Dear Pope Francis,
Things on the blog have been quiet for a very long time! It’s been two months since my last letter. In that time, I wrote and successfully defended my thesis, which means that I am now done of school. When I had first finished I was ecstatic. I was relieved that all the months of studying and stress had been worth it.
When the relief faded and the celebrations were over, I was left in a vacuum. My whole life had been caught up in my identity as a student for a long time. Spending time with friends happened naturally around class, my jobs had to be a little bit flexible to fit my school schedule, and between school, jobs and extra-circulars there was always something pressing that I needed to do. But the end of school brought lots of free time that I’m still not entirely sure what to do with.
I doubt I’m alone in dreading the end of things. Endings bring change, and change can be difficult to navigate. Over the last few years, I have come to appreciate endings for two, related, reasons. The first reason is that the end of something gives you a perspective that you didn’t (and couldn’t) have at the beginning. When I started my Masters, there was no way I could know the twists and turns my journey would take, but standing at the end, I can look back, reflecting on the things that I’ve learned, with a clearer perspective of what happened because I can see the whole.
The second reason I appreciate endings is because they show me growth edges. A ‘growth edge’ is a place for growth in my life, and usually come only after some pruning. The pruning can come in a variety of ways, perhaps jarring, as in a sudden death, or more gradual, like childhood friends growing up and growing apart, or some combination of the two. Regardless of how something ends, the pruning that comes with the end leaves space for something new to grow. In my case, I have the time to explore new areas of interest, like social media and writing, because I don’t have to spend all my time doing school work.
We discover growth edges only when we can step back and look the whole, which is why we often find them when something has ended. In reflecting back on my time in school, I realized how much I love writing, and that it is no longer sufficient for me to simply write for myself, so I want to spend my free time honing my writing and communicating skills. Figuring out growth edges is not necessarily as simple as arbitrarily deciding that I want to work on something; it needs to be part of a larger reflection and discernment about where God may be calling me in the future. So I’ve spent time talking with people, and discerning and praying on my own, trying to get a sense of what my growth edges are. It’s been a surprisingly fun process.
Ultimately, the change that is happening is going to push me, but change always does. Focusing on the growth edges helps me frame the end of school, and the changes that go with it, as something positive and life-giving, rather than something overwhelming and life-draining.
Embracing the growth