Controlling My Destiny… Or Not

After an upsetting 2-4 start, the Seattle Seahawks are suddenly themselves again. Maybe even better. I certainly thought so watching them from the stands of TCF Bank Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 6. They’re now in line to make the playoffs, and at this moment, they control their own destiny. In other words, they’re not depending on anyone else’s games to get onto the playoff pace – as long as they win, they’ll be in. And that seems almost probable.

Now, what does this mean in terms of actual important stuff? Well, I’ve written before about the ways the Seahawks’ team philosophy has helped me keep a positive view on life, so this is kind of related. I reflect often on how I’ve come to be where I am. Partly that’s due to being asked so often why I’m in Minnesota after growing up in Seattle. Yes, it is my choice to be out here – I controlled part of my own destiny making that choice. But I didn’t get to have it without influence beyond me.

When I was about 18, I had all these plans in my mind of what my life was going to turn out to be. I was off to Luther College (another moment of controlling my destiny by choosing it) and in a relationship I was excited about. I knew many others who were going to Luther through Lutheran Summer Music, so I figured my social scene was set too. A double major in English and music sounded totally doable. Then after college, I would return to Seattle and work for a newspaper, teaching cello lessons on the side and writing art songs for fun, while being blissfully married and raising beautiful children. Sounds great, right?

No one likes to be wrong. And especially not to be told they’re wrong. If you’d told me at the end of my senior year of high school that approaching age 24, I’d be single (but not lonely), living in Rochester, MN, writing about beading, and playing in a worship band, how would I have responded? With shock, no doubt. Maybe I wouldn’t like the fact that I’m not close with many of the people I started college thinking would become my best friends, but I do still have a close friend group that developed my freshman year. I know I’d be upset with the way I’ve handled dating, but perhaps not more than I’m upset with my teenage self right now for being so stupid about it and stuck in the wrong mindset for years. I feel like I have to walk carefully to avoid falling back into it.

That’s the power of reflection. You see your mistakes and beat yourself up. Of course I know that’s not productive. The goal should be to figure out why the mistakes happened. I think I have some semblance of an answer to many of my social problems: I lacked understanding of myself and others. In my little box of belief that I controlled my destiny, I wanted to make people like me by my own actions. Not only did this not seem to work, I felt exhausted in trying. I knew I was an introvert, but I didn’t understand what it meant. I loved being alone, but I thought that made me dysfunctional. I didn’t thrive in my high school’s social environment, so I thought that meant I had to fix something I was doing. I believed I was repulsive because no one wanted to date me, then felt validated when someone finally did in 2009. And that came with its own can of worms. The rise of social media didn’t help.

I also know now that I occasionally have problems with anxiety. It proved to be more of a problem in college when the destiny I supposedly controlled wasn’t coming to fruition. On top of that, I was trying to figure out my values. There were things I thought I was “supposed” to believe, partly because I am Christian, but the root of it was that my then-boyfriend believed them (very deeply, to his credit) and to make my ideal situation work out, I had to believe them too. The fact that I wasn’t certain made the anxiety worse. And so on. It tore me apart.

Misunderstanding myself and others around me has cost me relationships, no doubt. I’ve beat myself up over this enough. But, God provides us with abilities and opportunities to learn and improve – that’s what grace is! Various things in college helped me see beyond this need to control my destiny, which, as I discovered on the way, perhaps wasn’t what I wanted at all. I just wanted to know what was going to be next in my life. But you can’t know where you’re going to be in 5 years, even if everything seems clear in your life at the moment. There are opportunities, hopes, and dreams that will come to you, and probably not at the moments you’re looking for them. There’s one dream I had in 2013 that I’ll never, ever forget. It changed the direction my mind was going, forcing me to stop, break down, and examine everything. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be writing about this today! It helped me open up to the possibilities that I didn’t see while blinded by my plans. That’s not to say it’s wrong to have plans – I’d never get anything done without them. But they can change.

So, I’m okay with being “wrong” about where I’ve ended up. Now that I am independent and stable, I’m open to what will come that’s out of my control. Of course I’ll make mistakes still and fear that I haven’t moved beyond my former self. But I’ll acknowledge them, apologize, not repeat them, and go forward. And I’ll live free in the faith that my destiny isn’t concrete, nor is it something I can know. Besides, there are no playoffs for life – you don’t need to control your own destiny. 🙂

I guess I didn’t mention any of my recent life events in this post other than attending the Seahawks game. I haven’t written since November 2. But this does cover much of what I’ve been thinking about in that time period. I went to Christmas at Luther about a week and a half ago, so that was an opportunity to reflect as well. And I spent Thanksgiving in Muscatine, IA with my former roommate Laura. I’ll be heading home to Seattle in 6 days, where I’ll try to relax while comprehending all the changes that have taken place in my family. It’s hard, but good. Who knows if I’ll blog again before 2015 ends, but I’ll do my darndest.

Go Hawks,

Brita

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