Life after university is really hard. You spend 3 years of your life building up a community and a network of people to then, if you’re like me, move back home and then realised rather suddenly that your close-knit network is suddenly a far wide-open-knit network spread across the country, and no matter how much you cry because you miss living with your friends and the days where getting up at 12pm was early, there must come a time when you need to accept this is the way life is now.
The time then comes when you start to accept it and there’s a new rhythm. You’re settled into work, maybe you’re doing an MA and you’ve got a sort of network again. But then, as is inevitable, change happens, and your rhythm and way of life is suddenly topsy-turvy again. If you’re still like me, and you’ve not only moved home, but you seem to have the ability to be in constant, chronic panic-mode, then this change will probably freak you about beyond what is acceptable. The questions begin: everyone is leaving but me, am I boring? Is my life on hold? Was it me who hit the pause button – heck, is this the stop button? Is this it? Will my friends not want to be my friends anymore? Am I the reason they’re leaving? Are they really unhappy?
And so on. It’s really tiring to be honest – in fact, no – it’s debilitating. I’ve realised recently that it’s not the change that’s debilitating but it’s the worry of change, and the not knowing – a lack of control, if you will. So if any of my friends who are currently undergoing life changes, please don’t feel bad or guilty or like you can’t talk to me about this – please, please do. I’ve just had an epiphany moment I wished I’d had long ago that it’s going to be alright. It’s going to be better than alright – it’s going to be life giving.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy – but I have come that they may have life, and life in all it’s fullness.
– John 10:10 (NIV)
I started this blog series because I felt like God was calling me to spend more time on my own so that I could get better at being by myself in an attempt to cope with what I first thought was lonely, cold change. But after months (well, since January), of spending time by myself, either on the train, on a bus, walking places, shopping, watching films and Downton Abbey (I’m a bit late to the party, but man I’m glad I’ve finally arrived #TeamBates), what feels like a few too many Saturdays sans plans, I’ve realised God is calling me to do this so that I can spend more time with Him.
(Recent proof of solo walking and new trainers)
The fact is, I believe that ultimately God has a plan. And not the kind of cliche Christian plan when something super crappy happens and people tilt their heads to the side and say “God’s plan is a mystery” or something ridiculous like that, but the kind of plan that is filled to the brim with love and only the best intentions. Plans involve movement. Abram and Sarai (soon to be the controv babes Abraham and Sarah) had little to go on with God’s plan, other than to just go. To move. Some people have solid plans and know exactly what they want, and where they want to go – or where they feel they should be going, anyway. This is life giving. Live giving, I’ve come to understand, is not simply being happy – but it’s letting life be full and letting it be rich. Whether that’s a fullness of peace-filled silences for a while, or a new job, or new friends and meeting people. Life in all it’s fullness is what you need to live your best life. And sometimes, that also means staying still. And that’s okay too. Hagar (the main controversy of the whole Abraham/Sarah story) had to stay still. God told her to go back to them despite all of the pain and the worry and uncertainty. But God knew all about it, and he blessed her in it:
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
– Genesis 16:13
In my slight stubbornness of trying and failing to do and find activities to do on my own (I’ll probably still do that, I mean, it’s definitely a good thing to do right?), I’ve been putting off spending time with God and letting him in on all of my anxieties and my hopes and my non-event emotions too. The fact of the matter is, God doesn’t change. And if I’m honest, I don’t think people change all that much either – it’s the situations we find ourselves in that ultimately change.
My ever-growing network of people (and I say ever-growing because as well as people dispersing, there are people close by who are also pretty great too), will remain my ever-growing network. I’ve been told by a few different sources that this is a fairly normal part of adult life and it’s okay to not always have plans on a Saturday. But it’s also worth noting that for those who are reading this and are in a similar post-uni situation to me, God doesn’t ever change and he is constantly by your side.
So to my readers who are planning to take after Abram and Sarai and do a bit of moving, be it location or job or church or whatever, my love and my prayers go with you. And to all of my readers who movement might be a bit far off for a while, or there’s no movement intended at all, like Hagar and like me right now, my love and my prayers go with you too. Life is there to be full, and we are meant to live it.
As I sit here in a cafe with my mac and some tea wearing my brand new Adidas trainers (what a hipster Christian I am), I can’t help but feel that there’s some advice or awkward suggestions I can make to anyone in a similar boat.
- Be proactive.
So – you’re back or you’ve stayed or you’re somewhere stuck in between. There is a time for moping, but also a time for action. Are you going to sit and wait for opportunities to come to you – friends to come to you, or are you going to get out there and give it a try? Putting yourself out there is a difficult thing and one that I do understand (despite my charm, I know it’s hard to believe), but it’s worth it. Go for drinks, join a group for your interest – text those friends you already love and have in your life and go and get a coffee. Trust me, you’ll feel better for it.
- It’s okay to cry when things change or make you feel unsettled.
I cry all the time. Well, not constantly. But I cry fairly frequently. I’m an emotional person and that’s fine, and sometimes it comes out like that. Change can feel really un-grounding and difficult (I’m yet to met someone I actually believe when they tell me they just love change) and you’re alright to cry and feel a little unsafe in the uncertainty. Just, at some point, try and wipe your eyes and blow your gunky nose. It’s going to be okay.
- It’s okay to miss your friends and text them to tell them that (well, I hope so)
Just tell them. Chances are they’re missing you too and they’re just as much need of a drink and a catch-up as you are. The grass isn’t always greener, but together you can help water the flowers at least.
- Don’t miss opportunities where you are right now.
People are everywhere, and opportunities are everywhere. Unless you’re currently living in a cave with a cracking wifi connection, you’re probably near some sort of town or village. Community groups are brilliant for making people-connections, and so is the online life we also lead – get stuck in. Don’t mope forever.
- Accept change.
Change is scary, and change is tricky. I’ll be the first one to admit that as many times as you need me to. But change doesn’t always need to happen to other people, it can and will happen to you too. I was reminded by a very wise friend of mine recently who said that ‘change’ has already happened to me when I got my current job, and it was other people who had to witness that first. The tides change and turn all the time. Sit tight.
I feel like this one speaks for itself. Chase the dreams you have, or sit and mull over your next step or stopping place. Thankfully, in either circumstance, God is there before you anyway – and it doesn’t have to be “exciting” to be valid. Sitting down is so underrated, anyway, IMHO. 😉
Peace and blessings x