Warning: this blog post contains no pictures, and has not even been proofread. “Wow, Emma’s really let herself go—have you seen the state of her blog?” Shut up, snarky reader. Either accept this for what it is, or go waste your time on Buzzfeed.
Precisely 365 days ago, I sat in between two strangers for several hours, baking inside a human-sized Chipotle-style burrito foil. Or, that’s what it felt like. One year ago today, I graduated from Pepperdine and embarked upon one of the most challenging, frustrating years of my life. I lost my cap a few times due to the wind, and tried not to lose my cool as I considered the uncertainty of the coming months. And from a worldly perspective, I had every reason to worry. It’s been 300 days of job hunting and anxious prayer, of penny-pinching, interviewing, resume tweaking, and fast-food working. It’s been a year full of tears, toilet cleaning, angsty blog posts, and soul searching. I spent an entire year working towards securing a job, but God was preoccupied with a different project.
Now I have my first “grown up” job. I have a steady income that doesn’t involve any polyester, and I love it. I have a cubicle, and a timesheet, and I even have to bill my time down to 15 minute increments. In fact, the time billing thing was probably the biggest adjustment. I’m always doing something wrong with the timecard. Either I’m using the wrong date range, or I’m making up billing codes that don’t actually exist, or I’m billing to timecodes that belong to completely different departments, or I’m accidentally typing “AM” instead of “PM,” and wondering why the program is mad at me. You’d think this was my first job or something.
I have trouble remembering my own mother’s birthday (sorry, mom), let alone how I spent every 15 minutes of my workday. In the long-run, though, it’s made me work smarter. I’m a serial to-do-lister, and could easily spend 15 minutes just analyzing my list of projects. When I’m overwhelmed, I just think. When I’m stressed, I think. It’s a problem, to say the least. Logging my 15 minute list meditations has made me more aware of my time wasting, and helped me to move from project to project more effectively.
I wish I were forced to be more accountable for my personal time on a regular basis, as well. If every two weeks, God asked to see your timecard, broken down into 15 minute increments, do you think you’d change how you spent your time? I would. I would stare at my phone screen less. I would watch less Netflix (although Vanilla Ice Goes Amish is pure gold, in case you haven’t seen it). I would serve more, pray more, praise more, study more. Instead of billing my time to naps, procrastination, and gossip, I’d put it towards “jobs” that God would be pleased with.
However, I am unaware of any biweekly celestial timekeeping system, and must therefore persist in my efforts to conceptualize my time differently through other means. The lack of a heavenly punchcard isn’t the only pitfall through which I’ve squandered my time this past year:
1. Homesickness crippled me
When I moved to Washington, I missed my Oregon friend. When I moved to Florida, I missed my family in Oregon. When I moved to California, I yearned for the Florida life and community I’d left behind. The day after my college graduation, my mom moved to Idaho. I’ve spent a year trying to silence the dull, constant throbbing of my heart. But it’s hard to put down roots, when you were uprooted from a different soil. When part of your heart is on a different coast, it can be hard to share your heart with new people.
There are a lot of weird things about Girl Scouts—those vests, naming a whole age bracket after a dessert (brownies, anyone?), encouraging little girls to go door to door selling baked goods to strangers, etc. My troupe used to sing a song, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. A circle’s round, it has no end, that’s how long I’m going to be your friend.” It was a creepy song, and I haven’t been able to forget it after all these years. As a seven year old, I thought it was weird to rate your friends like different types of metals. Now, I feel like actually fall into that trap. Why would I want to invest in new silver friends, when I miss my gold friends so much?
There’s nothing wrong with missing people or staying in touch, but if my melancholy over long-distance friendships is keeping me from being present, something is amiss.
2. Perfectionism petrified me
If you think I’m weird, neurotic, or OCD now, you should have seen me as a child. Still, I often avoid investing in working on a skill or trying out new things because I hate being imperfect at them. You mean I’m not the best writer in the history of the world’s existence? Well, I think I’ll just shut down my blog, then. Instead of letting God work through me in whatever method He chooses, I try to curate my conduct by paring my pastimes down to only what I know I can succeed in. And do you know what that leaves me with? Very, very little.
3. Self-centeredness blinded me
Do you remember what I said in the first paragraph?
“No, impudent girl! Your blog is far too wordy and rambling. How could you presume to ask if we’d hung on the minute details of the introductory paragraph.”
Sorry. I was telling you how I’d spent this past year: with frantic and fervent job hunting. And I told you that God had been spending that year working towards a different goal in my life.
Yesterday, I talked on the phone with my sister for two and a half hours. We live an hour apart, so if one of us had just driven towards the other one while we’d chatted, we could have probably made much better use of that time. Anyway, we reflected together on our past year, and how glad we each were that we’d spent it together. We’d always thought we were close. Sure, we’d fought, but only because her slovenliness rivals the Lord of the Rings dwarves. Just kidding. The point is, not until spending a year together could we have conceptualized how close our relationship could become.
Only yesterday was I able to see that a year of joblessness and uncertainty was a bargain for the lifelong bliss of having such an enhanced relationship with my sister. While I was begging God to free me from the trap of unemployment, he was knitting my soul to my sister’s, making us laugh together, work together, comfort and teach each other. While I mouthed the words “thy will” countless times throughout the year, I couldn’t conceptualize how God’s will was dependent on my working in a fast-food drive thru and sharing a room with my sister. I said the words, but my heart was in rebellion. While I am grateful for the blessing of sisterly affection God has blessed me with, I only regret that I’d submitted to His plan so unwillingly.
“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.”
I guess it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: with this next 365 days, I intend to be more mindful about every 15 minutes. I want to build up my relationships in Pasadena, not just nurture the ones I’ve left in other towns. I’ll focus less on being perfect, and more on using the tools and the time God has given me. I’ll try to internalize the truth I’ve known for some time: that my to-do list might not match up with God’s, and that His is the master list. And I’m gonna really try to figure out this whole timecard system thing at work, because it’s starting to become pretty embarrassing, actually.