Do You Know What Breve is?

Sometimes I really wish I had made different decisions in my life.  I wish I had gone to a different school and made different career choices.  I wish I had been more rebellious, instead of stuck in a Christian bubble that made me think God was telling me to be a youth pastor, thus altering the whole course of my life.  Because I could have been anything.  I could have gone to school to get a real career.  I was smart enough.  I was almost a 4.0 student in high school and college.  But instead I went to Bible college.  And my degree is almost worthless, as far as living my dreams or having a fulfilling career go.  I realized real quick that I’m not meant to be in ministry, and that I would actually be miserable there.  I had heard wrong.  I wish I had gone somewhere to get my degree in English or creative writing or something, so I could have maybe been a teacher, so maybe I would have an impact on someone else’s life.  Or maybe that I would have gone immediately to school to study counseling or psychology, because those have also always been interesting to me.

And I know that if I had made different choices in my life, not only my life would have been affected.  I never would have met Michelle, and she never would have moved to Mammoth.  I never would have moved to Alabama and met the best boyfriend ever.  My friend Sarah probably would have never met her boyfriend.  There’s a lot of things.  So maybe I’m selfish, wishing things were different.

Today, a woman told me that I didn’t know what breve was (half and half).  She explained to me that it wasn’t milk, it was cream (even though it’s half whole milk, and half heavy cream, so technically it’s both).  She told me she wanted more breve in her drink, that was made out of breve.  You can’t add extra water to a full glass of water.  You can’t fill a cup above capacity.  I can’t add more humanity to my humanity.  It does not make more, it just fills up.  So she tried to imply that I was stupid.

I am an intelligent human.  I might be more intelligent than most of the people that I’m surrounded by.  But I didn’t do anything with that intelligence.  Instead, I work at Starbucks, with a wasted college degree, somewhere much too far from home.

I could have been anything.  Instead, every stranger automatically assumes I’m beneath them.

I miss home.  I miss my people, my church, my community, my family.  I wish things had been different.

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Unintelligence

I have a good job.  I really like my job.  I just got promoted at my job.  And it’s okay that I’m not doing the type of job that I thought I’d grow up to do.  Welcome to our economy.

The job market is fairly small.  And sometimes it seems that people have forgotten that.  A lot of people go to college, but most people don’t get jobs in their field after they graduate, and that’s not for lack of trying.

A month or so ago, I was having a conversation with someone I work with who also has a degree.  People come through all the time and act like we’re dumb because we work at Starbucks, even though Starbucks will actually give tuition reimbursement to their partners who are trying to get their bachelors if they go to ASU.  Starbucks cares about education, so why would someone assume that only stupid or uneducated people would work a job like that?  No, you don’t need a degree, but I never wanted to get a job in my field anyway.
But I digress.  I was talking with my coworker about working at Starbucks and about how college isn’t for everyone and having your degree doesn’t really make you any better than anyone else, because in this economy, it’s usually pretty hard to get a job in your field unless you’re either top tier or you have a lot of connections where there are openings.  It’s luck and who you know, not necessarily intelligence or capability.
An hour after our conversation a very loud man walked and announced that he had a question.  But he then went on to say that his question required intelligence, and that was pretty hard to find in Starbucks.  Both my coworker and I looked at him with obvious offense on our faces.  He began to laugh and told us to take a joke, then my supervisor came up front and he got to ask her his question.
During their conversation though, he told her she should go back to school, because she dropped out when she realized it wasn’t for her.  He was trying to force his worldview on her.  And she was annoyed.  We were all annoyed.

It’s fine to value education.  I’m currently planning on possibly going back and getting my masters degree next fall.  And that’s not because I think my current job is beneath me.  It’s not because I’m dying to do something else.  Even if I do get my masters and find a job in that field, I might still work a few days at Starbucks, because I enjoy it, and I like the benefits.

A degree does not necessarily mean a career.  And a lack of a degree does not equate stupidity.

It’s okay that I have a degree and am a barista.  Welcome to the real world.

In My Doubting Midst

I gave my heart to Jesus when I was five years old.  I even have a rock that says so at my parents’ house.  Is this something that I remember?  Not really.  Are there tons of other people who probably had the same rock and have since tossed it out?  Probably.  Are these people still considering themselves Christians?  Maybe, maybe not.  But that’s not the point, is it?  I just wonder, was I brainwashed?

I’ve only known a Christian life, even when I haven’t wanted to.  I went to church with my family every week, and it was normal.  I went to a Christian school for eight years.  I read the Bible in class.  I sang songs about Jesus with my classmates.  I was warned of the dangers of having non-believing friends.  So I never even had a choice not to believe.  

The small town I grew up in didn’t have a Christian high school, and there were so many other things happening in my family, that I had no choice but to go to a public high school.  The thing is, I was excited.  I never talked about my faith or my upbringing at school, because growing up it was something that had just always been known.  Everyone had always known I was a Christian, because they were all Christians too.  We had all made commitments to stay “pure” until marriage, and to not drink, and to never smoke.  There was never really any discussion.  So going to a public high school where very few people knew me was a chance for me to entirely reinvent myself.  

However, there were some other factors.  Right before I started high school, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to leave town for treatments quite frequently.  I also was experiencing my first conscious episode of depression.  It never occurred to me to wonder where God was in any of it, though.  

I started cutting myself, but I still prayed.  I dated guys, but I didn’t have sex with them.  If I liked someone, I would bargain with God.  I would tell him that I would stop cutting myself if just this next guy would ask me to be his girlfriend.  And after that happened, I would start again, because I couldn’t stop.  

By the time I reached my sophomore year of high school, I had isolated myself from my Christian family, too afraid to tell them that I might have doubts.  I started hanging out with two friends that had no desire to have anything to do with God, one of which was homosexual.  My mother really frowned upon it, but it was okay.  I told my friends that it would be less scary to tell my parents that I was pregnant than it would be to tell them that I didn’t want to be a Christian.  Neither of which really seemed like a possibility anyway.  I wasn’t pregnant, and I didn’t know how to not be a Christian.

I had taken God out of the equation entirely.  My faith had become about church, and family, and shame.  

But then I had the opportunity to go to LA with my church’s youth group to go to a conference for New Year’s Eve.  My parents, with no idea of my doubts, were all for me going.  So I went.  And I experienced my first real encounter with God.  During one of the services, while I was dwelling in my own darkness, one of the speakers called me out.  Not by name, but by heart.  He said exactly what was on my mind.  He spoke of being unlovable, of being broken, of wanting to die.  Which was everything that I let define me.  At that moment, everything inside of me came pouring out.  God spoke to me.  I gave him my life, for real.  He told me where to go to college, and from that day forward, I made plans.  

I thought I was healed.  I thought that I was only dealing with depression because I was trying to walk away from God.  It wasn’t long before I found that I was entirely wrong.  But instead of being honest about my depression, I hid it, because if you’re a Christian, you must be happy.  Although all evidence spoke otherwise, I for some reason believed that following God meant that there were no more problems in your life.  This meant that I was doing something wrong if I was still experiencing crippling depression.

I ended up graduating high school and going to Bible college, heading toward a theological degree, and thinking I’d maybe be a youth pastor.  Except I had social anxiety that was only getting worse, and the idea of leading any kind of group was terrifying.  It took me more than a year to realize that I had maybe made the wrong career choice.  

I suddenly fell in love with writing, but knew that God had called me to be where I was at.  And then I broke completely.  Everything within me screamed at me to end my life.  I had no reason to feel depressed and empty, but I was.  I experienced small highs, and devastating lows.  I wanted to transfer schools and get a degree in creative writing, but even more, I wanted to end my life entirely.  

I had a good group of friends who begged me to get help, and when I wouldn’t do it on my own, walked with me as I did what I needed to do to get healthy.  I was finally diagnosed with manic depression.  I went home for Christmas break and decided to end my life.  Instead, I failed.  

I couldn’t understand where God was in this.  I couldn’t understand why God would make me with a mind that didn’t function correctly.  I wanted to know his plan.  And I wondered if he had no plan at all.  I wondered if he was cruel.  But after a few months of meds and counseling, I stopped wondering this.  I was better.  I was okay with the way I was made.  

A few months later, I stopped taking meds all together.  Probably a mistake at the time, but I had made it through.  I spent another year and a half without having any major episodes.  I didn’t want to end my life.  I wrote a lot of poetry and music.  And I accepted myself for who I am, because it made me a better writer.  However, that wasn’t good enough.

Towards the end of my senior year of college, I started dating a guy who wasn’t a Christian.  And then my grandmother died.  And then he stopped talking to me.  And I went on a drive up a mountain, wondering if I should drive off of it.  I sat, with my feet hanging off the edge, and I contemplated.

I contemplated the pros and cons of continuing on.  I contemplated leaving my faith behind.  I contemplated what my life would have been like if I had gone to a different school, if I had pursued something else, if I had lived somewhere else.  Because I couldn’t come to terms with a God who would allow me to go through life unable to have rational emotions.  I couldn’t grasp why he hadn’t healed me.  I could see no good in this, I could see no plan.  But I decided to drive home anyway.  I yelled at God.  I told him how angry I was.  He had to know that I didn’t want to follow him anymore.  Even though I was about to graduate with my degree in theology and ministry.

For the most part, I kept my doubts to myself.  I blogged about them some, but to the majority, I was a good Christian girl.  I had decided I was going to move to Portland and live with strangers and get a crappy job and write and drink.  But instead, my mom went out of remission, and I felt God calling me home, even though I was angry.  Even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow him.  Even though I was broken.  

But that was more than a year ago.  And I spent the last year learning to hear God again.  I stopped dwelling on the theological implications of my doubts and my beliefs, and I just listened.  

A couple months ago, I found myself at a jungle church in Costa Rica with my Finnish roommate and a team of missionaries who barely spoke Spanish.  God pointed out an elderly woman to me and told me he was going to heal her.  So my roommate and I started praying for her back, because that was where she had said there was pain.  A minute or so later, she looked up at the light and started crying.  With my limited Spanish, I could only deduce that she could see.  She could see the light.  She could see the light!  But wait, we were praying for her back.  And that was healed too.  

So yeah, sometimes I doubt.  But maybe I don’t need to anymore.  Because I saw God do exactly what he said he would, without knowing or understanding his plan.  He healed the blind in the Bible.  And he healed the blind right in front of me.  So in my doubting midst, there is hope.  That day, that woman saw the light.  That day, I saw the light too.

23

I think turning 23 is the birthday that I have thought about the most.  I’ve dreaded it.  I’ve looked forward to it.  I’ve imagined it for far too long.  What would it be like to be 23?  Even though I think you feel about the same, no matter what age you are.  Yes, sometimes you feel old, and sometimes you feel young; but I feel about the same today as I did yesterday.

A few years ago my friend Zack was turning 23.  And it hit me that Blink 182 once said that nobody likes you when you’re 23.  I found that to be hilarious, and it became a running joke for me about anyone who was 23.  So maybe I thought that nobody would like me when I was 23.

Today, I turned 23.  And it also happens to be my golden birthday, because I was born on the 23rd.  My best friend sent me on a scavenger hunt that ended in a surprise party at one of my favorite lakes.  I don’t think anyone has actually put this much effort into a birthday for me.  I am so grateful, and I feel so loved.  But instead of going out tonight and doing something crazy, I was just tired.
I came back to my temporary home (more on that later), and I took a bath.  I’m going to sleep after I finish writing this, and it’s barely 10pm.  I am getting older.  That’s what 23 has taught me so far.

But you know what?  I like me when I’m 23.  And I know a lot of other people who do.  I’m going to Ireland when I’m 23.  I’m going to get my first real apartment when I’m 23.  I’m going to run more, eat less, and write as if my life depended on it.  I’m going to put myself out there when I’m 23, both in my writing career and in my personal life.  I’m going to take care of myself when I’m 23.  It’s time to be a real adult.  So I’m going to grow up when I’m 23.  I think this is going to be the best year yet.