*Flashback* … I started this journal in the middle of the summer, but never finished or posted it. I have decided that now is the time to post it… read all the way through and you’ll understand why.
This summer has been a tough one so far… much more difficult than I ever imagined it was going to be. No one told me that the summer after you graduate from college could be so full of questioning, doubts, and struggles. But then again, I suppose no one knows the future, and why scare a new graduate with warnings of the tough things that could be in front of them?
My plan is to attend graduate school in the fall. While this is very exciting, and definitely a positive thing, it has created this awkward transitional period in my life. It has left me in, what feels like, a holding cell of young adulthood. My friends are all off getting married and landing jobs while I’m here in the middle, feeling like I have to be everywhere yet belong nowhere. I am taking a few classes that are prerequisites for graduate school, but were not covered in my undergraduate degrees. So I have already graduated, have not officially begun grad school, and am taking undergraduate classes. If that’s not strange enough, one of these classes has made me feel more stupid and unsuccessful than any educational endeavor I have ever pursued. I have completed two undergraduate degrees, yet I am facing a basic college class that could threaten my ability to begin grad school with the rest of my cohort. It’s a confusing situation and it feels backwards. I have never been that girl that desires to pursue education and a career above other areas of life. Sure, my education is important to me, and I want to hold a job that I enjoy, but I have always wanted, more than anything, to be a wife and mom. Therefore, it was hard enough to accept and be excited about the nudging I felt from God to follow a path that included further education, but it became even more challenging when that path led me to feel so incapable of continuing. I have struggled with feelings of jealousy, frustration, sadness, and anger as I have wondered why God brought me to this particular place instead of the place that I imagined I would be in at 22.
Meanwhile, the summer job struggle also pushed its way onto center stage in the post-college drama of Katie’s life. I spent the first five weeks of the summer filling out application after application, making many phone calls, and driving around to potential employers with no avail. Again, I felt like a failure. Here I am, a college graduate who has been accepted into a doctoral program for the fall, but no one wants to hire me for a summer job. I started to think God just wanted me to wait to live life in general. I was beginning to accept that grad school meant having a family would be even further down the road than I hoped, but now I started thinking He was making me wait for any type of career success as well. Sure, a summer job is only a summer job…not a long-term career. But, it is still an opportunity to gain incredibly valuable experience and build a resume that will help with future positions. Not to mention, I needed an income for the summer!
Then it happened: in the second week of June, a friend of mine found a job posting on Craig’s List to be a transporter for a foster care agency. I called the number, set up an interview for the following Monday, and prayed that something would finally come through. Monday morning came, and so did an awful lot of rain. I drove to Bowling Green, had a wonderful interview experience, got lost on my way to get a background check, and finally got a job! I was going to spend my summer driving kids around the state to visits with their biological parents. I was so excited, I squealed to myself, “I got the job!” and pumped my fist in the air when I sat in my car to drive back to Toledo. A few minutes later, I found myself facing a guardrail head-on as my car spun out of control and I said to my passengerless car, “This is not ending well…” The crunching, smashing, rocking, shaking, squealing, and stopping followed. There I sat, stunned, in the very center of the road, in my dear PT Cruiser that I intuitively knew had no chance of surviving. See, there had been so much rain, that a major accident occurred on the highway, so I was rerouted onto an unfamiliar road on my way north. When I came upon a curve, I slowed, but my tires lost traction with the road and I, instinctively, slammed the break pedal to the floor, giving myself no hope of recovery. To make a long story short, a State Highway Trooper gave me a ticket for failure to control and the insurance company decided a week later that my car was totaled. So, I coughed up the money to pay the citation, began the search for a new vehicle, and began my career of driving other people’s children around while feeling completely insecure and unsteady behind the wheel.
*Fast forward to the current day*
This summer was crazy challenging, but, in case you didn’t already know, I made it through! Truly by the grace of God, I squeezed by with a B- in physics and anatomy. Now, I am five weeks into my first trimester of my Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. And…. I don’t think anything has gotten easier! The challenges are not the same as they were in the summer, but I am certainly not walking in the park right now. However, I’m learning that a trek through the mountains is much more beautiful and rewarding than a simple stroll in the park.
Here’s the thing: all of these exhaustingly difficult days have taught me so many incredible lessons, but for the sake of keeping this journal a reasonable length, I’m going to stick to the most important. Insert one of my new favorite concepts à tenacity! I gave the definition at the beginning of this article (thank you, New Oxford American Dictionary), but I would like to take some liberty here and link tenacity with faith. I think that (according to several sections of Scripture) we are meant to live in joy. This doesn’t mean we are happy all the time, but we choose to take hold, and never let go, of the joy found in God. Joy gives us strength to do more than we could ever do otherwise. Joy is what allows us to see the opportunities that come from failures, keep swimming when we are drowning, jump hurtles that are higher than us, feel pain as growth, and live so fully that we go to bed completely drained each night and wake ready to do it all over again each morning. It’s not always easy to keep this joy at the center of our being, but that is because our human nature makes us try to do it on our own. In reality, all we need to do is seek God’s face. He is overjoyed to have his children say, “Daddy, I know this mountain ahead is crazy tall, and I’m scared. But I also know I’m not in this alone. Hold me in Your presence and fill me with Your joy.”
See, tenacity is really that little fire deep down inside you that says, “No! I am not giving up! No matter what lies Satan tries to tell, I am NOT defeated because I refuse to let go of that Mighty Joy-Giving Hand.”
This summer was full of difficulties. Those difficulties led the way to new difficulties that came when I officially began graduate school. With all of these challenges were many, many moments of feeling like I had failed or was currently failing. Even now, as I write this, I can’t say that I truly feel like I’m succeeding. However, all of these struggles have taught me to choose the right perspective. This is what has made all the difference.
People will not remember you for the trials you experienced. They will remember you for your character. And character is determined by how you choose to respond to the trials you experience. My challenge to myself and everyone reading this is that we would all choose to have tenacious characters of joy.
When the going gets tough, instead of giving up and lying down, I choose to dig my heals in and run straight into the challenges. Care to run with me?