Growing in Struggle.

“I’m not where I thought I would be a year ago.”

We’ve all been there. Ending up somewhere we never thought we’d be. Maybe it’s somewhere we don’t want to be. Maybe we never dreamed we’d be here because we didn’t think it was possible – because it’s too amazing to be true.

But here we are. Somewhere between who we used to be and who we’re becoming. Whether we like it or not.

Two years ago at this time, I was graduating high school. I was flying high – I had taken my crush to prom, gotten a steady summer job, and was being showered with graduation gifts as well as birthday presents (it’s pretty awesome when your birthday lands near another significant event, like graduating). I felt on top of the world, like I had it all figured out. I collected accolades from my tenure in high school – awards for drama, music, and other things I was involved in – and had been accepted to a very prestigious college with a little bit of scholarship. Everything was perfect.

Fast forward to today. I just finished my sophomore year of college. I just turned twenty years old. Twenty-year-old self looks back at eighteen-year-old self and says, “Brace yourself. Life isn’t as easy as you think.”

I’m not at that prestigious school. Because I found out it’s hard to move away from home and it’s hard to enter into a new reality. I’m not flying high. Because I let my past fears and failures haunt me too often. I’m constantly questioning where I’m at and where I’m going. Sound familiar?

Yeah, that’s because it’s called Life.

I didn’t realize then that I was at a turning point in my life. I thought I was just going to cruise into the next phase of my life, stress-free. I was going to adjust perfectly to college, make a ton of friends, be super popular and successful, maybe bag myself a boyfriend who would definitely eventually become my husband, because everything was going to be perfect.

But none of that happened. I ended up at a university I never thought I’d be at. I was completely redirected. I didn’t automatically assimilate. Because somewhere in there, I forgot that I don’t adjust to change very easily.

My first semester of freshman year was a nightmare. I don’t make friends easily (I guess I forgot that too). I kind of latched on to whomever was around so I didn’t feel lonely. I felt uncomfortable in the major I was in so I switched. I put so much pressure on myself. I worried about my future every single day.

Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s because it’s called Life.

But guess what? When your path gets redirected in a way you didn’t think it would, it can still turn out okay. And thankfully, it did for me. It took some time, but it did. I changed my major and started on my new course. I felt myself grow and change in ways I never thought I would. It was painful growth, but it was good growth, like a crab climbing out of a shell that it’s grown out of. It stands vulnerable for awhile, raw and unguarded, until it builds its new, stronger, better exterior. At that point in my life, I had popped out of my shell, totally exposed to a world that could be harsh and unforgiving, all of my flaws laid bare.

My mistake had been that I thought life was going to be easy – I admit, I tend to romanticize things (if you haven’t noticed that already). But I came to realize, as most people do at my age, that life isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. There’s these things called taxes, for example. There are bills to pay. There are relationships that you have to work on, not just assume will work out the way you want. There are accomplishments that you have to work hard for in order to achieve. There’s death, death that affects the young and “immortal.” The world is jarring, and that becomes apparent once you’ve lost your shell.

How has your world changed as you’ve grown? Has your course been unexpectedly redirected? How have you reacted to it?

There are two ways of dealing with the Struggle of life: (I’m going to blow your mind here) Positively and Negatively. Do I really need to explain? Glass half-empty and glass half-full, y’know? It’s as simple as that, and I think you know that.

But what about you? Do you know which camp you’re in? Do you really know?

I’m going to tell you this right now (and blow your mind again): Life is what you make it. Two years ago right now, I expected to be finishing my second year at a super-smart, super-preppy college. I’m not. I’m at a university that’s probably not on par with the rigor of that college, but guess what? Education is what you make of it. You can be the good student or the slacker student, whether you go to Princeton or community college. You’ll reap what you sow (I just keep blowing your mind with these new ideas today).

I didn’t make friends easily. It took me almost an entire year to find the friends I have now. It took time to develop those friendships. The friendships I didn’t work on or develop faded away into acquaintances. Relationships are what you make of them. If you don’t let anyone in, your relationships will be shallow. If you do, they’ll be rich. That whole reaping-sowing things again.

I didn’t adjust to change easily. I cried a lot my freshman year. Out of frustration, hurt, confusion, stress. I felt so lost and disorganized. I still didn’t feel secure when I planned classes for spring semester. I didn’t feel sure of myself when I started spring semester. I didn’t feel certain when I moved in as a sophomore. But I kept going, and kept making daily steps, daily choices. Not all of them were good choices, but they led me to where I am now. Change is what you make of it. You can either sit down and let it drag you painfully down the road it’s taking you, or you can take its hand and walk alongside it.

You’ve probably heard the saying that we’re turning into human “doings,” instead of human “beings.” But are we supposed to simply “be?” Just sit back and let things happen, just float along its current without letting it shape us, mold us, beat us up a little bit. I think we’re human “becomings.” We’re a piece of art, being worked on, sculpted. We’re becoming something different. We’re not simply a blank wall, simply being. We’re becoming something.

I hope I’m not preaching, but these things have become apparent to me as I’ve grown and learned. And I’ve still got a lot of learning to do. Five years from now, I probably won’t be where I imagined I would be. But I’ll be a different person. And Five-Years-From-Now Me will look back at Current Me and remember who I was and what I was becoming, and what it took to get from Point A to Point B – what struggles, what successes, what growth.

Every struggle is hard the first time you go through it. But then when it comes your way again, you’ve got that muscle memory of what it felt like the first time. You can face it.

And you can grow in the struggle.

TL;DR version: You reap what you sow (I promise I won’t go all Aesop on you again.)

Keep living your life. Keep being awesome.

 

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