August 30, 2016

Update: Loss and Identity

Let's be very real here:

I used to write posts about my thoughts and current life every now and then, but I stopped doing that for quite some time because I felt too vulnerable. It's uncomfortable to let people into your life...into your head. 

The past few posts (and the next few as well) have all been pre-written because I knew I wouldn't have time to write, in real time, with all of my recent changes. To be honest, they're not very personal at all. Tonight's though, is different. I feel a rare but familiar tug on my heart to write, and I've decided that's what I'll be doing.

So where do I begin?

Well, I'm writing this at 8:25 pm, collapsed (oh, you should see me) on a lounge chair in a dorm building's common area. I have developed a stronger need for coffee despite getting decent sleep over the past couple of weeks (let's hope I didn't jinx that...and don't worry mom, I'm not allowing myself to drink coffee every day). And I've been thinking too much about the following:
  • How to live a simpler, more sustainable and balanced life 
  • Who and where I am
I plan to discuss the first in a few weeks, but I'll discuss the second now.

"Who am I?" is the key phrase that I've been seeing over and over again in my readings for my communications class. And I know - it's far too normal, cliche even, to ponder one's identity...above all, it's just plain annoying. But right now, I'm struggling with that question. I feel torn - torn between wanting to hold onto my past and reach for the future. I'm stuck in a transitional stage, where identities are competing against each other.

In the words of Robert Alvarez del Blanco, "Transition means being in the process of letting something go (although not entirely) and joining something new without being an integral part of this new reality". 

I'll cut the ambiguity out right now - I've transferred to my dream school, which has lost much of its dreamy, perfect appeal. It's wonderful in so many ways, and it's both a privilege and a blessing to be here, but nothing feels right

Social media is my enemy right now. I see old friends grow together, experience traditions as upperclassmen, become leaders...and I desperately long to be with them, growing alongside them, but instead, I've gone back to square one. I'm essentially starting all over again. I'm a clean slate. And while starting something new is exciting and full of hope, it is also equally exhausting and discouraging. 

In many ways, I have escaped pitfalls: I no longer have to see the people that I wasn't very fond of (sorry, but I'm just being real here). I no longer have to compromise my time by studying for a major that I did not have any interest in. I no longer have to eat cereal for dinner because the dining hall food is bad. But unfortunately, the things that I can't have are what I think of the most. 

Right now, the grass is greener on the other side. 

Though all of the work and progress from last year has not been wasted, the results are not as tangible as they could have been. Of course I have much more insight and experience to lean on as I navigate this new chapter, but all of the "coulds" and "woulds" find a way to paralyze me every now and then. I could be reaching out to underclassmen right now who are struggling to find their places, but instead, I'm repeating the very same struggles I encountered exactly one year ago. I could be building on relationships that I worked so hard to establish last year, but instead, I have to endure what I have struggled with so much in the past: letting go of relationships and taking the initiative to make new ones. 

I've learned, through experience, that long distance relationships cannot be maintained in high quantities. They require so much effort, and they can honestly only be sustainable in minute quantities, with others who are willing to make the same sacrifice and who see eye to eye with you on the relationship.

So I've had to let go, and letting go of so many valuable people, all at once, is heartbreaking. I struggled with this heartbreak last spring, and I thought I had recovered over the summer...but I realize now, that summer was just a temporary hiatus for my heart.  Incorporating the additional emotional and mental strain of building new relationships (who else hates small talk and awkward silences?) makes the returning heartache even worse, even more discouraging. 

And again, let's not discount the positives - there have been many new adventures and exciting conversations/connections already. Really. But there are times, like stressful Tuesday evenings, in which all of the progress and positivity are forgotten. The numbing pain of loss and confusion push me back a few steps, in the most unfair way. It's like I moved forward two steps in four days, and am set back six steps in one hour. 

Now back to identity. 

I'm trying to remind myself that my identity is rooted in Christ. Not in a school. Not in two schools. Not in the dorm that I live in. Not in my hometown. Not in my new major. Not in the fact that I'm a transfer, though that's something that I have to tell everyone I meet. But it's not easy, and so sometimes, I feel stuck - even after a relatively good day like today. 

And so I guess my other point, aside from updating returning readers about where I am (literally and figuratively), is to also remind everyone out there who is struggling with their identity or grieving loss, that their identity is ultimately rooted in Christ. It's the only identity that satisfies. That comforts. That never changes, no matter what is going on around you...and, I guess I want to say that you're not alone in your struggle(s). I'm with you, reaching out to you through this digital screen, praying for you. 

Remember: look at loss as opportunity. Opportunity to grow, to learn, to better yourself, to remind yourself of your need for Christ, to remind yourself of your identity in Christ. 

Thanks for the opportunity to be real, raw, and unfiltered. 
xoxo, han

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