“Life Unimagined: What do you want to be when you grow up? What college do you want to attend? What kind of person will you marry? How many children do you want? Since we were little, we’ve been bombarded by questions that lead us to imagine our goals and ambitions. Not a bad thing by any means – but what happens when what we plan is not the life we get?”
Oh, Lord. Literally. Oh, Lord. Like Amanda, I couldn’t be more struck by how perfect this year’s theme is for those of us in the late-20s crowd. Is anyone where they thought they’d be? Millennials like us are more likely to marry late, avoid buying property, and stay in school indeterminately. We’re more likely to live with our parents and less likely to be in full-time careers. Because of this, we’re called lazy, aimless, spoiled. It stings, but after a while you get used to it.
We’re a generation who came of age during a long, drawn-out, controversial war. We’ve seen the nastiest recession in decades, the housing market collapse, and the birth of social media. Is it any wonder that the trajectory of our lives doesn’t match that of our parents? We’re living in the midst of the greatest social revolution since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. We’re more politically aware, more active in social reform – we’re all a lot of things our parents didn’t expect. To be frank, we’re a lot of things we didn’t expect.
And that’s where my story begins.
I’m 26, and by most of the social conventions of mainstream society, I was a bit of a late bloomer. I didn’t drive until 22, didn’t buy a car until 24. I started dating at 25. Sure, I had a Master’s Degree, but it didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. More devastating than any of these perceived failures, though, was a little diagnosis that I received in March of 2013: mental illness.
I should explain. The diagnosis itself wasn’t devastating. On the contrary – it was a kind of relief to have a name for the demon that had been sitting on my shoulder since I was a child. The devastation was the time it had taken from me over the past 20 years: the relationships, the adventures, the experiences, all bundled up by my clinical anxiety and shipped Amazon Prime to the Realm of Might-Have-Beens. I moved back in with my parents at 24, with no idea what I was going to do, terrified to answer the doorbell or go to the grocery store or meet people. It was an incredibly low time for me. I constantly wondered what my life would account to. I couldn’t ever see myself marrying, having children, getting a doctorate, writing a book – all of the things I thought I would do.
And then I realized something. Something so simple that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realized it earlier, yet so sublime that I’m certain I didn’t come up with it by myself. I was sitting in the yard, petting Fred the Wonder Dog, and all of a sudden it came to me.
And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
It didn’t seem to me that God required me to be married, or to have children, or to have a drivers’ license or a career or a 401K (fortunate, because I’m not sure I know what that is). It didn’t seem to me that God thought my life less worthy because of my demons, my ticks, my little compulsions. It didn’t seem to me that God really cared whether or not my generation was moving back in with their parents. In the eyes of the Divine, all that really seemed to matter was love. Love for God. Love for Creation. Love for others.
Those are my only “marching orders” from the Spirit. Since that recognition, I’ve become gradually less concerned with what other people think about where my life is. The Divine only cares about how we live the Truth. I’m not entirely sure where my life is going. I’m pleased to say that I’m happy now. I’m not a hard-hitting career journalist or the doll of the research department and I haven’t even finished half a book. But I have love. I have so much love that sometimes I feel as if I’ll burst.
The future does frighten me. A part of my lot in life is fear. No matter what I do or where I go in life, I will still have my little demon, the clinical anxiety that held the reins for a quarter of a century. That’s who God made me, and I must admit that there are days I wonder about the plan there. But then I stop wondering, because I don’t need to see a map to know that the destination is Grace. Everything else is just a matter of topography.
I can’t wait to return to the Mountain for a weekend of communion and retreat. It’s going to be full of love. Come and see us?