Days 41 – 44

Day 41: The difference

Magdalen College is quintessential Oxford. We make a short trip there in the morning and some of my classmates lead us in psalm and prayer in the very chapel C.S. Lewis would worship in. Our voices rise to the ceiling and reverberate against the carefully stained glass and stone walls. We look across the aisles and see each other’s faces, bright despite the stressful weak of paper-writing, and we find an oasis there in the Book of Common Prayer, in the liturgy.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so grateful liturgy as I am in the times when I don’t know how to pray anymore.

Addison’s Walk forces me to breathe. Separate from the group, I linger over trees and grass, never tiring of the natural landscapes here. It’s a pocket of peace in the midst of a busy city at peak tourist season. The stream leading to the river is beautiful.

I tell Kailin I get it. I get why peers struggling with mental health also struggle to be themselves. It’s just so dark in here.

“But you’re fighting it,” she says. “And that makes a difference.”

I’m tired of fighting for the light. I’m still fighting for the light.


Day 42: Meeting places

From the journal

We’ve been asked to consider how God has met us or not met us, especially based off our initial expectations coming into this trip, and I find I don’t want to go there. God’s been working in so many tangible ways for my friends, and that’s encouraging to be reminded that he is indeed present and working on this trip. But every time I think about what he’s doing in my own life, I get really bitter. Angry. Disappointed. Afraid that we’ve got two weeks left and I’m stuck.

And yet, when I draw back, God has been moving in a lot of little ways. I may not understand their significance yet, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t need to know. Maybe it’s enough to know he’s here and that he is doing big things but in his own timing and from his own perspective of what is good.


Day 43: Dreams do come true, after all

We take a day-trip to Straford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare (I know, such a fake English major), so I’m not terribly enthused by the idea of spending an entire day talking about him. But then!

There are new piglets at Mary Arden’s farm and I am enchanted.

I have a stuffed piggy that I’ve had and loved since I was one or two months old, so there’s a lot of history there with me and little pigs. When asked if I would like to pet the piglets, I only hesitate for a moment (because, you know, fear) before reaching over the stone wall to give them a little scratch. They’re a lot rougher than I had imagined, and smaller.

I can’t stop smiling.

After promptly washing my hands to avoid germs, I wander to the shop and a little stuffed pig finds my eyes and won’t let me go. He’s decided I’m taking him home and there are no buts about it.

I carry him around with me for the rest of the day.

***

“Measure for Measure” is now my favorite Shakespeare play. I’m spellbound the entire time we see it performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s raw. It’s chilling. It’s real.


Day 44: Captivity and freedom all at once

There’s only one good way to spend a free afternoon: punting.

One of the kids helping to guide boats looks like a friend from college and that throws me off.

Mary is an incredible punter (is that what they’re called?). Jared sloshes water into the boat every time he switches sides to paddle. Maddy looks like a queen. Kailin throws a single tea bag into the river.

***

I’m realizing just how easy it is to feel like you aren’t enough, especially on a trip filled with smart and talented people. I’d rather forgotten the feeling because I stayed off our cohort’s shared collection of photos, literary insights, and witty captions for just that reason. But tonight as I scrolled through it (mainly to see just how far behind I was with our mandatory posts), I was hit with that terrible feeling again.

You’re just not enough, the lies scream. You’re not artsy enough. You’ll never be as good a photographer as they are. You’ll never be cool. You’ll never have such smart insights as they do. You’ll never get that many likes on your photos. You’ll never look good wearing what they wear. You’ll never be or feel beautiful in any of these photos no matter how much other people try to convince you otherwise. 

This quickly escalates.

You’re a failure. You shouldn’t even try anymore. Give it up. Give yourself up. Give up on yourself. You’re not even worth it.

I can’t be the only one experiencing this.

Even the popular kids must feel like failures sometimes. Even the artsy ones must doubt their work sometimes. Even the intellectuals must wonder how smart they are really sometimes.

Right?

There are cookie crumbs in my bed.

***

Today is Independence Day in the States. Around 9pm, Maddy and I hear someone setting off fireworks and immediately trip into our shoes and race out the door, room keys rattling. As soon as we reach the river the noise stops, and we return, disappointed. To comfort ourselves we look up fireworks on YouTube and bask in their glory for a while.

I realize the thing I miss most about July 4th is watching fireworks with my family from my bedroom window.

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