I’ve been thinking more and more lately about what people think life is “supposed” to look like. That movie screen life full of balance with the perfect job, loving boyfriend, healthy diet, and no questions asked. I have let so much time pass unexamined with my “knowing”. I “knew” I was going to fall in love in college and get married the way my parents did, that I was going to teach high school biology, and that I was going to find that job that I loved as soon as I graduated and wake up in the morning excited to go to work.
I “knew” that God didn’t guide any of my decisions or passions, because he didn’t want me. And I “knew” that I didn’t need him in my life.
Here I am. Single, not teaching in a classroom, angry to wake up at 6:30 every morning.
And, spoiler alert, God has his hands in my life. He loves me. And I need that.
I had dinner with a new friend the other day and we were discussing recent graduate life. I can’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but she said to me, “I know less now than I have ever known.”
We jumped into a conversation I have had with others before, about how much we needed some reality in our young lives. How great it would have been if “grown ups” had given us a heads up so we weren’t expecting all of those movie scenes to be realities.
Or did they tell us, and we just went listening?
Did my mother tell me before I was grown that adulthood was hard? Did my teachers tell me that it would take some time to find my calling? Or to figure out whether I even had a calling? I just don’t know.
Here’s what I do know.
I know that I’m listening now. I heard my mom when she told me that no one, even the most satisfied employee with the most empowering job, wakes up every single morning excited to go to work. I heard my friend’s mom when she told her that even at 60 you don’t have everything figured out. I’ve heard friends, and acquaintances, and mentors, who, when I have asked, told me that it’s OK not to know. It’s OK.
I also know that whether people younger than me hear it or not, I want to say it. I want to be honest and open about the things that older adults have told me no one talks about, because everyone already knows how bad adulting sucks, and “they don’t want reminders of the hard parts.”
But the hard parts are real. They don’t go away when we don’t acknowledge them. They hide in the corner of our hearts waiting for us to walk by like a spiteful cat with sharp claws in the shadows of dark basement.
We need more adults who are honest about things that are difficult, rather than tightlipped in an attempt to protect young people. We need to be vulnerable with the bad, not just the good. When a high school boy tells you that you’re the worst teacher he’s ever had in front of your student teacher, and it breaks your heart, say it. Tell your student teacher that sometimes, teaching is hard. There will be students who get in trouble, and hate you, and fail no matter what you do for them, and it will hurt. But there are also students who succeed, and appreciate you, and go on to do great things, and they will make the difficult students and the angry parents and the grading papers and the politics worth it.
I have no idea what I’m doing. I go through each day praying that nothing falls to shit, and hoping that maybe just one good thing will happen, even if I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t have a 10 year plan, or a 5 year, or geez even a tomorrow plan. I have no idea if I am working at the right place or saying the right things or having the right influence on all the little lives I touch each day. I know next to nothing about God and everything he is capable of, and every time I think I do something happens to make him look bigger than before.
I “know” less now than I have ever known, because I know now that I don’t know… ya know? Every day looks like walking through that basement looking for a bicycle pump, and hoping the cat is upstairs out in the open asleep in the sunshine.
All the things I thought I “knew” weren’t real. Here’s what is:
No person is eternally certain. Not every day is good. No one has all the answers. Because as a very good friend told me when I began struggling with “knowing”, “if we knew everything about this life and God we would have no strive.” Those are words I carry everywhere with me. They remind me how lucky I am that I woke up, and that I no longer “know”.
So here is to feeling called in the darkness and deciding to answer. It isn’t always pretty. It’s almost never easy. But it’s real. What a lighter life we can live when we aren’t anticipating the hard parts sudden exposure out of dark corners. What a beautiful life we can live when we realize how little we know, and how much strive we can truly have.