At the beginning you have a little arrogance, loads of buoyancy. The journey, whatever it is, looks beautiful and bright, and you are filled with resolve and silver strength, sure that whatever the future holds, you will face it with optimism and chutzpah.
And the end is beautiful. You are wiser, better, deeper. You know things you didn't previously know, you've shed things you previously clung to. The end is revelation, resolution, a soft place to land.
But, oh, the middle. I hate the middle. The middle is the fog, the exhaustion, the loneliness, the daily battle against despair and the nagging fear that tomorrow will be just like today, only you'll be wearier and less able to defend yourself against it. The middle is the lonely place...when you try to connect but you feel like thick glass is separating you from the rest of the world, isolating and deadening everything."
Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet
Oh yes, this blind stabbing at possible story lines is so familiar. I have created two dozen different lesson plans for myself: self, learn contentment through this; self, learn confidence; self, learn humility. In reality, the sixteen months following graduation have been filled with all this and more, with discomfort and loneliness and a profound realization of privilege and friendship in my life. It is blessing and loss, it is severe mercy, it is bittersweet, indeed. It is having days where I wonder why I continue to plug away at something so dull, and still others when I witness the fruit that only comes from continuing to show up when things feel unexciting and plain.
Perhaps most importantly, what I am learning and how I am changing is a mystery, even to myself. When one thinks of their life as a story (which is not a bad way to think about it, Donald Miller), one ends up trying to understand where on earth things are in the plot at all times. I find myself trying to create my own narration, my own explanation of things, pinpointing how I will be able to tell this part later in a way that makes people laugh or cry.
But we can't live our stories in such a self-conscious way, I think. We drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out how we are growing and changing from this thing or that. Sometimes all I need to do is to make sure the garden of my soul has been watered and weeded, and leave the rest alone--things will grow, even without my desperate or obsessive supervision of the process.
And frankly, it is a little silly of me, more than a little controlling, to want to understand it all when we're still right in the thick of things, folks. I am slowly reconciling myself to the idea that I will not understand all the ways I have changed until later, when I look back, when I put the pieces together, when I say, these are the ways I am no longer the person I used to be. And in its own way, this is beautiful.