Tonight I attended a vocal jazz recital. The recital was superb. The vocalist was a rich, emotive, smooth alto. Her voice flowed and intertwined with the instrumentalists. It was a delight to listen to. While sitting in the recital hall, I could not help but think back to when I was traveling down the path to becoming a professional musician myself. I was flooded with fond memories and longings to be engulfed in the world of music once more. The world of passion, creativity, collaboration, inspiration, expression. . . of living my dream. By the time I switched my major from piano performance to English literature, I had long dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, collaborating with musicians on innovative and challenging projects, and inspiring students as a professor. To me, the world of music was the ideal world. Late nights. Passion. Collaboration with equally passionate musicians. The vibrance of innovation. I loved that world. I loved music. I still do. As I sit here writing, longing for that world once more, I know that I can never return to it in the same way that I used to engage that world. I have a permanent wrist injury that prevents me from the long hours of practice required for the level of expertise needed to pursue my dream. While I had been debating whether or not to switch majors in the back of my mind for a little while, I was forced to switch upon the injury of my wrist. And suddenly, in the blink of an eye (or perhaps more appropriately, the twist of a wrist), my dream was shattered. It is as if the cracks in the glass finally gave into the stress and splintered everywhere. The shards were to scattered and broken to ever be put back together exactly the same way again. Pieces would be missing. The view would never be quite what it used to be. It is like a kaleidoscope. Once it is turned, the image changes. . . never to be quite recaptured again. A new perspective is obtained. A different outlook on life. A following of another passion. Unexplored opportunities. Seemingly endless possibilities. A new dream. Pursuing the dream promises to bring passion, expression, creativity, innovation, collaboration, and inspiration. . . in an entirely new way than the following of an old dream would. I miss music. I really do. Quite terribly. My heart aches to be able to immerse myself back into the world of music. Yet, I am eager to begin the exploration of a new dream, another passion, a different perspective. After all, I am a wanderer at heart. . . I will follow whatever dreams and desires God places on my heart. He has blessed me with the talents, desires, passions, and interests to pursue my dreams. And so the journey continues. . . where it will lead, I don’t quite know.
“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – namless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – FDR
This quote has been on my mind a lot in the past few days. Why? Because I am afraid. Terrified. I live in fear. And it is paralyzing me. Hindering my ability to be open and express my feelings. Blocking me from processing the details and circumstances of my life. Preventing me from fully living. It needs to end. Immediately. Yes, I’ll still be afraid. But I really must not let fear dictate my actions. I will recognize it and attempt to be vulnerable despite my fear. After all, that is what love is. Being willing to sacrifice. I am willing to sacrifice control and comfort to be vulnerable. The time is now. C’est la vie.
One of my closest and dearest friends is in a world of pain and overwhelming emotion that I can not even begin to imagine, let alone understand. I wish I could make the pain vanish, or at least take it myself so he doesn’t have to deal with it. I can’t do either; all I can do is be there for him. Yet I don’t know how. I don’t know what to do. What to say. Or even when to give him a hug. I feel so helpless. . .
I’ve been praying for him. Non-stop. My spirit pleads with God. To wrap His arms around my friend and comfort him. To be his strength. To carry him through. To draw him so close. Prayer is powerful. I know that God hears my cries. Yet it isn’t tangible. . . I still feel as though I am doing nothing. It is a horrible, sinking feeling. I feel so helpless. . .
I’m at Grounds yet again. After band practice, Andrew and I both had to do homework, aka read for our class tomorrow, so we decided to come to Grounds and enjoy coffee while we read. Upon arriving, we saw Yinger and Katie. We joined them; conversation ensued for a few moments before the attempt to do homework commenced. As I pulled out my notebook and a pen, I made some remark about my new pen that I was super excited about. It is a Sharpie pen and writes extremely smoothly. I offered it to Andrew to try. He loved it just as much as I did. As it turned out, Yinger also uses Sharpie pens. An entire side conversation about Sharpies and different kinds of pens was sparked. We spent a decent amount of time extolling the virtues of the Sharpie pen. I suppose that makes us all nerds to a certain degree. Oh well. I like office supplies. They have a peculiar ability to calm me down. And Sharpie pens simply are amazing. They write smoothly and consistently. And they don’t bleed. I am in love. 🙂
So there is this boy. His name is John. And he calls himself ‘the Great’. To be honest, he is great. I should really probably tell him that. Anyway, I shall proceed to tell the story of how this boy entered my life and what he means to me now.
I attend h2o church on campus. Each semester, h2o has a program called ‘The Well’. It is a mentorship/get to know the church kind of a thing. Once a person goes through ‘The Well’, participants can become mentors in ‘The Spring’. Last semester, I was in ‘The Spring’. Since ‘The Well’ had forced fellowship following the teaching, I would frequently do homework after ‘The Spring’ so that I could hang out with the people in ‘The Well’. Many participants in ‘The Well’ were freshmen, and while I did want to get to know them, I was drawn to a guy who was clearly more mature and not nearly as rambunctious. His name was, and still is, John. A few weeks into ‘The Well,’ we went on a spiritual disciplines retreat on a weekend. I could only stay Friday night, but regardless, John and I really got the opportunity to talk and begin to get to know each other. I felt comfortable around him, and we seemed to click. I remember journaling about him because I was excited for our friendship.
Shortly after that weekend, I walked into my BIOL 101 lecture to take the first exam. As I waited for the test to begin, I saw John walk in. After an initial reaction of complete shock, I sent him a text informing him that we were in the same BIOL 101 lecture. From there, as both ‘The Well’ and the semester progressed, we slowly became friends. We would occasionally get coffee or study for our exams. He was (and still is) a fabulous listener and would patiently sit and listen to me ramble endlessly about my friendship with Andrew. I really liked Andrew and was really struggling to listen to God, surrender my emotions, and simply just deal with the situation. I remember one night very clearly. It was a rainy Wednesday evening in early November. We had an exam the next morning, so I came over to study. I was an emotional mess. God had told me to tell Andrew exactly how I felt about him, and I was scared. Terrified really – to the point of completely breaking down and sobbing because I was so afraid that I was going to lose my friendship with him. And John just listened. He offered his opinion. And he genuinely cared about how I was doing. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time because I really liked Andrew. And he really liked a girl named Keri. We drew closer to each other by being there for each other throughout these sometimes confusing and complicated relationships with others.
Suddenly, it all changed. The Thursday of finals week, December 18th, I woke up to a text. “She’s dead.” And just like that, everything changed. Keri had died in a tragic, freak accident. That day altered John’s world in a way that I will never be able to comprehend; however, when he wanted or needed me to be there, I was there. And from that day on, we were really there for each other, sharing nearly every aspect of our lives as we got to know each other. We have talked every single day since then. When I was home over break, we spent hours chatting over facebook or texting. Upon my return to Bowling Green on December 28th, we talked about the status of our friendship – defining it as simply friends, nothing more. We weren’t attracted to each other; we had both just had sudden changes in the relationships that brought us together. We were very real and open with each other about relationships and the issues we have with them. Since we were friends, we continued to grow closer. A lot closer. We hung out nearly every day. After church the Sunday before classes began again, January 11th, we spent the afternoon together and talked about our relationship again. We admitted that we were occasionally attracted to each other, but felt led to remain simply friends. We were both a little apprehensive about how our relationship would change now that our completely separate social circles had returned from break and classes were beginning. So we told each other that we really did care about each other and would fight to continue to be vulnerable with each other and make time to hang out.
And we did. Despite nearly opposite schedules and social circles, we saw each other every day during the week. We made time to be with each other. I had to fight to continue to be vulnerable with him. He somewhat patiently was there for me, willing to confront me with truth when appropriate. And so, that brings the story to yesterday night. After hanging out with friends, we went back to his apartment to chill and talk. After a bit of an argument with God and some pestering from John, I finally told him that I am attracted to him sometimes. Sometimes I just want to be with him. To date. At times, I really long to cuddle with him. I’m not madly in love with him. Nor am I attracted to him all of the time. To be honest, my attraction to him doesn’t make sense. He isn’t the type of guy that I am typically attracted to, yet he is at the same time. What I have been avoiding all week is admitting what God has told me about our relationship. God brought us together specifically. He placed our desires for each other into our hearts. We are so exceedingly similar, yet so vastly different. Our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other. We have an innate understanding of each other. And we have compatible passions and callings for our lives. We want the same thing from a relationship. A relationship built on a solid friendship whose center is God with the freedom to go do our own thing. To wander wherever we are led. While our friendship is quite young, it is strong because we attempt to center it on God. His hand is guiding our relationship. I hear Him telling me not to fear. To grow closer. To draw near to each other. To let our relationship progress to the next level. I don’t want to label it simply to label it. However, I also don’t want to not label it simply not to label it either. Or because we deny what is really happening. I am drawn to John. I feel very deeply connected with him. And yes, I do want to date him. Now the question is, will we actually date? We have a conversation left unfinished. . .
and in! I’m sitting in Grounds for Thought, enjoying an afternoon of quiet contemplation and writing. The only complaint I could possibly have about my afternoon so far is that it seems to be about as cold inside as it is outside. At least the temperature is a relative heatwave compared to the sub-zero temperatures and windchills of the past few days.
This week has been exceedingly interesting. I have somehow managed to be behind in my homework since before I even attended all of my classes for the first time. Thankfully, the vast majority of my homework is reading, which I love to do. Classes are cancelled Monday due to Martin Luther King, Jr. day, so I will hopefully catch up and possibly work ahead a little then. Speaking of Martin Luther King, Jr., I was watching some show on TV with my roommate earlier this afternoon, and there was a commercial about some kind of celebration or ceremony in his honor on Monday. While briefly highlighting his life, the commercial said this, “He had the strength to fight and the courage to love.” Think about that. It is fairly profound, at least to me in this particular of junction of life at which I find myself.
You see, I am at a place in life where I am beginning to realize the battle that I am in and my place in that battle. I am finding that I do have the struength to fight, but only through God (and consequently, only by believing truth). I am also beginning to fully realize what it means to truly love someone. Let me tell you, it does take courage. Loving someone requires sacrifice – of yourself, your time, your comfort, and your security. You must be willing to pour yourself into that person. To be there for them. To be willing to listen to them. And to be willing to be extremely vulnerable with them. Typically, when I think of vulnerability, I think about being completely open and transparent about the deep issues in my life. And that is part of vulnerability. And that part can be extremely difficult. Opening up and sharing about deep issues and situations and how they affect you – letting someone see you hurt and needing love – is not easy. I used to think that that was all that vulnerability was. However, I realized the other day that there is more to vulnerability than simply letting someone hear about all of your problems. Once you have done that, the next step is to continue to tell that person all of the random, pointless, unimportant, trivial, mundane details about your life – the person who randomly smiled at you, the friend you ran into, the jokes your professor attempted to tell in class, etc. At least in my friendships, once I open up about my issues, and we are there for each other, we cease telling each other about the everyday and the mundane. In a way, we close off part of our lives to each other. True, transparent vulnerability demands sharing all aspects of life together, not just the mundane, but also not just the deep.
And so, not only am I fighting to believe truth, I am also fighting to love. To trust God enough to have the courage to be transparently vulnerable. Thankfully, I have friends who do love me, are patient with me, and are willing to call me out on not being transparent. Strangely, as difficult and excruciating as it can be to trust and be vulnerable, it is more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. My friendship with the person that I am currently most vulnerable with is beyond amazing. It is very free and open. I know that he cares; he knows that I care. We can share all aspects of life. And we also know that no matter what happens in any aspect of life, we will be there for each other. I do not have to be afraid of his opinion or reaction because he already sees me for who I am . . . I’m not shutting him out of some side of my life that would surprise him. It is good, delightful, and amazing. Loving him is teaching me what it means to love. How can I possibly love the people of the world if I can’t love my friends?
Pride looks to receive. Fear looks to what can be lost. Love looks to give.
A friend shared this insight with me this summer. I turned the thought over in my mind, exploring the many implications it had for my life at the time. Now, six months or so later, the changes in my life have brought an entirely new perspective to the statement.
I am really struggling to deal with my life right now for a smattering of reasons. Without delving into that complexity, suffice it to say that I am almost paralyzed by fear because I do not trust. While six months ago, I was struck by the insight on pride, I am currently exploring the multiplicity of ways that fear plays into my life. I am so afraid. Terrified to lose. To lose my relationship with a friend who came into my life unexpectedly and quite possibly understands me better than I understand myself. To lose my freedom and independence and become constrained and repressed. To lose the very desires and opportunites that I so desperately long for at times. To lose the semblance of control that I attempt to maintain in my life. I am so overwhelmed by these fears that I am slowly becoming paralyzed – incapable of dealing with life. I am overwhelmed. I over-analyze each and every situation. I worry about life so ridiculously far in the future. Ironically, as I make plans for five and six years from now, I do not know where I will be in nine months. I could be where I am now. I could be in Staffordshire, England. I simply don’t know yet. While that freaks me out just a little, it is not nearly causing me as much concern as looking at graduate schools. Or thinking about what career I might want to pursue. Or if I will ever be in a relationship. Will I ever see myself for who I really am? What am I doing with my life? Am I pursuing God? Am I listening to Him? What will the legacy of my life be? Will I have touched people? Shown them that I care? Loved them? What will the trace of my existence be?
A thousand thoughts fly through my mind at any given moment. Some vanish; some bear further introspection. While pondering such musings, I should remember to focus my perspective. If I am looking to love, what am I willing to give? Am I willing to be vulnerable? To give of myself? To pour myself into my relationships? To be the best friend that I can be? To be there for people? To sacrifice? Am I willing to love? After all, isn’t it better to have love and lost, than to not have loved at all?