A couple of months ago a professor of mine asked me why I was so closed off from people.
At the time I scoffed at such a notion and deemed him simply unfamiliar with who I truly was and how I interacted with those around me. I made it almost a joke, asking for the opinions of others and intentionally saying things to prove him wrong. I had this misconception regarding myself that the way I had always been was the way that I still was – bubbly, extroverted, confident, and open.
But of course, as I began to think about his question some more (a lot more, actually) I realized that unfortunately he was right.
I realized that I had spent the majority of my young adult life calculating the opportunity cost and heavily guarding my heart against people who could potentially hurt me. Almost subconsciously I developed infatuations with guys who were on some level unattainable, ensuring that nothing could actually happen and that I would be, once again, protected. I strayed far away from terms that even remotely sounded like commitment, always leaving myself enough room to leave if I found that I was becoming too invested or too vulnerable. My mind was either wishing for the past or anxious for the future and in the midst of it all I resisted letting myself enjoy the present. I refrained from allowing my roots to grow too deep or from permitting the numbness that I often carried to feel again. After all, people were always leaving and things were always changing; if I opened up my heart to them it was only bound to get broken. Experience had proven to me that real life was nothing like the fictional paradise I had once thought it was, and I was honestly scared. Thoughts of rejection and failure haunted me, dictating what I both did and did not do. It was fear and timidity that made all the decisions for me and though it kept me trapped, I reasoned that at least it kept me safe.
I mean, miserable maybe, but safe.
And I think many of us assume that we are happy here, happy in this place of protected misery. That to play it safe is better than to take a risk and that never knowing is preferable to rejection or failure. But if there is anything that I have learned in these past couple of months (and they have been crazy, believe me) is that we are wrong. That I was wrong.
We have the power to create our own destiny; we have the power to take that risk.
Maybe we can’t always control other’s reactions or choose people’s words for them – but we do have the ability to control ours.
And despite the hurt that inevitably comes with letting others in (people are not always clean and pretty) I think I have truly experienced more of life than I have in a very long time. I have laughed so hard I cried (and hurt so bad I also cried), I have made mistakes, I have explored new places, I developed new relationships, and I have truly had so much fun. Though I am still far from perfect and have a tendency to be more reserved than not, I now understand that my life is a novel and I am a character within. And though I have preferred to play the role of the stagnant and fearful princess who chooses to wait with hope that someday her prince will come and that God’s purpose for her life will be hand-delivered, I refuse to play that role any longer.
I want to live in the present, let my roots grow deep, and embrace people with all that I have.
My professor was right – I was closed off. And honestly, sometimes I still am. But though it can be so hard (believe me, I know it can) I think it’s worth it.
And though I don’t have any fancy Bible verses or theological discourse to leave you with, I challenge you to open yourself up just the same. Open yourself up to maybe saying yes to new faces, new places, and opportunities whenever they knock.
I challenge you, my friends, to take that risk, whatever it is.
Maybe your answer will not always be yes, but I have learned first hand that it should certainly not always be no.
words by Jodie Jones and photo by Gretta Sheehan