2019 was probably the busiest year of my life. In a whirlwind of two short months, I graduated high school, began my first full-time job, took my SATs, and auditioned for the music department and music therapy program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. The most important thing to me during those two months was getting into SMWC. But besides studying to be a music therapist, I had a dream of being on the hunt seat equestrian team. These two things are what drew me to SMWC. I could tell God was directing me to SMWC. I mean, what other school offers both of my passions and gives me the ability to do both at the same time?! I was so excited to begin school -- which is a sentence I never thought I’d say. My mother was immediately cautious when I told her about my plans. She was worried that I would be way too busy and suggested that I wait to join the horse team while I adjust. But I refused. I wanted to be on the horse team, and as long as I make it through try-outs, I was going to stick with it.
"I was the busiest and most stressed I had ever been in my eighteen years of life..."
As August rolled around, and after a whirlwind of orientation and classes, I find myself as a full-time music therapy student who’s also on the hunt seat equestrian team and working a part-time job. I was the busiest and most stressed I had ever been in my eighteen years of life. In between classes, I was running to the barn for either a lesson or a workout. After class ended for the day, I would rush to my job and work into the late hours of the night. Lastly, then go home and do my homework.
I was attending 8AM classes running on a few hours of sleep. I never had free time to relax or spend time with my friends. I was always worrying about the next few hours of my day, and how I’d get from Point A to Point B. You could ask anybody who’d see me, and they would tell you that I was dangling by a thread. All I talked about was how tired I was, or how stressed I was, or how I was dreading going to the barn or my next class. I stopped eating, whether because I was too overwhelmed and busy, or I just didn’t have time. My anxiety levels were through the roof. Yet, I couldn’t admit that. Even though there were all these red flags, I told others -- and myself -- that I was happy. God wouldn’t let me take on so many responsibilities if I wasn’t able to juggle them all. The stress and anxiety would clear up once I figure out a schedule and get used to this adjustment… right? Spoiler alert: NO.
I fought with myself for weeks. There was a voice in the back of my head that told me I needed to give something up. And I knew what that something was. But I couldn’t even think about facing that part of my mind. I can’t give it up. People were telling me I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I have to prove that I can. If I give up, I fail. God wouldn’t do that to me; He wouldn’t put me in a situation that would result in failure.
"Other people I know can juggle this degree of stress, so why can’t I?"
Quickly, I fell. My mental health was at the lowest it had been in a while. I hated myself. I told myself over and over, “You’re a letdown. Why can’t you just manage everything? Everyone is going to say, ‘I told you so.’ Your coach will hate you. The team will hate you. You’ll never be able to face them again.” I began to distance myself from my friends, and my motivation to do anything practically disappeared. In my eyes, death would have been a more comfortable choice than facing the chaos that was my life.
In this dark time of my life, you probably expect me to say that I turned to God for help. And, well, I can tell you that... I did not. More than anything, I pushed God away. I was angry at Him. I was confused. “Why would You do this to me? Why would You lead me down this dark path? Why would you let me live my life in a state of constant dread?” It didn’t make sense. I was at one of the lowest points in my life, and yet God was just sitting there, letting it happen. Up until this point, my relationship with God was at a pretty good place. In the months leading up to this, I had been working on letting God take the reins. “God’s Will be done” was my motto. And then… this happened. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was alone in a dark room, and the Light was fading in the distance.
I quit the horse team on October 30, 2019. My coach wasn’t in town for me to talk to her, so I called her in my car late in the evening on campus while two of my best friends stood outside and watched me stumble through my words with tears flowing down my face. I got out of my car and stumbled to my feet while my tears of sorrow, fear, cowardice turned to tears of relief. My friends hugged me and told me that they were proud of me and that God is so good to me. But I didn’t say anything back. I had made one of the hardest decisions of my life, and it definitely didn’t feel like God was there to help me. My friends were there physically to support me; yet, I still felt alone. We drove into town for a dinner that was planned initially as a distraction. Only now, it had become celebratory. And it wasn’t until I was sitting down, texting my parents and other friends and horse instructor the news, that it hit me.
"God was there. In every moment. In every decision I made..."
The problem was that I didn’t look for Him. I expected Him to appear out of nowhere and fix everything with a snap of His fingers. But that’s not how He works. God doesn’t force Himself into our lives. He doesn’t throw obstacles at us and just sit there while we try to work through them. God is patient. God waits for us. I realized that God seemingly wasn’t there because I didn’t ask for Him to be. I never turned to Him for help; I doubted His abilities and His love for me. I found myself in a time of distress and immediately put the blame onto Him, instead of asking Him for help. But, God never leads us down the wrong path. It’s like I walked down this path that got darker and scarier the further I went, and every step I took, God was standing there with an outstretched arm, waiting for me to see it and take His hand in mine. But I kept my head down and continuously walked right past Him, blaming Him for letting me go this far without showing me a way out. And then when I finally looked up, He was there, still patiently waiting. His hand was still out; His patience was never growing thin. His love for me had not and could not have diminished.
God is good. I will never be able to say that I regretted joining the horse team, or that it was a mistake that I made as a college freshman. Through this experience, I learned my limits -- mentally, physically, and spiritually. I grew to appreciate my friends so much more, and I can never thank them enough for being my anchors through it all. But also, as cheesy as it is, my relationship with God GREW. After months of using the mantra, “God’s Will be done,” I finally had a real understanding of what that meant. I realized that God doesn’t push Himself into our lives and that we have to want His love in order to receive it. A relationship with any person is a two-way street -- so, why would our relationship with God be any different? We can’t push the blame onto God for everything that happens without asking and discerning if a particular course of action is what He wants BEFORE we act upon it. Even if it doesn’t seem like it -- in the darkest times of our lives, when we are traveling down the dark path with seemingly no way out, God is always there. God’s hand is outstretched, His strength hasn’t failed. He is waiting. And He will always wait. His love never fails. We just have to look up, take his hand, walk toward him, and accept the graces and love that flow from a relationship with our Lord and God.