If you’ve recently asked me how I’m feeling as I prepare to begin seminary next month, you’ve probably heard the words, “I’m equally excited as I am terrified.” I know of no other more accurate words to sum up the feelings I’m having as I prepare for this next adventure. As I count down the months, weeks, and days until I move south by one state to begin my first year of seminary, I am excited, I am terrified, and I am as ready as I think I’ll ever be to embark on a journey such as this one.
It was only a couple days ago that I felt a kind of fear that outweighed my excitement for the first time, which happened to be on the day that marked exactly 1 month until I move down to Durham. My mom had made some comment about me leaving next month and for whatever reason, that was what triggered the panic response in my brain of, “oh wow, yep, this is actually happening.” I’ve been talking & thinking for months about seminary and yet have never had significant fear until now. I think the reason for that is because everything is becoming more & more real with each day – I have a place to live, I register for classes this week, I’m figuring out the financial aspect of it all, I’m already planning for my field education that I’ll do next summer – the reality of it is all super exciting, but also super terrifying. It’s something I’ve been working towards since freshman year of college and all of a sudden, it’s here. I think that feeling & thought process is pretty common for any big life event or transition, really – you plan & look forward to it for so long that all you can feel is excitement, then as it becomes reality, it’s still exciting, but it also becomes scary …because it’s real now and no longer just a far off goal or plan. I acknowledge these feelings of fear & excitement (and everything in between) are going to hit me harder some days & some weeks more than others and I’m letting myself feel those feelings as they come rather than shoving them down inside me, because I also know if we brush those feelings under the rug, they’re only going to come back up again later on (thanks, psychology). Feeling both excitement & fear simultaneously, however, has been my main experience so far, probably because the things I’m scared of, for the most part, are also things I’m excited about.
I’m terrified of moving to a new state for the first time – while this definitely won’t be the biggest transition in my life over all, I am only 22 so this is the biggest transition for me so far. But I’m also so so excited to move to a brand new state & explore the towns, meet the people, attend the churches, & dive into the community that exists there.
I’m terrified of the rigorous course work that will be present at Duke. It’s grad school, and it’s Duke, so while I don’t know exactly what to expect, I can anticipate it being difficult. But I love being challenged in my academics – I was challenged academically in undergrad at JMU and while I know grad school will be another level of difficulty, I’m excited to learn, to be pushed academically by professors, & to push myself to be a better (lifelong) learner.
I’m terrified of going to a new school & entering into a new community where I don’t know anybody. I’m also excited to meet new friends who share similar interests & career goals as me, & I’m excited to become part of a new community of brothers & sisters who I’ve never met before.
I’m terrified of what our beloved UMC is going through right now, & the unknown of what it will look like when I get out of seminary. But I’m also looking forward to being equipped throughout my time in seminary to better lead & minister to people – all people – in the midst of what our world, our country, & our denomination is going through. I also acknowledge that no matter what, there will always, always, always be a God to worship & preach about, and there will always be people to minister to & love.
I’m terrified of all the unknowns. I’m still discerning my call & what all God wants me doing with the gifts he’s given me, and I realize discernment is a lifelong process, but as someone who is very futuristic and likes to plan as much as she can, “not knowing” is something I still wrestle with (& I know I’m not the only one). I know I’m called to pastoral ministry and that ordination is the goal I’m joyfully working towards right now, and I also know I have this deep love & passion for psychology & counseling, so I have been & still am discerning what all that could look like in the future. I’m teaching myself to be excited about those possibilities and to let go of the desire to have everything planned out prior to entering seminary, because I don’t need to – I know God is going to stir up so much within me during seminary & I’m going to be introduced to so many things I didn’t even know existed. I need to let the unknown exist without trying to constantly figure it out & “know” it all before it’s time for me to figure it out. And so, I’m going in with an open mind, to be led & used & taught & called further than I ever could have imagined prior to entering Duke.
I am terrified to leave all things familiar here where I’ve grown up and begin life in a new state, a new town, at a new school, surrounded by new people. But I’m clinging tight to the fact that I’m going into this new chapter with the same God – the same God I went into my undergraduate career with, the same God I went through the transfer process with, the same God I went through the seminary application/discernment process with, the same God I’ve journeyed with throughout all of life’s unknowns & challenges & transitions these past 22 years of my life. He is my constant, he is my rock, he is my place of safety when everything else is changing. I encourage you, too, to cling to that.
In addition to Him, I know that everyone who is familiar to me now will be just a phone call, text, or Facetime away. I’m definitely not going into this alone and that’s something I’m constantly having to remind myself of. Perhaps you do, too. I’m really great at thinking I have to go at things alone and that if I need to ask for help or support, it somehow makes me weak. But I’ve learned that it’s actually the opposite. God tells us we can’t do this life alone and that we’re not supposed to, either. So along with God beside me as I begin this new adventure, I am blessed in that I have people who have really reminded me these past couple months that they’re on my team & that they’re not going anywhere, and I’m so thankful for that. What a comfort.
It is going to be hard – I expect that and though my excitement may sometimes come across as naive, I have never once told myself it’s going to be easy because I know it won’t be. That’s not me being negative it’s me being realistic. Any big transition like this is bound to be tough. I think one of the best slivers of advice anyone has given me so far about seminary is this –
“About 6 weeks into the semester, you’ll hit a wall; don’t let it knock you down – walk around it.”
I always appreciate people who can be that honest with me in the advice they choose to share – if you know me, you know one of my biggest pet peeves is when people sugarcoat things, or talk to me like I can’t handle the truth if it’s going to be hard to hear. I knew even before this person told me this that seminary will be a roller coaster of challenge & triumph, but to have someone whose been through seminary admit it’s hard, really humbled me & made me realize how much I’m going to need to rely on God. This sliver of honest wisdom made me reflect on the walls I’ve hit before – many times – and how God has never failed to walk me around those walls, just as I know he will in seminary (& I’m sure there will be more than one wall). I look back on these past four years, and I see how God has walked me through storms & around walls & over obstacles so many times, and I see how he used my undergrad career to teach me I have every reason to be excited (and a little scared because I am still human) about what seminary will be & what God will do, even if there are unknowns & unfamiliarity & fear & newness. And so, I’m going all in, excited & terrified, with an open mind, ready to learn as though I know nothing but that God is holding my hand.
If you, too, are about to enter into a time of transition, I first encourage you to feel all the feelings as they come rather than brushing them under the rug – it’s okay & normal to be nervous, scared, excited, joyful, overwhelmed, anxious, thrilled, & whatever else you’re feeling. If you’re in the midst of a transition, it means you’re moving onto something new & unfamiliar – something that brought you out of your comfort zone which is exactly where growth happens. It took courage to step out & decide you’re making that change, you’re embarking on that transition, you’re doing the dang thing. So along with anything else that you may be feeling, I hope that you feel proud. I wish you nothing but the best in whatever adventure you are about to embark on, & remember you are not alone. You have people who love you & also a God who loves you & whose right hand holds you always.
Before I close this post I do just want to say thank anyone who may be reading this who is part of my “team” – anyone whose been alongside me through this little journey of mine. You are my people & I am grateful for you (& I hope you know who you are otherwise I’ve failed miserably). Thanks for rooting for me from near & far, and for being present with & for me in various ways as I trek through these various adventures. I couldn’t be taking on this next chapter without you all (especially you, mom & dad).
God – I am excited, I am terrified, but I am here, & I am ready. I am Yours. Mold me, use me, send me. You are perfect & I love You !