Some things really just don’t matter

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!

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2 thoughts on “Some things really just don’t matter

  1. I was just telling my wife that it really is all in your head. We’ve been having a stressful last few weeks with work obligations, family, and preparing for a new one to be joining us in three months. There are a long list of things to ‘get done’ and little motivation and time to do them. But, the feeling, the desires, the frustrations, and the stress is all about what’s in your head. We all must do a better job of regularly thinking about how we feel, attributing to the proper place, placing a low priority on those things not effecting the people who we really love and who we know will always be there, and then getting to work on the things left. Those things that TRULY MATTER and help our souls find peace and get just a litte closer to heaven, our eternal reward.

    We often think of you!

  2. Man oh man, you’re speaking my language right now! I have never felt so free, so loved, or so beautiful (despite being perpetually drenched in sweat) in my whole life as I did in India. And you hit the reason right on the head: freedom. I had absolutely no inhibitions about grinning like an idiot at everyone I met, taking every opportunity to be pleasant and loving towards every person I came in contact with. Why? Because I was in India, I reasoned, and maybe I would never get the chance to speak to them again ever in my whole life. I must admit that this realization has not fully manifest itself in my life back here in the states, but your post is a good reminder to hold on to that joy, that truly only Christ can give, and let it permeate every aspect of our lives.

    I know what you’re saying about the world being a big place, too. I was so shocked at how narrow my worldview really is and how easily I get caught up in the narrow confines of the young adult social scene. I don’t think I devoted any time to host a pity-party for myself (as I normally do here in the land of plenty) in India because, you said it, there is a big world out there that is full of much more important things. And that realization is extremely liberating.

    My prayers are with you as you begin to emotionally and mentally unpack your experience in Jamaica!

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