There was an Asian man, a black woman, a white male, and an… Italian woman? But the kind of Italian who’s clearly spent a few generations in Jersey, with fake eyelashes essentially brushing the train’s ceiling and nails long and immaculate. I slid my own bitten, unpolished nails in my coat pockets. No need to display inadequacy for everyone to see.
We looked like an ad for a struggling university trying to highlight their supposed diversity.
Does this sound like the beginnings of an overly dramatic short story? You’d be almost right. It was, in fact, the life-changing, culture-shifting great American novel I was engrossed in writing as my train arrived and subsequently left the station at which I was supposed to get off.
Yes. As a naturally hopeful person, I spent the next two hours on a train going further and further into New Jersey. Perhaps this next stop would be mine. The conductors, of course, were not announcing my stop, but perhaps they only announced a few at a time. This would be the one, surely. Or this one. Thiiiiiis oooone? No. Okay, the next one, though, definitely.
As minutes turned into hours and my phone’s battery weakened to single digit percentages, I realized perhaps this next stop would, in fact, not be mine and finally reached out to a native: “If I’ve reached [insert definitely not my station here] have I gone too far?”
“You’re closer to Philly…”
Seeing as how my desired destination was 30 minutes from where I’d been in Manhattan, this information was, well, unfortunate.
In the midst, then, of getting on the correct train, experiencing a ticket scare (turns out receipts don’t count as tickets, who knew) and having a phone slowly but surely fade closer and closer to death, I fought bravely for a good attitude.
This is funny. This will be a good story later. This would only happen to me. Ha. Ha. So funny. Ha. This is great.
I sent laughing emojis and reminded everyone how funny this situation was. I took photos to document the experience for the inevitable blog post.
And then (at last at last!) sitting on the disease-ridden floor in the correct train station, phone plugged into an outlet, seeing my final destination in illuminated red letters, grasping the ticket in my hand –
I lose it.
After self-pep talks and forced laughter and trying so hard to see the humor in a wildly frustrating experience – I lose it. Phone safely charging, I finally have the opportunity to send the boyfriend a series of text messages on his birthday detailing my frustrations, sadness, and anger with the situation, made complete with strings of crying emojis.
Pity the people close to us.
However, after losing it, I felt a huge weight leave my chest. And final ticket in hand, waiting on my train, I stopped trying. And I ordered an Uber. And Patrick had driven Ellen DeGeneres. And I got home only five minutes earlier than I otherwise would have but my soul was so much lighter and my heart so much happier and Patrick said I was almost as cool as Ellen and it was the best $38 I’ve ever spent.
I was welcomed into a home at the end of a long, frustrating night to a glass of wine and wonderful conversation and I thought without any force, “That was funny. This will be a great story.”
Why do we try so hard?
Of course, trying isn’t always bad. Sometimes the difference between “meh” and “amehzing” (heheh) is simply trying a little harder.
However, you can’t “try away” a bad attitude. You can’t “try away” real emotions brought on by real experiences. In my cycling classes, there’s a lot of talk of “looking inside yourself” for strength and clarity and goodness.
There is a chance, of course, I’m the worst human being on the planet and everyone else has golden, illuminating insides. However, that seems unlikely. And as, perhaps, not the worst human being on the entire planet, I can assume that other people have messy, confused, anger-prone, judgement- prone, apathetic insides like mine. I do not want to have to look inside myself for good things. That does not seem like the best option here.
Part of being human is feeling like crap sometimes.
Does this mean we should let sadness wash over us and linger? That since we’re human, we’re destined for a depressing mess of an existence?
Well, that sounds absolute horrid. No thank you.
So instead, we look to see where joy comes from. And we surrender to that source.
We don’t slap smiles on our faces and try, try, try to be happy. That’s a recipe for a mental breakdown. We don’t vent horrible vibes to the unsuspecting people around us.
We experience. And we surrender.
Get mad? Sure. Shout at God, not your friends. He can take it. Always, always, always. Friends can take it too. Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes.
Because safe people are so important. We need to be able to speak honestly and vulnerably to humans in our lives. But at the end of the day, they’re just that: humans.
And I for one, need a stronger source.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
Jesus brings joy. His Word brings joy. His angel Uber driver Patrick brings joy. In fact, God promises joy, refreshment, radiance, light if we just look to him instead of inside of us.
So stop trying so hard. Just be. Be sad. Be annoyed. Be free. Be glad. Be thankful. Be confident that the Holy Spirit is working in you, even when you’re at your worst.
And end those worst nights with wine and stories.
At least, that’s what works for me.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.