I finally found myself in the cool darkness of the chapel. The early afternoon light poured through the windows to my right, illuminating the beautiful stained glass. It was empty but I didn’t feel the aloneness I was seeking. Children’s voices carried through the open windows, piercing the silence.
I walked slowly to the front of the room and sunk into a creaking wooden seat a few feet from the altar and waited. I didn’t know what I was looking for– some sort of revelation or epiphany, some comfort or solace, something profound. So I sat, taking in the erie dark beauty surrounding me. I studied the ceiling beams, the altar display, the artwork. I closed my eyes and wished for a wave of feeling to wash over me. Nothing. I felt nothing. The screaming children broke my thoughts. The janitor opened a door and slammed it shut. Nothing.
Direction and hope, direction and hope, direction and hope. I kept rolling these words over and over in my mind, a kind of bare bones prayer. I couldn’t tell if I was asking for them or willing them into existence. Either way I didn’t feel much of either as I turned to leave.
The mind is a confounding thing. To get lost in it is terrifying. To realize the power it has to effect our view, actions, and reactions is astounding. I’ve been lost to the power of my mind a lot lately. My new job started nearly two months ago and I haven’t had nearly the workload I anticipated. The afternoons are the worst. I stare blankly at my computer, loathing the hours I spend listlessly browsing the internet. I leave my desk periodically to roam the halls or catch a few desperate moments of fresh air. The longing for productive work turns to discontentment turns to anger turns to depression.
Here I am, twenty-five years old, three and a half years out of college, in crippling debt working a dead-end entry level administrative job in which I’m not even remotely using my degree. If you had asked me five years ago what I would be doing with my Peacebuilding and Development degree I guarantee you I would not have said, “Working as an admin in the Biology department of a wealthy, prestigious institution.”
No, I would have said something like, “Leading restorative justice processes in urban communities” or “counseling young people who are considering suicide” or “working with abused women.” At that time in my life I hadn’t considered that my dreams so far surpassed my reality. I didn’t stop to think about the immense student loan debt I was accruing and that it might end up dictating my life. I didn’t realize that the incredible conversations, classes, and experiences I was having would not translate to a professional skill set that would lead to a job.
I am and always have been a person of passion, a dreamer. I feel things so deeply that emotion seeps from every pore in my body. Reality is a wall I hate to come up against. And yet I do, time and again I do.
My passion tells me I can be a facilitator or restorative justice practitioner with the degree and skills I have. Reality tells me I need more schooling. My passion tells me I can go back to school and earn a Masters degree. Reality tells me I need to pay off my massive student loan debt first. Passion tells me I can work a meaningful job making a difference in people’s lives. Reality tells me I need to work a job to pay the bills no matter how unfulfilling it may be.
And so I find myself stumbling into the chapel seeking solace. I find myself trudging home from work, clutching my wrists as the dark, dark thoughts of slitting them overwhelms me. I find myself gasping for air between sobs as I think of all the things I wanted and wished life could be and all the things it’s not and the intense disappointment and fear of this being all there is to it. I cannot live like this, paycheck to paycheck, meaningless day to meaningless day, for the next fifty years. I. Can. Not. Do. This.
Alone. I cannot do this alone. But I have my people here. Oh my people. My community here is my saving grace, time and again. I penned a desperate email a few nights ago, needing to get my thoughts out of my mind and into the hands of those who have held me so many times before.
And those hands took my words, took me, and cradled me. Lifted me up. Broke my thoughts down.
“You are brilliant and you are where you need to be right now. Your heart knows there’s more though. Keep listening and you will know the way,” they told me.
“You are strong, smart, kind, funny, hard working and God gave you the desire to do mediation and peacebuilding for a reason. God wouldn’t put that in your soul if She wasn’t going to bring you to a place where you can use that. Everything will work together for your good, but it takes time. You have not actually been in the working world for that long. You are still building your work and waiting for the way to break in,” they reminded me.
They offered me lunch dates and exercise classes, shoulders to cry on and ears to listen. They reserved all judgement and instead extended empathy and love. They gave me words of hope.
And so I repeat those words and cling to the possibility that someday, maybe, hopefully, Oh dear God hopefully, there is more. And this is not it and my work is not everything and it does not define me and my life is so full in many other ways. And direction and hope, direction and hope, direction and hope will surely come.