Now that we have that cleared up, I'd like to share with you six things I have learned from my first dating relationship. (There are more than six, but for the sake of brevity, I will only share six.)
1. It's not all about me. Who knew, right? Just yesterday, my boyfriend (still getting used to using those two words in the same sentence) pulled me aside and told me some things that he would like me to contribute to the relationship. Because, to be honest, up until that point ... I hadn't been contributing. I didn't realize it until he kindly and graciously woke me up to the fact. He's the one planning the dates, asking me to do things, suggesting places to eat, and pretty much everything else. And that's not fair to him. You'd think this eye-opening revelation would have come much sooner (hey, it's only been two weeks), but my dazed brain didn't register the fact that yes, you actually need to put some effort into this thing. Never fear, faithful readers -- I have learned my lesson.
2. I am definitely an introvert. Typically, I don't like spending much time with people. My mom gets (lovingly) annoyed that when I'm home, I'm in my room most of the time. Alone. By myself. Happily. I mean, whose idea was it to have people interact and do things together? What madness is this? I've never been particularly challenged to break out of my introverted ways before now. While in high school, I could retreat home at the end of the day. For the last three semesters, I could go back to my dorm and bury myself in blankets / hide from my roommate(s) while they were gone. It's not that I don't like people. I just like a very select group of people ...... Okay, like, five of them.
But now, I actually have to leave my blankets and my dorm and live in the real world of people. I have a (non-paying) job now. I have a best friend who likes to eat meals with me and go to the gym with me. I have a boyfriend who wants to spend time with me. And that's awesome. God is using this time in my life to stretch me and grow me, because, honestly, if it wasn't for the aforementioned reasons, I would be content to spend the majority of my time alone in my room! That's not healthy, no matter what I tell myself. Sure, maybe I only have two people that I spend any appreciable amounts of time with, but hey, that's two more than I had last year! It's been an interesting and sometimes (very) stressful experience, but I am definitely learning to step outside myself and put my friends' needs ahead of my own.
3. I can't get by with shallow words and non-committal responses. Believe it or not, I tell myself, people want to get to know you! Honestly, I'd begun to wonder. Two years with exactly one friend will do that to you. "Do people like me? Do they care about me beyond a shallow friendship formed out of necessity in a class that meets for sixteen weeks? Do I actually matter to anyone?" And the answer is -- amazingly -- yes. And so the time has come to invest, to put in the effort I was never willing to spare before now, to come out of my shell and let people (i.e. the boyfriend) know that I care about them as much as they care about me.
I'm very hard to get to know. One of my very best friends told me the other day that when we first met, she thought I hated her. That was hard to hear ... especially because it's not the first time I've heard it. Certain circumstances have made it hard for me to open up and tell people what I think. I hate sharing my feelings. I feel vulnerable and weak when I do, and it's the most unnatural thing in the world for me to express my feelings aloud. It's a problem that I'm working on ... especially now that I have someone who, you know, actually needs to know that I do indeed have feelings! I can no longer skate through life with feigned smiles and fabricated enthusiasm. That is no longer acceptable, nor is it kind. I owe it to the people I cherish to be open and communicative, even if it's hard and even if it hurts.
4. I need to lighten up. As some of you may know, I'm hardcore into organic food and medicinal herbs. If you didn't know that, now you do. Unfortunately at LU, there is a painful shortage of organic food. As in, a desert wasteland of greasy hamburgers, oily fries, and disgraceful, pesticide-laden salads. But, because most people do not adhere to this view that non-GMO, cage-free, free-range, grass-fed, pesticide-free, the-way-God-intended-food-to-be food is the best, I try not to be a stickler about it. I don't force-feed my friends organic carrot sticks rather than let them eat a burrito or a bacon wrap. (I may cringe and warn them in my head about heart disease and brain damage, but I usually don't say it aloud.) I also don't refuse the opportunity to go off-campus to Taco Bell at eleven o'clock at night or eat at SubCo with them. Why? Because I get to spend eternity with these amazing people in the presence of God, and I will no longer have to worry about pesticides and fluoride in Heaven! Making memories is more important than following my rules. Yeah, so maybe I drink a glass of fluoride-water and lower my IQ a point. But hey, we all had a great time and got a selfie that will go in my photo album, which I can look back on in thirty years and smile. Worth it? I think so.
5. Sometimes spending silence with someone is more meaningful. Newsflash: I like silence. Sometimes I lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling for a while, contemplating any thoughts that wander into my head. It's quiet. It's peaceful. It's just me and my thoughts (and God, of course). And that's okay. We live in a world that insists that we must be attached at the hip to our phones, tablets, computers, iPods, etc. Personally, I hate electronics. They're useful sometimes, sure, but overall, I hate them.
That being said, one of my favorite memories (so far) from this year is going stargazing with my boyfriend. And yes, that's as nerdy as it sounds. For a good fifteen or twenty minutes, we just looked up at the stars and said nothing. You know that deafening silence that gets into your head and your bones and gets so thick you could cut it with a knife? That's what we experienced. There was no wind. No car sounds in the background. No dogs, no people. Just .... silence. And it's one of the most vivid experiences in my recent memory. There are some things that words just can't cover. Staring up at the Milky Way galaxy -- our galaxy, created some six-thousand years ago by the same God who knit us together in our mother's wombs and knows every intimate detail of our lives -- brought me to my knees. (Okay, well, I was already on my back, but you know what I mean.) That's what I love about space. It's the only part of Creation that's still perfect. It's untouched (mostly) by humankind, and there is an unfathomable amount of information we will never learn about the universe. God knows it all. He made it all. He made us. And He was with us that night as we looked up at His glorious handiwork.
6. I don't deserve this. Life was rough in high school. I won't go into any details, but let's just say I was glad to leave. I hated college at first, too, and to be honest, I was so bewildered and confused by this new stage in life that I pretty much gave up the relationship with God that I used to cherish so deeply. I'm still working on regaining it. I was angry and bitter about a lot of things, and I retreated into myself that first year.
But one thing I know, absolutely, without question, is that I do not deserve the life I now have. I have an amazing, understanding, witty, beautiful best friend who never fails to make me laugh or encourage me when I have a bad day. I have a boyfriend that astounds me with his kindness, respect, sincerity, and devotion to God. I could not ask for better people to have in my life. They constantly lift me up, affirm that I am loved, and have such amazing patience with me and all of my shortcomings. The more time I spend with my friends, the more I realize how richly God has blessed me. In fact, I struggle with feeling guilty about it. I shouldn't; I mean, if God wants to shower me with blessings, I should embrace it, right? But I don't feel worthy, and sometimes (like right now as I reflect of all of these things), I feel like crying because I can't understand why He would allow me to have such a wonderful season of life when I obviously don't deserve it.
All that being said, this year has been a life-changing one so far. And it's only February! I'm still a bit dazed by everything that has happened. Sometimes I wonder if pinching myself would wake me up. There have been so many changes that I'm still struggling to keep pace, but I know that God has my best interests at heart, and that no matter what His will for my life might be, it will be beautiful.