This is the first post in a series in which I'm going to share my story with you guys. Because it's so long, I'm breaking it up into more manageable pieces. My hope is that you can relate to some part of it, find hope in it, and walk away thinking about your story and how you want it to continue from where you're at right now. [This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through my link, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting Notes from Jessie!]
The Beginning (Where it All Began)
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian household, with two loving parents. I grew up going to church with my family, and I can pretty clearly recall learning that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins and that I could have eternal life by entrusting my life to God. I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I was five years old.
I loved school, reading, writing, and drawing. Most of my time was spent playing with my mom's daycare kids, going to school, and burying my nose in a good book. We moved to a nearby suburb when I was 11, smack-dab in the middle of the summer, so my only friends were my cousins (who lived in our neighborhood). I began to make friends through my soccer team and in my class once school started, but I mostly threw myself into my school work once again-- because I knew how to do that (unlike making friends again as an 11-year-old introvert).
How I Grew Up (Good Little Church Girl)
You could easily say (and people did say) that I was the “good little church girl” growing up. I went to church, Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and AWANA. I attended youth group in junior and senior high, taught Sunday school, and went on retreats and mission trips, and I was baptized when I was sixteen. I rarely got in trouble, and was known for practically living at church. From the outside, it looked like my life was perfect—like I was perfect. But that wasn’t really the case.
As the oldest child, and one with a clear Type-A personality and OCD streak, I have been prone to perfectionism my entire life. I felt a burden of responsibility to do well in every area of life, largely because I put myself in the position of being a good example to those around me.
I was worried about virtually everything and felt really insecure about the areas in which I wasn’t measuring up to my unbelievably high expectations. Of course, I knew that people couldn’t be perfect, but I aimed for something pretty darn close to it, and I was continually falling short.
Who I Was (A Control Freak)
I reached a point where I had pretty serious anxiety, desperately desiring constancy in a constantly-changing world, wanting to reach a point where it seemed like everything was predictable and safe. For that reason as well as others, I tried to control everything in my life—I wanted things to go a certain way, in a certain order.
I had a great life-- a loving family, caring friends, a safe and comfortable home, a good school, good grades, a church community, and my whole life ahead of me. But it didn't feel like I was doing well enough. I always wanted to be doing better.
I loathed and feared change; I wanted things to stay the same in both big and small ways. I remember one time having a meltdown when I found out my parents had gotten rid of my old dresser (mind you, it had been stored in the shed for a while and I hadn't even been using it).
I strove for perfection in my performance, finding my self-worth in my accomplishments and my reputation. I felt like I had to act like I “had it all together” because the reputation I had was that of a cheerful person who always had a smile on her face (after all, what else was to be expected from the good little church girl?).
While in high school, I had been heavily involved in church, on top of going to school at both my local high school and community college and working at a coffee shop, which, needless to say, created a really busy lifestyle. I was overcommitted and quickly wearing myself down, but I didn't know what to do about it, so I just pushed through. Those were all things I was supposed to do.
I enjoyed each part individually, and I wanted so badly to be a part of everything, to say "yes" to everything, to not turn anybody or anything down for fear of disappointing them or missing out. I wanted to do it all. And I did, to a certain extent. I pushed and stretched and somehow, by the grace of God, I pulled through with my GPA, job, and body intact. But my soul had been seriously strained and overworked to the point of exhaustion. I couldn't keep going at that pace, and I knew it.
Something had to change.
Stay tuned for the next installment, where I'll tell you about how college changed me (don't worry, the story gets happier)!