Popping Bubbles: Finding authenticity in this moment of quiet

I am someone who enjoys life the most when there is a flurry of activity going on around me. Whether it is in response to a difficult situation or my ongoing battle with mental health, I tend to thrive when I have a multitude of things on my plate. Additionally, my best work is done when I have a hundred other things going on, so I tend to fill my schedule to the brim. The entire of this past year of school, I jumped in to my obligations head first, and didn’t shy away from taking on new ones as the opportunities presented themselves. All of my responsibilities formed a nice bubble, providing insulation from intrusive thoughts and irrational anxieties. But now here we are, and my bubble has popped. Almost everything has been taken off my plate, and I have hours and hours to fill every day with whatever I choose. To some, this would seem to be a blessing; I finally have the opportunity to “take a break.” And yet I find myself unable to do so. I feel myself clinging to lingering stress and responsibilities with a fierce intensity. I throw myself into my schoolwork with vigor, claiming that I am too busy to talk with friends or family because I have so much work to do. But I know this isn’t the truth. The issue at hand is not too much homework or too many responsibilities, but it is the fear of losing my bubble, my insulation from the things that scare me most. 

When all my commitments are stripped away, I am forced to look at my life for what is and at myself for who I am. I can no longer hide behind these parts of my identity that make me feel safe and whole. I am exposed: I know where I am lacking, and where my imperfections lie, because now there is nothing to hide them. I use my student orgs and jobs as a blanket, and now that blanket is gone. The feelings of not measuring up and the anxieties of my soul slowly creep back in, rotting away the self image I have worked so hard to build up in my mind. What do we do when the things that make us who we want to be are no longer accessible to us? I suppose the answer could lie in many different places, depending on who you are and where you come from, but the essence of the answer must always come from within. Your identity and mine do not truly emanate from the groups we are a part of or the people we claim to be, but instead come from our actions and the desires of our hearts. And now we all have a choice to make, one that defines us more than any of our previous commitments. How do we respond to this situation? Do we shy away from the challenge before us and pretend to still be in our bubble of business? Or do we lean in, acknowledge our faults for what they are, and use this time to grow into the people that we want to be instead of putting on masks for those around us? We can use this time to stop hiding who we really are, and instead commit to bettering our souls; to nourishing our souls in such a way that when this is all over, we won’t have to hide anymore. 

It is certainly a lot easier to discuss this kind of self-acceptance than to practice it, but it is a worthwhile endeavor all the same. I challenge you to use this time to explore the real you, the one that people may not be familiar with. The person who still enjoys the joys of their childhood, or who longs to deepen their faith but may have lacked the time before. Allow yourself to truly evaluate how you spend your time and who you spend your time with. These times of reflection do not come around often, and so when they do, we must snatch them up and embrace them tightly. If we do not, we risk losing our authentic selves deep within our bubbles. We become slaves to the fray of life, and that is no way to live.  We hardly ever choose to pop our own bubbles, but when they are popped, we should use it as an opportunity, not a detriment. Now is the time for growth, for change, for renewal. These are all hard things, but the hard things are often the best. They are what make us who we are. Don’t let life pass you by in a storm of commitments, but instead invest in things and people that really matter to you. That’s what makes life worth living.

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Katie DeReus (‘22) is the Beyond section editor this semester. She is a political science major and is the class of 2024’s Nykerk music coach. Katie’s favorite parts about working at The Anchor are the relationships that she’s been able to build, and the opportunity to present the unique viewpoints of Hope students to the rest of the student body.

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