“I don’t know you,” said the voice on the other side of the metal screen, and I heard his clothes rustle as he shifted in his seat. “But what I’m hearing is a heart that is not, fundamentally, at peace.”
Every now and then a complete stranger says something that forces us to stop in our tracks and reassess. This happened to me during this past Advent, when I stopped in to a parish I don’t usually attend for confession on a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t think I’d confessed anything particularly angsty — just the usual “Oops, I did it again” type confession, for which I expected the usual advice and a penance of three Hail Mary’s.
Expected or not, that priest was right, and his comment forced me to acknowledge it. I was not at peace. To tell the honest truth, I hadn’t really been at peace in ages. Juggling a stressful new job, a housing situation that seemed to be in constant flux, and a never-ending calendar of commitments, I was barely keeping my head above water. Unfortunately, acknowledging my lack of peace just added another cause for anxiety — “getting peaceful” had found its way to the top of my ever-growing to-do list.
And there it remains. Because it seems no matter what I cut from the social calendar, no matter what commitments I step back from, no matter how many hours a week I spend in prayer, in time with friends, in exercise, or in quality “me” time, I’m still not at peace.
Granted, I’m getting over a pretty stressful several months in a hectic job. I’m still figuring out the best ways to prune my calendar to include commitment-free days and time to myself. (I’ve had an epiphany, friends: I’m an introvert, and it’s okay. It’s not a problem to be fixed, but a life reality to be lived with.) I’m still working on developing a regular routine of prayer. But I think the lack of peace runs deeper than that, and I think it’s a trait all of us “young adults” share.
There’s a restlessness in the non-committed heart — and this restlessness is actually a good thing as long as we channel it properly.
I’ve spent the past five years focusing on my career and on becoming the woman I’m meant to be. I still believe those are worthy goals, and I intend to keep after them. “Living in the now” has been my mantra, in my personal life and on this blog. Yet in my insistence on living well today, not pining after a rosy future with Mr. Right and a house full of kids, I’ve often neglected the reality that we’re made for something greater. Because I didn’t want to waste my time daydreaming about a life I’m not leading, I stopped hoping (and praying) for my Vocation.
Instead, I’ve gotten comfortable in my single, often selfish life. All told, I have it pretty good. I like working and, praise God, I like my job. I like my roommates and my living situation. I like cooking for myself and running my own schedule. I like knowing that I could decide right now (5:10 on a Friday evening) to leave town for the weekend, and no one would really be affected by it. Regardless of how much I like it, though, this place in life can’t last. I might dig in my heels and insist on staying single forever, but everything else will change regardless.
Already the springtime lovers have started popping up all over the place. Every weekend seems to yield a new couple from among my erstwhile single friends. The engagement announcements continue, slow but steady. Married friends have kids and move to bigger houses farther away. Other friends move closer to home, or plan to leave the area for seminary, school, or new career opportunities. And let’s face it: the years march on, and we’re not going to be young forever.
This is a restless time because we’re not meant to rest here. And my heart remains restless because I’m trying to stop time, because I desperately want things to stay the way they are. I like it here. Why continue marching into a future I’m not sure I’ll like? Why seek to take up the cross when life with relatively few crosses is just so nice?
I’m breaking my number 1 blogging rule* by writing this post. No, I probably won’t want to talk about it when I run into you at parties. But I think it needs to be said: “young adulthood” is a transitory phase, and we are not meant to rest here. Our only real peace comes from acknowledging and accepting that, and journeying on with open hearts to wherever Our Lord is ultimately trying to lead us.
St. Augustine said it best: “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
*No soul-searching via internet post