Growing Pains

I've been going through a bit of what feels like a second round of teenage years physically lately. I've shed a significant amount of weight and worked at getting in shape in order to combat some long-standing health problems, with the result that sometimes I feel like I don't know the skin I'm living in anymore.

When I curl up to sleep in positions that have long been comfortable, my ribs and bones press against me at odd, awkward angles. When I went to shop for work clothing, I had to try on size after size, attempting to figure out which one actually fits now. As chilly weather approaches, I keep pulling out fall clothes (my beloved hoodies and plaid shirts) and finding that favorite garments now hang like strangers on my shoulders.

Although this change is not a bad thing in itself, it leaves me feeling insecure and lost in my own body sometimes. All the rules for how I function have changed. Running a mile is easier than it's ever been, but skipping meals is harder than it was.

This seems like a suitable metaphor for much of my life right now.

My life wears a skin I'm not familiar with, and sometimes it feels like it's all awkward angles and disorientation. This rocker kid with a heart bent towards all things reckless and passionate has become a housewife working brutal early morning food service shifts. After years marked by middle of the night road trips and airports and walkways by stages and too much coffee and cheap French fries, I'm living life static.

The final symbol of this for me was when I had to cut off several inches of fluorescent blue from my hair so that I could be accepted in the workplace. It was like watching a little piece of my identity forcibly severed.

Honesty forces me to admit that there are scattered days where I hate it. I hate the clothespins and the dishes and the endless parade of budget notes and bills. But those days are rare, since I am determined to count these moments like they still matter. More often I just feel this kind of quiet heartache inherent in my daily routine, this question asked more in curiosity than rebellion: will I ever get to do the things that have made me feel alive again?

I know that for some people, these are the things that do make them come alive, and I have a deep respect for the homemakers and the housewives and the steady, deep-loving souls hidden in so many houses and part time jobs, brave enough to embrace peace. They have a kind of courage my soul shrinks from. This makes me wonder if I somehow missed a part of being human, if I'm just too selfish to be settled down.

So the question I wrestle with is this: how do I live a life burning just as bright here as I did when rock shows and travel and friends and adventures were life's difficult but radiant fabric? It has to be possible, since the soul I am has not changed with my circumstances, and the purpose God breathed into me has not been erased by my position.

I never want to be the one to settle for apathy. I will always restlessly pace to the borders of my life, hold out my arms, and fall over the edge with faith as my wings. But I don't entirely know what that looks like for me right now, as a creative serving people bagels at 6:00 a.m., as someone who (often unhealthily) idolized independence learning to be a wife, as a mind who loves learning confined to the mindless mundane, as an adrenaline junkie constrained to spend free time doing laundry by hand.

But I know that even in "settling down," I don't want to settle for less than the deepest adventure. To some extent being sustained in this goes back to the truth I come back to over and over again: what we do is not who we are. I have felt like my soul is awkwardly straddling the fence between "ordinary" and "alive," but maybe in reality part of growing into this skin is learning to be consistent no matter where my feet are planted—finding the things about my identity that endure beyond the circumstantial and letting those things anchor me.

I don't have it figured out yet. I'm not sure yet if I ever will. But I'm going to keep trying, one step, one songs, one coffee cup at a time—as always.


Writer: Mary Nikkel

Mary is a fan of stories about grace—whether they show up in writing, music, or photography form. She's been listening to and telling those stories as a professional writer for over 10 years. Mary is the founder and editor of Rock on Purpose, where she talks about rock music centered around truth and redemptive justice.

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