I came back home a few days ago after spending three months in Roanoke, Virginia. Last night I was discussing career options with my mom, and it occurred to me that the future steps I am afraid to take, I already took this summer. I traveled to Roanoke, Virginia, having never been there before. I knew no one, and I had committed myself to a summer job that I knew nothing about. I have already ventured into the great unknown. Despite the difficulties, I have decided it was the best summer of my life.
I worked at a camp, which I’ve done every summer since I was fourteen except for three that I recall. But this camp was different. Sure, the expectations were the same, but the atmosphere was limited just enough to clarify my vision.
Because this camp was five hours away from my home, I packed only one-third of my wardrobe. After six weeks I brought more than half of that one-third back home. At camp five T-shirts are more than enough to get you through a week. I came home on Saturday to an apartment filled with junk. Knick-knacks I don’t use and don’t want filling up whatever empty space is left, clothes spilling out of my walk-in closet. At least it’s clean. I have already purged my closet once since returning home, and I plan to revisit purging at least three more times this fall semester. These last three months taught me a lot about myself, but one thing I know for sure is that I am a cluttered person.
A few days before leaving for camp, I had a meltdown. The school year had just ended, and I didn’t know what to do with my free time. All the emotions and fears I had repressed for a semester came flooding to the surface, and I no longer had any distractions. I entered this camp world knowing that I like to distract myself in order to cope with reality. Any camp will admit that one of its purposes is to remove distractions. Remove the technology and play outdoors. Remove the old friends to make new ones. Remove the take-away and enjoy the home-cooked. I’ve been through this purging before at other camps, but this summer finally worked.
Two nights ago I decided it was time to minimize the distractions of grad school, which are many. Yesterday, I remained offline all day. I did not use my phone, I did not check Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest, I did not email anyone (unless it was an emergency–and I did have one of those). I used my free time to read, write, and draw. Today I am going to take the time to begin memorizing a passage of Scripture. Tomorrow I am going to de-clutter my computer files.
When I traveled to Europe a year ago, I was impacted by the lack of busyness. People moved quickly, but not because they were running late. They moved quickly because they had a purpose. So much beauty is lost in America by the hustle and bustle of meeting deadlines and running errands. Relationships are lost in the constant scurry to reach the next destination. I want to talk. I want to enjoy. I want to have purpose. Not a purpose that pushes you past people, but a purpose that pulls people to you. Thankfully, I already have that purpose. I just need to weed out the distractions.
And as I look back on this summer, I am thankful for children who see the world through eyes that still believe in magic. I am thankful for the unity that can span across cultures and generations. I am thankful for talents to create beauty. I am thankful for institutions that teach people how to create beauty. I am thankful for parents who remind me to be grateful. I am thankful for a certain identity in the Lord. I am thankful for confidence that comes with purpose. I am thankful for God’s promises that are always kept. I am thankful for friends who go to watch theatrical productions with you no matter how tired they are. I am thankful for coffee to keep you awake during those early mornings. I am thankful for the ability to move. I am thankful to be loved by so many because of something I never did. I am thankful for new friends. And though I miss them dearly, I know I will see them again someday.