This is some material I wrote pre-blog on my birthday this year. Many of the thoughts in Has it been a year already? are either hinted at or expanded upon in this post. Enjoy!
I found three white hairs on my head this year. I can locate each one, and often do just to count them one more time. I’ll admit, the first time I saw them gave me a mini heart attack as my mortality was suddenly shouting at me. But as I see them now, I am encouraged.
You see, birthdays have always been strange to me. When you’re little it’s an exciting excuse to eat as much Costco chocolate cake and icing as you can handle during a trip to the world of plastic tunnels and arcade games at Chuck E. Cheese. As you get older birthday excitement can start to fade and you are left with a worry that the years are slipping by before you have truly become yourself. When I was about 13, my Nana gave me a little plaque that had a phrase written on it.
“The older I get, the more I feel like myself.”
I remember at 13 the enlightenment of this phrase. It was almost like an intimate promise, that as the days ticked by I would slowly grow to understand who I was and how I fit into this tricky world. And I have been. But the process has been less than glamorous.
Last year at this time I was just finishing my contracted internship at Mount Hermon, a Christian Conference center in the Santa Cruz mountains. Being my first job out of school, I had placed an unrealistic expectation that the year would free me from painful and disappointing college years in Santa Barbara. This job and this new community were to be the saviors of my battered spirit; my fresh start. In some ways it was. Yet as the contract ended and I was once again finding myself in another disconcerting transition, I became discouraged. Would I ever grow up?
I’ve wanted to grow up my entire life. I possess not a single ounce of Peter Pan-ism. I used to put on my mom’s high heels and church dresses when she’d be out running errands (surprise, mom!) and prance around relishing the idea that when my feet finally fit these uncomfortable shoes, I’d feel in control. At peace. Happy. However, last year, as I slipped my feet into my own pair of high heels, a magical feeling of harmony didn’t wash over me. In fact, I was drowning in a bitter shame. I still hadn’t figured out the game.
Packing up my car -my life- there in Santa Cruz, I was packing up another chapter. And I wasn’t ready. Sure, I was ready to move out of the challenges of my time there and carefully stick those memories and moments of growth in my neat file cabinet labeled, “Life”. However I wasn’t ready to admit this place had defeated me. Because that’s how I felt. You see, I was moving home.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my home. There is almost nowhere I’d rather be than in the mountains, hiking familiar trails, smelling the unique scent of cold creeks mixed with ripe blackberries and spending time with my church family. But in my mind, moving home for an indefinite amount of time at the age of 23 to live with my parents wasn’t exactly a step for Successful Katie. Yet it was the right one. And looking over the last year, it’s pretty obvious that it was God’s ideal for me.
You can tell that sort of thing simply by looking at how some variables strangely fall into place. Like how my dad’s receptionist quickly needed to relocate out of the area two weeks after I came home –creating a steady space of employment for me. Or how my pastor asked me to attend weekly service planning meetings –creating revitalization for me in my stale faith. So began a year of my life back in Mount Shasta. Sleeping in the bedroom still decorated in my high school tastes, eating my mom’s spaghetti, and biking around the trail of Lake Siskiyou where every curve reminds me of different stages in life when I’ve ridden around it carrying my thoughts.
The first little while was really tough. I was having withdrawals from the dear friends I had made at Mount Hermon. I was missing the Coffee Cat I had often frequented. Mostly, I was missing my sense of independence. It can be quite strange moving back to the place where you grew up. Many times the person you have become is unknown to those around you and it can be exhausting trying to educate everyone of the “new you”. But for me, as frustrating as it was, it was my saving grace.
It had been 5 years since I had lived at home for more than 4 months at a time, which was never enough to allow my community to see the changes that had taken place in my soul. To all the people who had known me since I was born, I was still the 17 year old Katie, quite untouched by growing pains and the irreversible stretch marks that now scarred my heart. I was still kind. I was still sweet. I was still in awe of Jesus. But you see, if I’m honest with myself, and with you now, my 23 year old self was almost the antithesis of these attributes. I was angry, I was hopeless, I was constantly irritated. And I was completely indifferent and lackluster for Jesus. Here I was in my roaring twenties and my soul felt like it had lived two lifetimes of failure leaving me 101 years old and ready to move on from this life. And that’s why this year has been so magical.
Taylor Swift has an ability with her song writing skills to make me want to swear off listening to music forever. But there is one line that she has written that saves her from being completely condemned from my Pandora station. In her song, “22,” she says living as a twenty-two year old is miserable and magical at the same time. Never has she stated a more accurate truth. Last August I was very much on the miserable side of the spectrum. This August I’d say I’m not only in the middle, but maybe even a hint toward the magical side. And it took a lot of slow steady work to get there. My dad labeled this year as my year of rehabilitation. At first I smarted at this label as it struck at my pride, but I’ve grown to love it because it not only evokes a sense of movement toward betterment, it also validates the seriousness of my hurt and dejection.
Healing this year has been found for me in many forms of therapy. I’ve felt the sheets of rusty corrugated metal and splintering wood I’d haphazardly secured around my soul start to fall away as people have carefully reached out to me. My anger has been leaked out on multiple mountain trails I’ve re-explored, like tainted blood running from my wounds that needed to be re-opened and properly addressed. My irritation, sparked by fear, has been calmed by slow mornings with my mom as we simply enjoy time together wandering through yard sales, looking at old things and enjoying the fact that not every moment needs to be too serious. My indifference toward the God who made me and desires all of me has been smothered from conversations with my dad on snowy days in front of our living room fire or in our Chiropractic office where we provide for this family together. And it has been perpetuated by meetings with the pastors of my church as I was witness to their hearts for the people of God and their desperate desire to lead in a way that glorifies God. Over multiple cups of steaming herbal tea flavored by tears, my unwavering mentor has wisely guided conversation and prayer through the mess I’d left in myself from my somewhat foolish and rash decisions. Kind friends have sat with me and listened as I revealed the secrets of my new self while we fold their family’s laundry or watch their kiddos race around the yard. And some of the sweetest healing has been found as I hold an infant, for hours sometimes, simply listening to their breath and heart, rubbing their soft, perfect skin, and feeling an unmatched sense of being needed. That my presence would be missed if I were not here.
I am here. And this basic truth is the basis of all the lessons and forward movement I’ve made this year. I’ve learned that the best years of life are usually those spiced with contradiction. That the conflict in my inner self is ok; it’s even something to be celebrated as it pushes for inner understanding and development. At its rawest form, it’s sanctification. I’ve learned that it’s ok to be me, in my own uniquely scarred skin. That sleepless nights are not comfortable, but they aren’t the end of the world either. I’ve learned that people believe in me… especially when I don’t believe in myself. That my future will come whether I’m ready or not and that it’s sometimes ok not to have a plan. I’ve become comfortable in knowing I don’t have it all figured out yet. And that I will not remain numb forever. But above all, I’ve learned that God is real. He is here. That is the basis of truth that I use to allow myself to truly trust Him. To thank Him. To accept His faithfulness when I really don’t deserve it. Truth is, a life following Him will be laced with paradox in this world and in my inner being. Years will continue to tick by. How will I choose to live them?
I found three white hairs on my head this year. I had feared them at first discovery, as they proclaimed weakness. But as I see them now, they are an encouragement. Because the older I get, the more I feel like myself. And I can’t help but hope their presence is a symbol that I am getting a little bit wiser as I wrestle through this grand adventure called life.
“The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.” – Proverbs 20:29 NLT