The Key to Success is Not to Stress

3 years ago I was a senior in high school. Life was easy in retrospect, even though I thought it was hard at the time. I remember being nervous about the next stage of my life. I was constantly questioning what move I should make. My thoughts circled around the same 3 questions: What college should I go to? What should I major in? What do I even want to do with my life? 

It’s funny to me that 3 years later and I’ve only answered two of those questions: Oklahoma Christian University and Creative Writing. It’s even funnier that with those 3 questions, I still find myself asking similar ones now that my college graduation is approaching. When April arrives, I am supposed to have the rest of my life figured out. Everyone keeps asking me what’s next, and I honestly have no idea. And once again, I find myself stuck with the same 3 questions. What Grad School do I want to go to? What do I want to get my Masters in? What am I going to do with the rest of my life? 

I find it humorous that 3 years later and not much has changed. The future is still trying to rule my life. I am still biting off way more than I can chew. Opening up to people is just as hard now as it was then. Feeling inadequate when I find myself struggling with a subject takes a huge toll on me, whether Pre-Calculus or Accounting. Extracurricular activities, although fun and worthwhile, are still extremely demanding and trying at times.

Thinking about how much has changed in the last few years, and then noticing that nothing has really changed at all feels really stagnant. I feel like there’s been a lack of growth. I want to say that I am leaving college this full fledged adult, but I’m not.  I’m still learning how to budget my money. I am still teaching myself not to procrastinate. I am reminding myself that God is important always and that He shouldn’t get pushed to the side. I have to tell myself that contacting my parents is important and making them a priority is necessary. Being a friend and allowing people to be a friend to me in return is crucial for survival.

Most importantly, I am learning that words that helped me manage my senior year of high school can help me manage my senior year of college as well. I posted on my Facebook about an assignment I have due in a few weeks and asked people to share quotes that helped shaped their lives, specifically their faith. My old debate partner and sweet friend who is just now beginning her first year of college reminded me of a quote that helped her through these last couple years. Funny enough, it was my quote.

“The key to success is not to stress.” It was words we lived by in our little debate world. We could only prepare as much as we had time for. We could only perform to the best of our ability. Everything else wasn’t in our hands, something that was hard to accept at times, but the absolute truth nonetheless. Words I told Marissa to focus on I had so easily forgotten in the last few years. I am pretty grateful for the reminder, now, as she told me that through this silly little mantra I developed to make us feel better during hard times, she was able to focus on God’s plan. She focused on God’s understanding, and not her own, something I have been struggling to do lately.

You see, my final year of undergrad is here. I am taking my final classes. I am working. I am participating in extracurriculars. I am living the best years of my life. So why am I wishing this year away by focusing on next year? Why am I throwing away these moments for knowledge of my future? Why am I fearful of messing up? Not being good enough? Not doing enough?

I have prepared myself all that I can. I have worked as hard as I can. I have no control of the future. I only have control of my present.

So today, I am thankful for Marissa, for reminding me of my own words. I was wise for living by that silly little motto of mine, and I think I’m going to bring it back into my life. After all, the key to success really is not to stress, because I know God’s got this.

Two Are Better Than One

You could probably guess this upon first getting to know me, but I am really good at making friends with people. Not to brag, or anything. It’s just a skill I’ve accumulated over the years. People tend to like me. I, in return, tend to like people. I thrive off of them. The more people I know, the better off I am.

Or so I thought. Lately, I don’t know how to connect with others. Or maybe, I know how to connect with others too well. I find myself constantly reaching out to everyone I meet. I want to know their problems. I want to help them and love on them and make them feel better. But in doing so, I forget about myself. I don’t tell people when I am hurting, or when I need help. I feel like I have to be so strong for everyone else, like they are too fragile to handle the weight of my problems too. Thus, I pick them up, throw them on my shoulders, and carry them through their burdened journey and avoid going down my own path that desperately needs to be adventured on.

I know when the problem started. I know why it got worse. I know why it is so hard for me to let people in, but I’m not sharing it. I don’t know how. Or maybe I don’t want to? Maybe it’s my way of hiding my vulnerability. But aren’t we called to be vulnerable with one another? Aren’t we called to lean on one another?

God never asked me to walk alone. He never asked me to take on everyone’s burden. You see, this time last year I was starting my job as a freshman RA. While tackling that job, I quickly lost friends. It was too hard for people to schedule around the fact that my life no longer revolved around me, but instead around the girls that I took on as my charges. I had curfew, again. I had dorm events and devos. I had people that needed me, and my friends had plans that I didn’t fit into because of that. They wanted to go out after Midnight because they could. They wanted to go out for dinners and play games and do things that conflicted with the time I had to spend with my residents. And at first, that was okay. But then it continued. I felt left out, unwanted, and most importantly, unloved.

A few months later, and I finally started to connect to people again. I was open with people, telling them how I was feeling. I was telling them when things were wrong. I told them when I was hurting or in pain. At first, it worked out quite nicely and I was once again surrounded by people who loved me. And then, those people weren’t there either faster than I could blink my eyes. I kept picking these people who I thought would stick around, but instead, decided to serve a short time in my life and leave.

You see, that’s the problem with being able to friend well with lots of people. You are able to connect quickly, but that doesn’t mean the connection always lasts. To them, I served my time, and that was enough for them. They moved on, leaving me to move on too.

Here I am at the beginning of the school year, though, and I don’t trust people. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends. I know they love me and that they would do anything for me. They’ve proven it so many times this year. Yet, I cannot for the life of me tell them what is wrong. I can’t tell them my hurts. I don’t want to talk about the fact that I’m stressed to the max. I don’t want to cry in front of them. I don’t trust them enough to be weak, and that’s not okay.

If anything, I’ve been reminded by people that it is okay to share my burdens. I’ve been reminded that I have friends that won’t leave me high and dry. And to be honest, I’ve been reminded of that fact by people I wouldn’t have ever expected to tell me things like that.

Like I said, God never called us to rely on ourselves, or do life by ourselves. People need people. We need friends, family, and we need God. So here I am, about to start my final year of college. I have people in my life that love me. I have people that are willing to talk to me, hear me out no matter what I have to say. More than that, they push me to talk to them even when it’s hard. Because of that, I know this year will be better than last year.  And because of them, I know that I can rely on them just as much as they can rely on me, and for that, we will be better off.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4: 9-11

Defined By God

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Sometimes I sit back and think about everything I’ve done with my life and wonder, What was the point? I’ve always aimed for this idea of success, but I’ve never really paid much attention to what the success that I was reaching for really was. What was the idea? And more importantly, if I couldn’t pinpoint what I was reaching for, did it even exist at all? And if I didn’t reach this unidentified success, did that make me less of a person? Did I fail? And if I failed, did it affect anyone negatively? Did it affect me at all?

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These might seem like a silly string of questions. However, tonight I found myself feeling assessed, inadequate, and more importantly, like I was not accomplishing enough. I felt like I needed to do more. I needed to be more. Not for me, but for all the people around me. Considering I don’t really have any clue as to what people expect of me, or the amount of success they want me to achieve, this way of thinking is extremely hurtful. More importantly, it’s damaging.

My success is not defined by my grade point average. My success is not defined by the college I go to, or how I’ve ended up paying for it. My success is not defined by how many people I am friends with or how many individuals like me. My success is not defined by the amount of awards I win or recognition I receive. My success is not defined by words of affirmation. Nor is it defined by accomplishments.

Just the same, my success is not deflated due to my failures. It is not diminished due to the opinions of others. My success does not evaporate when something goes wrong.

Because I am not defined by success. My actions are not my successes. My words are not my successes. Who I am is not my success. Because in all the things I do, God should be the only one who gains any sort of glory. In all I do, I should give the praise to God always. 

Focusing on my successes has given me too many tears when I didn’t reach a goal, specifically goals I didn’t even know I was aiming for. Focusing on my successes and myself when everything I did to achieve them belongs to God is selfish, because I know without Him, I would have and be nothing.

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I am not defined by my success. I am defined by God as a child who messes up on a regular basis, but who is still loved. Loved when I mess up. Loved when I do good. Loved when I fail more than I achieve. Loved when I have sinned. Loved when I have done right by God. I am loved. And that is what I am defined by. Because God, He does not care about what this world deems as successful. He cares about what we do to serve Him and His kingdom. He cares about how we love, because He loves.

I am not defined by my success. When I accept that, I become the most successful person I can be, because I allow myself to be defined through love.