It feels like I’ve been running all my life.
I was running when, after immediately receiving my college acceptance letter from Penn State, I accepted the offer that same day, thinking that doing so would eradicate any grain of doubt in my mind that it was the right decision. I was running when I begged for and miraculously acquired internships that I did not have passion for. The list of ambitious decisions goes on and on: my decision to enter the honors college my sophomore year of college, my decision to take on a second major, my decision to take on a job, two internships, and 9 honors courses in one semester. All these choices are not because I am competitive or impressive or above average in any way. They were a means of distracting myself from the real question: why am I doing this?
Why do we do any of it? Why do we strive toward the next goal and the next opportunity when we’re not even done with the one consuming our every waking moment? Why are we constantly dissatisfied with who we are, what we’re doing, and how we’re performing? Why do we compare our achievements to others rather than basking in the momentary blissfulness of knowing we did something admirable?
I am running because, if I just paused for one second and seriously considered who I am, then I might not like who I see. I might not like the young woman who sometimes feels emotionally insecure, not deserving of everything life has given her. I might not like the small and large, significant and insignificant, rational and irrational flaws that make me who I am.
I have struggled with this idea of being perfectly imperfect. I do believe that God created me to be the person I am today.
I am not a mistake.
My quirks, cracks, and scars do not make me less of a human being or less worthy of love and belonging. My past mistakes and dreaded future fumbles will not make me less than in His eyes or anyone else’s. But it feels like it sometimes. And when I’m dissuaded from the truth, that I am made to be who I am right now, that’s when I start running. I distract myself with busy work and future plans, thinking that if I lengthen my resume and plan for a career, then those nagging doubts in my mind will disappear. Or at least become less frequent. I have prevented myself from standing still for fear that it would be a mistake. Until now.
It is impossible to run in Zambia. I cannot distract myself with hours of binging Netflix. I cannot over pack my schedule in order to make it so that I don’t have enough time to think. There have been painful experiences I have been forced to confront because there is no way I can distract myself from them. Like the experience of witnessing poverty in the lives of the people I’ve grown to love. Or the experience of being harassed, grappling with what it means to be a woman in a developing country. Or the experience of having my faith stretched by people who do not agree with my definition of Christian love, faith, or God. I am grappling with poverty, gender issues, and the construction of race, privilege, and religion, frantically fighting the urge to run. I am desperately trying to observe, listen, accept, and understand these issues as they relate to my life and, more importantly, how they relate to the people in my community. Because I firmly believe that I cannot fully serve the people around me, emotionally grapple with difficult truths, or reap the enormous benefits of this experience, if I do not stop for one moment and ask myself “why am I running?”
So, for the first time in a long time, I am trying to stand still.