“Nobody really knows this, but being smart is really the only thing I’ve got.”
There they were. They could have been written by me…ten years ago me…but they weren’t. They were written by a freshman girl with a wonderful sense of humor and words so beautiful that I couldn’t bring myself to throw them into the recycling.
It’s funny reading someone else’s words and finding your teenage self staring you in the face. That was exactly how I felt back then – socially awkward, horrible at sports, not pretty…being smart was really the only thing I had. At least I thought so.
Perhaps that’s why I felt tears well up when I read those words this past June. Because I knew that the girl who wrote them was wonderful and that she had much more going for her than just “being smart” (although “being smart” is a pretty good thing to have going for you, just in and of itself). So I was sorry to see that my thoughts were her thoughts. Because I know that present me has days where I’m still not able to get past thoughts like these.
This past year was a huge example of that. I spent a lot of time thinking about all of the things that I didn’t have going for me. And maybe the tears weren’t just about those words. Maybe they were also connected to the fact that my eyes had grown accustomed to tears that winter. Maybe they were connected to the fact that I felt that I was leaving a job without feeling proud of my performance, something that I had never done before. Maybe they were connected with the student who gave me a hug as she headed out the door for summer break, leaving me with the words “I love you, Miss. L-.” Maybe they were connected with the girl who’s family had decided to transfer her to a new school next year, forlornly wandering the halls long after the other kids were gone, clearly not ready to leave the building that she had been attending since elementary school.
It was probably a combination of all of those things. But mostly it was those words. I thought about those words again this past week, when I heard one of my housemates ask another for a hug because she was struggling with self-loathing. I think about it when I recognize that feeling of inadequacy, of inferiority, of self-doubt, in the person sitting next to me who is struggling with a task. And I hate it every time I see it. I want to say “Don’t feel that way! There’s nothing wrong with you!” But how often do I say that to myself?
Earlier this week, I was reading an article on Ignitum Today that contained a quote from St. Augustine that I immediately copied down and stuck to my wall. It was this:
People travel to wonder
at the height of the mountains,
at the huge waves of the seas,
at the long course of the rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars,
and yet they pass by themselves
This quote was perfect for me. I can’t count the number of times that I have wondered at all of the natural beauties of creation. All of the times when I have thrilled at the great expanse of the sky or stood in awe of the beauty of a mountain or the waves lapping at a shore. All of the times when I whisper “Thank you, God. Thank you for making this beautiful world.”
But I can count the number of times when I’ve looked at myself with wonder. The times when I’ve stepped back and thought “Wow, God, you did a really awesome job when you created me. Thanks!” And, yeah, that’s partially because thanking God for how wonderfully he created me seems a little conceited and kind of lame. But, it’s also because I don’t usually actually feel that way about myself.
I think that I need to start taking the psalmist’s words more seriously:
For you formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
– Psalm 139:13-14
Yes, God’s works are wonderful. I’ve always known that. Sometimes I just forget that I’m included in that category. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And my soul knows it very well, even when my brain doesn’t.