There was once a time in my life when I swore I was never getting married.
Maybe everyone goes through this stage, but I was 16 and every other teenage girl I knew was in the middle stages of planning their dream wedding. I never had a boyfriend. I didn’t think I needed a boyfriend like many other girls I knew thought that they did. In fact, I hardly needed anyone. I was good enough on my own. I was independent. I was almost confident (I hid my insecurities really well). I was starting my junior year in high school. I had just been hired at my first job at a local coffee shop. I almost had my license. I didn’t need anyone. I was perfectly content with how things were going in my life. I even had my career plan in place. I was going to study microbiology and go into medical research after college. I was going to cure AIDS and make it so no one would ever have to get vaccinated again (I hate vaccinations). My life was going well. I had it all planned out.
I was getting pretty good at driving. I had my permit, and very soon, I would have my license. I just had to rack up enough driving hours with dad to fulfill the driver’s ed requirements. One evening, my dad took me driving. We drove around like we always do, but when we were heading back home he had me park in a parking lot near our neighborhood. I just thought it was a test to see how well I could park at this point, but after I had parked, my dad asked me to go ahead and turn the engine off, and that we needed to talk.
When your parents say “we need to talk” you automatically think you are in trouble.
I immediately started wracking my brain for everything that I could have done recently. I couldn’t think of anything. There must be something. What else could he be talking about. His next words entered my ears and after that I could hardly breathe. “They let me go from my job on Friday”. My mind rewound to five years before, when I was 11. We were in the car then too, but my brothers were with us then. I heard my dad saying those same words, but with a much different tone in his voice then. He was happier, more positive. He said he would find another job soon. It was no big deal. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me then either. So dad is changing jobs, how would that affect me?
When I was eleven, the thought of moving never really crossed my mind. I had a couple friends who had moved before, but that was several years ago. I had always lived in this town and I thought I always would. But that was before my dad got a job in Caney, Kansas and since my mom refused to live there, somehow we found Bartlesville, Oklahoma, which was a mere 20 miles away. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to leave my friends. I was so angry with my parents. But over the past five years, Bartlesville had become my new home. I had made some of the best friends there that were loyal and who challenged me. I didn’t want to move again.
When I was younger, I thought that my life would be like Ariel from the Little Mermaid.
Well, I didn’t think I was a mermaid, and my father definitely wasn’t King of the ocean or anything. But I thought I would go on adventures, be independent and awesome, and then when I was sixteen like Ariel, I would be beautiful, have no pimples, and meet the love of my life (like Prince Eric). According to the movies, everything cool happened when you were sixteen. I was so wrong. When I was sixteen I learned that I couldn’t do everything on my own. I learned that the world didn’t revolve around me. I also learned that God’s timing does not always match up with ours.
I’m not saying I am perfect now. I’m not saying it’s easy for me to rely on others and to let go of my own independence at times. Being independent isn’t all bad, but thinking you can do everything on your own just sets you up for failure. After my dad told me about losing his job, he tried to be positive about it. He said he would try to find something else around the area and he hoped that he could find something before his severance pay ended. So I was hopeful. I prayed every day that God would help my dad find a new job. I prayed that he would take care of our family and our financial needs. I prayed for three months. But I guess three months was all the time I had for God. I became angry. I shouted. I yelled. I told God that I hated him. I told him that if he really loved me then he would have fixed things by now. I told him that he must not really care about me. And that’s what I believed, so I ran away.
I didn’t literally run away.
I still lived in my house with my family. I still went to church with them every Sunday. I even went to youth group on Wednesday nights. But it was just so no one would know. I came down to the dinner table late so I didn’t have to pray. I went from yelling and shouting to not speaking at all. Throughout the later part of my teens I struggled with some anxiety and depression, especially during this time. I don’t know exactly what made me start talking to God again. Maybe I was sick of being alone. Maybe it was more anger. This is when I started reading the Psalms in length. I realized I had a lot in common with the author of the Psalms and I began to write my own. This is when I began to write poetry. This is also when I began learning that I couldn’t do everything on my own.
All of these things surprised me in life. These are the things I didn’t see coming. These are also the things that made me into the person I am today and continue to shape and to mold me into who I am going to become. I’m about to turn 21 and I find myself writing some of the same things I wrote when I was about to turn 20. Life will never turn out the way you thought it would. You might become a microbiologist and cure AIDS, or you might go in a completely different direction. You might realize you suck at science. You might meet your future husband when you’re sixteen, or you might meet him when you’re eleven, but not know it until you’re twenty. Life will surprise you. God will surprise you. I’m learning day by day to take these surprises as blessings and to use them in order to grow. Things will never be how I think they are supposed to be, and I’m still learning that.