I could write a blog post about everything that I have learned over these past ten months as a fellow, but in all honesty that would take too long and I don’t really want to do that. I could also write a thank you to all of the Fellows and any one else who has impacted me over these past ten months, but I don’t want to do that either.
What I am going to say though is that it was worth it. All the struggle, anxiety and loneliness that I encountered this year. All of the belly laughs, movie nights, and shared meals. It was all worth it. Every high, and every low. Even those moments where I was forced to sit patiently in the grey of the unknown for what seemed like years. It was worth it.
The struggle was extremely real this year, but I am glad I got to struggle with these ten people by my side. I am glad that I got to struggle in a place that has completely captured my heart. It made everything easier. It was worth the pain and heartbreak. Those dark and stormy days that seemed to never end, it made it worth it knowing that there was always a shining face of a Fellow close by. Someone that I could talk to about my storm cloud. Knowing that there was someone out there that would accept me in all of my mess. It was worth it.
Knowing that every Friday night, there was something going on. Whether is was attempting to build a fort, eating tacos for the hundredth time or just watching a movie. It was worth it. Experiencing more charcuterie boards then I ever have in my entire life, it was worth it. Being forced to be social with required activities on the weekends, even when my introvertedness was trying to win. It was worth it.
Those days where so many things seemed uncertain. If I was walking towards the right career path. If I was making the right decision applying to graduate school. The unknown of if the next step I was trying to take was the right one in so many different situations. Being completely uncomfortable not knowing or having control over the future. It was worth it.
I’m at a loss for words. I have written and rewritten this blog post so many times. Trying to find the right way to describe what my experience as a Fellow has been. Every time, I have simply come back to: it was worth it. And it truly was. Being apart of the Salt Lake Fellows, well, it was worth it.
Over the past 10 months since moving to Salt Lake City, I’ve put countless miles on my car and my hiking boots. I’ve been welcomed into an Island-of-Misfit-Toys church that feels like family. I’ve fallen in love with the city hugged by the Wasatch Range with all of its beautiful contradictions -- urban against untouched wilderness, both zealous and anti-religious, home to folks who have never left Salt Lake County alongside refugees from every corner of the globe -- a place where I feel the most at home I’ve ever felt yet wrestle with the challenges of being a spiritual minority.
I’ve also applied to law school. Six of them, to be exact. I didn’t have a perfect LSAT score and, really, I’m thankful, because feeling unexcited by certain “yes’s” and not disappointed by being waitlisted at others helped me realize where I wanted to be from the beginning, regardless of if my feelings were reciprocated yet. So a couple of months ago, I withdrew all of my applications besides the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where I have been waitlisted.
I thought about writing this once I had some answers. Maybe I will have gotten them by the time you read this. Then I realized how greatly that would suck the truthiness and the rawness and the beauty out of what it is that I’m (clearly still) learning.
I can’t tell you that there weren’t any tears or anxiety about placing my eggs in a single law school basket. But what I can tell you is the peace I have felt since has changed my life, regardless of if I am admitted to the U this fall, or if God allows me to attend law school at all. Following heaps of prayer and reflection, I felt more led to continue to grow roots in this place that has watered me, than I did to enroll somewhere else simply to abide by my self-imposed law school timeline.
Here’s the punchline: True freedom comes when confidence is placed entirely in the person of Christ rather than self. When I am not confident in God’s authoritative, all-knowing, perfectly loving character to continue writing my story, that is when I feel enslaved to my own pen -- to anxiety about whether or not I’m pursuing the correct passion, to the opinions of others who might see my decision to withdraw from viable choices as crazy, to my own merits to get me what I believe I “deserve.”
I’m learning that confidence equates to rest, insecurity equates to striving. When I follow God - like really, authentically give Him my whole life - I am free to be joyful in the waiting, knowing that things are out of my hands, that He has been faithful in guiding me before and will continue to be.
However, one scary revelation in the midst of this is realizing there may be times when I am worshiping God’s answers to my decision-making questions more than enjoying Him for who He is. I see this as a common struggle. Are we so worried about our next “goal” that seeking God and inviting Him into our everything is no longer the ultimate goal? Lord Jesus, would we be so in love with you that we want you more than we want security.
It was snowing in Zion when we were backpacking last weekend. I had envisioned our 30-mile trek to be sunny and to be dry and warm sleeping in a tent. No such luck. Amidst moments of shivering frustration, I realized what a unique gift the snow and rain ended up being - it cooled us off as we hiked, gave the terrain an eerie beauty and kept large crowds away from the Park, making it feel like we had it all to ourselves.
Unexpected changes in plans and factors that at first seem disastrous are almost always blessings in disguise and take us on sanctifying adventures that, if easy, would make pretty boring stories.
There’s a lot that’s unclear as I’m finishing up my year as a Salt Lake Fellow. The story has been anything but boring. But what is clear is that Salt Lake is home to me. What is clear is that rejection can and will lead to beautiful redirection. What is clear is that I have a strengthened, closer relationship to my Creator, with increased trust and joy in Him and a settled confidence even in snow or rain.
I am a runner. Not for exercise, (I hate running for exercise and unashamedly admit that) but from people, places, and situations. I can’t stay anywhere for too long and I always find a reason to make a move to something new. This correlates to my general attention span that seems to have been stunted at age two; but also related to my extreme anxiety of being committed, which in my mind correlates to being stuck. If I am always on the move, new environments new friends, I will never have to be invested and, in the past, this is how I’ve operated.
Recently, a college friend from N.C. asked me when I got into yoga (a physical pursuit I’ve really come to know and love this year). I replied, “I’ve gotten into a lot of things in Utah.” Then I started to think of all the new “things I’ve gotten into,” and it hit me, I’ve actually invested myself this year; in the people around me, in this city, in things that correlate to life in Utah. For the first time, I feel settled and have zero desire to run. As soon as I realized this, terror flooded my brain. I know it seems crazy that being content is scary, but it’s probably one of my biggest fears, not having somewhere next to go or do.
There’s a lot of weight carried with being settled, being invested somewhere. I’m so used to keeping things superficial so when I run away my absence isn’t too heavy for the people and places I left. For the first time I’m wrestling with the idea of my presence here in Utah carrying weight and the responsibility that comes with it.
Another important thing to note about me is that I am very 0% or 100% about everything I do, I absolutely have no middle ground, and I can go from 0 to 100 or back down insanely quick and it makes me seem like the craziest, scattered human. All that to say, as 100% as I’ve been about living in Utah and as 100% as I currently am about “living here forever and never leaving” as everyone who currently knows me has heard me say, I’m very terrified that something is going to happen and I’m going to hit 0% randomly sometime down the road and want to run away and it won’t be easy because of the investment I’ve made, so in a way I’m scared of the unknown and mostly myself.
All in all, there’s a lot going on in my ever-racing mind right now as the Fellows program comes to a close and I prepare to stay in Salt Lake City for another year, figuring out the details of housing, career, etc. But the change and the preparation has brought and is continuing to bring so much reflection and that’s good too.
Instead of blogging about my time in Salt Lake, I have decided to write three poems reflecting various topics – namely spiritual presence, emotional awareness, and masculinity – which have challenged me greatly. I discovered these topics through personal curiosity and have addressed them through intentional conversation and outsourced wisdom. I am extremely thankful for the people who have weighed in on these topics and weathered my devil’s advocacy. My time in Salt Lake has been full of challenging what I thought I already understood and I’m realizing my selfishness, self-absorption, self-reliance, individualism, and false humility. I need others. I need depth. I need conversation. I need discomfort. I need the burden of community. I need grace. And this is only the beginning.
Admission takes humility
Contrition, Penitence, Confession take wisdom
an experienced wisdom
one unknown, other, revealed, received.
One encounter, a blinding light, uncovers hidden grime
Disgust subsides; light beckons
Innocent and wise, complex and simple, meaningful and weighty.
Wisdom reveals. Gazes shift.
Until we see that which enables vision, we struggle to admit.
Until we are aware of darkness, we can’t know its wisp.
Light envelopes crippling shadows
Yet admission takes humility, new vision, perspective,
recognizing an inability to admit, an incomplete comprehension,
These are the first steps.
Hide though we may, light shows no partiality. It knows all.
Transparent rays unveil true substance –
Half-real souls, half-hearted intentions,
Pale, ethereal clouds abstracted from our thinness
we are ghosts.
More solid than anything we know
are these transparent rays.
we are small. we are thin. we are weak.
Blinding light painfully captivates darkness dwellers.
Rarely awake, hardly sober, incapable of admitting
we do not see ourselves.
Admission takes humility.
It is well
but it is hard.
It is well
but there is room for mourning
These are not negative emotions,
but reminders of what we need
They conceal gratitude, obscure rest. But
it is well.
Nothing is whole
Nothing is perfect
It is well.
Remind me of your steadfastness.
Renew your gentle caress
Acknowledge my fears.
Speak your peace.
I am not alone.
It is well
oh my soul
It is well.
SLF Class of 18-19
Mary Grace and I are in my Ford Escape driving on 700 E, I think heading home from dinner at Ben and Rachel’s on a Monday night, I can’t quite remember.
MG snags my phone and the aux cable like she always does when we’re in my car. She says she has a new song to show me. It’s by Jon Bellion, her favorite artist, who had come out with a new album a few days prior. I like that she likes Jon Bellion, too. Some people crap on Jon Bellion.
What if who I hoped to be was always me?
And the love I fought to feel was always free?
What if all the things I've done
Were just attempts at earning love?
'Cause the hole inside my heart is stupid deep
The song mostly repeats these phrases for three minutes. It’s dark out, so neither of us notice the other has tears in her eyes until it ends. The rest of the drive, we talk about the ways we’ve been striving, the things we’ve been trying to fill our stupid deep, God-shaped hearts with lately.
I think the tears come because the lines are freeing “what if’s.” In this season in particular, they are words that embraced me with a hug I didn’t know I needed.
I’ve long waffled between extreme pride and extreme self-deprecation. Pride when I succeed. Self-deprecation when I fail. Either way, I’m my own worst enemy who will never be fully satisfied with my performance. I am imperfect and designed to stumble – so why would I stake my life on my own merit and ability? Why should I continue to strive, knowing that I will never realize my futile idea of perfection? What if who I am at this moment is all that is required of me?
What if who I hoped to be was always me?
And why measure my worth based on other people, whose approval will ultimately fail me, too? Their opinions – good or bad – are fleeting, fall short of my expectations, breed a reliance on the words and actions of others towards me. Be it praise from the attorneys I work for. My family’s approval of my decision-making. A test score. A double tap.
I think I’ve spent most of my life focused on these two things: what I think of myself and what others think of me. Which is weird, because if you had asked me four months ago if I consider myself a people pleaser I would come back with an “Absolutely not.” I’ve taken pride (there it is again) in being independent in thought, word, action. Those types of girls don’t need your opinion. They didn’t ask you.
But I care more than I let on. Most people care more than they let on.
The gross reality I’m learning is that trying to maintain appearances, trying to maintain perfectionism, is incredibly self-centered. Because it’s entirely focused on ways I can glorify myself, not glorify the God I claim to serve. The God who says His power is made perfect in weakness, not strength. The God who says his grace is sufficient for me.
What if the love I fought to feel was always free?
In his essay “The Weight of Glory,” which I read for this first time this month, C.S. Lewis speculates what the believer’s first moments in eternity might look like, when the only approval that truly matters is finally gained:
“...What may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him who she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that is her doing with no taint of what we should now call self-approval. She will most innocently rejoice in the thing God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferior complex forever will also drown her pride.”
Inferiority and pride, healed and drowned. Freedom from self-promotion, self-protection, self-involvement. Approval from the One who loves me simply because I am His daughter. Because I am created in the image of the Maker of the Universe, not because of any exceptionality of my own.
This is altogether different from the messages of the world that tell us, “You haven’t done enough. You are not enough.” Our God tells us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
There’s a lot about my decision to move to Utah – to join a program many don’t understand, to be a follower of Jesus in Salt Lake, to choose to work a part-time job rather than secure a full-time gig like many of my recently-graduated friends, to take a risk in submitting law school applications for next fall – where I have worried about what the world thinks of me, how I measure up.
There a few more lines in Bellion’s song that particularly struck me in the midst of this:
What if where I've tried to go was always here?
And the path I've tried to cut was always clear?
I think the “here” I’m arriving at is a fuller understanding of Who I should be seeking approval from and, by extension, what I devote my life to: seeking to know God more, following Him in joyful obedience, being a good steward of my time and gifts, loving others well, enjoying the things He has created with thanksgiving.
I’m thankful the “here” God is using to draw me closer to His heart is SLC. And I’m thankful His path is always clearer and freer than the one we pave ourselves.
10 Things About Me
Back in March, I was accepted into the Salt Lake Fellows program. I was ecstatic at the acceptance email in March. Per my entire senior year being full of curveballs, I really enjoyed getting an ol’ fastball. After accepting my Fellows program later in March, I finally knew what I was doing for the next year.
Over the next 4 months, I continued to search for a job in Salt Lake City, graduated, worked on my Beyond Malibu trip, spent lots of quality time with friends, graduated and worked events over the summer. To say the least, the 4 months before moving to Salt Lake City was packed full of life: not trusting God, being proven wrong by God and growing so much in my faith. I wish that I could show you what those 4 months were like. Take you, to my school’s library where I applied for jobs and planned Beyond Malibu. Or take you to the taco meals I had hosted at my house. Maybe, take you to finding out I graduated college while working in Colorado Springs. Most of all, I wish that I could show you what Beyond Malibu was like and how close I got to those friends. We will never be able to truly show our current friends, moments without them, but we can try to do so with some words and pictures.
Pictured above are the friends that flew and drove across and out of the country with me. The trip changed my life forever, which is why I had to show a picture of my mountaineering friends.
My Fellows experience hasn’t exactly been what I expected. Well what did I expect? Hmm, I dunno.
I have struggled a lot with wanting to be in this new place. A place away from all of my friends in Maryland. A place where I don’t yet have multiple schools to pour into. A place where, thus far, I only really know Christians. Don’t get me wrong, Salt Lake City is incredible. The mountains are 25 minutes from my house and world class skiing is my backyard. Salt Lake City is the ultimate playground without having to sacrifice people and a career. However, I still struggle to find myself at home in this new place.
The question, “should I stay?” comes to my mind bi-weekly. I wish that this wasn’t true, but I struggle to stay in this place. In my attempt to be honest, I understand that I can't quite pinpoint the reasoning for my “lack of comfort here.” If I desire to be challenged then learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable should be on my agenda. Learning to be comfortable in this new place despite my discomfort should be the agenda.
At worship tonight, we talked briefly talked about Paul looking past his sufferings as his eyes were fixed on Christ. In my situation of missing home, I need to fix my eyes on Christ past this discomfort, because he is my king. I love him so much and I am learning he is all I need.
I have everything I thought I wanted, yet I can still feel empty. Mountains are close by. Job is a great opportunity. I have friends. But I still find myself empty handed. God has taught me a simple lesson: all I need is him. No job, nor mountain, will fulfill me, yet only God can. As I attempt to live this great story of trial and failure, I cannot forget that He is near. God is good and no matter how empty I am, he will never leave me.
In the midst of all this, I desire to love the people that God puts in my life, even if I desire to be somewhere else. It is the ultimate struggle: to love when it is hard.
Before I came to Salt Lake, I read the majority of last year’s blog posts from previous Salt Lake Fellows. John Wilson Booth is a Fellow from last year, who, in his second semester blog post, wrote about being lonely in a new city and the difficulties of adjusting to post-grad life. In his blog post he says:
“All of these ingredients have been combined into a dish I’ve never been served before, loneliness, and I’m eating it alone at an Applebee’s at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night.”
Adjusting to not having a million plus friends within an hour of me is a task a lot of post-grads go through. Over the past three and a half months, I may not have been at an Applebee’s on a Saturday night, but I have eaten the loneliness dish. Served in the form of a late-night workout or a random feeling of sadness, which all pulls me to have a greater desire to answer the “Should I stay?” question with a ‘no.’ Like I said earlier, if I desire to be challenged then how can I act on a ‘no’ answer. My desire to love others with a passion cannot shy away, because I desire to be somewhere else. That is why I need to be here as I attempt to cook, to listen, to work, to serve, to run, to hike up a peak with a friend, to ski and to love with all that I know. I am working through my failures to care for others around me as I have been learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Maryland got the perception of this goofball, who slacked around with school. Salt Lake has gotten this perception of the Googler (what Google employees are called), who has his career in order and is all business. The reality, I am just Peter. I am a strange person, who desires to love God and others with an intelligent, yet reckless pursuit. I desire to give back with the resources I have. I am a child of God, who seeks day by day to reconnect more and more with his Savior.
10 Things I Recommend
7:34am Wake up, stumble around the room in the dark trying to get ready for work without waking up roommate. Whip up some chocolate chip pancakes, start the coffee maker, and grab my lunch from the fridge while the Google home I got for free tells me about the weather, the traffic, and the news. If I am really on my game I’ve gotten ready fast enough to have ten minutes left over to read my Bible before I head out the door. If for once I am on time to leave for work, I of course then remember my car will be covered in frost which takes an extra few minutes. Oh well.. Utah Time.
8:33am Arrive at work jamming out to a playlist the Fellows made together on Spotify. Sit in my car for a second and take a deep breath preparing myself for a day of caring for six month old twins. I walk in the house and my boss greets me and kindly offers some coffee. I greet each of the babies with a quick snuggle.
8:52am The days cycle begins—Play with the little ones of the floor for a while until someone gets fussy. Warm up bottles and feed them then begin the juggle of trying to get two babies to sleep at once. Eventually they are both down and I have a few minutes to tidy up the house, do some dishes, and then maybe read a little. When they wake up we’ll get bottles then bundle up for a walk. I pop them in the stroller and head out for a walk. Even though I start walking in the opposite direction I somehow always end up at the coffee shop around the block buying myself a chai latte with a shot of espresso and a bear claw. I think it might be partially because the baristas are girls my age and it’s nice to talk to a grown up since my “co-workers” can’t form words yet. Anyway, when we get home we do it all again a couple more times. Bottles, naps, diapers, play…. Some days they are crying more than they are not—so much so that it makes me cry. But then other days they go to sleep in 3 minutes and wake up smiling ear to ear for hours. Sometimes I hate my job and go all day thinking about quitting. But then others the mom comes home and I am sad to leave them.
1:13pm On Mondays I get off early so I head up to Brighton to ski for a couple hours. It is pretty cool to live somewhere where I can leave work and be at the top of the slopes in 37 minutes.
6:01pm Arrive at the Loho’s house where we will all eat dinner together and catch up on our weeks. We play a couple games as a group, then Justin, another fellow, leads us in a time of worship, confession, sharing, and prayer. I honestly love Monday nights. Even though sometimes I hate walking in the door. If I have a hard day at work or am just tired the last thing I want to do is be around a big group of people. But then Lauren walks up and hugs me. Then Grayson and I do our secret handshake. Then Katie does something that makes me smile. Dana can see I am in a foul mood so she just lets me sit next to her and cuddle. Ben shares some deep metaphor. Anyway, somehow the night always make me feel happy inside. Sometimes at the end of Monday nights I just sit on the couch and think about how much I love these people and how much I appreciate being loved my them.
9:46ish pm Head home and reflect on the day, plan out tomorrow, maybe chat with a housemate for a while when we get home. Then I head to bed.
7:34am Wake up and repeat morning from Monday. Head to work. By some miracle both babies are already down for their nap when I get there so I study for a while before they wake up and we repeat our day.
6:03pm Head to community group. For me, and introvert, Sundays can be hard at church. There are so many people to talk to but you don’t really know many of them all that well. This is where community groups come in clutch. I enjoy getting to spend time with a few families at a time. We all eat dinner together and I chat with a couple ladies. They we send all the kiddos to another room and talk through a Bible passage. After a while of exegesis, we go around the room and share what’s on our hearts so we can be praying for each other. Another of my favorite nights of the week.
8:32pm Stop by Trader Joe’s on the way home, partially because I need groceries, but partially because I am craving some chocolate covered, peanut butter filled pretzels. Get home, cook lunches for the rest of the week, then head to bed around 10pm. I am in bed for two seconds when my roommate walks in. It feels like we haven’t talked to each other in days, so we chat for a while about life, jobs, which ski jacket to buy, and which coffee shops we’ve been frequenting. Actual bedtime: 11:32pm.
7:34am Alarm goes off. I ignore it.
8:03am I wake up in a panic, throw some clothes on, grab a granola bar and lunch, and head to work.
4:32pm After 5 poopy diapers, 6 naps, 8 bottles, tons of spit up, slipped coffee, and lots of tears later, I am off work and head to meet a friend for a walk around Liberty Park. Each week we have a one-on-one meeting with another fellow so we are able to build closer relationships with each member of the group. In a group of twelve fellows, there are going to be some people you are closer to than others, so sometimes one-on-ones are fun and light-hearted and chill and other times they are way deep and you share hard things and struggles. Either way, they are a valuable part of the fellows experience.
6:38pm Come home and crash for a while. I start to walk upstairs to my room but stop by my housemate’s room to say hey for a minute. Next thing you know, its several hours later and the whole house is sitting around her room asking each other questions from an article titled, “36 questions to ask on a date.” Eventually we tire out and trickle out to our rooms for bed.
7:21am Alarm goes off a little early this morning in a vain hope I might actually make it to work on time and in matching socks. Nope.
8:36am I roll up to work and walk into two hangry, crying kids. Mom in a panic running late for work apologizes and runs out the door. An hour later both kids have been soothed, changed, fed, and are asleep. I shut the door to their bedroom and tiptoe down the hall only to realize in my rush I left my lunch on the table instead of putting it in the fridge and the dog has helped herself. Oh well. I’ll load up my double stroller and head to the coffee shop for lunch later.
4:39pm I am off work and drive to my mentor’s house. As part of the program, each Fellow gets paired with a mentor from the church or community. Basically just someone a little older to build a relationship with and check in with. The Smiths are fun and quirky people. They feed me a lot which is also a plus. After their kids go to bed we sometimes do puzzles, or eat ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, or sometimes just sit on the couch and talk about life.
9:12pm I leave my mentor’s house and head to the other girls’ apartment where the girl fellows are having a wine night. We sit around drinking wine and chatting about anything and everything.
11:46pm Home and bed.
7:34am Alarm goes off and I lay in bed scrolling through Instagram for a while before rolling out of bed and getting ready. I grab my book I am suppose to have read and take it to work to hopefully skim before class the afternoon.
8:32am I arrive at work *almost* on time. By some miracle both twins take a two hour nap at the same time and I am able to get my reading for class almost finished.
1:02pm I leave work and drive to class at the library. As usual everyone is roughly 10-15 minutes late, but eventually class starts. Every week is slightly different, but in general we have a speaker from the community for two hours and Ben, our director, leads a book discussion for a couple hours.
6:00pm The library closes and we head to family dinner. Every other Friday a family from Church graciously welcomes us into their home and provides us dinner and company. Sometimes this is super fun and I love being around the Fellows. Some weeks I leave as soon as I deem it socially appropriate because I’ve had a crap week and I am ready to be in bed. Either way, it is a good time to be together as a group for a while.
9:57am My alarm goes off and I mosey down stairs to eat some cereal before heading to the grocery store and run a couple errands.
11:46am My housemates and I are sitting around the living room trying to decide what on earth to wear/bring on this adventure Ben has planned for us. We know we are snowshoeing but we don’t know where or how far plus none of us have any clue what to wear for snowshoeing. Eventually we make our bets and drive to meet at the trailhead.
1:44pm The group straps on our snowshoes and heads into the woods seeking whatever adventure might lay ahead. After tripping over my awkward feet about six times and falling face first into a snowdrift 3 feet high, I finally figure out the whole snowshoe thing and start catching up with the rest. We wander into the woods for about two miles we find a cool frozen over lake and stop to play for a while. We take some pictures, throw some snowballs, and laugh lots before turning around to head back.
4:48pm We make it back to cars and thaw out our fingers before heading in Park City to wander downtown and eat burgers at Squatters.
8:21am My alarm wakes me up for Sunday school then church. After church we have a potluck and I chat with a couple friends. Sunday afternoons and evenings are a nice resting time to chill or do whatever before the week starts all over. This particular week I went to a bookstore to Christmas shop for a couple hours.
7:08pm I am back home and get snuggled up in my pj’s to write a blog post. Meanwhile housemates wander in and out and we chat some about our weeks and such. A lot happens in a week. Good, hard, boring, busy. But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
I was a smart kid growing up. Really, I was a NERD. Studying all the time, making all A’s and exceptional test scores, receiving awards... I was known to always have a huge stack of flash cards with me if that tells you anything. In high school, I felt secure in the praise I received from success.
So fast forward to college which was full of jumbled up plans for my future. Changing my major three times, I obviously did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. Once I made it to junior year, I felt all the stress of the future. I felt self-conscious about what I was studying at the time and felt like it wasn’t enough or that I wasn’t using my brain in the way that I was capable of. I tried to band-aid this feeling by taking classes like physiological psychology, anatomy and physiology, cognitive psychology, etc. While I struggled through it, I found that same security that I did in high school when I came out of the semester with all A’s and a great GPA and the satisfaction of conquering hard
classes. I felt smart and successful and I felt good about maintaining that image. In the midst of my “career-identity-crisis”, I applied for nursing school and was crushed when I didn’t get in so I convinced myself that I would eventually get a masters because an undergrad degree in psychology just wasn’t enough.
When graduation rolled around, I decided to take the year to participate in the Salt Lake Fellows program and spend a year focusing on God, in hopes that this would provide some clarity in a career. However, 3 months in and I feel like I am moving further and further away from actually knowing what I want to do with my life. In reality, I am realizing that maybe what I wanted to achieve in life, or felt like I needed to achieve in life, is not what God wants me to achieve in life. The past few months have been hard- moving across the country to a strange city, leaving all of my community, not being a student after pretty much doing that for the majority of my life. I am in a season of grieving all of this, but also grieving that I am being stripped of the person I found my identity in. Seeking a sense of identity, I tend to reach for tangible things, like an “important” job. But as a Christian, we are challenged to seek something, Someone, who is not physically tangible. We are called to put our hope in Christ because He is who gives us our identity, but hoping in Christ isn’t a concrete thing we can grasp.
I’ve realized how badly I desire to have a clear plan of what to do professionally and that this desire includes doing something important, life changing and successful. But when these expectations aren’t met and I don’t have answers about grad school or about a job after the next 8 months, I am disappointed. In this sense, searching for my identity the past 3 months has been painful. I’m sitting in the tension of the unknown and waiting expectantly for God to make His plans clear to me, but I’m learning that this is the tension that we are called to live in.
The cool thing is that God has met me in the tension and I believe that sitting in this unknown place has revealed to me more of my identity than any of my tangible desires have or will. I’ve seen his provision in placing me at a school that is so uniquely fit to my love of the outdoors, art and diversity; in the opportunity to fulfill my wants that are so miniscule, like learning Spanish, being certified in Wilderness First Aid and even learning more about my bike. I’ve seen God working through my job in the empathy that I’ve experienced with my kids and the transformation I’ve seen through having a relationship with them. If I would have skipped this in-between place because I was desperate for success, purpose and identity through a masters or a “successful job”, I would have missed all that God is showing me now. I would have missed the ways that He has gifted me, for all that He is doing at my school, in my life, in these kids- all things that ultimately point me back to Him, where my identity is ultimately found.
So, with all of that said, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life and I don’t know if I will ever have that clear answer. Instead of trying in vain to figure that out, I’m learning to sit in the intermediate where God brings us to depend on Him more. Sitting in that tension is uncomfortable but I am learning to embrace it, seek God in that place and have faith that He will continue to meet me there.
Community has always been hard for me; living in fear of conflict and confrontation, I routinely choose myself over others because it seems easier. In these first two months of Salt Lake Fellows, I have already been forced out of my comfort zone, living in community and therefore accountability. Sin cannot be hidden when you’re never alone.
I brought my dog out to Utah, a semi-unconventional request for a Fellow which caused a lot of anxiety. I knew I was asking a big favor from our directors and it was a long conversation that did not come to completion until just a week or so before I drove out from North Carolina. In light of that, I didn’t want to bother them with any more conflicts, even though I had a big one. My best friend was getting married in October and I had been asked to be a bridesmaid. Although I was unsure of our detailed Fellows schedule I assured my friend I would be there. However, I wasn’t being honest to my friend or my Fellows directors. I have a very unrealistic “everything will work out/be alright” mentality mostly because I am afraid of the idea that it won’t. Fast forward to our orientation retreat where the schedule for the entire year was given out. I immediately turned to the second weekend of October, anxious to see what I would be missing in Utah for the wedding back home. I read “Adventure Retreat”, and immediately knew it was something far more extravagant than our weekly “Adventure Excursion”. Once I was informed that this weekend would entail a trip to Moab for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, my heart dropped. Big decisions kick my anxiety into overdrive. I would have to have a hard conversation and I had to decide with who it was going to be.
Naturally, I sat on the decision for another month, or if I am being honest, avoided calling my best friend to tell her I would not be flying home for the wedding. As an Enneagram number four I tend to dramatize situations, not intentionally but it always happens and I was definitely dragging this out more than I ever should have. I was living in a constant state of anxiety in September, mulling over the confrontation I needed to have with my friend, but not wanting to do so and my fellow Fellows started to catch on. After talking with Rachel and Ben, who are amazing listeners and advice-givers, I bit the bullet and conducted the phone call that had to happen and it was REALLY hard.
ALL this to emphasize how much this program and this community has continually challenged me since the moment I arrived in Salt Lake City, forcing me to be honest and be open and unable to hide my shortcomings. Choosing to join the Fellows in Moab for a 3 day/3 night desert adventure was immediately so clearly necessary for me and I felt secure in my decision to stay in Utah for that time. That weekend marked our group’s two month anniversary which was really sweet because it provided us with three glorious days of much-needed rest from the monotony of the day to day, to just enjoy each other and enjoy creation. Hiking, hanging out and experiencing a new climate and landscape that, I believe, was the first for most of us, was beautiful. And the ability to experience this together was transforming relationally. I was able to have so many edifying conversations and learned in a deeper way, how getting to know others is a never-ending journey and that there will always be depth to uncover and explore together.
SLF Class of 18-19
Coming into the Fellows community I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what I had
gotten myself into. I knew absolutely nothing about these people I was about to spend the next
ten months of my life with or even that much about what this program would actually look like. All that kept going through my head was fear about not being accepted. I was used to communities back home revolving around always having to be “on”. Always having to be bubbly and positive, I was worn out from putting on this front. Completely exhausted, I just wanted to be a member of this community, but not have to put in so much effort. My introverted self was screaming for rest.
Before coming to the Salt Lake Fellows, I had never truly embraced my introverted self. I never felt
like it was an option. I always felt like the odd one out because I would have these moments
where I just needed to be alone for a while. Everyone I was around in college seemed to thrive
off of being around people constantly, whereas I just wanted to hideaway for days in order to
feel like myself and gather my thoughts.
It has been a new experience for me, to come to a place where there were others so
open about being introverted. It is so refreshing. It has also been so reassuring, to know that it
is not wrong to need to be alone sometimes. That it is possible to be a member of a community
and be an introverted individual. It’s encouraging to know that I no longer have to feel the need
to constantly be “on”. I can take time to be alone and not have fear of being judged for it..
I mean sure, it was hard at first and it still can be hard. Often times in class you can find
me journaling away about the thoughts going through my head. Just trying to make sense of
everything while being in a room full of people. It’s still a struggle to be present, but it’s a
struggle that I so deeply want to work towards overcoming. I am slowly, but surely, fighting my
way into this group. Fighting against my own giants in order to fully be myself in a group of
forced friendships turned family. It’s a daily struggle, but for what feels like the first time, this is
something that I want. Something that I want to fight for, no matter how hard it might be
So my fellow Fellows, thank you for accepting the introvert. Thank you for allowing me
to embrace this part of myself. Even if you didn’t realize it, I truly appreciate it. I can already tell
that this year is going to be filled with so much growth. Growth for us as a community and our
individual selves. So let’s get comfy, it’s going to be an epic ride.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous!
SLF Class of 18-19
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative