Lessons Learned Since Graduating College, Part One of Three (Meg)

Lessons Learned Since Graduating College, Part One
also known as Hopping Off the Hamster Wheel and Landing in a Trash Can.

{Meg’s note: A few years ago, I graduated college and moved to a new city and had a pretty hard time adjusting to life. As the end of the semester/year/college experience for some of you approaches, I thought this might be applicable. This was originally posted on my friend’s blog who gathered thoughts from many different people in this stage of life. Feel free to check it out!}
I went to grad school immediately after undergrad. As in, the day that I graduated I got an email from a professor notifying me of homework I had due the next Monday.  My friends were moving out of the house we had lived in for two years and getting big kid jobs in new cities or new husbands whose big kid jobs were taking them to new cities.
I spent the year of grad school in a state of transition.  I was running really fast but not getting anywhere. My friends? Most of them had moved on; they were running on roads and arriving in actual destinations.  I was on a hamster wheel and they were on solid ground. Both of us were moving but one of us (me) wasn’t getting anywhere.
So as I graduated and got my first “big girl” job in a big city, I thought for sure my state of transition was coming to a close.  Finally, I thought, it’s my turn to get out there in the real world and really start my life.  Sure, I had heard people struggle during their first year out. But I had been out of undergrad for a year already and I had already struggled a little in my transition. So I would be fine, right?
It seems as though I had jumped off my hamster wheel and landed right into a pile of trash.  All the sudden, all the stability I had ever known was gone. It made me so delirious and so confused with reality, that I began asking myself all of the same questions that I thought I had already answered in college. Who am I? What am I doing here? Does this ever get better?
Along the way, I learned a few things. And I’m on the other side now. In an attempt to help you land more steadily on solid ground and less in a trash can, I’ve shared a few of my lessons learned below. Take them or leave them, but regardless of if your post-college life has been similar to mine or radically different, I hope you take hope in one thing: life goes on. For better or for worse. 
Lesson One: No One Warns You.
I don’t know about you, but when I was hitting my junior year of high school, everyone warned me about it. “It’s so hard!” “Good luck!” Even going to college I heard about how some college freshmen have a hard time with being away from home. I have come to realize that my freshman year was pretty unique and I was thrust into a bubble of bliss in a land where nothing ever seemed to go wrong. College was simply fun for me. My life changed and I became so much more of me than I thought was possible. I look back on my college years with fondness, imagining that every day was filled with sweet laughter and good friends. Everyone was just happy. All the time.  Of course, that’s not the reality, but my college experience is jaded with rose-colored glasses because, quite honestly, I loved being there. I loved that phase of life. I loved that chapter.
And as I inched closer and closer towards moving on, I cannot remember hearing anyone mention how hard it was afterwards. I had heard that some people had a hard year after graduation, but I thought that was due to not getting a job or having personal issues come up.  I thought I was in the clear.
And then August hit and I moved to a major US city and was thrown into the hustle and bustle of parking fees and toll roads, with a tight budget and no friends… and I realized: no one really warned me about this.  No one told me that I might hate my life. That I would long to be back with my friends, who were now sprawled all across the East Coast.  That I would have no idea what I was doing, ever, and that I would grow to even hate my GPS for needing to use it all the time.  That I was totally normal for having a hard time and for crying over getting lost… again.
In my first few days at my job, my boss kindly stated that the first few weeks don’t count. I agree. Maybe the first few months. Culture shock can do wonders, and looking back on that first month… it’s all a blur.  It was hard – in ways that I can’t even verbalize. I was grieving moving on and having to start a new life.  I was trying to navigate budgeting my new paycheck, learning my way around a new city, adjusting to new roommates and friends, and moving on, all at the same time.
Everything I knew was stripped away and I felt lonely. I kept thinking, Why did no one warn me? I really did feel like I had landed in a pile of trash. Everything stunk. I didn’t like my life, I didn’t like myself, and I really didn’t like that no one had warned me.  Maybe they did and I was too blissfully unaware of reality that I didn’t pay attention.  But regardless, I wasn’t prepared. 
Lesson Two: It Gets Better.
Not so quickly after learning lesson one, I eventually learned lesson two.  It gets better.  About a year (I know… yikes) after I moved to the new, big city, I felt like I was in a rhythm. I was in a routine.  Yes, other things outside of “Major Life Transition” were not going so well. But I was getting used to being on my own and to not particularly enjoying anything that was going on.  I was getting used to going to work every day, 40+ hours a week (man, how I missed having Fridays off… every semester… for like three years), and I had realized that keeping in touch with people who did know me and understood me helped me feel less alone.  And I prayed. A lot.
About a year in I realized I had real friends here. Friends who had grown to understand and get me.  I knew where the restaurants were that I liked, and I had explored and made fun memories with new people.  I took pictures, and learned back roads and short cuts places, and life was feeling more normal.  I still often longed for one night back together with my best friends in my college house where those walls held so many deep conversations and a lot of laughter.  But the reality was that I had come to see, and really love, my life post-college.
That initial shock has worn off now, and still my life is definitely far from bliss and gold-hued perfection.  But being honest about it being hard was helpful (so were the tissues that always needed to accompany the tears that came with the honesty), and eventually I began to hate my GPS less (because I didn’t need it), and things began to feel normal.
I’m not entirely sure how. It just did. It does get better – maybe in more or less time for you than it did for me, but it does.  There is hope.

the fight for joy (Brooke)

I v e r y often forget.  I forget that life is a gift.  That we are here on purpose. on mission.  I forget that God gave me this moment. and also this moment.  I forget that eternity & souls is what it is all about. & not me.  I forget that people and love and serving is the very heart of God.  I just forget.  

 I forget & easily choose:
selfishness –over & over & over again
my schedule
my plans
my dreams
not moving towards my neighbors
seeing the day as mundane.

And when I do this I miss SO much.  I miss what God could do. wants to do through me.  I miss seeing things from His perspective.  I miss a better story.  

I’m praying today that I will yield to His dreams for my life and enjoy this DAY He has given me- the only 4/10/14 we will ever have.  It’s a gift.  I am praying that I will choose joy & not grumpiness.  laughter & not bitterness.  

John Piper shares 15 ways to Fight for JOY–I find them incredibly helpful:
1. Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift.
2. Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly.
3. Resolve to attack all known sin in your life.
4. Learn the secret of gutsy guilt – how to fight like a justified sinner.
5. Realize that the battle is primarily a fight to see God for who he is.
6. Meditate on the Word of God day and night.
7. Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God.
8. Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself.
9. Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight.
10. Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence.
11. Get the rest, exercise, and proper diet that your body was designed by God to have.
12. Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature.
13. Read great books about God and biographies of great saints.
14. Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (witness and mercy).
15. Get a global vision for the cause of Christ and pour yourself out for the unreached.

Be Free Fridays: free to mess up (Meg)

I have this problem.
Sometimes I open my mouth and say things that I regret even before the words come out.
It’s like inside, in slow motion, I’m going… “nooooo” just as I’m saying something to someone that I love. Sometimes, words can just plain hurt… knives going into open wounds.
And the worst part – those words usually come out to the people I love the most.
Am I alone in this?
The very people I want to hurt the least are the very ones that my words puncture the most.
This week I did this. And this weekend, I’m learning what it looks like to be free in the gospel in a very practical way.
I’m learning how to be free to mess up. I’m learning to be free to fall down.
If you’ve ever watched a small child learn to walk, you know that with every few steps they fall. They occasionally look around to see if anyone saw, and usually their loving parents, or anyone around really, will encourage them that it’s okay and help them get back up.
God is my father.
And how often do I fall? In his loving kindness, he looks at me and says, “It’s okay, Meg, you only fell down! Let me help you learn to walk.”
The gospel shines through these times in my life. God isn’t a father who demands his young child to learn to perfectly run before she has even learned how to walk yet. He has a standard of holiness, yes, but in his grace he sees us fall, anticipates it even, and then he empowers us to not just fall and stay there, to not just mess up and sit in our mess, but to get back up and continue to walk with him. Because he loves us.
My tendency is to try and pick myself up, to try and act like I didn’t just fall. My tendency is to try and not need his grace and forgiveness. Sometimes it’s hard to accept. Even from the people we hurt, much less from God himself.
But the reality is that God’s grace is sufficient – his power is made perfect – in our weakness {2 Corinthians 12:9}. The reality is that he isn’t expecting us to run when we’re just learning to walk. In his tender care and grace, as our perfect father, he gives us freedom to be who we are and to come to him. And he loves us.
So, this weekend: join me in resting in God’s grace and in the freedom that we have to mess up. Not to take advantage of, not to shrug off our sin, but to come to him as we are – learning to walk – and to experience his love… to ask him for help, to acknowledge our sin to him in its entirety, and to see him reach out his hand to us.
What are areas of your life that you tend to try and fix on your own? In what ways do you find yourself hoping God didn’t see you fall so that you can try and come to him with your act together? In what ways can you experience his grace by going to him, and seeing the freedom he offers through the gospel – freedom to mess up and to still be loved?
I’d love to hear how God is showing you this tender grace in your lives. Add a comment below to share of his goodness through the freedom you are experiencing! Praying for you girls this morning that you know the true freedom that comes from God alone. Happy Friday!