Thursday, May 04, 2006

A grand finale

It's amazing that I've spent the entire academic year with the same two girls, who have been in all my accounting classes with me and stayed up until one in the morning with me, who have pulled eight- or ten-hour tax research marathons with me, studied with me, researched with me, completed projects and PowerPoints with me, and only just in the past few days am I getting the chance to see who they really are. Doing relaxing things together, having dinner together, talking about literature (not PCAOB literature, or FASB statements, or SOX, or *ahem* the Tax Code). How does that happen? How do you spend such a significant portion of your life with people, and never get to know the other sides of them? How do you manage to call someone a friend when you've never had a discussion with them that doesn't involve consolidating balance sheets or deducting passive losses? How does your life get that out-of-balance?

Anyway, I feel like that stage is over now. I put down my pencil at 10:30 this morning, and it was over--all the cramming, all the stress, all the neglect of Laura as a well-rounded person. Because next year, it won't be this way. When I come back to school in the fall, it will be to finish the last year of my MAcc, but it will also be with a new consciousness of caring for myself and living my life on more than one level. It will be to enjoy the last semester of school with my friends, my last year in Athens...

I needed a break last night, and I went to the Wesley Foundation. Bob and I have been really active there for several years now, but this past semester has made it difficult to be active in anything beyond classwork. As I tried to worship God I just found my head spinning and my heart sick; as I took communion I found myself unable to control the sobs that broke forth from my chest. And I realized that, however hard I've worked this semester, and whatever I've been able to achieve (All A's? I'm not so sure...), it's not been worth losing touch with myself, with my body, with my God. These past few months have been a constant ebb and flow, sometimes being very rewarding and exciting but often waning into frustration and worry and depression. It's time to gain my sense of self again.

My nature writing class helped keep me balanced, helped to remind me that there are aesthetic and artistic facets to my nature--helped remind me that I'm good at something, indeed even called to something, greater than crunching numbers. I'm called to reflect God and to serve Him and to serve His people. I'm called to use the gifts He has given me--the many gifts, the gifts that should be blessings and not burdens. Accounting was not a mistake for me; in fact I am quite certain that it was God's plan for me. But not the only plan. Not the ultimate goal. I'm only twenty-two, and I know there's much more than what I've seen and lived. And I know that each moment, though stressful and impossible, will flee like the dawn and just be a puff of smoke in my memory. I know that my self-attained glory will wither and fade like the grass of the field, and when that happens I better hope I have stored up some treasures in heaven, because we all reap what we sow in the end.

Barbara Kingsolver wrote, in her essay "High Tide in Tucson," that sometimes when she wakes up in the morning she thinks simply, "Let me be a good animal today." It's comforting to know, amid all our creation and striving and bustle, that we humans are really just animals. We're not some great beings over all the earth, and the only greatness we have to achieve is the greatness we burden ourselves with by seeking it. I don't always want to achieve greatness. Sometimes I just want to achieve my calling and my purpose. Sometimes I just want to wake up and breathe in and out and feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair. Sometimes I just want to fade among the other inhabitants of this world all around me. Sometimes I just want to be a good animal.

I think that's why I hike, and why I enjoy the earth in general. It refreshes my spiritual self and my physical body; it lets me melt away into the deep woods of Appalachia, until I am just another creature meandering along by the creek at the foot of the millennia-old mountain. I think that's why I run, because it forces me to connect with every part of my body--my respiratory and circulatory system, my ability to endure, my love for outdoors, even my need to find my way back home when I don't know where I am. And I think that's why I write, because it gives me a medium to put these things down in history, make them permanent and real. It gives me something to look back at later, when my life is out of whack again, and say, "Remember the girl I was? What happened to her? How have I come this far--and how can I get back to that place again?" And it gives me a way to share with others, and reaffirm my belonging to a greater humanity, not as someone made great by power or position but, simply, by God and through Him.

Bob is concerned for me. I don't blame him; I would be too, if I saw someone pulling her hair out at two AM every night, consumed by stress and anxiety. But that's not me anymore. That's no way to live, and it's certainly not what was intended for my life all along. With God's help, I will finally put these silly worries behind me, step into my calling and my purpose--I will become a good animal again.

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