If there was one thing I found myself starving for this past year, one thing I find myself needing the most in the coming year, it’s connection. By nature, I am absolutely fascinated by people and what their stories are. I love getting to know a person, discovering what they’re passionate about and what makes them tick. I consider myself both an introvert and extrovert, where I can appreciate solitude, but more lean toward togetherness.
I didn’t get to experience much of that, at least in ways where it felt like I was doing more than just surviving a really difficult season in my life. I felt closer to people that lived in different states or even different countries, and incredibly distant from immediate family or friends that lived in the next town over. I was insecure and scared, constantly torn between facing the reality of what I was going through and desperately wanting to move beyond all of it. I didn’t know how to articulate what I needed, and didn’t want to come across as selfish or inconsiderate. There were times where I didn’t even know what I needed, if it was to talk about the matter at hand or to distract myself for a little bit. It was self-imposed pressure to choose between one extreme or the other.
I held a lot of things in, and that festered into a pain so great that I couldn’t see beyond it. As a result, I often shared parts of my story at the wrong time, (or at least what seemed like bad timing) or put my insecurities onto others. When someone didn’t show up or get back to me about spending time together, I automatically blamed myself. Certain relationship experiences made me want to put up walls and close myself off for a while. I was so afraid that I barely went to church and at times had to force myself to go out and be social. It all came down to a very large and very bold-faced lie:
I’ve been abandoned. I’m not wanted. And I’m definitely not lovable.
How terrible and sad is that? It’s no wonder how that attitude slowly turned me into a different person.
That’s not to say connection should, or has to involve baring your soul in front of people. One of my favorite memories from this past year took place when I went back to Iowa for homecoming weekend. I met up with one of my closest friends at a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, and we basically spent the night drinking beer and margaritas, watching sports, and making fun of each other. I’ve never heard him curse so much in the time that we’ve known each other, and after midnight I was fighting to keep my eyes open because I didn’t want it to end.
It was unplanned, unexpected, and wonderful. Quality time should be intentional, but not totally manufactured in the sense that it could easily lead to disappointment. A lot of times I can just enjoying being with someone without having to carry on much of a conversation; a comfortable silence, as it’s called.
Connection, especially in today’s culture, seems to have more questions than answers. I can’t pretend that I understand why being busy has become a badge of honor, or why we do so much to the point of being unavailable. We’re supposedly so attached to our cell phones, but yet I know more people that don’t answer calls or respond to text messages. It’s sad when they only way you know if someone is even alive is through updates and photos on Facebook, though that is better than nothing.
I’ve learned the hard way that most of the time, all you really can do is take it with a grain of salt. Life happens. Everyone goes through rough seasons, and it’s not always about whether or not those of us on the other end did or said something wrong. I have friends where we can go weeks or months without speaking, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about one another. The older you get, the more people you have to keep up with, and eventually we might have to choose who we want in our circle and who we don’t. It’s not personal, and it’s not meant to be hurtful.
In light all of that, I’ve realized that the best connections I can make are with myself and with God. By standing firm in my identity, and having a keen sense of self-awareness, everything else kind of falls into place on it’s own; interacting with others becomes easier, and there’s a lot less fear and anxiety involved. I’m not choosing individualism over community, but I can’t be dependent on people or circumstances to bring me joy and happiness. Change is constant, and while I can’t control what happens, I can choose to be calm and trusting about all of it.
In hindsight, I do wish that I had been stronger, and had handled some things differently. I don’t always know what the right thing is, and that’s OK. There is no formula, but there is grace, forgiveness, and redemption. I choose that road, not just with others, but for myself as well.