When the Road is Hard to Travel

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Shoutout to the one and only Daniel Hine for taking such a great photo.

I’m one of those people who has my life super together all the time. Even when I’m doing a million things at once, I still have all my homework, dress up for school, keep up with everything I’m supposed to know. At various different points in my life, I’ve had my whole future completely planned out minus a few insignificant details. First it was college at Stanford and medical school at Johns Hopkins to become a Pediatrician. Then, it became a Pediatrician who worked with kids with intellectual disabilities. After that, I entered into the: I Know I Want to Work with Kids phase… and I still wanted to go to Stanford. That eventually became wanting to run an orphanage and having to find a new dream school. Pretty quickly, I fell in love with New York University. I hastily re-planned my life in my head and threw my heart one hundred percent into this idea of how I imagined my life.

Well, real life happened, and despite the fact that I got into NYU, it’s still insanely expensive to live in New York City. I’m going to end up attending Furman-the school where my dad works, my brother goes, and I grew up. (Honestly, most of my mental block with attending Furman is probably due to my ridiculous competitive mindset with my older brother. What does it say about me if I go to a college that he got into?) I know that I won’t hate Furman as much as I do in my head, but I like the road I imagined so much more than the road I’m actually traveling.

This is all probably a tiny, insignificant example in a world full of much more serious problems than not being able to attend the university I want, but in the much smaller world of Me, it’s one of the biggest deals ever. I want to backtrack and take whatever turn I missed onto NYU Road. No matter how much I want to, though, it’s never going to happen. This is the path I get, whether I want it or not. So, I’m trying to figure out how to really live on this road instead of aimlessly traveling while my head is dreaming of another one.

Sometimes I get really so upset that I don’t quite know what to do, and then I wake up and see my little brothers in the bathroom, thanking God that I won’t be living thousands of miles away from them. I go to school, look around, and find a way to appreciate the fact that I’ll be close to most of the people near me. I participate in conversations, find immense joy in other people. And, I know I wouldn’t experience that on a different road.

One thing all of this had made me consider, though, is all the students who spend four years of their lives doing every little thing possible to get into certain colleges that they’re never guaranteed to attend- the kids who only do all the extra “stuff” because it looks good on college applications. I’d be in a much worse place right now if I didn’t find meaning in all my activities. You shouldn’t be THAT girl if you aren’t THAT girl…because sometimes being THAT girl just isn’t enough to make every detail involved in going to a dream school possible. And, then you’ve spent all of high school doing things you didn’t even like for a result you aren’t happy with. I love all of the extracurricular activities I do and jobs I have. I actually am THAT girl, whether college is a part of the equation or not. So, if the girl who goes to Furman is the girl who got to meet and befriend all these incredible people throughout high school, I know I can find a way to live with that.

I’m a very firm believer that we all get the exact experiences we were meant to have. We don’t have to like them, and we can be heartbroken over them too. But, I think it’s important to embrace them- embrace the experiences and whatever emotions they create. We have to fully open ourselves up to every aspect of the human experience, grief and disappointment included, finding a way to fall in love with all of it.

So, when the road is hard to travel, when you missed a turn you desperately wanted to take, try to walk in daily sufficient grace. It’s hard sometimes to wake up and accept yourself, the life you’re living, but if you can somehow find a way to survive in this daily love for life, it becomes so much easier. Instead of thinking about all the “what ifs,” you tell yourself, “today is enough.” You appreciate, you breathe, and you find peace in not being able to understand.

I think that, maybe, we aren’t supposed to love the idea of where our roads lead more than we’re supposed to love where we are at any given moment. I used to think about college all the time- about New York, about my whole life after high school. Now, it hurts my heart a little if I spend too much time thinking about all of that, so I don’t. I think about right now. I think about how lucky I am every time one of my friends gives me a ride, offers to pay for my coffee, makes me laugh. I think about falling in love with each day, instead of the parts of life that are still uncertain. And, I think that if we can all, somehow, fall in love with each little step along the road, we’ll find a way to end up loving the whole road, too.

All the love in the world,

Shannon

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