I’m sipping coffee this morning here in the office. In one of my ears, I hear the soft impressionistic sounds of Claude Debussy’s piano music. In the other, I can hear the sounds of the university: the clicking of fingers across keyboards, the soft buzz of fluorescent lights, the clearing of throats from men with Ph.Ds. I have the pages of my statistics book and a sheet of notebook paper stretched out across the desk, and I can feel the hot breath of the monster of homework I have created by procrastinating just a little too long (as if a person can actually procrastinate just the right amount. I’m not sure that’s possible…). There is a great distance between me and the homework monster, me and the professor busy at work in the office adjacent to my desk. Even the coffee sliding warmly down my throat doesn’t seem a part of me because half of me is here at work, and the other half of me is inside myself, reflecting and thinking and critiquing and pondering and wondering and worrying and smiling and lamenting and…
Do you see why the homework can wait? Why the cursor in the word document is blinking so impatiently, like the tapping of a foot? Sure, not really a good excuse, but I’d like to think honesty is worth something. So…honestly, I’m procrastinating. And honestly, I’m thinking.
BUT, I need to throw some thoughts out here, lest you think I fell of the face of the earth into a dark and gloomy pit where blogging does not exist. Additionally, I’m writing this entry this morning to prove to myself that I am, in fact, still capable of completing something thoughtfully. Here we go!
I had an interview this morning. My suitemate and I grabbed some breakfast (she had to swipe me because I’m darn near out of meals! 1 left!) and then we walked together into the cool of the morning to the Honors College office. She left me with the encouraging words, “Just be yourself!” I shuddered as I walked into the interview. What if the smart people in the Honors College don’t think I am (insert adjective) enough? What if I get an email saying I’m not accepted (for reasons like using the passive voice and other terrible things)?
You (whoever you are) must understand that I am a complicated person. Perhaps you already know that. I would guess that the small number of you who read this understand that I am a person of depth. I certainly don’t mean that in a boastful way, but rather in a reflective way. I see people and things as more than they are. The homework, for example, isn’t simply paper and books to me. When I glance at math problems or writing prompts, I can see the faintest rise and fall of some kind of beating heart. It can be either a creature or friend–something living that can either destroy me or strengthen me. In a sense, this depth is my foe. But, it comes in handy with people.
I am fascinated by how people laugh, the way they walk and talk and treat one another. I’m in awe of the gifts I see in others. But behind all of that, I can see where people are struggling and how they fall short. I can see the person in people, and that is how I decide whether or not a person is good.
So, I would estimate that I spend 85% of my time thinking about the people and things outside myself. I place my energy in assessing the good and the bad. But it can sometimes be scary to think about myself. Not necessarily about my achievements or failures, but about my character–my personhood, if you will. What kind of person am I? Admitedly, I am afraid to answer. I will be vulnerable with anyone but myself because that sort of authenticity is terrifying.
In my first year of college, I have had to face myself–ALL of me. I’ve had to face the fact that I am needy in relationships because so many people I have cared about have abandoned me. I’ve had to admit my introversion, my dread of crowds and noise and tardiness, my tendancy to judge people who don’t think like I do. College made me face the ugly over and over again, but days like today make me look at the beautiful.
The interview for the Honors College was full of questions geared at exposing my qualifications. Bragging about myself makes me squirm with the guilt of loving myself. At the end of the interview, the two smart men asked me if there was anything else I wanted to tell them, and my heart hicupped in my chest as I told them something I feared would make me look like a compete snob. I said, “I just need to say that I don’t want to be a part of the Honors College strictly for academic reasons. I don’t want to get caught up in comparing myself to others. I just want to be a good person.” My throat tightened as I said it, and somewhere deep within me, I think some tears were forming. I meant what I said. I want to be a good person. I want to have a good heart. I want to grow. That’s, dare I say it, beautiful…right?
Despite the ugly, THAT is what I think of myself. Why was it so hard for me to say that? Why is it so difficult to talk about “my big heart’ or my tenderness or my inquisitive spirit? If it’s true that I have those things, why don’t I think on and celebrate those things more often? Why so much agony in exposing that part of me? I’m not sure about the answers to these questions, but I think I really am a humble person, despite all the ugly.
I’ve noticed lately that the way we think about ourselves will affect how we treat ourselves. Running has taught me that if I think I’m capable of getting stronger, I will treat myself like a runner–which means I will eat healthier and drink water and run just a little bit longer than the previous time. It also means my relationships are different. When I recognize that some part of me genuinely wants to encourage the people I care about, I will stop worrying whether the person thinks I’m creepy or annoying and encourage her anyway.
I recognize that this has been very wordy, and maybe just a little too personal. But that’s how I am, and this is how I think of myself. This is what I CELEBRATE about myself. I would challenge anyone reading this to think about the kind of person you are. Look at the ugly (which is hard) and then go a step further and articulate the beauty (which can be even harder, if you tend to criticize yourself). I believe that it isn’t prideful to recognize the beauty nestled deeply inside you because even though you have some responsibility for cultivating it, you weren’t the one who put it there–that was the Lord. So, despite how selfish it may feel to brag on yourself a little, remember that you are bragging on your Creator as well.