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

Do I Dare?

Do I Dare?

Tomorrow, I graduate from college. 16 years of school. 4 years of hard work, and sweat, and tears, and stress, and wanting to quit numerous times…

“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky”

This is the end. I know it won’t hit me until autumn, when I should be buying school supplies, and ordering books. For the first time in 16 years, I won’t need to buy pencils, and notebooks, and backpacks.

“Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…”

Despite all of the bad, I loved school. I loved “being an English major.” I loved learning new things. I loved the race against time to get a project or a paper turned in.

“In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.”

Tonight was my last class. My favorite professor made my classmates clap for me multiple times, probably to make up for the fact that he can’t make it to graduation (and that he made me come to class from 6-8 on the night before graduation).

“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,”

Tomorrow, I’ll walk across a stage (number 448 in the school of arts, humanities, and social sciences alone). This is the end.

“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”

On this, the eve of entering the “real world,” lines from my favorite poem keep running through my mind.

“And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?'”

There are things I’ve read in college that I probably would not have read otherwise. T.S. Eliot is a big one. I read Eliot in high school but wasn’t impressed. I remember studying “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and not understanding it (or just not caring). 

“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

In college? Eliot was enlightening. I read “Prufrock” again every couple months, and every single time I read it, I see something in myself that I need to work on. If I’d left high school and not gone on to pursue an English degree, I would probably never have read Eliot again. I would think a little differently than I do now, and I would be a little more passive. There are steps I wouldn’t have taken and chances I would’ve ignored.

“For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;”

“Prufrock” is all about passivity.

“I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?”

Passivity is a problem I see all around me. It’s a problem that is often attributed to my generation – to millennials. However, Eliot saw this same problem in his own generation, almost 100 years ago! He saw people letting life pass them by, rather than taking life by the horns. He saw people who measured out their lives in… coffee spoons? What a small and insignificant thing to measure your life by.

“And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.”

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” is a well-known line. I see it in cute little prints and coffee shop chalkboards, and I always smile to myself, because I know when Eliot wrote it, he meant it as a bad thing. This is why we should not take quotes out of context, people. 

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.”

In the poem, Eliot’s character, J. Alfred Prufrock becomes so passive, that he begins to question his ability to make even the smallest decisions. At the beginning of the poem, he’s alive. He’s even thinking about daring to do something as big as disturb the universe. At the end of the poem, he’s questioning whether he even dares to eat a peach.

“Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,”

One thing I learned in college is how to step out of my comfort zone. In college, I had to put myself out there if I wanted to meet anyone. Another way I jumped out of my comfort zone? Living abroad for over 5 months. I learned to conquer fears I didn’t even know I had. 

“And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—

It is impossible to say just what I mean!”

Another thing I really struggled with during college was anxiety. College is all stress, all the time. The more stressed I became, the more anxious I became. There were times I was too afraid of the future to sleep. Thanks to Jesus, and thanks to my Mama encouraging me when I genuinely wanted to quit school, I overcame my anxiety.

“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

As I leave school and enter the “real world,” I want to be unafraid of taking chances. I want to make good decisions without always second guessing myself. I want to follow my dreams of writing fiction and being published, and I want to continue to do everything I can for the Kingdom. 

“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.”

Here’s to the class of 2016. Here’s to following our dreams without fear. Here’s to making our mark on the world! 

xoxo,

Carrie