Let me tell you about time.
In the short time I've been in graduate school, I've been trying to pinpoint the little differences that make graduate school feel like a huge adjustment from my life in undergrad. The scale has changed; to go from 7,000 to 20,000 students leaves me feeling like there are humans EVERYWHERE. My scheme of place has changed; I no longer know campus like the back of my hand and I know longer have the deep-seated certainty that it knows me back. We're still getting to know each other, and we will be for awhile.
But thanks to new obligations, new jobs, new communities and new classes, my sense of time has changed; and this may be the most important change of all.
When I think about my undergraduate career, no matter where in the world I found myself, time is the defining factor. Capable of being both my greatest stressor, when papers were due and sleep wasn't happening and I still attempted to have a social life; and my greatest ally, when memories were made during late night long talks and campus walks and cohort conversations.
I do one of two things when it comes to time. When it all gets overwhelming, I like look ahead to the next season of life time and again and thought to myself There - there is where I’ll have it under control, I'll really be the person I’m supposed to be. I stop trying to make the moments meaningful, because I'm so busy just trying to make it through them, counting down the minutes until the leaves start to fall, the exams come to a close, or my plane takes me to the next place.
Or, when it all gets overwhelming, I step into a facade of control and competence. I start trying to stretch time, clinging to it tightly in clenched fists only to find that seconds are like sand, and it's when you hold them hardest that they slip right through your fingers.
Either way - when life is moving a little too fast for my liking, I stop being the person God made me to be. And I start spending time.
I'm only a week into grad school, and I can already feel the tension rising. I feel myself starting to rise to the pressure to give the right answers, to be seen as capable, confident and collected. And the frantic thought at the forefront of my mind - but there's never going to be enough time.
Do you feel it, too? Work, school, goals, dreams, family, friends - clinging too tightly to our control of time or abandoning our efforts altogether turns the things we love spending it on into a laundry list of soon-to-be-completed check marks. And when we live like that, we miss the tremendous potential time has for telling and living stories in the moments that matter.
That's why we have to stop measuring, stop analyzing, stop spending and start investing. For me, this looks like making decisions based on who I am, not what my circumstances are. It looks like giving myself permission to rest, to breathe. It looks like finding a routine and a rhythm, but it also looks like giving myself permission to break it for the sake of the story He's writing in my world.
The next season isn't ever going to be what I want it to be until I take a good look at who I'm with and what I could be learning in the one I'm in right now. And I find that when I hold my time with open hands is when God stretches it the most. Somehow, no matter how overwhelming things may seem, it's when I stop spending my time that I start winding up right where I'm supposed to be, right when I'm supposed to be there.