Things that Mean Things

13308640_1175953279118227_6365910480183376487_oI’ve been cleaning house lately,

getting rid of things I don’t need.

The usual stuff:

Blankets,

Old clothes,

Stuffed animals from years gone by,

Books that have gone untouched for years.

It didn’t take long for me to whittle down

All the things I didn’t need,

Put away in brown bags to be sent to Goodwill.

Then I found myself amongst

A different pile

Of old things.

A picture frame

that holds four smiling people

And says

“Friends forever.”

A few years ago,

I would’ve held that picture to my chest

and maybe cried.

But I looked at it

and for the first time

I didn’t feel

Anything.

An old pillowcase from fourth grade

that I used to cry into

when I had anxiety

but before I realized

anxiety

would become part of my life’s narrative.

I looked at it, felt it, smelled it

and it didn’t mean

Anything.

A plethora of other pictures

Notes passed in class

Candles from birthdays gone by

I looked at them

sitting in various boxes

and realized –

That’s not the way it is anymore.

I used to need those things,

the people in those pictures,

that blanket for comfort,

that note from that person.

But now

I

don’t.

What happened?

Nothing, really.

Just time.

Time happened.

Time caused a gap

Caused silence

Caused apathy.

And that’s okay.

If we were meant to say in a harbor,

we would be a buoy, not a ship.

We sail. We don’t stay.

And by sailing,

We move away from the things

that used to keep us safe

to search for things

that grow us.

We sail away from old memories

that used to make us cry,

but now only bring a tickle to our throat

before disappearing forever.

We part from friends and leave them on the shore,

so they can build their ship

and sail too.

We leave the things

that once used to be

so so important to us 

on the sand

to be lapped by the waves.

What used to be treasure is now merely driftwood.

And that’s ok.

We weren’t meant to crave driftwood,

to hang it in our houses or cling to it at night.

We weren’t meant to be tied to the dock.

If we hold onto the things that used to be us,

we’ll stop becoming who we’re meant to be.

We’ll be a ship, but we won’t be any use.

We’d hold onto

everything

that ever made us

anything

and

slowly

we’d

sink.

So let go.

a. w.

What if We’re Not Actually Busy?

There are five other things I could be doing right now, but instead I’m writing this.

That’s a predicament we find ourselves in often, isn’t it? We have a laundry list of things to do, but we don’t do them. We find something else to do that is much more trivial. Netflix, for example. (Or blogging…)

But we still manage to let people know more than once a day that we are “soooo busy.” Sometimes it becomes a competition. “I have three papers and a text this week!” “Oh yeah? Well I have FOUR papers and THREE tests this week, plus I have to walk to Canada and back WHILE studying for my THREE tests! Beat that!”

Hang on a second.

What if we’re not actually busy?

What if we just like telling people we’re busy?

There’s a kind of badge of honor that comes with being “busy.” It means we’re important. People need us. We have deadlines because we hold important positions. We whisk ourselves away from one thing to another, wearing our “Hello, my name is busy” name tag with pride.

I took a class my sophomore year called creativity, innovations, and problem-solving. It’s a requirement for everyone at my school. And you guessed it – creativity was the key talking point. Many people think they’re not creative, but really they’re just not giving themselves enough time to be creative. Some people use the excuse that they “just don’t have time.”

You know what my professor said to that? “When students say they don’t have enough time, I offer to go through their schedules and find time for them. They never take me up on that offer…because they know I’ll find time somewhere.”

It’s our best excuse. “I just don’t have time.”

But what if we actually do?

Take a minute to take inventory of your time. You don’t need to be excessive. Just think through an average day for you. I’ll give you my example. I wake up at 7:15am. I hit a button on my coffee maker so it can do its job, and I sit down with breakfast until 8, when I get ready. During this time, I’m usually on my phone. I have classes in the morning, then a lunch break at 12. Sometimes I’ll do homework, other times I’ll be on my phone…again. Then I have class and work until 4, then about an hour til my evening activities, which will go til either 6 or 9 depending on the day. Then I’m in bed my 11.

It might look busy, but I can pinpoint places where I actually have time – my hour-and-a-half lunch break, the half hour I have between class and work, the hour I have before dinner and evening activities. You might have less time than this, but I can still guarantee you that somewhere, you have time.

I’m not going to be the grumpy “get off your dang phone!” mom-ish person, but – sometimes you gotta get off your dang phone. I think sometimes we feel like we’re busier because when we’re not busy, we’re keeping up with everyone else’s busyness. Then all of the sudden – gasp! Off to the next thing!

That’s not the point of this post, though. I’m not saying we all *think* we’re busy because of our phones.

I think it’s because we’re supposed to be busy.

This is America. (Probably, unless you’re reading this somewhere else.) Everything is time-based, schedule-based. Our phones ding when we have an appointment. We have color-coded planners. We have to-go food. Because we’re always going. We’re looking ahead on our planners to see what’s coming next. When we’re not actually doing things, we’re looking at what’s coming next. 

What if you just stopped for a second? Record-scratch, freeze-frame style?

e.e. cummings wrote a fantastic little poem called “little man in a hurry.” Take a look:

“little man
(in a hurry
full of an
important worry)
halt stop forget relax

wait

(little child
who have tried
who have failed
who have cried)
lie bravely down

sleep

big rain
big snow
big sun
big moon
(enter

us)”

(Source)

Since it’s cummings, it’s a little bit hard to interpret and remains somewhat ambiguous. But I think you can get the gist of it. Halt. Stop. Relax. But even his “little man” is stopping and halting breathlessly, as indicated by no punctuation – “halt stop forget relax” like it’s a to-do-list in and of itself.

Relaxing isn’t just another thing to check off your to-do list. It’s necessary to your mental and physical survival. 

And if you do decide to relax, you’re not being lazy. 

What “important worry” are you carrying around? Is it really that important? Can you “halt – stop – relax” for just a moment? I think you can. Because sometimes we wear our busyness like a badge of honor.

I’ll make the moral of this post short and sweet. To quote Elizabeth Schuyler from the immortal musical Hamilton:

“Take a break!”

When You Go to College in Your Hometown.

“You’re living far away from home; and you’ve traded everything for a stone.”

– “Everything for a Stone,” The Belle Brigade

Before I get into the actual topic of this post, I’ll begin by saying I wasn’t planning on going to college near my hometown. I’ve talked in previous posts about how my college plans changed rapidly (see post Growing in Struggle.) I ended up at a small university in a decent-sized metropolitan area near where I grew up. I was born and raised in a very small town with a lot of cows and cornfields. Drive twenty minutes one direction and you’re in the city. Drive twenty minutes the other direction and you’re in the middle of nowhere. The area is a very odd, somewhat jarring hybrid of country, suburban, and metropolitan settings. It’s equal parts quaint and cultural, rural juxtaposed with urban.

My hometown is about a half hour from downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan – if you’ve never been there, GR is like a very small Chicago. A very, very (very very) small Chicago. My friend described it as a “Holiday Inn Express” for hipsters – it’s neither East Coast nor West Coast, but there are definitely strong hipster vibes in the city (everywhere you turn there’s a farmer’s market – one of the benefits of a metro area surrounded by fields.) My college is located on the “north end” of town, and I was raised on the “south end.” If you’ve lived in a metropolitan area, you’ll understand when I say that “north-enders” and “south-enders” are very different. Same overarching culture, but different subculture.

Like I said before, I didn’t plan on going to school in my hometown. I only applied to two colleges because I basically had my mind made up – but then, in true teenage fashion, my mind was changed, and very quickly. As a result, I ended up at this small, private, liberal arts university on the north end of Grand Rapids.

It was fairly convenient – I know not everyone grows up in a college town or even a town that has any college at all, which means they have to move away if they want to pursue higher ed. The other college I was considering was two hours away and a true college town (the college was literally the town. Other than that, there were Amish people and a Burger King.)

“So Audrey,” you might (or might not) ask, “What has your experience been like, going to school in your hometown?”

Well, Nameless Imaginary Inquisitor, it has been wonderful. I have loved going to a university that is so close to a large metropolitan area where there’s lots to see and do. And it’s been great being close to home (I mean, free laundry and food, am I right?!)

“But Audrey,” you continue, “don’t you feel like you’ve missed out by staying close to home? Aren’t you sheltered now? Isn’t it just the same as it was when you were growing up? Are you ever going to have the courage to move away?”

Whoa, now, don’t get ahead of yourself, Imaginary Inquisitor. I’m not saying that going to school locally is the best idea for everyone, or that it’s perfect, but I am saying that it’s certainly not a bad thing. And here’s why:

You’re staying close to your roots. College is going to hit all of your ideals, beliefs, and opinions right between the eyes, no matter where you go. Whether it’s your professor or your roommate, someone is going to disagree with you and possibly shake up some of your predispositions. Sometimes, these things are hard to grapple with. When you’re far from home and where you grew up, you may feel lost, maybe somewhat marooned, like you’re on a ship without a captain. When my beliefs were somewhat shaken in college, my roots helped me shape my own opinion of what was being taught to me in college – I wasn’t allowing myself to be directly spoon-fed information without first approaching it with opinions of other people whom I trusted. Having roots close to you can help with that.

You know the area. It’s easy to feel isolated in college because you don’t know anything about the city it’s in. In the case of that college-town school I was talking about, there literally wasn’t anything in the area except farmland. And at a remote college like that, most students are also from out of town so they know as much as you do. Going to a local school I had the benefit of knowing some things about not only Grand Rapids but the surrounding communities. I also found myself learning more about the area than I’d ever known before (like the dearth of coffee shops GR has to offer.) I got more connected with my church, explored new areas, and made connections in the city that I had been totally unaware of up to that point. It’s kind of nice to go into college with some background knowledge of not only the school, but its city.

You’ll have a new perspective. Although you’re in the same place, you’ll see it through different eyes. With college comes freedom to be independent and think for yourself in more ways than you ever have. I learned more about my city in college than I ever did growing up near it. I explored more towns in the outlying area than I ever had before as well. In the fall, I explored uptown with my roommates, which was a place I wasn’t too familiar with. I auditioned for shows at the community theatre. I volunteered at an inner city school. Sometimes the best opportunities are right under your nose for eighteen years and you never realize it because you’re too busy grinding through the American school system (not bitter.)

All of this to say – if you’re searching for colleges right now, don’t rule out the ones that are twenty minutes down the road. It doesn’t mean you have to live with your parents (unless you want to – I mean, free food. And your pets.) People might hardcore judge you, but that’s okay. They just don’t understand, because they were taught their whole lives that they have to go far away for college. Or they didn’t have the amazing privilege of growing up in an awesome spot like you did.

So don’t take your hometown for granted. You might just realize that it’s where you really belong.

Don’t Feel Bad for Being Booksmart.

Don’t Feel Bad for Being Booksmart.

It is the cry of all products of the American school system, after sitting through seven hours worth of coursework followed by the after-dinner ritual of checking off assignments until who-knows-what hour of the night (or morning.) High schoolers, liberal arts college students, human beings who have ever had to sit in a biology class – all of them collectively throw down their Bic or their Ticonderoga and wail:

“When will I ever use this????”

We’ve all been there. I’ve been there. After getting an algebra question wrong for the umpteenth time in seventh grade, I threw my calculator across the room, breaking my bedroom lamp in the process (though she be but little, she is fierce.) Watching the clock strike midnight as I was barely halfway through AP government homework. Dissecting a very sad-looking fetal pig in human biology my sophomore year of college, wondering, why does a communications major have to learn about the inner workings of a farm animal? 

The answer is simple and not so simple at the same time. The American school system is flawed. We all know that by now. Some kids learn faster than others, some love every single class and graudate with a 4.0 while others scrape by because they don’t see the point. Everyone is tested based on the same things. Every year, high school juniors sit down in a big room and melt their brains over a Scantron sheet to see if they can regurgitate enough information to get into a good college with good scholarship. (And they say daytime television is mind-numbing?!)

So yeah, there’s problems. In school you learn that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but you don’t learn how to change the oil in your car. You learn long division (?!) but not how to file your taxes. You figure out what equals but you never really figure out why you need to know that (see what I did there?)

But don’t worry. It’s not useless. You didn’t waste your childhood sitting in a desk, I promise you.

The pursuit of knowledge is a noble thing, even if you don’t know exactly why or how you will use it. You may think your schooling has been impractical or mundane, but there was something else at work in the midst of that. School wasn’t designed to teach you how to do taxes or how to fix a car. That’s not the point.

You learned about cells so you can understand that your body is freaking awesome and you should take care of it by drinking water, eating reasonably healthy, and going easy on yourself when you’re sick.

You learned English and read novels so you could write a solid, descriptive resume or cover letter, free of grammatical errors. You read those novels to understand other worldviews, other places in time, the way the language you’re writing has changed an evolved.

You learned history because – well, it’s history and it’s important. I don’t need to explain myself on that one.

You learned adding, subtracting, long division, and algebra so you can calculate your tax deductions, your gross income, and your adjusted gross income on your taxes.

My point is this: the purpose of school is to teach you how to learn and understand. Take grades and all that out of it. And if it’s not teaching you how to learn and understand, it should. 

So don’t feel bad if you like school. That means you like learning. You like understanding things, even if it’s outside of what your main interests are. I’m not a huge fan of math. However, I do like the simple pleasure of seeing an algebra problem methodically solved by eliminating bits and pieces until you get the answer. Chemistry was never my strong suit, but it taught me how to get permanent marker out of various materials because of the chemical compounds at work.

You might be more booksmart instead of street smart. And that’s okay. Don’t let people make you feel bad for not knowing about car insurance or taxes. If you’ve got anything between your ears, you know that there’s more to life than taxes, interest rates, oil changes, and dividends. There’s mitochondria and Charles Dickens and algebra and Thoreau and JFK.

Albert Einstein (a shining example of a genius who rose above adversity) once said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” The end-all and be-all of our lives isn’t to know how to cook a full-course meal or file taxes correctly or change a tire. Our end-all, be-all is to be humans who thirst to learn more, to discover. Discoveries build bridges. They help us understand why some people are booksmart and other people are street smart. They help us understand that mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, that it’s possible to solve for y, that we need history or else we’ll repeat the mistakes of the past, that we need each other in order to understand. If we don’t seek to understand these things, we’ll be no better than an unfiled tax form.

 

Missing Someone.

 

Sometimes people leave you halfway through the woods.

– Cinderella, Into the Woods

There have been many times in my life when I’ve missed someone. I’m sure that’s happened to you too – missing a person is not a peculiar thing. Maybe they’ve left your city, or just left your life. Or they’ve left this life, which is its own kind of missing someone.

Whatever it may be, they’re not with you anymore. But they’ve left something behind, and that something is usually (ironically) Emptiness. Because there’s a hole in your life now, a gap that used to be filled by moments, moments with that person. But now that the person’s gone, you gotta work on filling that gap.

I’m in a period of life right now where I’m missing someone. I forgot how much it hurts. The last time someone I loved moved away from me, I was in third grade. I remember laying in my mom’s bed crying after I found out my best friend was moving away. I didn’t think it was fair. Why would my best friend leave? How do people leave people they love?

I did the same thing a few months ago, except I was with a different loved one and we cried together. We sat there and hugged each other and cried for a long time. Because parting is hard. Missing someone is hard. I replay the last time I saw them again and again in my mind, wishing I could have held on to that moment just a little bit longer.

I didn’t think it was fair. How do people leave people they love?

And then those memories come, the whispers of the time you spent with that person. You associate things and places with them. I think of my friend every time I see a Pontiac Grand Prix – no joke. Sometimes those memories hit you like a truck. Other times, you wake up with those quiet remembrances in your head.

There’s a certain stretch of busy road that I associate with that loved one. It’s weird how those associations start, isn’t it? We drove through that corridor so many times, after going out to restaurants or watching scary movies, usually accompanied by blaring music. All of those times we drove it, I never thought it would end. I think about it every time I drive down that particular stretch of road. On a bad day, it’ll bring tears to my eyes. On a good day, it’ll make me smile.

That’s the thing with missing someone. You never know how it’s going to hit you. You never know how a memory is going to make you feel. I smile when I think about the time the friendly stray cat followed us around my neighborhood. Until I wish we could do it again. Then I start crying. (I cry easily.)

After I got off a FaceTime conversation with them the other night, I started crying. I started crying because I saw them, but I wasn’t with them. I have it much easier than some people – if you’ve lost a loved one, you can’t see them or be with them. Thank goodness for modern technology.

There’s a little bit of selfishness with missing someone…maybe more than just a little. You want them to be back with you, for them to stay as they were, locked in your memory. But people change and grow and move. To keep them in one place forever would be selfish.

One thing I’ve learned from missing people is that people are perpetual, never static. You, as a human being, have the right to change – and move. And leave, if you think it’s necessary.

I tried moving away once. But I’m a homebody. I still live close to my childhood home. I got so devastatingly homesick that I couldn’t function. My loved one just moved back to his original home. I couldn’t imagine doing what he did – moving so far away for such a long time. It takes a brave person to do that. It takes a brave person to leave. And to go back.

Just like it takes a brave person to change.

Change, like a person, is perpetual. There won’t ever be a facet in your life that isn’t changing. And usually, change hurts. In this case, it can cause you to miss someone. Badly. But keep in mind the oft-quoted words of C.S. Lewis:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Sidney Carton also said something similar to this at the end of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities – right before he was about to die. That’s what we call Perspective.

Back to that Person. That person who is not with you anymore. Remember that there are far, far better things ahead than what they left behind. Leaving is a hard decision. But just wait. Watch that Person grow and become something incredible, something they could’ve never been if they’d stayed. Continue to cheer for them, to love them, and miss them. It’s okay to miss them. Because eventually the “missing” part becomes less painful, because you look up from your tears and see not only the person they’ve become, but the person you’ve become.

And trust me, it’ll be amazing.

 

You Are An Incredible Woman.

If you’re not a woman, don’t read this.

Just kidding, you can read this. In fact, if you’re NOT a woman, I would actually encourage you to read this.

I consider myself to be a feminine woman. Some people might be turned off my the term “feminine” – what does it even mean? Isn’t it kind of a (gasp) stereotype? Well, yeah, it is. (But what adjective isn’t a stereotype? Think about it. Few adjectives are subjective. Use wisely.)

But before you get mad at me for calling myself “feminine” when “feminine” could mean a lot of different things, I’ll elaborate further. I would classify myself as a low-maintenance girly-girl. (Labels, am I right?) I like lipstick and I’m really into flowery fragrances, but I don’t take three hours to get ready in the morning and I couldn’t care less what my hair looks like from day to day. So, there you have it. Low-maintenance girly-girl. But feminine all the same.

Now, I think it’s kinda rude when people say a woman isn’t very “feminine” or “ladylike.” Maybe she just wasn’t raised that way. There’s definitely a stigma for how women should act (and also a stigma for how men should act). And there are millions of women (and men) who don’t fit that stigma (most of them, actually, unless you’re like John Wayne, who is the man’s man. I don’t know what the female equivalent would be. Something completely unattainable, like Betty Boop.)

I was raised the way most girls in the US are raised. Most of my baby stuff is pink or pastel-colored. I played with dolls, Barbies, princess dress-up clothes. And I loved it. (Parents, don’t ever think that you’re poisoning your child if you raise them the typical boy/girl way. Seriously. It’s not a mortal sin to dress up your baby girl in a pink onesie. It’s your kid. I loved the way my parents raised me.) When I reached those good old formative years (I’m talking somewhere between 8-15), my tastes changed as I was able to make some of my own choices. I was definitely a tomboy. When I was twelve I was obsessed with Robin Hood so I got a bow and arrow. I loved knights and swords and all that stuff. (Confession: I still do. Lord of the Rings fan for life.) The more I made my own choices, the more I discovered what kind of person I was. Now, in my twenties, I’m somewhere in the middle of tomboy and girly-girl. I still love my sweatpants and baggy flannel shirts, but I also like lipstick and shopping at Bath and Body Works (but only when I have a coupon.)

Before I start talking about feminism, I’ll talk about…feminism (I promise this post isn’t about feminism.) The word comes with a lot of weight behind it and a lot of connotations, good and bad. When some people hear that word, they think of the sixties and bra-burning. Some people think of Amy Schumer when they think about feminism. Other people are just really confused when people talk about feminism. What is feminism?

A lot of people define feminism by what it’s not – it’s not about hating men. It’s not about being better than men. It’s not about abortion or birth control. It’s about equality. That’s the political side of feminism. The side of feminism that’s about equal pay for women, contraceptives included in health insurance, and so on.

But I also think we’re all very aware of the social side of feminism, one that doesn’t concern itself so much with how women are paid but how they’re treated and how they’re depicted in the media. For example, Ghostbusters (the new one) is being held up as one small step for feminism, and a giant leap for women-kind. People are getting mad about it because it’s a team of all women as opposed to the Bill-Murray-helmed original, and other people are getting mad at the people who are mad at the fact that it’s all women. And still other people are mad that people are getting mad over a petty thing like people getting mad over a movie. I mean, people have gotten mad at movies before, right? Remember Twilight? (Okay, maybe it was just me who got mad at that movie. I was mad that it existed. But I think you get my point.)

So what’s the big deal? Why are people getting mad? Why are people getting mad at people getting mad? Well, that’s just a matter of opinion. Everyone has their opinion on feminism, and feminism is such a hot-button issue right now that whenever someone significant talks about it, them talking about it gets talked about.

So here’s my answer:

Feminism is being a woman.

 

Remember Audrey Hepburn? (I know, I’m biased because we share the same name, but I’m going to talk about her anyway.) I consider her a feminist icon. “But, Audrey!” you may say to me (Audrey being me, not Hepburn). “She was so…girly! And she was always the romantic interest in every movie ever!” Have you ever seen Breakfast at Tiffany’sNo? Go watch it right now. Watch it for the cat, if anything. That movie could have been written in 2016 and still been relevant.

Audrey Hepburn is probably remembered as one of the most feminine women to ever walk the earth. She always looked beautiful, she was extremely thin, and she said things that made you feel good about yourself. She also stepped out of the spotlight to raise her children. And she was also a humanitarian for basically her whole life.

I don’t know if she ever even talked about feminism. But she was a woman. An actress, a model, a mother, a humanitarian. “Oh, but she was pretty and frilly. Not every woman can be like her. She’s an unrealistic example.” Is she? True, there are few people who are as thin as she is, and many women (including myself) wish we could be half as beautiful as she was, but she’s still an icon. A lot of women look up to her as an icon of fashion and life overall.

She’s a woman. She’s a feminist.

What about your mom? (Not a yo momma joke, I promise.) What does she do for a living? Is she a doctor? Does she work retail? Is she a stay-at-home mom? All of these things are worthy pursuits. She’s providing for her family, whatever she does. She doesn’t have to have the highest-paying job just to prove something. Stay-at-home moms are some of the fiercest people I’ve ever met.

Let’s just get one thing straight: women are amazing. All women are amazing. Even women who aren’t “feminists” by the world’s standards are amazing. Women who still have old-fashioned ideas about womanhood are amazing. Unconventional women who don’t want to get married or have children are amazing. Audrey Hepburns are amazing. Melissa McCarthys are amazing. Being very feminine is amazing. Being very not feminine is amazing too.

Feminism is not shaming men. Feminism is not blaming everyone else for how bad you have it as a woman. Feminism is not belittling other women because of their opinions. Feminism is being your own kind of woman.

You’re an amazing, feminine woman whether you own sixty shades of lipstick or prefer black skinny jeans over a skirt any day (maybe you are both of these things at the same time, and that’s amazing too). You’re an amazing, feminine woman whether you played princess or pirate when you were a little girl. You’re amazing and feminine whether your idol is Taylor Swift or Condolezza Rice. You are a woman with beauty, power, and strength no matter who you are, without having to try to be anyone or anything else.

You don’t have to adhere to societal ideals or typical “feminism” in order to be a true woman or to stand up for woman-kind. You know how you can stand up for woman-kind? By working your butt off to make the life you want for yourself. Stop caring about what everyone else thinks feminism is and start being your own kind of feminist.

There’s my truth bomb. I hope it caused a ripple and not a splash.

Not Good Enough?

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I can taste the salt in my mouth if I think about it hard enough. You know that feeling your face gets when you cry? It feels kind of full of everything – snot, tears, emotions. Your face just kind of turns into a big mess and there’s no way of hiding it. You just have to know that people know you’ve been crying, no matter what you tell them. “Oh, I just decided to wash my makeup off for the day.” Likely story. Nope. Your face is full of emotions. It’s written all over your…face.

You know that feeling your chest gets when you cry? It gets smaller, but your lungs stay the same size. All your breath is squeezed out of you until you’re all but hyperventilating. You start choking on your own sobs, if it gets that bad. (Trust me, I’ve had experience) The best place to cry is in bed, so no one sees you. It’s just you and your emotions staring you in the face. That’s when you’re most vulnerable to them, when all the lights are turned off and it’s quiet and you’re alone.

When was the last time you had a good cry? And what was it about?

I can remember a very specific time that I cried. Really hard. It was last spring, and I’d just gotten back from an event on campus. I was in the shower (another good place to cry) thinking about what had happened that night. It was a dance, so I had watched a lot of dancing happen. I asked my friend to ask a guy to dance with me (that’s the way I am.) He did, but then left immediately afterwards. As I thought about the night and the couples and the dancing, I lost it. Even in that crowd of people, I’d felt alone.

What am I doing wrong? Am I not enough? 

A few nights ago, I was laying in bed feeling totally numb. (Remember, those emotional times happen when you’re quiet and vulnerable, like in the shower or falling asleep.) I’d given up on feeling. I was bitter and I didn’t know why. I still really don’t know why. I cried again, but this time the tears were hot and I was angry. 

I think it was because I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t enough.

We all know people who seem like they’re “enough.” They’re the people we follow on Instagram who don’t follow us back. The people who post cute pictures of themselves with their friends and a neat cliche caption underneath. Who seem so strong in their faith by the way they worship onstage at church or in the pews. The people who make life seem so easy. I’m pretty sure you know who I’m talking about. I’m sure you’re picturing them in your head right now.

For some reason, this quote from The Great Gatsby popped into my head. (Wow, so original. A young adult woman quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald.) It goes like this. If you went to high school, you’ve seen this quote before:

They were careless people…they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their…vast carelessness…and let other people clean up the mess that they had made.

This quote is talking about two rich people who run away from responsibility (like murder, which is not what we’re dealing with here) but I think it can apply to people you think are “enough.” The thing is, those people who seem like they’re “enough” aren’t. They’re just as messy as you are, but they run away from it. They hide it behind a smile, a sheen of fake joy, a Facebook status (FYI, Facebook is an easy platform to run away from things on, for a number of reasons.)

Maybe the reason I was crying a week ago was because I was done with trying to be fake. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s hard to determine the real from the fake in people. I feel bad for people who are trying so hard to be “authentic” but all the while are as fake as store-brand Coke. And pandering to fake people is like buying the fake stuff when real Coke is right there on the shelf.

There have been a lot of times in my life when I’ve tried to be as “enough” as these people seem to be. I’ve done really stupid things that the real Audrey wouldn’t do. I turned into a social chameleon, blending in whenever it was convenient. I admit that sometimes I become that chameleon again. Because I’m not enough.

I don’t have to be.

I’m a good writer, but I’m not a great writer. I don’t have enough money to get my own website with cool pictures and put all of my work on it – but if I had that, maybe then I’d be enough.

I’m pretty good at taking pictures, but I’m not great at it. My Instagram is full of pictures of trees and ironic selfies, usually with fewer than ten hashtags (I have standards.) I don’t have a DSLR camera, I don’t have a VSCO account, I don’t even go on cute little photoshoots with my friends. I don’t have 1,000 followers. I probably average 15 likes per picture, which to me is mind-blowing…until I see an “enough” person with 180 likes on theirs. If I had that, maybe then I’d be enough. 

I’m a good singer, but I’m not a great singer. I don’t have awesome equipment or a SoundCloud account or even the confidence to record myself. And when I do record myself, it’s full of mistakes and awkward pauses because that’s who I am as a person. I know two chords on my guitar. I can’t just sit at a piano and jam with my friends or spontaneously worship like “enough” people do. But if I could, maybe then I’d be enough. 

Maybe then. 

But do I really want to live a life of maybes? Of course not. If I did, I’d never accomplish anything. Sometimes I think I rely on that word too much. Maybe I will. Maybe someday I’ll actually be enough. “Maybe” equals waiting, and it’s foolish to live a life spent waiting.

The thing is, I never will be. Ever. No one will ever be enough. There will always be an unattainable standard, whether it’s one you’ve set for yourself or one you think others have for you. It hurts to feel like you’re not enough. It causes those choking sobs.

I’m going to bring out our good friend, the Bible, to help you understand what it means to be “not enough.” You probably understand already, because you’ve felt it, but I’ll put it in words (a seamless segway from Fitzgerald to Scripture):

But he said to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9, ESV) 

Audrey, I’ve heard this before. Blah blah blah Jesus is enough for you. But it doesn’t feel like it, does it? It’s not supposed to. Because Paul was asking God to take his weakness away. God wasn’t gonna. They were going to stay put for Paul to wrestle with. And that is a blessing.

Our weakness, our pain is a blessing. Someone once said, “There’s nothing memorable about a good night’s sleep.” Or something like that. We remember painful, draining times because they taught us something. Our “not-enough”-ness can teach us something. It taught me that fake people exist, and they need help more than anyone else, even if they look like they have it all together. Don’t lie about your “not-enough”-ness. Wear it proudly on your sleeve. I’m a human. I’m broken. I’m hurting.

But I’m learning and I’m growing.

One last literary quote for you. I recently watched the film version of The Little Prince (I’m not crying, you’re crying) and this specific quote spoke to me:

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Your struggles are mostly invisible to those around you, but they’re essential. Your unseen “not-enough”-ness is essential. It’s essential so that the love of Christ can be made perfect in your weakness. He is planning unseen, essential things within you every day. And sometimes those things aren’t so clear. They may not be clear in this world.

Pain is essential. Emptiness is essential.

It’s true – you’re not enough. But you’re essential. Boast it so everyone knows. Because they won’t see your mess – they will see rightly.