Last month, my parents took a break from being awesome in Uruguay to spend a few weeks being awesome in Indiana. I have possibly the best parents in the universe, and I don’t get to spend much time with them—we live about fifty-five hundred miles apart—so I cherished every moment of their visit.
Of course, it was challenging to pack four people into a one-bedroom apartment. I relinquished my bedroom to my parents and set up camp around the dining room table with my sleeping bag, laptop, laundry basket, and assorted plush animals.
In this and other ways, my parents’ visit made my life messy. My routines and habits were disrupted. I had to improvise. We also spent a few days on the road, leaving behind my home in the little town of Berne. My life was extremely different for a few weeks, and it was really refreshing.
When my parents departed, leaving little gifts and pleasant memories, I faced the daunting task of putting everything back in its proper place. I had routines to reestablish and an apartment to reorganize. Then a funny thing happened: I kept finding opportunities for improvement. Having abandoned my ordinary lifestyle for a while, I could now look at it more critically.
I began changing things.
For a month and more, I tidied up my life. I swept through my apartment like a whirlwind, reorganizing drawers, cabinets, cupboards, and closets; I altered my diet, adding more vegetables and cutting out certain unhealthy snacks; I replenished my wardrobe, ditching holey socks and buying geeky T-shirts; I did some redecorating, adding five machetes and a plush llama to my bedroom decor; I reordered my priorities, putting first things first.
A few days ago, I reflected upon the changes I’ve made. My life has definitely improved. There is still room for improvement, however, which prompted me to ask myself: What else needs to change? What else do I need?
It was then I realized I could use a more hopeful attitude.
For several reasons, I often live with an attitude of defeat. My recurring depression makes it hard to have a positive outlook. Winter has arrived with its dark days, barren scenery, and bitter cold. Not least of all, my life situation is humbling.
From my early teens onward, I wanted to be an English teacher. I was convinced it was my calling. I went to college, attended classes, completed my student teaching, and earned both an English degree and a teacher’s license. This was all well and good, but there was one concern.
During my last semester, after three full years of study, I had second thoughts. My student teaching utterly demoralized me. I was no longer sure I wanted to spend my life teaching. Thus I eventually found myself in Indiana, using neither my degree nor my teacher’s license, working a low-wage job.
That was two years ago.
I’m still working the same job, and it looks like I won’t be moving on any time soon. (I have reasons for staying.) Heck, I don’t even know where I would go. I may end up teaching; I may not. Many of my peers are using their education to pursue great careers. It’s humbling for me to be so far behind. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever use my college degree or teacher’s license for anything.
I just don’t know.
My ambitions of becoming an English teacher have faltered. I don’t know whether I’ll ever put my college studies to use. My attempts to become an author failed; that particular childhood dream is extinguished. As I work a job that seems to be going nowhere, worrying about the future, struggling with depression, freezing in the icy darkness of winter, I realize what I’ve been missing despite all my earnest attempts at self-improvement.
I sure could use a more hopeful attitude.
Hope is a simple solution, but not an easy one. Hope is hard. As I blunder onward, I’m trying to look back. My life—even the past two years—hasn’t been wasted. I’m trying to look forward. The future is uncertain, yet full of unforeseen opportunities. Above all, I’m trying to look around at my life as it is now.
Setting aside my insecurities and uncertainties, I remain sincerely convinced that I am where I need to be—for the time being, at any rate. My life is full of blessings. I’m surrounded by awesome people. My coffeemaker still works. God’s grace never fails, and I’m comforted by these words from C.S. Lewis: “If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you.”
These are things I mustn’t ever forget.