Thursday, 2 February 2017

Fear of the future & Perspective : What St. John of The Cross and Kanye taught me

By Kirsten Brown

There’s a strange meditative state of mind which accompanies final year.

Some are apprehensive about leaving the security of a student lifestyle and starting a 9-5. Others are even more apprehensive about not having yet found a 9-5. Some seriously reconsider and change their career/academic choices, whilst others are just too burnt out or confused to make a choice. What's true for all is that, at some point, each person goes through waves of self doubt. I certainly did, and you will too. 

Whenever I find myself in need of some headspace I turn to a couple of age-old friends: prayer and music

A lot of my prayer life this year has been spent meditating on the writings of St. John of the Cross — letting his words and his life inspire me. Most of the time I was led to deeply ponder the type of person I wanted to be and accepting that — as I grew intellectually and spiritually — my dreams had probably changed. That realisation was both terrifying and inspiring. If I’m honest, planning out a rigid 10- year-life-plan is more about the comfort of security than fully knowing that I am where I am meant to be. 

St John’s words challenged me to change this. I asked God to show me how my time at university — the joy I found in my subject, the hardships, insights, intellectual challenges, friendships, spiritual experiences — could be used in the world, but in the way he wanted. What could I do with all I’d learnt that someone else couldn’t? Because it’s not about dismissing the experiences you’ve had — these are gifts meant for you — its about perspective.

This, I found, was the starting point — a kind of spiritual and practical emptiness. From this processes of ‘letting go’ room is made for The Spirit to work, to expose what the conscious mind (too noisy and busy most days) can’t usually hear. 

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he’s traveling on, 
then he must close his eyes and travel in the dark.”

St. John of the Cross

A lot of the time I felt the pressure of deciding exactly the type of person I would be, during university. Yet the truth is that this decision may be just be pressure. Just because something appears good doesn’t mean that it’s right. Coming from the safe framework of high-school, the complete freedom of university, most of the time, feels like free-falling. The uncertainty and doubt about serious decisions can feel endless. But if we enter the uncertainty, keeping our gaze Christ-centred, without a doubt we start to understand that it’s not about finding this ‘one thing’ and then we can start living, but, instead, that we all have gifts and talents which can be used right now, where we are. I discovered that university was not about receiving a tool-box: you are the tool-box, it’s about learning how to be yourself. 

I really felt this hit home recently, finishing my last exam (ever) I rediscovered my love for Kanye West’s 'College Dropout' album. Don’t let the title put you off — yes he did dropout but what his stories tell are some hard hitting truths about the reality of expectation and perspective, which I wish I had known throughout university. So here’s to hoping that they can help. 

Perspective really is everything. Your definition of success, your goals and what you are willing to work hard for will most definitely change throughout your youth. There will be a point where you wonder why on earth you’re doing this to yourself. So remember: all you sow today is to bless tomorrow in the reaping. When things appear to be falling down, keep your gaze Christ-centred, and trust that all your experience will be used to bless someone else, one day. But also be honest when things aren’t working out, and never be afraid to ask for help!

We are ALL self-conscious. It's known that you can literally recreate your entire personality at uni. This can be a great fresh start, but also a risk which results in an identity crisis. The key is to find friends who love and find worth in who you are, so that you can learn to love yourself irrespective of your social life, your finances, your faults or whatever. Learning to know yourself, to love yourself and to be compassionate to yourself now is going to be crucial for when you enter ‘the real world’. Then you can be sensitive to others struggling around you. 

Fear of failing only holds you back. It is SO easy to coast through life at a complacent level because of others expectations and our own fear of trying. Most of us hate feeling embarrassed or vulnerable — yet it is in these moments that we discover our unique creativity. God calls us ‘beyond the boat’ to make ourselves vulnerable so that he can show us something beyond our own potential. God is calling you to step out in courage, faith and trust — his plan just may not be the same as yours or even one the world can foresee. But there is a plan. Being vulnerable allows us to go beyond complacency and seek answers in new ways, in new places, always being open. 

Finally, ground yourself in faith. Grounding yourself in prayer and faith during the good times builds a foundation for low periods, and actually allows you to emerge stronger than before. Your deepest trials will one day be your greatest testimonies. 

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