I started unpacking at 11:00 pm, almost as soon as I walked through the door. And as the contents of my suitcase dwindled, and my energy deteriorated to that drugged-drunk-sleepy feeling, I saw my life clearly.
Everything is moving too fast, and nothing is moving fast enough.
5 months from graduation
7 months from lease’s end
4 months from thesis submission
So little time to answer, What’s next?
No answer to
When are you going to publish a book?
When will I be able to afford my dream vacation?
When will I have children?
When will I find the man I can build with?
What if the answer is never?
Is this stagnation or spinning out of control?
I used to know.
I don’t think I ever knew.
I remember when naming it and claiming it was the latest craze. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, so speak what you want, need, or desire.
I wanted to finish a painting delayed due to my grandfather and great great grandmother’s funerals. I will finish this painting tonight. Are you claiming it? my friend said.
I hesitated. Speak positivity into your studies, your finances, your home, your marriage, your career, your broken down car.
I had overheard someone say of another student, Her car got smoke coming out of it, but she thinks accepting what the mechanic says is speaking negative. I’m like, there’s a difference between speaking positive and denying reality.
Can I really do this piece in one night? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. What if, for some other reason, it still doesn’t happen? What if I don’t claim it, don’t finish it, and have this incomplete lingering over my head another week?
I smiled. Yes. I’m claiming it.
Speak it into existence.
In the name of Jesus, I will finish this piece tonight. And I did.
I remember when, There is no plan B, was the latest craze. God’s plan is all there is. To know his will, I can ask for direction, name and claim clarity. I can have peace.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
And the peace of God, peace that didn’t make sense, was how I could be calm not knowing what would come next, without a job waiting after graduation. How I could sign papers tying my name to tens of thousands of dollars of educational loans. How I could believe, after winning a few contests and acquiring a grant-writing contract, that God was going to provide my living through entrepreneurship and freelance writing. How I could, with that belief, stop filing for unemployment. How I could be devastated when my first NFS notice arrived. How I could tell God honestly, about my anger when my mom, who was supporting me a lot, lost two jobs within as many years, and while I was still unemployed.
The day I was laid off, I cried, and two of the Christians at work hugged me and said, God’s got a plan for you. He’s gon use this to elevate you, to move you to where he wants you to be. I was let go right after Lehman Brothers collapsed. Was this greed that brought the financial collapse in his plan? In his will? In his divine will or just his permissive one?
I’m unwilling now, as I was then, to say that there is anything that can outsmart God, that is a greater force than the creator, than can deter God’s plan for my life. But I am not at peace as I was then, in college, when I could name it and claim it and there was no plan B. I believe, though it is difficult to do so, that God is able to do above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine. I don’t write fiction, but I have a good imagination. I can see myself living on the southern California coast in a beautiful home that I own. I see my passport so covered in stamps, it’s hard to read. I see my name on bestseller lists and on the faculty page of somebody’s university. I see my mother’s house paid off and my dad’s health and studio space thriving. I see me and my husband dancing together. I see our children playing with their grandparents. I see them enriched by all the places in the world my husband and I will take them. I see a world where I don’t have to worry about how to explain why other people might dislike the very sight of them for no good reason at all and where they can just be who they are, whoever that is. I see myself doing something to make that world possible.
I see that I am 36. I see how very little my life circumstances have changed 15 years after receiving my BA. I see how very little my goals and desires, my deepest longings and fears, the list of places I want to go and things I want to do, have changed within that time. College me would have said that this is because God designed me a certain way. He placed desires in my heart that I can’t change and that he wants to fulfill and will fulfill, in his own time.
College me also would have wondered if I have simply been stubborn all this time, if I there is a test I have to overcome first, a lesson I have to learn first—learning to be content whether I have or not, perhaps?—before my prayer for a definite answer to “when?” can be answered.
I don’t think I will die content if the answer is never, but I don’t know how to fix that, on a practical level or a spiritual one. Like many artists who want to make a living, to go beyond surviving to thriving, and to see an end to the capitalism eating all of us alive, I’m always examining how I contribute to the problems I want to solve. So I don’t want to just take more jobs. I even have some issues with investing my money or marrying a wealthy man who invested his. I have issues with the idea of a man taking care of me/becoming the patron who allows me the financial freedom to create, too. And I have issues with denying reality and with being so in need of God’s voice for clarity that I can’t make a decision.
I suck at conclusions. I really do. The ending of every essay is the hardest part, especially when there are no clean and clear answers. I’m just living, though probably neither as fully or as well-planned as I could and should be.
Author’s note: This essay is part of the #52Essays2017 series. Every week in 2016, Vanessa Mártir published one essay on her blog. After a phenomenal year of challenges and growth as a writer, she invited other writers in various communities she’s a part of to join her as she endeavors to write weekly, relentlessly, again in 2017. I’m in on the challenge because I saw how very little space I gave personal reflection in 2016. This is my thesis semester, and I expect some challenges and growth as I write it. The weekly essay challenge provides a space to document that growth (though I’m already thinking I might screw with the genre a little).