One of the side effects of staring your college graduation in the face that doesn’t get talked about enough is the ever-growing proclivity towards existential crises. It’s just this perfect storm of knowing a major chapter of your life is ending, feeling the expectation to have a solid plan in place for the future, and stressing over normal daily college classes that pushes you to near wit’s end before dumping the Great Uknown of the Future on you, too. Except you have to have it at least a little figured out. And no matter how many times you hear “[insert famous name here] didn’t have it figured out at 22”, you still feel the pressure building. Pressure to perform, to succeed, to transition into adulthood smoothly. I’ve watched quite a few people go through this process, and while all of them seemed to have survived (my sister’s transition was probably the most notable because of how graceful it was..or at least looked), none of them were close enough to me for me to learn how on Earth they coped with the stress in their last semester of undergrad.
Some actually had a plan–this one couple got married; he started the job he had lined up and she started grad school–so there wasn’t as much stress over the major logistics (like, they stressed over venues and honeymoon plans, not if they were going to stay together or have a place to live at all). To my recollection, the guy of this couple did watch a lot of Netflix in his final year of college; that’s certainly how others cope, too: denial. I know this one girl whose coping strategies all center around avoiding the problems at hand. Getting on the same page as this girl is usually pretty difficult because I never know if the page being described is what we’re actually working with or just the bits and pieces she’s willing to deal with at that moment. There are entire schools of thought addressing the pros and cons of Escapism, so it must have its merits, if not just popularity; I’m just too big a fan of disillusionment to buy into it.
Instead, I’ve retreated into the security of what I know I can control: my schedule. What I do, who I see, when I do it, where I see them. At first it was an avenue through which I dismantled a raging depression that left me defeated and my parents worried for the better part of 2016. The additional structure was what I needed to visualize the places of my heart that needed healing, or space, or just something to fill the void that loss leaves behind. I began to wake up earlier and go swimming three times a week after my morning classes. I started writing again and reading more. I’m not exaggerating when I say that routine, and the disciplines I’ve learned from it, were the ropes let down to haul me out of the pit of darkness I’d found myself in. It’s for this reason I’m so keen to depend on it when times get rough.
Overwhelmed? Go to bed at 9 and wake up at 5. Find a pastime that leaves you feeling exhausted and accomplished. Start eating breakfast and reading before you go to sleep. Your whole mindset will change, your heart will take a sigh of relief. But if you’re anything like me, and you decide to really commit to such a routine, be warned. Scheduling can become an idol of worship that steals the throne of our hearts just as easily as video games, drama, or football. It’s in those times, when you depend on the strength of your idols, that God comes in and, in love, blows hard on the houses of cards you’ve built in your life.
I mean it; he’ll jack your crap straight up.
For me, he introduced a number of people into my closer circle of friends who are more nocturnal than I’d actually like. Relationships I know are important for me to foster and participate in, which almost always have me meeting up with them at the same time my bedtime alarm goes off. It only took 3 nights in a row of seeing these people before I stopped having a “Quiet Time” during breakfast because I was too tired to read my Bible and really pray with my heart in it. My mind went into overdrive trying to figure out how to continue being a part of these people’s lives without compromising my plans.
Ultimately, of course, it didn’t work. My control issues started resurfacing in areas of my life I thought I’d already dealt with, I became grouchy and my thoughts became increasingly condescending, I depended more and more on coffee to explain my behavior instead of owning up to poor time management; the list goes on. What’s important is that it eventually all caught up to me. In his grace, God called attention to it before I did anything too terribly damaging (not to understate some of the carelessness of what I was doing in this time), and basically asked for his throne back.
“That’s my seat you’re sitting in,” he said.
I still have a bedtime alarm, and I still read before going to sleep. But I’ve learned that life without the interferences of other people to my schedule is not a life I want for myself. There’s no room to love others when you only pay attention during your allotted time for them. And I think God’s called us into something greater than the systems we can create for ourselves; He’s called us to follow him, to leave everything behind and live like him. To break down the prisons we set up for ourselves and walk free and uninhibited into the true safety of his hands.
God’s too big for any routine we can come up with anyway