I touched down in Florida last Monday morning, after a very full week in Jamaica. After spending over an hour getting through customs, I settled into a chair near gate E3 to wait the next several hours for my connector flight back to DC. I was actually really glad to have a few hours’ layover. I needed time to myself to process everything, and what better place to be alone than in an airport in another state? Even more perfect, my phone battery had died, so I couldn’t make or receive calls or catch up on a week’s worth of text messages.
I did have my laptop, though, and I could check my email—and announce at least to family and roommates that I had touched down safely in the US. So with a sigh, I opened up the computer and powered it on, prepared to weed through a week’s worth of emails. But when it came time to sign in to my Gmail account, I found myself suddenly overcome with this wave of panic.
Literally, panic. I actually had to close my eyes and focus on breathing. In and out. “This isn’t even your work email, silly,” I scolded myself. True enough. But the idea of confronting pages of unread emails after a week of freedom made my hands go slightly numb.
Because that’s what it was: among other things (and I’m still piecing it all together, and will try to come up with a good post about the trip itself very soon), my week in Jamaica was a week of freedom. Freedom from all the details, the social requirements, the expectations, the obligations that have been coming on strong and weighing me down over the past several months.
The trip gave me some fresh perspective on a lot of things, too—including my relationships and my sense of myself and my own worth. I’ve been getting caught up in the shallow part of friendship: keeping a high social profile, attending far too many parties, and comparing myself to all my friends (and inevitably finding I don’t measure up). In the process, I have no time for the part of friendship that matters (at least to me): quality one-on-one time with the people I love best. The result? Feeling lonely and depressed and guilty…and unloved.
There’s no freedom in that. I’ve been getting so caught up in the rush and the whirl of things that I’ve lost my perspective and allowed myself to forget some basic facts: for instance, that the friends who matter most aren’t going to “forget” me if I fail to show up to every party in the greater DC area; that my more shallow social connections by their very nature come and go, and always have, and there’s no sense in getting bent out of shape about it. Better to enjoy the company of others as long as I have it, but don’t get all tied up in knots trying to figure out how to maintain every connection I’ve ever formed, no matter how slight.
In an odd paradox, the more I fall into the trap of worrying about being loved, the less lovable I become. I blush to my toes when I think of all the bitter jabs I’ve taken at people in my periodic bouts of jealousy over the past few months; my biting sarcasm that gets only more biting when I’m feeling ignored or set aside; my sullen silences or evenings spent in my room alone because “no one cares if I’m there or not anyway…”; and on and on. Pardon the public examination of conscience, dear reader, but there it is. I needed to get pulled out of the fast lane for a little while to take a good hard look at things, and (quite unexpectedly) that has proven to be one of the greatest benefits of my trip. Leaving the country for a little while and spending time with the truly poor was a pretty sharp reminder that there is, in fact, a big old world out there full of much more important issues than who’s going to which party on Saturday night, or who’s friends with whom, or which guy likes which girl, or whether or not everyone you know likes your other friends better than they like you.
Of course I know all this in my head, but I can forget it in practice and in my emotions. So I’m back to say, thank God for some time away…for lots of time in prayer…and for a fresh perspective on all the blessings I’ve been given in my life, in particular my relationships with so many amazing people. Thanks for all your prayers!