I have always loved the first day of school. It’s a little weird and admittedly nerdy. But I love a new challenge, and the first day of school tends to push that button. There’s a certain thrill that I get when I’m starting something new – the feeling of possibility, expectation, and adventure.
The problem with being such an idealist, though, is that sometimes the new “thing” doesn’t go exactly as you pictured it in your mind.
Part of our MBA program involves two weekend intensives that take place before our regular classes officially start. The intensives are aptly named – they’re extremely dense, and full of complex material delivered over long hours. We studied Competitive Strategy, which I loved – but as the hours wore on and the available space in my brain started to wane, the thrill of something new began to fade. I was tired, and couldn’t wait to get home and collapse on my bed.
During the second weekend, each group is given is a “case” to analyze on Saturday at 4pm. We’re then asked to present on that case at 8am the following day.
Yeah, I can’t believe I signed up for this either.
My group and I stocked up on coffee and pizza, changed out of our business attire into sweats, and reconvened after class in the lobby of our hotel. I’ll spare you the details of our late night analysis, but let’s just say that a little (okay, more than a little) extra concealer was necessary around the eyes on Sunday morning.
It was honestly pretty exhausting to have to work on a project like that after two full days of class, with people we didn’t know very well. But the next day, in spite of our lack of sleep, our class was all smiles.
We stumbled into the presentation hall, rubbing our eyes and awkwardly trying to balance our breakfast plates while chugging coffee as if we were dying. And we laughed together, because we had made it. The worst (at least, the worst part of the summer) was over, and we felt a sweet sense of camaraderie, accomplishment, and peace.
As summer starts to wind down into the gentle glow of fall, I’ve been thinking a lot about seasons.
It started as many of my streams of thought do: with a tweet from the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda.
I took a screenshot of the aforementioned tweet, and sent it to a friend a couple of months ago when she was having a rough day. Afterwards, I found myself coming back to it in my mind every now and then, just dwelling on the words. I would sometimes sit on the couch at the end of a long day full of heartbreaking headlines, unexpected transitions, and emotional phone calls – and I would just let the words sink in like rain on parched ground.
The world changes / The ground shifts / We still make plans / We still find gifts.
I would think about how beautiful it is that our lives mirror the rest of creation. Our days are marked by change: we grow, we hurt, we heal, and we are renewed. We put to death old parts of ourselves, and they give way to rebirth. All the while, it’s the way we navigate the seasons of this life that determines who we will eventually become.
Soon after I started thinking about seasons and change, the theme started popping up everywhere. I started seeing it in blog posts I read, in my Scripture reading plan, and in movies. It kept creeping up in conversations with friends and in podcasts or audiobooks. Everywhere I went, I couldn’t escape what God was reminding me of. In the midst of my frenzied grad student existence, my tears, and my longings, He gently whispered over and over, “You can have hope, because I am always making things new.”
I’ve clung to these words with all of my heart this summer. Partly because it was 100 degrees, I was hot and sweaty a lot of the time, and I **literally** could not wait for fall. Partly because I have to take Accounting this quarter and I already can’t wait for it to be over. But also because it brings me comfort to know that if we let them transform us, the hard things will always give way to something new and bright and beautiful.
At the beginning of the summer, I moved in with one of my best friends. We started praying together at least once a week, and God started bringing things to the surface. At first, I was a bit irritated. "Haven’t I already worked through all of this stuff? Why is it popping up again and getting in my way? UGH."
My friend is wired quite differently than I am, and wasn’t phased by all the turmoil. Things were coming to the surface for her too, but she calmly continued on with life, doing yoga and making kombucha and journaling. One day, I came home in a general state of angst, threw myself onto the couch and complained to her for a good twenty minutes. She listened patiently, then announced, “Sam, this is a summer of healing.”
I was a bit perturbed, because I felt like I should have already been healed. It had been long enough, and I was tired of waiting. I’m an ENFP, and we have all the patience of a child in kindergarten. But deep down, I knew she was right.
So I decided to lean into it. I wrote down a list of some people that I knew would help me move in the right direction, and I started calling them (perhaps a little too often). We all know those people – the ones who are always filled with deep joy and light, the ones who radiate kindness and warmth and confidence every time you see them. The ones who seem to always be at peace, even when their circumstances are messy or painful. The ones who glow.
I learned a lot of things from these people, and I’ll have to write about them another time – but one thing that stood out to me was the fact that each of them had made a choice. A choice to let the unpredictable seasons of life transform them into something new.
Instead of giving in to despair or numbing themselves from the pain of growth, they had leaned in and allowed the waves to wash over them, smoothing out the rough edges and revealing a dazzling inner light.
I’m still in the process of finding that light for myself. I catch glimpses of it here and there – moments when my soul is at peace, moments when I’m able to see beyond this temporary life to something more eternal. Moments when I can let go and rest. More often than not, my edges are still rough – but every day brings me closer. Every day brings each of us closer. And someday, light will be the only thing we see.