Dear Pope Francis,
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time slips by. It’s already the middle of April already. For the most part the weather is becoming more spring-like (except for yesterday, when it snowed in southern Ontario). I just finished my second year of my M.Div. Lent is coming to an end, and Easter is all but here. I will celebrate my twenty-fourth birthday over the weekend. But it feels like yesterday was Ash Wednesday, my first day of second year and my twenty-third birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to use my time well, and to live a good life – big questions to say the least. One thing I can say for sure, is that there is a lot of conflicting opinions on what it ‘good’
I’ve struggled with trying to understand what makes a life ‘good’ or ‘worthwhile’. These are vague, general concepts, which don’t correspond to any sort of quantitative measurement. I’ve read some articles and posts that suggest that in my twenties I need to take time and explore because I have lots of time to figure it all out. Other people say that this mindset robs me of the urgency that is necessary to get my life started. These conflicting opinions don’t stop people from striving to have it all in life – to live the ‘good life’. I find myself falling into the trap of ‘the good life’ too. As a result, I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep up with the people around me. My friends get into relationships, so I feel like I need to as well. Some of my friends are young professionals, and, after seeing their lives, I begin to feel tired of my grad student life. Everywhere I look, people seem to have lives that are more exciting or more stable and settled than mine.
I see elements of truth in all of the conflicting opinions about living a good life in my twenties, usually around the need to explore options and new places. But some days even this vague concept which puts pressure on me to keep up my peers. Then, I stumbled across a quote that gave me a new perspective on all of this: “We can either demand that we write well or we can settle more comfortably into writing down what seems to want to come through us – good, bad or indifferent” (Julia Cameron, The Right to Write). I’ve used this quote to help me reduce the pressure to write when I’m on a deadline, or when I’m having a hard time getting my thoughts out of my head and into words (like writing this post). The more I think about it, the more I realize that it also applies to my life more generally.
I wonder what would happen if I applied my method for writing to my life. What would happen if I stopped trying to live life ‘well’ or ‘good’, whatever that means, and settled into living comfortably. I don’t mean to say that I want to be indifferent to life, or drift aimlessly, because that’s not who I am; I am driven and goal-orientated, and I don’t want that to change that. But what if instead of meeting the goals I think other people are setting for me, I focused on setting and meeting goals that are mine. Goals like finishing my Master’s and finding a job in ministry wherever that may take me, making self-care a priority, or learning German.
Meredith recently wrote about her faith fitting like a comfy tie-dyed t-shirt. I think of my writing, and my life, like that as well. Instead of a comfy t-shirt, it’s my favourite hoodie sweatshirt, that doesn’t really match anything, but it’s warm and baggy. It’s been to bonfires at the shore and on road trips and toted around when the weather can’t make up its mind about what season it is. When I settle into writing and my life, it’s like pulling on this hoodie; I feel at ease and comfortable in my skin. But, when I try to borrow my friends’ goals and lives, it’s like putting on a collared button-down shirt, which never seem to fit me right. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get the button-down to fit without having buttons pull or constricting my movement.
On a road trip in 2012, wearing my favourite hoodie
Button-downs just don’t seem to be for me right now, and neither are my friends’ goals and priorities. I’m sure there will come a day when some of those priorities and goals, like relationships and careers, will come into my life. When they do, I will figure out how it all fits together, but until then I can’t get caught up in trying to fit someone else’s mold. This is my life, and I can choose to get bogged down in what everyone around expects from me, or I can choose to follow God’s plan for me, which is challenging and pushes me to be a better person, but ultimately fits just right.
Living life in my hoodie,