My Identity

(Note: Most of this was written in early summer, back around the time of my graduation, but I never published it.)

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my identity. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a true identity crisis. Because I’m  rooted in my faith, “follower of Jesus” is my biggest identifier and something I can cling to even when I have no idea what or who else I am. I hope that’s the way other people see me, too.

For most of my life, I’ve been an adventurer-an explorer. I have always been a reader. I’ve been a cook and a baker. I’ve been an ice cream scooper and a barista. A student. A daughter. A friend. A nerd. An artist. A wanderer. I was a film buff. A coffee drinker. I tried my hand at being a hipster. Then I was hip for awhile. I even took a brief foray into being a hippy. Sometimes I think I’m becoming more of a hippy every day without even trying.

These are all identifiers. Jobs I’ve had, ways I see myself, ways other people see me…

I’ve been a student since I was 5 years old, when I entered 1st grade. Over the past 16-17 years, I’ve gone back to school every single autumn, and rejoiced every May.

For the past 4 years, I’ve had another identifier: English Major.

Since May 7, I’m no longer an English Major.

THAT IS CRAZY.

And it scares me.

For a long time, that’s been my go-to identifier. I use “I’m an English major” as an excuse, at times.

As an English major, people assume I will correct their grammar errors. (I won’t. On the inside? Yes. On the outside, no. Rest easy.) Another fun part of being an English major is everyone automatically assuming I’m going to be a teacher.

I tell them, no, I want to write. I want to publish novels. And they give me what I call the “English-major-pity-smile.” Most of you have probably given me that smile at one time or another, but that’s okay. To me, it became a joke. Every time I explained my desire to be a writer, I was being serious. I know it’s a big dream, but after four years, I’m still serious. After four years, I still believe we’re called to big dreams!

In Mere Christianity, my man C.S. Lewis wrote one of my all time favorite passages. It begins,

“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”

When I give up all the terms and identifiers to Him, I have the freedom to pursue Him fully. When I stop pursuing other things and focus on Him, the rest of my life seems to fall into place. If I stop worrying about how other people see me, or whether I am successful in the world’s eyes, I can shift my focus to Him.

A few months ago, I was meeting with a couple friends at Panera Bread, and someone asked the question, “How do you think God sees you?” That’s a hard question to answer at a moment’s notice, but it is also the identifier I care about most.

He loves me. He loved me before I loved Him.

He sees the good things about me. He sees that I am merciful. He sees that I am discerning. He sees that I am good at teaching and leading. He sees that I am a communicator. He sees that I work hard to maintain my relationships.

He loves me, not because of what I’m becoming, but because of who I am.

Even if you try to hide things from God, He knows. To me, that gives me license to be completely open and authentic with Him! He sees that I sometimes don’t allow myself to be real because I am afraid of being hurt. He sees that sometimes I tell people I’m so busy, but I’m really wasting valuable time. He sees that I sometimes go past boundaries I’ve set for myself.

And He loves me.

Because I know I’m loved by Him, I don’t have to become depressed over not being a student anymore. Because I have a beautiful community surrounding me, where I am given opportunities to use the gifts God’s given me… losing a part of my identity isn’t so bad. I don’t have to be afraid about the future, about stepping out into the real world, like so many of my classmates are.

I may not be a student or an English Major anymore, but I am still loved by God. That’s a constant, no matter what else I choose to be… no matter what other labels people give to me. Moving on from college after just four years is a reason to be joyful, because I’m moving toward something.

C.S. Lewis goes on to say,

“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day, and death of your whole body. In the end, submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

I admit that passage is confusing. It’s paradoxical. It doesn’t make sense. Looking for someone else shouldn’t bring you to the center of yourself.

But hey, Jesus doesn’t always make sense. It doesn’t make sense that we have more freedom when we submit to Him. It doesn’t make sense that I find myself when I seek Him with everything in me. Grace doesn’t make sense. Self-sacrifice doesn’t make sense.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ, for in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Colossians 2:9-10

There is no place I want to find my identity other than the heart of Jesus.

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Thanks for reading,

Carrie

22 Before 23

On September 2nd, I turned 22, with little fanfare.

That was how I wanted it. I’ve been dreading birthdays since I was 15. Though I do like thoughtful gifts and kind words, of course.

It’s not that I fear growing older. I actually look forward to being 70 years old with gray hair, rocking a grandbaby or two on my knee as I take in the warm evening air on my front porch. I hope I’m a fun old person. I hope I still write. I hope my home is welcoming and warm. I hope I can care for myself. I hope I’m not a burden – more than that, I hope I can still contribute.

Anyway. Random tangent over.

All that to say, I’m not afraid of being old, but maybe it’s the aging process I don’t love. Or maybe it’s a fear of looking back at the past year and realizing I didn’t accomplish everything I thought I would’ve.

22. Practically middle-aged, really.

And I’ve already held this age for 2 months.

I decided to make a bucket list for this year.

I generally fail at this type of thing, but maybe if I’m blogging it I’ll feel accountable. So here goes. Here are the 22 things I want to do before I turn 23. I’ll try to blog about all of them.

22 Things to do Before I Turn 23

  1. Travel to a new country.

  2. Take a class. Learn something new.

  3. Pick lavender. If you want to visit a lavender field with me, say when.

  4. Buy my first bee hives. And the bees to live in them, obviously. And try not to kill said bees.

  5. Read 12 books that have been on “your list” for ages. Seriously. You can’t go on pretending you’ve read Moby Dick for the next 40 years.

    The books in question:


    Moby Dick, Beloved, To the Lighthouse, As I Lay Dying, Midnight’s Children, Leaves of Grass, For Whom the Bell Tolls, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, On the Road, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, one other, or as many others as I can manage. (Let the record show that when I searched a few lists of 100 great books you should read, I had read most of them and I now feel better about myself.)

  6. Practice a random act of kindness every day for a month.

  7. Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston AND/OR go to the Smithsonian Institute museums you haven’t been to.

  8. Write every day.

  9. Spontaneous roadtrip somewhere new.

  10. Do something aesthetically pleasing but don’t post it to any social media. This one is just for your enjoyment.

  11. Complete a crossword puzzle. No cheating. Except to ask mom for hints, maybe.

  12. Make a friend much older than you. (At least 30 years your senior)

  13. Make a friend much younger than you. (At least 10 years your junior)

  14. Apply to a grad program.

  15. Learn (and retain) some facts about every single president.

  16. Explore two American cities you’ve never been to. (1/2 done.)

  17. Hammock in a national park.

  18. Make a food that intimidates you.

  19. Go to see a band you don’t know. Let yourself be completely surprised.

  20. Discover/learn/try something new in the world of specialty coffee.

  21. Speak with a fake accent for an entire day. Because what is life without being a little silly sometimes?

  22. Go to a botanical garden.

Alright alright alright. Only 10 months to go. Follow along and suggest things you think I should add or try next year!

xoxo,

Carrie

It’s All Process

I haven’t been writing lately. Not really.

It’s hard and scary for me to even admit that here because through all life’s seasons and phases, I have always identified as a writer.

It’s not that I don’t write anything… I write letters and often I spaz out on my keyboard for 10 or 15 minutes before sending a rant off to a close friend. But I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been journaling and I haven’t been producing much fiction either.

I haven’t been writing because of all the excuses.

I can shoot off a list if you ask. It starts with “busy” and ends with “relationships” or “work” or any number of things.

None of those excuses are legitimate.

You make time for what is important to you. I have the same 24 hours in my days as my favorite writers, or the scientist who discovers a cure, or the teenager who creates an app that changes everything. I have the same 24 hours in my day as the people I see enacting the most change in the world – the people touching the most lives.

I choose what I do in each of those 24 hours. I choose what I do in each of those 1,440 minutes. In each of those 86,400 seconds.

I choose.

When I don’t take time to sit down with my journal, even for 10 minutes at the end of the day, I’m failing to value myself and my well-being. To me, those 10 minutes are the most calming part of the day. A chance for reflection, a chance to tell God what I’m struggling with, and a chance to understand myself. Those 10 or 20 or 120 minutes can take me from confused and distraught to completely at peace.

I have become a verbal processor recently, out of pure necessity. I’ve always processed through my emotions and thoughts via writing. But I’m becoming a verbal processor because I have started robbing myself of those times of written processing. I’m becoming a verbal processor, and I’m bad at it.

The only option, the only way to sort through my thoughts, is to start writing them down again.

Last night I went for a late night run, letting the chilly fall air fill my lungs, then I crawled into bed with my journal and a few pieces of fancy dark chocolate my parents bought me in Germany. I turned on my diffuser and the soothing scent of lavender soon filled the air (essential oils plug because they will change your life).

I am invigorated by the run and by the pen in my hand, and I feel alive.

Which is strange. Because lately I’ve been feeling pretty much dead in the evenings.

Which is strange. Because I’m a night person.

I’m a night person. But now, sitting down with my journal and giving myself permission to just write – until midnight if I want to, until 1 or 2 if I can keep my eyes open – feels luxurious. It is thrilling… almost naughty, like if someone walked into the room I’d feel embarrassed and slip my journal under my pillow in a flash.

It is simultaneously foreign and familiar. It feels like driving a few hours out of my way to reconnect with a friend I’ve known for a decade or two. It feels like sitting on a stool at the island in my mom’s kitchen after being away for a few weeks, the familiar smells of fresh fruit pies or roast chicken or whole wheat bread wafting throughout the house. It feels like the moment, driving home late at night, when that song from high school comes on shuffle and brings back memories you thought you’d lost.

It is stepping off the Paris metro for the first time, early on Easter morning, with no idea where the day will take you. What you’ll see, what you’ll hear, what you’ll smell… just knowing whatever it is, it will be wonderful.

I am exercising a muscle that used to be my strongest one – tough and defined. I’m tearing through layers of scar tissue that have been growing over my heart and soul. It feels good, and it hurts.

I am writing.

Writing is emotion. I love it, but I always feel like maybe with each stroke of my pen, I’m willfully reaching into my chest and prodding around until I find my heart, then proceeding to dig it out, set it on the table in front of me, and poke it until it’s bleeding and gasping for air. So many nights I’ve ripped myself apart and put myself back together with each turn of the page.

As I recount the last few weeks, I laugh and share little anecdotes from daily life, moments when I was happy and laughing and care-free, and I also write down mistakes I’ve made – times when I hurt people and times when I was hurt, and all the doubts that dwell inside me. I am bringing myself back to life. I am reintroducing me to the parts of myself that have been lying dormant, hibernating for the summer. (I gave myself the summer, you see. I graduated, and I let myself take some time away – away from writing, away from reading. I needed a break, but it was supposed to be a short one.)

Summer is over.

And I am a writer.

And a writer is only a writer if she chooses to write. A writer must write before anything else. A writer must write or drown.

Don’t let me leave again.

As much as the pages feel alive, they are inanimate. They have no power here. The only one who can keep the pen in my hand is me.

Don’t let me leave again.

Know yourself. Learn what makes you tick. And when you do figure it out, prioritize it. I’ve known since middle school that I need to journal to process. I’ve known since high school that I receive more revelation through writing than anything else. It’s easy to forget that, when journaling takes time, and I’m tired. I journaled almost daily all through my college years, but sometime this spring I started journaling less and less until I wasn’t anymore.

There’s beauty in the process, whatever the process is to you. Take your time. Be patient with yourself. Learn yourself. Recognize that what works for everyone around you probably won’t work for you. Instead of beating yourself up about it, do it your way. Tap into your passions. Find out what “your way” is. Realize that sometimes your way might change.

I don’t want to be cheesy and say there’s more beauty in the journey than in the destination. The destination has generally been my favorite part of every journey. But as long as we’re here, as long as we’re on earth, all of this – life – is the process. It’s all about getting somewhere, and as long as we’re alive, we won’t arrive. There will always be something more to see, to do, to challenge, to discover.

It’s all process. We may as well enjoy it.

What I’m Listening to This Week: