an adapted excerpt from Every Little Thing, the upcoming book from Melanie Makovsky
Sometimes I am tenacious, and I press forward relentlessly in pursuit of what I want, determined to achieve it. Other times, however, I am stubborn, so dead set on following through on a specific plan that I refuse to allow myself to see the obstacles, even when the obstacles might actually indicate that I’m on the wrong path.
Right now, I’m doing that last one.
It’s late, as always, and what do I do all day that leaves me up until the early morning hours still working? School. I do school all day. I get up a few hours after going to bed, drive in the dark, and sit in traffic, all to get to Westminster Choir College, the only school I would even entertain attending for the last two years of high school. Then, when I get there, I spend the entire day sitting in class after class, or having my voice lesson, or choir practice. I’m in my third semester here now, but my schedule is still packed, five days a week. Then, at the end of my last class, I drive to a childcare business, where I pick up the two children I am babysitting in the afternoons. They’re great kids, and it’s a great job, but by that time in the afternoon I am both worn out from the long day and anxious about all the work I need to get done at night, so I know they’re not getting me at my best. I’m pretty sure their mom knows that too.
So now I’m here, back in my apartment, which is where I live, but I’m only really in it from 8 PM to 6:30 AM. It’s definitely better than the dorms, since I have more space and more privacy, but it’s still not where I want to be. Or, rather, it is where I want to be, all day long, while I’m trying to get through my classes and lessons and rehearsals on four hours of sleep a night. During classes the apartment, and my bed inside it, is the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow as far as I’m concerned. But I still don’t want to be here, at this school, on my own, when everyone I love is somewhere else, and no one I love is here. I thought I would find people I loved and who loved me in return at this school, I really did. But while I get along just fine with everyone, including my two former roommates, I just…can’t. I can’t connect with anyone to have the kind of friendship I want to have. Of course, that’s probably because I’m never around on the weekends, the only time that most of the students have to talk to each other and do stuff together. But I can’t be here on the weekends, because the weekends are the only time that I get to be with Eric, my fiancé.
Frankly, that’s the only relationship that matters to me now. Anyone else just gets in the way.
I’ve made it very clear to my mom and dad that I want to move back home, but they won’t hear it. I’ve been trying to convince them to let me transfer to Moravian College, my second-choice school, that also accepted my application. For three semesters now I’ve been complaining and trying to convince them to let me transfer so that I can move back home with them and at least be able to come home to the only place I’ve ever considered home. But whenever I bring it up, it’s like they close their ears. Like they literally won’t hear it. They still think that I want to transfer only because I want to be near Eric, and no matter how many times I tell them that the environment here, the professors and other students and schedules, is just too much for me, they just keep reminding me that two years ago, when I was 16, this school was what I wanted.
I’m so angry about this that it even comes out in my piano practice, which is happening at 1AM on my roommate’s electric keyboard. I have to be able to play the national anthem, in 4-part harmony, by the end of the semester, because I’m a music education major. It’s assumed that this skill is necessary to teach music in a public school, so this is my project right now, even though my interest in teaching music, and in music itself, is questionable right now. I’m so tired and so frustrated that I’m making simple mistakes and banging so hard on the keys that the upstairs neighbors are stamping on the floor, trying to get me to stop. The rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air. That’s how I feel right now. Angry like a bomb.
Now, on Friday afternoon, I get done a bit early. Classes end earlier on Fridays because the teachers don’t want to be there any more than I do, and my babysitting job is off for the day because the kids’ mom took a day off herself. So here I am, back in the apartment, but finally it’s during daylight hours, and I may be able to squeeze in some sleep even. The sun coming in through the windows is giving me a rare rush of optimism.
Yet I know that this isn’t the norm. One good day is not going to fix everything, and I shouldn’t pretend it will. I still don’t like it here, and I still want to transfer to Moravian, but I’m stuck. Mom called a few days ago, and I told her again that I would be happier living at home and going to Moravian as a commuter student, but she just kept saying that yes, this is hard work, but she knows I can work hard and my grades are pretty good so it can’t really be that bad. She tried to fill me up with unrealistic optimism, talking about “fulfilling my dreams,” but I’ve reached the point where that kind of talk from her only makes me more angry. I’ve talked to Eric about it too, of course, and he loves the idea of me being nearby, but it’s not like he’s going to pay my tuition, and he’s still living in that tiny bedroom in Liz’s parents’ house. He even said he would pay my tuition if my parents got angry with me and refused to continue paying it themselves. But Eric is a waiter. He can’t pay full time college tuition for someone else from the piles of change he’s accumulated in tip money. He shouldn’t have to. I know this is my problem to figure out.
On Saturday morning something about the sunlight turns my thoughts toward Jesus. It occurs to me for the first time that God may care about my problem. And God is probably the only one who could change my parents’ minds. Plus, if I tell them I transferred schools because God told me to, they can’t argue with me.
No, no. I can’t think like that. That isn’t how it works. I may be new at this faith and salvation stuff, but I know I don’t get to tell God what I want to do and then expect him to make it happen. That’s the same as when I asked him to bring me a Lady Lovely Locks doll when I was 6. He’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s God, and he is the one who knows my future, and he knows whether or not I will stay here and struggle through my degree until it’s done, or transfer, or quit. I know what I want, but he knows what will actually be. I won’t get anywhere by assuming that what I want and what God will do are the same thing. But the glinting sun coming through the window on this November mornig gives me hope, and reminds me that, if Jesus died for me, he surely must care about even this.
So that afternoon I put all my classwork on hold, and make the decision to spend the next few hours meditating, praying, and just asking God what I should do. I still don’t really know how to pray, but I like to think that God honors my efforts anyway. So I sit down cross-legged on the carpet in my room, with my CD player filling the air with Chopin, and I do my best to clear my mind and just talk to him. I tell him why I’m unhappy. I tell him what my parents think, and why I think they’re wrong. I tell him that I’m angry, scared, tired. I tell him that, deep down, I really just want to go home.
There’s no booming voice from the sky, and I knew not to expect one, but I was sort of hoping that spending a good long time making the effort to pray would suddenly give me all the answers. It didn’t, but it did give me peace, and it reminded me of how tired I was. Praying always feels like one step away from rest for me. So that’s what I do. I lay down in my bed just as the evening colors begin to appear in the sky, and I go to sleep. Before I drift off I think that maybe this sleep, indulgent as it seems given my schedule, is exactly what I need for now, and that once I’ve rested, God will answer me.
Four hours later I wake up in the dark, and I know what I need to do.