my small group leader gave me a book

Today has been marked by a general feeling of tiredness, eating popcorn I wasn’t hungry enough for but it smelled good, and thinking that I should really do some precalc but really not wanting to. Call it what you will. It’s one of those days.

But let’s talk about a different day. My small group leader gave me a book on Tuesday.

“Sarah,” she said. “I have a book for you.”

This happened after school, where there was an open, frank conversation about suicide and addiction, because reading the words, “I’m lucky to be alive” written by a person who isn’t alive anymore is deeply moving. After I spent an hour and a half with three- and four-year-olds and talked to them about how great God is. They told their stories about their day and laughed at the faces I made, but they also closed their eyes when it was time to pray. After I had dinner with my brother, and checked in with him. We compared our dorms, our friend groups, and how much we both really love it here.

This is a good place to be.

This book I got. I’ve never been married and never lost a child–most of my problems involve who’s-going-to-ask-whom to banquet and the fact that I have an 88 and an 89 in a couple classes and I desperately wish those were As–but this is the kind of book that I think I may have written myself if I were thirty. It really resonated. The past year or so of my life is neatly summed up in its 250-pages. I mean, I humbly write on this little blog hoping something will connect with someone, and there were points when I was reading this I stopped to write down a quote, or, in one case, check to make sure my roommate was asleep and cry.

The written word has always been a good medium for me.
This book talked about changes. Change is hard and frustrating and we hate it but it happens anyway. It talked about how we romanticize second chances. What if it worked out this time because it didn’t before? It talked about beauty in brokenness and grace in the small things. Maybe we need to stop wishing that things were different, going with the flow, and seeing how it plays out. It’s all a give and take. On my bad days, my life is all going to seem worse than when I’m feeling great. The feelings are cyclical and they feed themselves. It’s exhausting, when you can’t separate your tiny myopic view of life from the actual story you’re telling.

I came here expecting things to be very different than they turned out being. I can’t say if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing that happens to be. Some things hurt a lot when I think about them, and some are far better than I could have imagined two months ago. The book touched on that, and innocently ripped open the sores on some deeply held regrets and fears.
I’m not going to say a whole lot about that. Full disclosure here. Over the last few months, I’ve managed to convince myself that this–typing essays that you read on your little glowing screen–is vulnerability. That somehow this proves something. Maybe that I can handle it, whatever “it” is. Maybe that I’m worth taking seriously. Maybe that I’m capable of doing something worth paying attention to. Or that I, myself, am worth paying attention to. That’s not the case, so I need to back up from the heart dump and say something else.

Anyway. As I was saying:

This wasn’t what I was expecting. At all. I own that. The expectations I had, which are in the process of dying, made a really great experience really dull. I’m beginning to understand that I treated the first quarter of the school year as a checklist, and rather than embrace everything, I panicked when things didn’t line up. Alarms were going off. I wondered where I failed, what I forgot, questioned my capability and worth and choices.
I wasn’t able to see that there were good things happening. And now there are seven quarters to go. In seven quarters (and a four-day week), I’ll be done with high school. I’ll leave here, and all I’ve got will be these eight quarters. So, starting now, I’m going to be a little less strict and legalistic. Stop trying to order my world quite so neatly and be more open to the insanity that I get to live in.

I’m in the middle of it now. Who knows what I’ll be able to say about this in a couple months. I sure don’t. I just know to expect the unexpected.

This is what happens when I read good books.

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