Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Happy vs. Whole

I live in a house with six other girls, or rather by now I guess we should call ourselves "women." When you are 29 years old it's about time to start using that term, even though it makes me feel like I should be wearing lipstick everyday and have my life together, which I don't. The honest truth is we all feel lost and without a guide to this decade of life. Our parents were married by this time and settled in their steady careers that they're just beginning to wrap up. Our own experience, on the other hand, is a daily stumble through questions of identity, career, geography, values, community, life partners, and faith. No one warned us that our 20s would be this hard.

I turned 20 certain that the next 10 years would be the best decade of my life. I was told I'd go on adventures, I'd "find myself", I'd be young and happy and suck the sweet marrow out of life. I should "treasure every moment of my youth."

While some of this happened - I lived halfway across the world in Mozambique, I bungee jumped, rode an ostrich, and swam with a whale shark - I had this nagging feeling that I was just entertaining myself until I could finally manage to find what I was meant to do. Everyone kept saying "don't worry, you have plenty of time" but that time kept passing and there was a shallowness to my fun. I was isolated from my family and my home community, and no one really depended on me. My Christian faith that I had grown up with was in the middle of sustaining a violent earthquake and I lacked purpose.....who was I?

Last New Year's I asked my six housemates to share their gratitudes for 2012 and their hopes for 2013. As we went around the room we found that despite our health, our still young not-too-flabby skin, our wonderful nest of community, and our good jobs we all felt an undertone of sadness, like a persistent baseline to a happy melody. We were grateful, knew we really should be, but deep in the pockets of our souls we were each feeling a cold puddle of loneliness, a knotting mesh of confusion, and a large measure of brittle uncertainty. The pressure of figuring out what we believed, who we wanted to marry, what career we would pursue, not to mention what flavor of icecream to eat for dessert, was simply too overwhelming.

As I've said many times to my mom who has been my longsuffering listening ear when I'm distraught, when you are in your twenties you know how to be HAPPY but you don't know how to be WHOLE. I'm on a quest to be whole, and that's part of what I want to talk about on this blog.
For the generation before us, their quest was to find world peace and to create an external utopia. For our generation, I think our quest is to find inner peace. Our personal worlds have never felt more crowded and noisy with choices, people, and information, and yet more empty with loneliness, indecisiveness, and lack of grounding. A blank canvass can be a wonderful thing – you can paint whatever you want. But it is also just that, blank. We are a generation of blank canvasses, each striving to be Da Vinci's, but too uncertain of what to paint, and too afraid of a wrong stroke.
Another way to put it - if I were an artist I'd draw a cartoon that looks like this:

A small boy climbs into a car of the amusement ride of life. The car takes him through kindergarten where "It's a small world after all" is playing quietly in the background. Then it takes him through elementary school's Magic Carpets of Aladdin, to middle school's Mad Tea Party and high school's Stitch's Great Escape. Finally the car takes him to the biggest ride of all – Space Mountain. The announcer says,"it's time for each of you to reach for the stars, the sky is the limit." With a sudden jerk called graduation day, the car comes to a grinding halt and the boy is hurdled out into space. The car is gone, the track is gone, the arrow signs are gone, and the ride operator is gone. The boy dangles in space, now un-tethered from home. The billions of stars twinkle in the distance. But the boy doesn't move. There are too many stars and too much empty space. And when the boy begins to cry, no one understands.

I'm tired of dangling. I want to find my stars AND a home to tether myself to. I want to find my future and to find my past. But most importantly I just want to hold hands with the other danglers out there.