Expectations vs Reality

Do you ever feel like everyone expects you to hold it together and be perfect? That you aren’t allowed to have off days, and if you do, you have to hide that fact that you just want to fall apart. I certainly have, and the thing is this isn’t a new feeling. This is something that I’ve felt for nearly my whole life.

Hold it together even when you had a fight with a family member before stepping out the front door or leaving the car.

Hold it together when your best friend decides that she’s angry with you.

Hold it together when you have a bad day at school.

Hold it together at practice because you’re the coach’s daughter.

Hold it together at youth group because your parents are still together and your life can’t be that bad.

Hold it together because you have to be the anchor for your friends as they are struggling.

Hold it together because it’s just your dad who’s being deployed, not your husband like your mom.

Hold it together because you have to be perfect.

But the thing is, some days you want to cry, some days you want to scream, and some days you want someone to be there for you.

Instead, you suck it up even when you feel completely helpless.

You smile and say that you are fine.

You bury yourself into schoolwork or your job, trying to ignore the need to cry, scream, or break down.

You cry behind close doors where no one can see you or in the dark as you go to sleep.

You do all these things because people look at you and just see the “perfect” life you have. They see the private college you go to. They see the amazing family you have that loves and supports you. They see how smart you are and how well you do at school. They see your faith in God’s plan.

What they don’t see is how lonely that Christian private college can be. They don’t see the extended family that doesn’t always support you. They don’t see the late nights spent studying so that you can get those good grades. They don’t see the nights and days you spend struggling with God and coming to terms when He tells you no. They don’t always see the messy because you try so hard to hide it because they expect you to be perfect.

Now, I would never trade being there for my friends. I am so incredibly blessed to have some seriously amazing friends who I know will always be there for me. But sometimes, as you are walking through something with them, you feel so helpless because hundreds and thousands of miles are separating you from them and words just sound so hollow, but you have to hold it together because they need you to be their rescue line.

I am not perfect, and I never will be. I have struggles the same way that you do, and just because the outside looks perfect doesn’t mean the inside is. And sometimes that smile is forced and the whispered “I’m fine” doesn’t mean that. And at some point the perfect façade will be cracked and some of my messy will come through. When that happens just remember that the cover of a book can be deceiving and that human life is messy even with Jesus on my side.

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End of a Chapter

One More Month.

One more month in my apartment. One more month at my job. One more month as a Lancer. One more month as a college student.

In one month’s time (almost exactly) I will be walking across a stage and turning a tassel. Where did the time go?

When people find out that I am about to graduate college, I get two questions:

  1. Are you excited/ready?
  2. What are you doing after graduation?

I hate these questions because while it’s just a measly thirty days to everyone else, it is a fifteen page paper and presentation, it is training the person who will be taking over my job, it is taking finals and finish projects, it is packing up my life once again into boxes, it is a boat load of stress. This is not just a month of me watching Netflix. This is probably the most important month of my life so far. I don’t have the time to even thinking about walking across that stage because I know I will lose focus.

And surprisingly, most of us college seniors don’t really know exactly what we are doing after graduation. Sure some know about grad schools, but I have friends who are still waiting to hear from where they applied to. Sure some might have jobs, but I am in a very long application process for my job. I mean, some people have their lives in order. My roommate is getting married a month after graduation, but some of us just don’t know yet. And the thing is that is completely okay because I know I have options.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that this is the end of the chapter, and like a good author, the ultimate Author of my life likes to leave the chapter with some cliffhangers. I know that the next chapter is being written by Him, but just like any good adventure book, you have to wait to turn the page.

So next time you see me, please don’t ask me those questions. I am experiencing a lesson in trust which means I won’t have answers for you because God hasn’t given them to me yet. And trust me, when I know what I am doing, my parents will have no problem shouting it from the rooftops, and you will know what I am doing after school.

In the meantime, I, the heroine of this story, must focus on the last few paragraphs of this chapter in order to come out successful in the next chapter. So, if you don’t mind, my sword is calling my name to deal with my current foe, my paper. I promise once I have cried, bled, sweated, fought, and conquered my remaining foes, I will be beyond excited to walk across that stage. So wait to ask me until a day or so before.

Jenga Blocks or Solid Rock

Do you ever have those days where you say or do something that you immediately regret?

I know I definitely have. In fact today was one of those days. I said something, and as soon as it came out, I wished that I could’ve taken it back. The problem is that I couldn’t. The damage had been done, and unfortunately, I had to and am still working to pick up the pieces. Anger and frustration with myself as well as embarrassment mixed together in a rather unpleasant feeling that made me want to bolt from the room. Not to mention it was the first time something like this had happened in this particular setting.

The worst part was that my words and actions completely shattered someone’s picture of who I was. I was no longer that person they thought I was all because I suddenly felt like I was drowning and just needed it all to stop.

I could blame it on too many hours at work, too much homework, too many things going on, not feeling good, but the reality was that several things had sent me spiraling and this particular situation simply sent me over the edge.

I’ve always been an overachiever and tend to put too much pressure on myself. I’ve always been a good student, and in somehow convinced myself that if I didn’t do well in school, not only would I disappoint myself but I would also let my parents done. The thing is that my parents don’t care whether I get an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ on an exam, but somehow it has been warped in my head to think that they do. What they do care about is how much effort I put into things and they aren’t afraid to call me out if they think I’m not putting in enough effort (which is a good thing, mom and dad). So this morning when I found out that I got B’s on two exams that I thought I did well on, I went into panic mode thinking I was going to let them down and they were going to be upset. I didn’t understand what had gone wrong for me to school the way I did. Cue the beginning of the spinning.

I also tend to overcommit and do more things that I have the energy and the time for. Some days I don’t even know how I balance it all, but somehow I manage going to school fulltime and working nearly 20 hours a week. The thing is at this point in the semester, it begins to catch up to me. I am exhausted, and the idea of working six hours today seemed overwhelming. Mentally, I was too tired to even try to stop the rapidly building panic with my grades.

End with the fact that my personal life seems to just be one crisis after another, and I’ve been trying to handle it all myself, you get an amazing recipe for disaster.

So what is the point of me even telling you about this?

The point is that there is one thing that could’ve kept me from spiraling. Something simple, but for someone as type A and controlling as I am, it is extremely hard.

Give up my control.

I’ve often described my life as the very end of a Jenga game. All the blocks are balanced on one block that is wobbly at best. Except every time the wobble wins, and the blocks that were so carefully balanced come tumbling down. My life is a lot like that; something causes that one block to wobble, and because I am human and imperfect, all my carefully balanced blocks come tumbling down in a rather spectacular fashion.

But the thing is there is a much better foundation out there then a single wobbly human Jenga block. God tells us over and over in the Bible that He is our foundation, our rock, our solid ground. Jesus tells the parable of the man who built his house on the sand and the man who built his house on the rock. The man who built his house on the sand ends up devastated when the house so beautifully constructed comes falling down when the floods come.

The thing is, we are often that while we wish we were the man who built the house on the rock, we are more often the man who built his house on the sand. When things come tumble down, we look up at the sky, shaking our fists and asking God why.

Like I said, I am very particular about things. I have my routines, and when something changes, I’m not always the first to adapt. So the idea of giving up control, even to God, who I know has my absolute best interest at heart, is terrifying. But the really hard part isn’t giving up my dreams or my aspiration, but rather the simple day to day things. It’s hard for me to see how God is working in the small things, and to give those things up to him seems like a big chance.

The thing is on the days when I consciously give up control to Him in the morning, I avoid saying or doing things that I later regret. On those days, I have more self-control and patience with people, and things that would normally bother me hardly make a difference. So if anything, today while it was horrible, it reminded me that I have to give up control and even better, I get to give up control.

God is never going to let me down, and His ways are always better then mine. When I give up control to Him and let Him led me, amazing things happen. Imagine if that happened every day of my life. I don’t know about you, but that sounds way better then the mess I made today.

Amazon Encounter

Dear Friends and Family
As you most likely know, I will be graduating in May with a Bachelor of Environmental Science. My two years as a Lancer have been some of the most challenge and amazing years so far. I’ve had several amazing opportunities through my school to better explore who I am, as well as what I want to do with my life after I graduate. I’ve been a part of the fastest growing and most prolific science club on campus, traveled to Costa Rica, and most importantly grown into the person I am meant to be. Even though I will be leaving campus in May after graduation, my journey as a Lancer will continue.
Last spring break, I had the opportunity to go to Costa Rica with my major. This was my first introduction to the idea of ecotourism. It gave me an opportunity to experience the country and the culture while positively impacting the country through tourism. I was immediately interested in the idea of using ecotourism to help promote sustainability and help the economy of a country by preserving what makes it unique instead of commercializing it.
Fast forward to this year, my senior year. I was presented with the opportunity in the fall to apply to be a part of a backpacking team with my school. My first thought was “Sweet. Backpacking and outdoors stuff. Right up my alley.” My second thought was “Oh my gosh, I get to go to the Amazon!” Not Amazon like the online shopping website, but the actual Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. This was a dream come true. The Amazon is the largest rainforest river basin in the world, and it is also one of the fastest disappearing forested regions of the world. And I have the opportunity to go backpacking through the very heart of it.
Hold the phone. I am going to graduate college and immediately cross the number one place I want to visit off my bucket list. It seemed too good to be true. Only it most definitely was true. I wish I could tell you more about the trip, but due to the sensitive nature of where we are going the only thing I can say is that I will be helping further His purpose.
So, from June 19-29, 2018, I will be backpacking through the heart of the Amazon with eight other Lancers. But in order to do so I need support to raise the money needed. If you are feeling led to support me, you can do online giving using the following link: tiny.cc/bethanycripeencounter.
Thank you in advance for supporting me in this adventure. I want to leave you with two quotes that sum up why I want to go on this trip.
“People can live 100 years without really living for a minute.”
“In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.”

Balance

It seems like just yesterday we welcomed in 2018. Now we are more then halfway through January, and I am already exhausted. I had planned on doing a post that first week on 2018, but that didn’t happen. Instead it took being sick for me to actually make a post.

It has been a crazy semester already, and we only just finished the second week of classes. So far, I’ve gotten a new computer, started training for two major athletic events, taken a major step towards my dream career, and found out that I get to travel internationally this summer for ten days. Needless to say, it has been crazy, but all of it I would do over again if needed.

Balance.

That seems to already be my word for this year. Finding the balance of work, school, and play seems to be a good goal for the year.

I have the tendency to take on anything that someone asks of me, and while I’ve gotten better at saying no to things, I still say yes to too many things. Not all of it is bad, but it is important to figure out what things that are good are becoming something bad. I like to be busy, but at the same time, it shouldn’t take me not feeling well to take some time to myself to relax and refocus on what is important.

Balance is going to be difficult, I already know it. I have so many exciting things coming up, but some things might need to be put on the backburner for the time being to either give me some extra time or to let me focus more on what I really want.

A good example of this is applying to grad school. With my graduation fast approaching in May, a lot of people around me were pushing for me to look at grad school as my next step. I know that everyone means well, but I let the pressure get to me. I decided that I was going to apply to grad school. I found a program I sorta liked and began to convince myself that this was the best option. But on top of grad school, I was also moving forward with applying for a job that come to find out is actually my dream job. When the day came that I found out that I got to take the next step towards that dream job, all I could think about was that job. Finishing my grad school application became more of a chore than something I actually wanted to do.

I realized that I was applying to grad school because it is what I thought everyone else wanted me to do. I had people who mean a lot to me telling me that grad school was the only option, but I held a letter in my hand that told me something very different. Something that is important to know about me is the fact that I hate to disappoint people. I want to make my entire family proud, but I knew that most importantly I need to follow what I feel like is what God called me to do. I have a desire to help people and to be a tangible source of hope the God promises people. In order to do that, I needed to put grad school on the backburner.

What I want to do after school has changed several times, but the connecting thread to all of the ideas has been this desire to help people. I knew that in this moment following that desire was more important that what my extended family may think. I could become something without going to grad school. I could do my dream job without having the extra letters behind my name.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the first lesson on balance that I learned this year, is balance what I want with what everyone is saying I should do. I don’t have to please anyone. I can do what I want, and I know that I will give 100% to my dream job and love it every step of the way. Grad school can wait, but helping people can’t.

I Matter

I’ve talked about it before, but for those of you who don’t know, I ended up in an emotionally manipulative and abusive relationship that went on for a year and a half. During that time, I was invalidated as a person. My feelings, emotions, mental well being was called into question by a guy. Things were put on me that should never have been my burden to carry. When I first started this blog, I talked about it for the first time ever. Now a year out of that situation, I’ve learned several things.

The most important thing is that who I am and what I feel matters. I still struggle with it because even before everything, it wasn’t my first instinct to put myself first. I hated, and still hate, inconveniencing people. I would rather go out of my way so that they are not put out. It was this very thing that put me in the position in which I was emotionally manipulated by him. He knew that was something I did, and he used it for his advantage. After him, I felt so incredibly destroyed inside, but I didn’t tell anyone. I was the good Christian girl who had everything I could ever want. I had no reason to feel the way I did, so I told myself to suck it up and deal. But that broken feeling never really went away. I thought it did, but other circumstances made me realize that it hadn’t.

Recently, I found myself in an eerily similar situation to the one which led to that terrible relationship. While I knew that this guy would never hurt me, he started to say the same things as my ex. He put burdens on me that should not be mine to bear, but I wanted to be there for him. So I shouldered those burdens because I wanted to help.

The day I knew it was too much and that I needed to start taking care of myself and my feelings instead of just his was when I started to dread phone calls or texts. The focus had so become him and his feelings, that I had simply become the quiet party. The problem with that is a relationship cannot work that way. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to made, but I knew that for once I needed to come first. I needed to be heard and I needed to be protected and most importantly, my feelings needed to be accepted despite what he had going on.

The second thing I’ve realized is that it doesn’t matter how long it has been, how much I’ve prayed, or how much I’ve talked about it, there are going to be things that will always remind me of what happened. Somethings I’ll be able to get over, but other things I won’t. And that is okay. The things that I won’t be able to get over are things that are going to protect me later. I know now that I will never be able to get past a guy telling me that my feelings don’t matter. That’s something I should never get over.

One day when it is God’s timing, I am going to meet a better man who will never tell me that my feelings don’t matter. He will be able to see what I’ve gone through and I will be able to learn to trust again.

I will get over what happened. I won’t think about it every time I drive a certain street back home. I will learn to let someone in again and trust them without questioning their motives, but I will never again let someone tell me that my feelings don’t matter. I matter just as much as they do, and anyone who thinks otherwise is welcomed to see themselves out.

To all the girls out there, your feelings matter and so does his. Remember that you are worth more than the value he puts on you. You are priceless. I know that it is hard, and society tells us otherwise. But you matter!

Moving On and Growing Up

I’ve always been a homebody. I would much rather watch Netflix and bake cookies, then have a night out on the town. I’m much more of a binge watcher than a marathon shopper. I consider a good day out as a day that I can fit in a long run or go hiking. That being said, the house where I grew up has always been home to me. Well, until recently.

My first three year of college when I said I was going home, I meant I was going back to that house where I had my own room with my posters and things on the wall. The room where I could leave things out or have my bed unmade and close a door because no one would see it. The room that hosted many sleep overs and many surprises. It was the room that held the bed that I’ve cried in and laughed in. It had all sorts of memories that made it home. With the perfect view of my best friend’s house down the street and the brilliant view of my favorite ocean, I knew when I walked through that door I was home.

But more than that, home was where my parents were. It was the loud music being played on a lazy Saturday to get us all up so that we could eat breakfast. It was the smell of our Christmas tree when I came home for break. It was the sound of chaos when all of us where home. But most of all it was the place that I knew I was always safe and accepted. It was my escape from all the craziness of college and not always getting along with roommates.

And I always knew that one day things would change. That one day I would walk through that blue door and feel like I was a guest visiting my parent’s home. I knew that at some point, the place I was living would be home and where my life was instead of the house I grew up in. Slowly, I was preparing myself for that day.

This summer I realized that the day I was officially grown up was coming sooner than I had expected. Before I left for my last year of college, I began to take those memories that made that house home down. Down came the pictures, the frames, the posters of movies that I used to be obsessed with. Away went the stuffed animals from my childhood and the various trinkets that decorated the tops of shelves and cubes. Gone was the bed that I had since I was a toddler and the tea sets that were kept in that monstrous wooden cabinet that used to be mounted to my wall. In the end, all that was left was my books in their cubes, classified by author and genre, the containers of yarn skeins that held projects yet to be discovered, and the bow and quiver mounted on the wall. Some of the books shifted to the wall, floating magically and displaying my favorite collections. But despite it still being my room, it was no longer my childhood room.

Now, I don’t say this to make my parents feel bad, and mom and dad, if that is what happened, I am sincerely apologetic. What I am trying to say is that part of growing up is moving on and one day moving out.

I still left for school feeling like that house was home, but then I moved into my apartment at school. Sure it is small, but it is cozy. Yeah the walls are thin, but that’s part of college. The bedroom is small, maybe five feet of space between my roommate’s bed and mine. The kitchen doesn’t fit both of us in it and if the fridge door is open, you can’t get past. But with each box, each tack, each picture, and each piece of myself, it became my home. Those memories that I had packed away from that house I grew up in, exploded into my apartment. Pictures decorate my wall of my best friends and my family. My race medals and bibs hang proudly on the wall. It looks lived in and not just lived but loved.

Dishes are in the sink, towels hang haphazardly from hooks in the bathroom. Sometimes beds are made, but other times everything seems to explode everywhere. New memories are made. Laughter during movie nights are cemented into roommate bonding. Dinners cooked with friends reminds us that we are doing this on our own. Frustration from homework reminds us that its okay if we aren’t quite ready to be completely on our own yet. I hope our parents walk into the apartment and feel like this is our home now.

But the true realization of my tiny apartment with my hilarious and awesome roommate being my home was this last week. I went home for a wedding of a high school friend, and for the first time, I walked through that blue front door and felt like I was arriving at my parent’s home. It was still the house I grew up in, but there wasn’t that same feeling. I  was only a visitor and I was perfectly okay with that. For the first time, I put my travel sized shampoo and conditioner in the shower and I was truly visiting.

And I realized that home is not where necessarily where you grew up or where the person you love is, but it is the place where you make memories that you cherish. It is the place you know, and it is the place that allows you to recharge and rest. For me, it is currently a tiny apartment at my college, but I know that when I graduate in May, my home will change. But no matter what, the memories created in each place will be what defines it as home.