Exactly a year ago today, I graduated from college. Cue the tears because college was an amazing four years, and I still can’t believe it’s over. In the year since I graduated, my view on how special my college experience was has not changed. I hold the four years I spent in Bloomington, spending way more time with friends than at the library, hanging out every Thursday night in Woodburn 100, and the sweet friendships I developed on IU’s beautiful campus so close to my heart. But, that season ended a year ago. My life has gone on.
In the Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens says, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Maybe he was prophesying the last year of my life. Since May 2013, I’ve lived in three different cities, worked three different jobs, spent more money than I care to admit on clothes, moved into my first apartment where I was responsible for paying rent, paid off an eighth of my student loan, bought a car (ask me how I feel about car payments), ran a half marathon, hosted some sweet parties, experienced the most difficult transition of my life to date, applied for 50+ jobs, attended four weddings, threw some fun parties, had only a handful of weekends with no work, and joined a church. This year has brought some of my highest highs, but also some of my lowest lows. When you’re eating ice cream out of the tub on a Wednesday morning at 10:30AM while watching your second episode of West Wing for the day, you know you’ve hit a new low.
But the things I did pale in comparison to the most significant lesson I’ve learned.
Over and over again, I cried out to the Lord, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” Depending on the day, I sometimes continued, “But I’m happy at the way it’s turning out.” Some days I could do anything but cry into my pillow. It was a year of life not meeting my expectations. I had a pretty little picture in my head of what this year was supposed to look like. Needless to say, it has not looked like that pretty little picture. It hasn’t been neat, orderly, or pretty. It’s been messy, hard and beautiful. I jokingly refer to the person I was last spring as “young and dumb.” I just didn’t know any better. I saw what other people’s lives looked like, combined that with my own desires and then just expected.
But I take beautiful over pretty any day. This is not the first or the last time that life will not meet my expectations. Marriage is not a walk in the park. Parenting is not endless dandelion bouquets and Mother’s Day cards. The question is, what will I do when life fails to meet my expectations? Will I sulk and allow it to make me bitter? Or will I run hard in the arms of a God who continually exceeds my expectations?
The wisdom and intimacy I’ve gained with God by walking through the peaks and the valleys with Him this last year is far more special than any picture I had in my head of how my life was supposed to look.