This has been an interesting summer for me. When it began, I was involved in a significant relationship and expected that to play a giant part of what my summer would become. I was looking forward to my internship, looking forward to spending time with the friends I hadn't seen in a few months, and being home again after a year of school that saw me travel throughout Europe and take on new responsibilities at school. I had plans, things I wanted to do and a mental list of the people I wanted to spend my time with. There were a great deal of expectations, and I did not expect my plans to be let down.
The summer I anticipated and the experiences I have had over the last three months have very little in common. That relationship has since come to an end, for better or for worse (thus far it has personally been for the better, but I do miss the friendship I had with her). My internship has been largely what I expected, but with significantly less work to do than I hoped. I have turned filling dead time into an art form on par with Van Gogh and Monet. But more than anything else, I have learned a great deal about myself, other people and the world at large. I want to reflect on what I have learned and what it means for me now and in the future; I will write concerning a pair of those topics now, and perhaps follow up with more in the future.
Entering this summer I was a part of a handful of communities: my London community, my dorm community, my high school friends and my church. If you had asked me about the communities I belonged to three months ago, I would have named another group of people. However, that group has since largely rejected me and attempted to ignore my existence. To be perfectly honest it is disappointing that this group chose that road, though not unexpected. I still care about them as human beings; when I call a person "friend" there is nothing fake about it. Yet, the actions by that group allowed me to realize a couple of things. First, there are some people who function as if they are still in high school and drama is "in". Second, I want no part of that drama. Individually they are all great people who I enjoy spending time with; together, something completely different is created.
Being separated from that group (and the relationship I was in) has turned out to be wonderfully positive for me. Instead of being on the fringe of a group where I may or may not have been wanted or welcomed, I became free to spend time with people who love me and accept me for who I am. I was able to foster the real relationships I have. They always say that in tough times you find out who your real friends are. It has been incredibly refreshing to spend time with people who want to spend time with me, and it is remarkable how much more positive those experiences are. In that sense, this has been a fantastic summer.
I also have learned about stepping into a new community. If you have read this blog, you know my skepticism and hesitations toward church. As such, I have often chosen to stay away from church communities and small groups to avoid conflict and difficulty. However, this summer I approached and was welcomed fully by a group of young adults within my church. Some of these people I have known for years, others I met only this summer. But they all treat me as one of their own, as a person that matters to them. Seeing the way they have accepted me with open arms (and let's be fair, I can be a headache sometimes) has taught me a great deal about accepting other people in love and without judgment. And for both these things I am grateful.
I fully expect to become a full-fledged member of this community if I end up living in Cincinnati long term. I am confident that I will be welcomed completely, and that I will be free to grow and learn with these people in a positive, loving, honest environment. I enjoy spending time with them, learning from them, listening to them. It may seem to them as if I speak my mind too much or that I am an abrasive, confrontational person, but that isn't the case. Rather, I chose to approach them in as real a way I knew possible, speaking the truth that I believe to them when asked, consequences be damned. More on that in a moment. But the fact that they have welcomed me even while seeing who I am in an honest way has had a real impact on me this summer. And I anticipate it will continue to impact me in the future.
Consequences Be Damned
Back during the spring I made a decision to begin living my life a certain way. I have mentioned this mantra I took up – consequences be damned – a few different times in this space. But as summer took hold, I began to realize that this mantra alone would not suffice. Through personal experience and conversation with people whom I trust and respect, I added a small piece to the mantra: act in the name of truth, consequences be damned. In previous conversations I have used that phrase to define hope, and I should note that it is not mere coincidence that one of my goals from the decision I made was that I begin living life in hope first and foremost, rather than letting fear gain a foothold.
Now, some of you will see that mantra and ask what is this truth that I mention, that I am seeking to act in the name of. Unfortunately, I cannot hand truth to you. I believe that truth is unique to a certain extent for all of us, and that my truth is not identical to my buddy Torian's truth or anyone else's truth. That isn't to say that any one person's truth is better; rather, it takes different forms and can exist on multiple sides of an issue or problem (I realize that this sounds a great deal like pluralism...and to an extent it is. But not in the way that many would assume it to be).
Anyway, this mantra began to manifest itself in my actions as I continually recalled it in the midst of making difficult decisions and choices. Let me provide an example. My mind is constantly going, always thinking. If a topic comes up, I have an opinion on it, guaranteed. In the past, I would often suppress my own thoughts to keep from rocking the boat, so to speak (some people close to me might not believe me on this, but it's true). However, consequences be damned means speaking my mind when my opinion is asked. And so I have done it. If you ask my opinion, you will get it. Straight and honest. In my previous post on honesty, I recounted a story where I battled with hiding my thoughts or bringing them to light and ultimately said what I was thinking. Learning to appreciate that freedom to be truthful regardless of the consequences has been invaluable for me this summer. It has allowed me to love other people more honestly and to approach situations where I see a problem in a more direct and unapologetic way.
I aim to continue holding this mantra close and keeping it a significant part of who I am and of the decisions I make. I realize that there is always the chance that unabashed honesty can sometimes create a mess, but I would rather clean up that mess than live in fear of making one. A mess created because of honesty can be cleaned up; one caused by fear, deceit or hiding is much more difficult to rectify. I anticipate making messes in the future, and I plan on cleaning them up. No regrets, consequences be damned.
And so on...