthy of respect or love. You have the most selfless heart of anyone I’ve ever met, and your kindness exceeds all expectations. You have taught me the value of stories, the value of life, and of love. You have taken the time to make sure I understand where my worth lies and how I should be treated. You take the time to get to know those around you at every chance you get. You have taught me what being a true friend looks like.

Daddy, You are the reason I believe in myself. You are the reason I keep pursuing my dreams and my education. You are the reason I know I’m going to change the world…because I watch you do it every day.

Happy Father’s Day, daddy. I love you with all my heart and I’m so thankful and so BLESSED that I get to call you my dad.

Love,
Princess