Changing. Simplifying. Leaving.

It’s raining right now outside my window. I like rain, it’s the perfect soundtrack to thinking, writing, or sleeping, the latter of which I should probably be doing.  Rain does things to my brain, the gentle taps and subtle pops of it’s notes on the rooftop above my head gently massaging my thoughts into a deep chill. There is a sort of terrifying curiosity when my mind goes into this mode. I sometimes think myself into a corner and it leads to a sleepless night. Other nights I feel like my thoughts come upon things not of my own creation, but whispers of God, as if he’s somewhere in the stillness of the dark in my room between the rain, speaking soft yet concise things far too brilliant for me to ever come up with on my own. Tonight my thoughts have been on a few simple yet deeply significant ideas: Changing, simplifying, and leaving.

Changing
I am afraid of change. This is a natural fear everyone shares. Change is terrifying because it means we can’t predict or control anything that’s going to happen. Change means you’re going to be uncomfortable, and you’re going to need to get used to that fact. Change reveals our fears, yet also exposes our potential. It forces us to man up. It challenges us and shows us what we’re made of. And we need change to survive. I need change. One of my biggest fears is getting stuck somewhere I don’t want to be. One of the things we need as human beings is a challenge. A test, a resistance to cause us to sweat and toil to find the part of us within ourselves where God only knows our limits because he made them. I’m at a time of my life where I feel myself stuck in two worlds, where one feels as if I’m past it, and the other I’m totally unprepared for.

One side is the college world, a place where many of my friends still live and breathe. Being out of college and yet being around college people is a peculiar dynamic I have become vexatious towards at times. We are in totally different mindsets. They are all thinking about getting to the end and the promised land of adulthood. I reached the end, and now that I’m standing on the other side of it looking at this promised land of adulthood I’ve realized everything I thought it would be was a counterfeit idea. No one in adulthood has it all figured out. They’re all playing it by ear and flying by the seat of their pants and doing a great job of acting like they know exactly what they’re doing. It’s a strange realization, knowing you have nothing figured out and yet having to act like you do. Looking back at college world, with my one foot in it’s kiddie pool, I feel like it has nothing to offer me because I already reached that finish line. I love my friends who are still in college, and I love spending time with them, but in a fundamental mindset we defer and it causes me to feel isolated. Around that environment I feel as though I have to regress my motivations sometimes.

The other side is the relational and responsibility portion of adulthood: things like girlfriends, engagement, marriage, houses, kids, the big stuff. I feel completely unprepared for all of it. With college world I feel as though I’m past it, but with adulthood I feel like the kid who missed three days of class and is now struggling to keep up. I’m 24 years old. At the time of this posting I turn 25 in 144 days if I figured it up correctly (I’m not great at math). I have friends four years younger than me who are getting married. Friends younger than me who have better jobs, bigger opportunities, nicer clothes, more notable accomplishments. Growing up in a Baptist church in the South, I’ve found that you’re single and over the age of twenty-two people tend to look at you as if something is wrong with you. There is this seemingly silent pressure to get your crap together, get married, buy a Lexus and get your kids in one of those private schools where they all get matching iPads and polo shirts. I’ve been introduced as “Jarrod, my single friend”. I’ve been asked by every relative and many friends if I’ve met anyone yet. I haven’t been on a date in over six months. I feel my grandparents silent and almost belittling concern about my lack of relationship status. They can see this now on the daily because of their disconcerting ability to stalk my Facebook. My friend Summerly has always said I’ve never had a cookie cutter life and that “it will come in it’s due time”, and I know she’s right. Life happens to all of us at different paces, and playing the comparison game is a dangerously depressing one. She says we scare ourselves into paralyzing ourselves when we compare. It’s something I have to remind myself of constantly.

I guess when I think about changing, I think about taking a risk, doing something different, hopefully forcing life to jump-start it’s grand scheme of giving me something meaningful. But before changing, I feel something else has to be done.

Simplifying
We all have too much stuff. When I think about all the things in the average house it blows my mind. When I think about all the effects I own I wonder how I gathered it all. There are things in my closet I haven’t worn in years, game systems left dusty and unused for months at a time, shoes cast aside for the newest model. Consumerism is something I feel we Christians don’t talk about enough, much like the how we don’t have honest discussions about pornography or really level with teenagers about sex, instead just preaching pledge cards and stern discussions of “sex is bad outside of marriage, but inside of it it’s awesome, so have fun”. I don’t feel like it’s an effective method of teaching young people. We always hear about “God has blessed us” and “God wants us to be happy” kind of preachers and messages and I don’t think God meant for us to find our worth in stuff, but him instead. When we are honest with ourselves we know stuff isn’t that important, but we put importance on it because it’s something we can get our hands on unlike God. We should desire more meaningful relationships and experiences, not worthless paraphernalia.

I want to simplify my life. I’ve heard of this idea called the “100 Things Challenge”, where you simplify and eliminate what you own to 100 items or less. This means everything. EVERYTHING. You have 40 books? You have room for only 60 more items. Hope you have enough clothes. It’s a terrifying proposition. Yet something about it is so attractive. We all get bogged down with the kaleidoscope of crap we stuff into our closets and garages, and eviscerating a large portion of it feels like it could be such a freeing sacrifice for the good of my soul. I’m seriously considering it. I’ll keep you folks updated. The point of simplifying is losing the weight of life so we are more focused on what’s important. Basketball players don’t perform well in suits of armor. We have to cut the excess to be able to move, which leads me to my last thought.

Leaving
I’ve lived within the same 50 mile area for all of my 24 years. The longest time I’ve been away from this home base was the three months I spent in Johnson City working at Doe River Gorge, and to be honest, it was one of the best times of my life. I was on my own, in a new place surrounded by new people and new experiences, and I grew immensely from it. But I had to leave somewhere to get there. I had to take a risk.

I feel this urge to leave, to load my car up and drive until I run out of road, gas, or sunlight. I desire a new experience, to see something I’ve never seen before, to touch the places of this world I’ve only read about. An adventure is something my soul is starting to ache for. I want to see mountains, stretches of highway where I won’t see another car for hours, sleep under the stars or under an unfamiliar roof. I just want to go, if only for a while. I desire to take a month and disappear off into the world, traveling roads winding like asphalt veins through the flesh of soil. .

What does this all mean? I don’t know. These desires are deep, but so are these fears. What if I can’t do it? What would other people think? What if I missed out on something back home? Why do I want to go on an aimless adventure with no real goal in mind? Why not? Sometimes that’s the most important question we can ask ourselves.

Does this mean I’m wanting to leave everything behind tomorrow, drive across the country and never come back? No. That’s not practical. Does this mean I want to start taking more risks in every part of my life? Yes. Where is it going to lead me? I have no idea.

Here’s the truth of the matter: I am scared of all this, the changing, simplifying, leaving. I often doubt myself more than I believe in myself. I need you, the people I call friends, and if you take the time to read this then I consider you a friend, to challenge me. I need challenge, encouragement, a gentle shove to be more bold in this single-serving life I’ve been given. Don’t baby me. Be honest, be concise, be pushy. I’n getting fed up with playing it safe. I only get one chance at this. I want it to be memorable. I want it to matter. I don’t want it to be safe. I want it to be scary, and I want to fly by the seat of my pants trusting God to guide this whirlwind in a way that glorifies him.

So… What’s next?

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