Have you ever just had one of those weeks?
You know, where your eyes constantly feel like they have weights attached to every eyelash, inevitably making it extremely hard to keep your eyes open, all the while your under eyes feel like puffy little pillows?
I don’t know what is going on with me this week, but my brain feels like a bus rammed into (going full speed).
My heart feels excited and ready to create; my brain feels like it needs coffee poured directly onto it.
In all honesty, sometimes I think that I am actually a grandma locked inside the body of a 23-year-old. Like sorry, but where is all this youthful-early-20s-energy everyone is always talking about? Did God forget to wire that into me or something? I definitely feel like I’m missing something here.
To be candid I actually feel like I’m missing a lot more than youthful energy.
Let’s be real, you’re 20’s are CONFUSING. You are finally an adult out doing things on your own, and suddenly life really hits you. The water that used to seem so clear is now getting murky.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been walking around in the dark and all of a sudden the lights slowly begin to flick on; one-by-one… and then those lights all of a sudden turn off again, and then on again… and then off again.
“Ah-ha!” followed by, “huh?” seems to be pretty normal.
So if you don’t understand what I’m saying yet, it’s that sometimes I genuinely feel so confused and so lost. I look around me and it seems like everyone else has it figured out. It seems they know what they want, who they are, and where they are going.
That feeling was at it’s peek last summer after graduating university. I had spent so much time focusing on grades, readings, assignments, and stressing. So when I graduated all of sudden none of that had a place in my brain or life anymore. I was free of the constant stressing and striving, but that freedom also felt like being dropped face-first into a totally different reality.
A reality that left me over here feeling like I was missing something. At least, it used to make me feel like I was missing a key part of the puzzle of life, until I realized that there are probably people who look at my life and think, “wow, Sonja really seems to know what she’s doing with her life”. (HA!)
That’s when I began to realize that most NONE of us have a clue, we’ve all just become pretty good at pretending like we do. Some of us are just so desperate to look and/or feel like we have it figured out that we have convinced ourselves it’s better to act like we have it together, even if we don’t. Because of this we deny ourselves the opportunity to just fumble around and try different things for a bit to really figure out who we are and what we like. We would rather look good on the outside than do the messy and often uncomfortable work to figure ourselves out.
And not to bash the school system, but I think it can be hard when the majority of us have spent most of our lives in an institution that praised you for “getting it right” even if you didn’t understand what was really going on. We spent vast amounts of time sitting still, being told what was right to think, how to act, and when to play. Expressing yourself unconventionally often labeled you as a “problem child”.
That being said it isn’t much wonder that we all eventually graduate and move onto the next step, but many of us end up feeling so lost. After years of assignments, deadlines, and visible next steps we no longer have clear and strong directions being given to us.
Many of us don’t know what the next right step is, we are unsure of what our talents and giftings are, we don’t know what truly sparks our passion. Perhaps at one point we did, but it got so lost, so convoluted, or just plain rejected by others along the way of life that we are now uncertain.
So I guess the question now is where do we go from here? How do we stop feeling lost? How do we hone in on our talents, gifts, and passions? How do we reclaim our authentic selves.
I am going to be breaking this down in the weeks to come, but for today I think the first step I want to break down is the absolute importance of taking the time to pause and pay attention.
Life is busy, like too busy most of the time.
You know it’s true.
Work is piling up, your friends keep asking and expecting you to do all of these things with them, you have to see your family, oh and don’t forget that long ‘to-do’ list hanging on the fridge; and I’m sure the list goes on.
In a life as busy as that, in the few moments of down time we do get, we are exhausted. It’s no wonder that the majority of us quickly turn to our phones or Netflix to entertain our weary minds.
If our lives are never slowing down ,and rather, are in an continually shifting state of constant acceleration, to burnout, then right back to acceleration; how can we ever really pay attention and critique where we are and what our next steps should be.
How can we be intentional about the life we want to live, the person we are/want to be, and what our true passions and giftings are if it’s all a constant blur?
Like it or not it is essential to pause and reflect.
Think of a sports team, they usually give it all they have and go 100% during the game, and after the game they rest; watch and critique game footage; decide what went well and what went poorly; they adjust their game plan and then they apply that all in training to prepare for the next game.
If that team never stopped to rest they would probably not perform well in their next game. If that team never stopped to step back and critique and adjust they would most likely not improve. If that team didn’t take the time to practice they wouldn’t even be able to hold their own in the game.
Rest and reflection are imperative to your well-being and to your success. Actually, correction, intentional rest and reflection are imperative.
If you are now asking how we intentionally do this, look no further. Here are a few of the ways that I have applied intentional rest and reflection into my own life:
First (and this is a big one), stop being afraid to say no. Saying no to certain things (perhaps things that aren’t fruitful, are an energy suck, don’t align with your values, or aren’t’ a wise use of time or money) will free up your schedule so you have the time to not only rest and reflect, but to choose wisely what you will say yes to.
Secondly, going hand-in-hand with that, is to live under your means AKA being smart with your money. When you spend your money wisely you are freed from feeling the need to over-work yourself just to be able to live a certain lifestyle. Let me just say real quick, from my own personal experience, that one of the biggest lies we can believe is that we need to spent a lot (on experiences or on new and nice things) to enjoy life.
When you free yourself from the pressure to spend you also free yourself from the need to constantly over-work. This (not surprisingly) frees up a lot of your time and alleviates stress. Therefore, leaving you able to focus on things other than money, work, and bills.
And the last major change to creating intentional rest and reflection is to find a way to get some alone time where you are can reflect on your life! For me this looks like putting on worship music, reading the bible, praying, and journaling. Everybody reflects differently, that’s okay, but try to find what works for you and set the time aside to do it!
One thing that got me started and set me off on the right path to find my passions was paying attention to the patterns that I have consistently seen in my life. Whether they are recent patterns or long term patterns they will probably add up to something.
Practical tip: think about all things you liked to do as a kid. THIS was a huge help for me. I sat down and thought about what I used to be drawn to, what I loved doing, and what made me just feel content. I was reminded of all the stories I used to write as a kid, the times I pretended to be a writer with my fedora (more on that here), and all the days I would set up my stuffed animals in front of my chalkboard easel and “teach” them. Looking at life through the eyes of my younger self created an untarnished lens that helped identify and firmly established that there was something within me that enjoyed writing, teaching, and helping in some form or another. This helped solidify my desire to start a blog, which commenced a whole snowball effect of tryingly to actively pursue my passions and gifts to use them to glorify God, serve others, and find fulfillment.
Ask yourself: what did my younger self enjoy, what interests me and why, what do I wish existed and why, what do I see a need for in the world and why?
And the biggest question of all: who was I before the world told me who I wasn’t?
P.S. stay tuned for part two of this series next week where I will attempt to practically help you answer that last question of “who was I before the world told me who I wasn’t?”, and help you boldly embrace whatever the answer is that you come up with!