I have finished the race…kind of.

My last few posts have been pretty heavy. And some downright depressing. It would be an understatement to say that the last month or so has been a test to my strength and faith. I finished one chapter in my life. A chapter whose significance I had grossly underestimated until it was done and I had to say the hardest goodbye in my life. But now that I’ve been adjusting and refocusing my energy towards the future, I can look back at that awful month and at the last few months really and say that I have witnessed my own growth. And I just want to take a second to celebrate it. Because it has been a truly beautiful thing to see Victor Hugo’s words come to fruition in my own life: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”. And though it has been slow with and with more pain and tears than I thought were humanly possible, my sun is slowly beginning to rise. I am beginning to gather strength from this extremely difficult time. What a uniquely wonderful feeling. So I’m going to write about it.

My faith, though a constant, has been in such turmoil lately. When I said goodbye to a three-year relationship, another young man with whom I fell harder than I intended, a cushy network of friends and daily routines, and a whole life really, I fell into a certain hopeless mindset. It was a mindset that was convinced that everything and everyone I will ever fall in love with will be ripped from my hands the same way. Couple that with the guilt I had been feeling from years of emotional and physical infidelity in my romantic relationship, and I truly felt like I deserved the misery I was feeling. I was so mad at God for making me be the one to have to say goodbye and transition into a life of isolation and uncertainty AFTER it was me who did the brave thing by building a life at Gonzaga in the first place. It was ME who had to suck it up and be away from my family during holidays. It was ME who had to take a taxi by myself to go to Easter Mass in the middle of a city I knew nothing about. It was ME who was the only one who missed the passing of my grandfather to be at school 1300 miles away. It was ME who had to be at home with my super-Catholic family after graduation without the alcohol or social life I came to depend on so heavily at school to cope. All of these thoughts left me sad and mad and bitter as I unpacked what was left of my life at Gonzaga in my childhood bedroom. Even writing about them now tugs at a scar on my heart that is just now starting to heal. What my broken heart didn’t realize is that I was just looking at everything the wrong way. And it took some serious spiritual turmoil to realize that.

This past weekend during mass (to tell you the truth, I’ve been dragging myself. I haven’t wanted to go at all), there was a reading that proved that there’s a powerful spiritual force at work to help me heal from all the brokenness. It’s one of my dad’s favorites and, now, one of mine. It’s from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy and the verse that God kind of yelled at me said,

“I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”

I think about where I am today, at this very moment, and it is absolutely amazing to me how clearly God speaks to me sometimes. I got my diploma in the mail today. My college diploma and my transcripts with every grade from every class I ever took in college. As I held those things in my hands, I thought of a lot of things. Every test I failed. Every snow storm I walked through to get to a 50-degree house. Every time I dejectedly went to the bank to dip into my savings to pay my utility bill. Every friend that ever betrayed me. Every time I went for a run just to get my mind off of homesickness and stress and surviving on my own. Every time I went to confession after making a horrible decision because I was in over my head. Every time I sprinted through crowded theater lobbies because everyone was talking to their parents who came to see them perform in a dance concert when mine were across the country. Every time I sat in front of the beautiful grotto of Our Lady and sobbed, not knowing how I would pay for everything or what the next day would bring. All of these and more came to my mind when I looked at that simple piece of paper today. And then, I thought of the verse. I have finished the race. I did it. At least this part. During this chapter, there were SO many people who told me, “I don’t know what to tell you”, or “I’m sorry, I wish I could help” but I somehow figured it all out. On my own. And graduated. What a mind boggling thought. I did it.

And then I did something else unthinkable. I left it all. I left it and came home to a life I abandoned 4 years ago. With minimal peers, too many ghosts of the past, and a gut-wrenching nostalgia for my Spokane comfort zone. I had come to depend so heavily on alcohol to help me deal with it all before graduation, and leaving it made me realize how unhealthy it was. So I gave it up completely for awhile. I dove head first into my work which, Thank God, kept my mind occupied on the days where it took everything I had to even get out of bed. I reforged a couple of old friendships. And I reconnected with my family who has been desperately trying to help me get through this. There was a lot of fighting and bitterness and attempts on their part to understand what I was going through. But I just got up every day and somehow made it through. And today, with 15 days left of my countdown to go visit my Spokane, I look back on this journey more content than I was yesterday. And the day before. And a HELL of a lot stronger. I did it. I made it through the hardest month of my life with no help from the crutch of alcohol. I. did. it.

I’m not naive. I know that just because I got my diploma today and we finally have running water in our house again (that’s a whole other story) and had a hell of a 4-mile run, doesn’t mean that the hardships of transition are over. I’m probably going to wake up one of these days and feel pangs of that awful dark place I was in. But I’m noticing that as time goes on, those pangs get less frequent. And less ruthless. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to look back at old pictures and not feel heartbroken. It’s a good thing to look forward to. But until then, I’m just going to sit here and celebrate the days that I feel like this. The days that I feel I have truly “competed well, finished the race, and kept the faith”.

 

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