Lost in Transition: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Starts With Bad DirectionsPosted on July 3rd, 2012
Today All Groan Up is honored to have a guest-post from Jonathan Merritt, the author of A Faith of Our Own and the critically-acclaimed Green Like God. His columns have appeared in outlets such as USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. Follow him: @jonathanmerritt.
I imagine riding in the plane of adolescence with sweaty palms, each passenger staring at the floor. Finally, the word is given and one by one we jump. The fall is not so bad, maybe it is the rush we experience as we see the earth become more defined and inviting. Then our feet hit the ground and we realize we had no idea what we were getting into. Where are the road signs? What earthly resources do we have to instruct us, to lead us?
In transition, one day you know where you are heading, the next you feel lost. One day you are God’s gift with every door wide open, the next you are a complete failure. You are lost in transition and you are not alone.
The State of the Union
In America, the average young adult will graduate college with between $13,000 and $18,000 in debt. He will likely not have a clear idea of what he wants to do, but will end up in an entry level job that will pay a little more than $30,000 per year. (This can be disturbing when surveys show that most of us expect to be millionaires by the time we are 40!) Add soaring housing costs and weep-inducing insurance premiums, and it is no wonder over half us move back in with our parents for some period of time.
If all this doesn’t maim our pride enough, those of us who do want to marry can’t seem to do so until years after our parents did. Looking for an anchor, we may describe ourselves as “spiritual” but it rarely translates into our practical life. And so, we morph into a tech-savvy, well-educated, debt-ridden, job-hopping, spiritually-confused bunch of people who feel immense pressure to figure things out.
It has been noted that the twenties are now the most common ages to begin to experience psychological troubles like depression and anxiety disorder. [i] In order to cope, we try out different employment opportunities, cities, churches and relationships. If one scenario doesn’t work for us, we try something else. We suck on life like a cigarette trying to catch a buzz.
I Too Was Lost
I graduated college with honors, only to realize that honors didn’t mean a whole lot to potential employers. I became a consultant with a large company, spending my days in a corporate mid-rise. Sound like a dream? Try a nightmare. My boss’ name was Mrs. Slaughter and her “take no prisoners” management style was true to her last name. Meaningless work piled high on my desk which sat in a cubicle that thankfully faced a window. My desk sat on the fourth floor, and I was miserable.
I had no idea what to do with my life, but I knew that what I was doing currently was not it. In some ways, I envied the family man who had a career and knew where life was leading him every morning when his feet hit the floor. My head swam. I felt like I stepped out of bed every morning and plunged into a spiraling free-fall. It was like I fell out of life’s tree house called childhood only to crash through limbs of confusion and doubt on my way to the dusty, barren and boring ground of adulthood. My feeling of uncertainty began to turn into panic.
I felt like I had aged 20 years in the matter of a week, now feeling eons older than every young person I met. Day-to-day problems that were merely a bump in the road for the average person had become mentally and emotionally taxing for me. I considered moving to various cities and quitting my job, but I was too afraid to move, fearing I would make another mistake. It often became hard to breathe as the pressure to succeed pressed down on my chest with the force of a small car. I wondered what happened to the person who once pursued dreams with complete disregard to how difficult it would be or how many obstacles stood in the way.
Within six months of graduation, my equally depressed roommate broke our lease, moved out of our city apartment and returned to his home state of Delaware. Perhaps it was his disdain for city traffic, perhaps he just longed for poultry farms and wide open stretches of nothingness. Either way, I had no option but to move back in with my parents.
As I dragged my feet into the house I promised myself I would never move back to, I had reached the point of no return. Living with my parents was “temporary.” So temporary it lasted nearly two years. It was during this time that I decided to begin living, rather than existing.
T’is the Season
Walking into my room, I sat down on my bed and picked up my Bible. The pages flopped open to Ecclesiastes, and I began to read. Soon I reached a most apropos verse: “For everything there is a season and a time and for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV) I wasn’t sure what season of life I was in, much less what the heck you should do in the mean time. But, I knew that God had allowed me to be in this particular season for a particular reason. And this was enough. It gave me permission to exhale.
In a couple of months, I’ll wave goodbye to my twenties and embrace the dawn of my life’s fourth decade. Take it from me. You will figure it out. The lights will eventually come back on. The road signs will materialize. And when they do, you’ll find yourself wishing you had enjoyed this season more than you did.