Don’t Say Just

I believe language is everything. Words seep down into the crevices of the spine, and they grow. If they’re good, then the person will stand taller. They will radiate light. If those words come with judgment or hostility, a person might lose a few inches, stretching to find the light they once had. It’s a hard road when you’ve been knocked down a few inches, but I think eventually, the light finds you again.

When I left seminary, a few weeks ago, I had to meet with a professor to have a conversation about my decision to withdraw. I realized quickly it wasn’t a conversation but a pitch. It didn’t matter I was leaving because of personal reasons and mental health. She offered me in several different forms a reduced time in seminary for a different degree. “How about the M.A.C.M.? Two classes and CPE and you’ll be done? Have you thought about only taking a semester off?” When I explained to her the logistics of my time, CPE is 40 hours a week and I work nearly 40 hours a week, and that isn’t ideal, she let out an “Oh.” It was an oh I wish I caught on camera because as a pastoral worker, we are taught against every reaction she had in that 10 minute meeting. I digress. Before I left, she asked me what I would do since I wasn’t in seminary. Unfortunately, she did not word it like that. “So you’re just not going to finish? You’re just going to be a deputy clerk?” The just is where I am hung up on. Let me explain.

In undergrad, I had this amazingly wonderful professor, Dr. Martin, and he would make sure that in any of our responses–either verbal or written–we never used the word just. When we said it in class, he would interrupt us and say, “Don’t say just.” As annoying as I found his incessant interruptions, his words stuck with me. It wasn’t until I left undergrad, when I didn’t have Dr. Martin to call me out, that I understood why I shouldn’t say just. Just is a limitation imposed upon someone or something. When you say just, you are imposing your expectations upon them while limiting them to be something you find limiting for their potential. With just, they have no room to be anything else. I felt deduced to being only a deputy clerk. Her words were instantly frustrating. I responded back rather harshly and defensively. I started rattling off things I would be doing instead of being in seminary. If her question were worded differently, I wouldn’t have felt the need to defend myself against the limitations of just. I’ve had many people ask me what I was going to do post-seminary, and with some I was honest: “I am going to rest.”

Words matter and hers left a bitter taste in my mouth. Because this is such a fresh loss, when I think back on my time in seminary, I think back at the most recent things. My friend, who also left seminary earlier this year, said, “It’s like attending your own funeral.” And it really is. At the end, I could only see those who supported me, those who judged me, and those who only cared for me within an academic context. It was humbling and deeply saddening. So, today, I’m doing some processing of those feelings. I’m grateful for what the experience was. Despite the bitterness, I believe my time there was intentional both in my life and the lives of other people. I believe it mattered. I wish other people could see that too. Today, I am stretching to find the light I had and to believe in the great purposefulness of my journey.

My Bumblebee Being

My greatest woe was that I would let You down. That I would have rejected the person I was supposed to be so much that I became ordinary. Then, I quit the one thing I thought was sure to make me extraordinary. I left seminary and the hopes of a PhD. None of that makes any sense to me right now, but it feels so good. I don’t know much about anything like why birds sing at dawn, why the world wakes up right before the Sun, or how this world can continue to exist as it is. But, I do think I know one thing. We, if we choose, can be bumblebees.

Bees do not have to think about going from flower to flower, they just do it. They are who they are. In their creation, they know innately how to be and that’s what moves them from flower to flower. I am a bee. In my spirit, I know exactly how to be. It is in that being that everything else flows from. The beauty of being is that I never had to work at being extraordinary. Being who I am, what is innately natural to my spirit, that is what makes me extraordinary. No degree can do that. No church title can do that. No position can do that.

Metamorphosis IV

December 9, 2019

I am here. I am here at my breaking point of school waiting to be released. I am here believing that my life is more than this. I am here going crazy.

If I hang myself at this exact moment, will I still have to write this paper? Hell is me writing academia over and over again. I never thought I’d get here. I never thought that I would hate academia, but I guess this is metamorphosis. This is me coming out of my cocoon. This is me getting my wings.

I am here with feathers outside my back and the world feels differently than it did months ago. I feel different. I’m not sure what to do here, except to fly. I always wondered how birds knew exactly where to go. I am learning that freedom is innate. I don’t know how I know where to go, but I know I am headed there with my new wings, new heart, and my awakened spirit. This is what it means to fly.

Just Keep Swimming

New converts are funny to watch. I mean converts in anything–the faith, yoga, home ownership. They throw themselves into their new passion with a great pride and zeal that others always congratulate them on. But, who cheers us on when the zeal fades?

Recently, I’ve gotten back into yoga, and I guess you could call me a new convert. I’ve thrown myself into the practice rather responsibly. I don’t overdo it. I’m resting when I need to. However, I still find myself day dreaming about my play time (yoga time). I find myself going over different flows in my head, counting down the moments until I can try it out on the mat. Once I get to the mat, it’s such a relief. Sometimes, the flow I imagined is successful by my body. Other times, it is not (looking at you crow pose). The practice in itself requires honesty and commitment. I must be honest about where I am and where I began. I must be committed to continuing, even on days where I sense no progress.

I find that most things in life are like yoga, particularly school. Lately, for the past month or so, I’ve felt that zeal for school fading. It seemed to have disappeared overnight. Almost regularly, I’m asking, “Why did I begin?” That question goes unanswered still. I’ve gotten to the point where because I don’t see my M. Div. taking me anywhere, I have stopped. I have stopped all things except for attendance. It is a miracle I am still passing. But, if yoga and Jesus have taught me anything, it’s that we continue into the unknown. That march into the unknown isn’t always brave. I might forget what the goal is. I might find myself to be more lonely than I expected. But, I know what will result is a more honest Aisha, a more committed Aisha. Most days, that’s all I can ask for.

I don’t know where or if this post finds you, dear reader, but I hope wherever you are, whatever you’re doing that you continue. Hold on just a little while longer. Stay committed. Soon, you’ll remember why you began. In the words of a very wise fish, “Just keep swimming!”

Remember Why You Began

I think it’s appropriate that it’s almost been a year since I’ve made a post on here. I stopped for so many reasons. I was transitioning out of a bad situation into a good one. I was nervous about life. I didn’t think what I had to say mattered too much anymore. I felt weird about where I was in life and who I knew, that I removed myself from anything that provided any amount of comfort. I removed myself from my daily reminder that the little things matter.

So, let me give some updates, in bullet point fashion.

  • Last August I started attending seminary, and incidentally, stopped going to church. Seminary has been a collection of experiences, some of which remind me how celestial we truly are, while others scream, “We are dangerously human!” The fragile state of human existence is rather beautiful, intricate, and complicated.
  • This year I started working steadily in a courthouse. It’s humbling and high-stress work, but I’d be lying if  I said I hate it. It brings me some odd satisfaction.
  • I started going to therapy in December. I’m sure I’ll write so many more posts about how therapy is a sacred space, and everyone should have a therapist. Right now, I will say that it is amazing what I can do when I feel understood.
  • I was honest about my job hopping, but I’m not sure if I was honest about my home. Last year, I almost lost my home to foreclosure. I’m absolutely grateful I didn’t. To be very honest, I’m not sure how it is possible that I’m still in my home. In the twelve months, I think I made four or five payments. Any other time, I would’ve said God wanted me to have my house. However, since beginning seminary, I’ve learned that it’s important what I’m saying and what I’m not saying. If I said God wanted me to have my home, then what am I saying to those who have lost their homes? Working in a court system, I meet hundreds of people who have been evicted due to nonpayment, and it’s humbling every time. Never would I stand before them and say, “Well, God just wanted you out.” I’ve learned not to speak for God. I’ve learned that there are no tiny graces. I hurt for those people who have lost their homes. I mourn for them picking up the broken pieces. I don’t have the words for what I feel, but I am grateful that I was able to stay in my house.
  • I stopped going to my heavily Pentecostal non-denominational church (that I love and miss) and floated around in my seminary education. Sometime in November I read about Pauli Murray. In the book, All Out of Faith, I read her essay “Full Circle.” I still am unable to describe what it is I felt after reading. The closest thing that comes to mind is overwhelmed. I took in a glimpse of her story and fell in love with her, with God, with how our lives unapologetically come full circle into reconciliation. That reconciliation with ourselves, our families, and our current societal positions looks so different than what we could have ever expected. Rev. Murray was the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest. Her story inspired me to visit an Episcopal church. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know the hymns, when to stand or kneel, but I did know the Nicene Creed (courtesy of my Church History professor), and I knew how to receive communion. There was something completely different about communion at that church than anywhere else. The experience was golden. It was fulfilling. There is something passionately intimate about being in silence, kneeling at the altar, and receiving the blood and the body of Christ. It was holy.

There’s so much more I could list, but that would take the fun out of all future posts.

Over the course of a month or so, I received notifications that multiple someones had liked a post from over a year ago. I would read what they liked, and remembered how I believed. How and who I believed God to be a year ago is drastically different from where I am now.  I began this blog because I wanted to further the idea that we are so much more than what we believe ourselves to be. We are magical and celestial and greatly heard. Since those notifications started popping up, those are things that I felt like the Spirit is trying to remind me of. All week, I have heard a whisper, “Remember why you began, Aisha. Remember why you began.” Those notifications and the feeling of freedom I have typing this is why I began. I believed this to be a space of transparency and freedom for myself and for others. So, I am beginning again on the same blog (instead of cutting and running like I would’ve before) and hoping that my life encourages someone else’s.

You Can’t Build a New Life on Old Foundation

Last week, my coworker, H and I were talking about going back to school. H made it clear that she did school, was good at it, but now it’s done. When I asked what exactly she wanted to do career wise, she said she didn’t know yet. She majored in Psychology. Although she thought about being an English major, she didn’t think she’d get a job. Oddly enough, I majored in English when I wanted to major in Psychology. I chose English because it was what I was passionate about. H mentioned that while she was great at school, she lacked the passion that everyone else had. I related all too well to her sentiments. When compared to other people in my program, I was the least passionate, or so it seemed from my perspective. 

When we talked more, I could see clearly how I was at her age. At twenty-three, I was left broken from college. I left school discouraged and feeling as if there were so many things torn down that I could not rebuild. I left feeling like I didn’t give my best. I see now just how much things can change in two years. It wasn’t until I was well into my post-grad resting period that I realized how wrong I was about how undergrad ended. 

At twenty-three, I was devoid of passion. I felt as if my greatest passions were supposed to sustain me from one point to the next. When they didn’t, I was left with no momentum. Passion, like happiness, burns bright red and orange. It burns deep and sparks quickly, but just as swiftly as it finds me, it will leave. My life shouldn’t rely on passion but dedication. Dedication pushes me over the hump when passion runs out. Dedication makes me lay a stone even when I don’t know what I’m building.

I thought my time after college was a time for rest, but honestly, it was the busiest two years of my life. In two years I learned what it takes to live alone. I learned about how to sustain successful friendships. I learned how to love Jesus first, my family second, and myself third. I learned that when I plan, I fail. I get too detailed, and I begin veering off on a path that isn’t destined for me. I learned that whatever you feed will grow. If you love someone today, love them tomorrow, and just keep on doing that until it’s not hard anymore. I learned that hurting people hurt people. I learned that sometimes I can be the most petulant person in the room if I get offended. I learned how not to get offended. I learned that any relationship worth having is worth the good and the bad. Each lesson, its own solid stone.

Between my patches of stone building, I entertained talk from people who said I couldn’t go back to school after a long break. “People get lazy! It happens.” I listened to people bring up my mistakes of the past. “I just don’t want you going out on a whim. Remember what happened last time?” I listened to nearly all unsolicited advice that began with someone’s best friend’s child who waited to go back to school, and life took the wheel instead. I took it all in with a smile and wrote angrily about it later. I did not realize, that my God, my glorious, glorious God was up to something. He had me building a wall. 

I didn’t leave school broken but ready for a new, everlasting foundation (Jeremiah 31:4). My discouragement came from shame, and it was good that those feelings and past actions were exposed (1 John 1:9). They were not authorized to mix in with my new foundation. I gave what I could when I had it, and at the time that was what I knew. Now that I know better, I do better, which means I give all of myself every single time (James 4:7). He was and is purifying the stones that He’s building in me and around me. He’s giving me the best, most solid foundation in all existence.

Now, I am nowhere near having myself figured out, but I know that with every stone that is being laid, I am becoming more secure in Christ and more secure in who He made me to be. He urges me every single day to keep building. Every day I am one stone closer to where I’m supposed to be. Every day, through my dedication to Him, my passions become a reality.