In my first year of university, I had no idea what I was doing with my life, until I woke up one night in tears, determined to resolve my existential crisis. I wrote a list of all the things I believed I needed to be happy. I asked myself, of these, what are the minimum I would need to have happiness? And then I asked myself, what career will get me closest to the majority of items on my happiness list? After that, it was pretty easy to narrow it down. I chose to pursue a highly competitive career. And boy, am I feeling that pressure now.
Sometimes my failures, the distance I have to go to get to where I want to be, and the many unknowns ahead are overwhelming. Yet, I have found myself feeling happy in the midst of my worries. This is what has been getting me through:
There are moments when I feel absolutely overwhelmed by the competitiveness of what I’ve undertaken. Taking science classes as a liberal-artsy social science grad with a minimal science background is stressful and I often wonder whether things will go terribly wrong grades-wise. Sometimes I get anxious when I think about the future because I have no answers as to when I will actually achieve my dream. I’ve been struggling with fear–fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change, and fear of losing out on my dream. It turns out that love is a pretty good antidote to fear (read about it in 1 John 4:18).
When I get overwhelmed or start to lose hope, I try to remind myself that God loves me unconditionally. His love keeps me grounded: it shows me that I am more than the sum of my flaws, that I have something to hold onto and to give to others, even if I have nothing else.
It is what allows me to think that things will ultimately be ok, to trust what is happening in my life, to know that life is worth something even when things aren’t going well.
There are two Bible verses I find myself reaching for when things get rough:
“For the Spirit God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, ‘Father! my Father!'” (Romans 8:15 GNT).
“Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 GNT).
Faith: Trusting God
I know that God has a plan for me–I don’t know what it is, but I know that I can trust it. If I’m meant to achieve my dreams, I will. If not, there is something else for me. Regardless of the outcome, I am where I am for a reason. I will get something out of this, even if it’s a hard lesson.
Being thankful for what I do have does two things for me: (1) reminds me that there is more to my life than my current challenges, and (2) makes me happy. I’ve been taking good steps on having a relationship with God and being the person He made me to be. School is stressing me out, but I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to go. Even though it’s hard, I have the wonderful experience of actually pursuing a dream of mine. I’ve been reaching out to my friends lately, and recently realized that I have the kinds of relationships I have always dreamed about–friends who support me, who build me up, and whom I have had for a long time. I have my grandparents around, supportive parents & family, and my siblings are doing wonderful things with their lives. I see them growing and it makes me so happy I could cry.
Being grateful reminds me that having one aspect of my life not going well does not mean that the rest of my life is a mess. It also reminds me to enjoy what I currently have instead of waiting for a time when everything will be perfect.
Reminding Myself That Challenges are Temporary
When I am particularly stressed, I like to think ahead to the future and imagine myself remembering how stressed I used to be and thanking God that I’m not stressed out about the same things anymore. I like the feeling that comes when I know that a rough patch is in the past. I may not have that feeling now, but I remind myself that I will have it one day.
Focusing on Others Instead of Myself
Reaching out to other people and focusing on them helps me to realize that I can be useful, and that I am not the only person in the world who makes mistakes and doesn’t have a perfect life. I have also found that the people I try to help often end up helping me, with a kind word of encouragement without my asking, a compliment, a joke, their positivity, or the happiness that comes with helping out another person.
Not Dwelling On My Failures
I’ve really been working on this one lately. Instead of beating myself up when I fail, I make peace with God, someone else, myself, the situation, or whomever/whatever else needs peacemaking. Then I own up to my mistake and keep it moving.
Just because I screwed up doesn’t mean I have to keep screwing up. Every day is a new day, and so is every hour, minute, and second. I don’t have to drag my mistakes or my guilt with me into them.
Putting things Into Perspective
It’s easy to look at other people and ask myself why I am not doing what they’re doing. While there is merit in honest, critical self-reflection, I also think I need to be fair. When I think I am not making enough progress, I ask myself to think back to where I was a year ago, 2 years ago, 5 years ago. That stops me from being too hard myself. And if I haven’t really changed, then I know that I have work to do and that’s a good thing.
If you’re reading this, I believe in you. You’ve lived through some of the worst moments in your life. You’re tough, and you have what it takes. Keep going. You can do this.
What keeps you going in hard times?