I’ve come to realize a couple of things about myself as a person, mostly thanks to writing. Things which I think matter to everyone on some levels.
1. I’m growing
Not just getting older, or growing up, or getting more mature. I’m growing a vision inside of me, and writing is part of what makes it real, and a lot of what makes it possible.
My high school’s ten year reunion is coming up way too fast (I don’t really want to go, but I will probably force myself to go to convince myself I am no longer afraid of those people even though I think I am) and time has passed since then. I write for teens mostly, still, but I find it is both harder and easier to crawl back into the teenage mindset. It’s easier because I keep doing it, but it’s harder because every day I think much more differently about things than I did when I was a teenager.
When I was in high school, I had such a narrow idea of what my life would turn out to be. I thought I would go to college, get my degree, get a job, marry, have kids, and get a house. I’m 26 right now, and I’ve done that. What on earth am I supposed to do now? My ‘dream life’ as a teenager is technically full.
So I have grown a new vision. I want to see how long it take me to complete it, but I’ve noticed a few things about this vision. It’s bigger, includes more people, and is less driven on ‘having’ and ‘getting;’ it’s more focused on ‘doing,’ and ‘being.’
That’s a big step in my evolutionary process of myself. (*NOTE: I do not believe in evolution; I am talking here in a metaphor. I also do not believe anyone reading this has a right to criticize my choice in not believing in evolution. I’ve done the research and find it unsupported and terribly biased.)
2. I’m faster
I’m much faster at planning, thinking, analyzing, and reading. My skills have gotten faster the more I’ve practiced. It used to take me a lot longer to write a book, and now, without the editing and proofreading process, it takes me about a month. It used to take me much much longer. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll publish it.
I’m working on developing my running skills, too, and that has really made me appreciate so much about life. The first three minutes are hard, the next three minutes are quick, the next two minutes seem like they should have been much shorter, and by the time I am done, I have convinced myself that what I was not convinced of at the start – that yes, I can really keep going on. My one friend in high school told me it’s much easier to keep going than it is to stop and try to get going again. She was right.
Part of the reason I bring up running here is because…
3. I’m getting more basic
As a writer, I think there’s always some need to prove how complicated things can be. I like running because it’s simple. You just get out on the surface and go. You can really go anywhere you want, or, considering I am still so much of a homebody, you can make the treadmill go as fast or as slow as you’d like.
I used to think I needed a lot more to make a good story, too. I look at some of my early work and cringe, looking at how descriptive and wordy it is. Readers don’t need that as much as I’d thought, and as I read through author’s works now as an editor, I can confirm that’s a rookie mistake. You start off writing for your self and your world, but you end up writing for your readers. I didn’t notice right away that I had other people joining me, but I’ve noticed now. I think my writing will only get better.
The basics also include simplicity. I don’t really want a lot more in life anymore – I’m already aware that I have too much some days (especially when I have to clean.) I have my family and my children and my writing and my work. And I have a decent if not always decently kept-up relationship with God. It’s a good foundation for furthering all the good things in life, the things anybody really wants – love, respect, acceptance, and admiration.
4. I’m getting less self-occupied
This is always a good thing, but I think you have to realize it and own your own life first. This happens with other areas of life, too. Let me give you an example.
When I started going to church down here where I live, I felt the pressure to tithe from my church. I wasn’t tithing, so it was something I can legitimately say I should have at least thought of before they told me tithing was just something Christians do to help the church. But even after they mentioned it, I didn’t really want to do it. And I knew exactly why.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to support my church, because I did. But I was starting to pay back loans, save up for a new car so I could get to work without worrying as much, and because my husband and I had precarious living situations for a while. So we started to give, and it felt good, but I was still anxious about it.
That was about three or four years ago.
Since then, I’ve learned how to depend on God, and his graciousness, and how, even when I was struggling to work for a decent wage (teaching pay sucks and the commute was terrible and the people were probably satanic), I feel much better about making my tithe. Not great at it still, but I feel more relaxed about giving than I used to.
Why the change? Because throughout my circumstances, whether I’d tithed or not, I was really just worried about trusting God. Trust cannot translate to money in the Christian’s life. I cannot trust God and put a tag on that trust to $20 or whatever my tithe was for that day. I have to trust him. Some people gave money first, and then trusted him later; I was just one of those people who had to trust him first, and then gave the money. I figured my life is already a non-investment for God; he doesn’t need to spend his energy making me, giving me things. He loves me whether I am a five-year-old incapable of understanding economics or a twenty-five-year-old trying to place a value on trust. I don’t need to worry about God withholding his love from me for that.
I think you have to settle into your life first; well, at least some of us do. I have a couple of atheist friends who have had religion thrust on them in terrible ways. Just as I needed to open up and learn to trust in God to provide, my friends need to be ready to open up and hear a different – hopefully more true – version of God’s story. I can’t force that on them, just like I really didn’t like getting the ‘tithing guilt’ thrust on me.
I’ve grown from thinking of myself as a constant, but the truth is, I’m still moving throughout my life’s story. And I’m getting more used to see other things in a similar light.