Hi! I’m back – and what a whirlwind it’s been since I last caught you up – in my ‘Confessions of a Fresher’ post!
It’s been a while since I published an instalment in my ‘Honest Reflections’ series – but I think it’s about time, and the last few weeks at uni, in a totally new place, have got me thinking.
I’m going to come to this topic from two angles. Firstly, from the perspective of a fresher; as that’s the current headline in my life. But secondly, and potentially more crucially, in general daily life; but importantly how we behave and act in Christian circles.
Let’s start with this scenario:
When you enter a room, and see someone you know, they make ask the fairly standard question,
“How are you doing?”
How do you answer that question?
I guess really, that’s the crux of the problem I’m presenting you with. How often are we open, honest, and vulnerable with the people who we’re friends with? (and slightly controversially), I’m going to say, whether those friends are close, or not at all – it doesn’t matter, the question still remains.
Is your automatic response to go, “Oh, I’m good thanks, how about yourself?”, or even just “Good thanks”? I know from past experience, that it’s so easy to let those words spill out of your mouth, when in reality, under the surface there’s a whole well of things going on – that would be a lot better shared.
Whether it’s the British nature in us that doesn’t want to share, or we see it as a burden to other people – I can definitely see a culture of ‘surface level’ relationships, and I feel as if it can partly stem from these interactions.
From a Fresher’s Perspective
I don’t know if I’m alone in thinking this (let me know if you feel the same way), but a lot of the media coverage about university, or even just general opinion, is that ‘Your university years are the best ones of your life.’
We’re told we’ll meet friends for life, that they’ll be the years that ‘make’ us, or that you’ll come back a different person.
And yes, while that may be the case – it’s not exactly the best attitude to have while going into a place where, in most cases, you know no-one, and you have to create a whole new life for yourself.
In Freshers’ week, or even just at the beginning of term, everyone is searching for ‘their’ people. And I mean EVERYONE. It’s a case that you just talk to anyone and everyone, trying to learn as many names as possible, and then, if you even see them again, you have to try and match those somewhat remembered names back to the faces in front of you…
In amongst all of that, it’s really quite easy to feel lonely, or lost in a crowd. It’s a game of “Whoever can shout the loudest is the one who gets heard.”, and that’s not how I work. I’m one who approaches large crowds with caution, and have to push past the introvert calling me to go back and retreat. But hey – we survived freshers’ week…and that means things are getting better.
But that challenge pops up, time and time again. This week has been a bit of a rollercoaster, and there have been days where I’ve really struggled; with homesickness, academic pressure, and anxiety – to name just a few. So – when I’m asked, “How’re you doing? How’s your week been?”, I’ve been faced with a choice.
Do I, say:
“Everything’s good, I’m having a really great week.”
Or, do I break that seal, and be vulnerable?
“Actually, I’m struggling a bit this week, and finding life pretty overwhelming.”
As someone said to me this week, just after I’d responded to a similar situation, “Well done for not pretending everything’s okay,” – and I think that’s crucial. I’m desperate to find friends, yes, but also, I want to form good relationships. Ones that matter, are deep, and that go beyond fake answers to “How’re you doing?” questions. And I know they’ll come – it’ll just take time.
But in the meantime, I’m going to challenge myself to ‘be real’. It’s all too easy to hide behind a façade, but I honestly believe that helps no-one. Even if it’s just one or two people to start with, how about you take that challenge with me?
Taking it further: in Daily Life
I know this has sparked a conversation in my own head because of the current circumstances, where everyone I meet is new, and I have that conscious choice in many situations to decide whether to be open, or to be more reserved. I’m in no way advocating going and sharing your inner troubles with a stranger on the street, but in trusted circles, like Church, or the CU – I can’t see the harm in being a little more vulnerable.
Life in the 21st Century can often be viewed through tinted glasses; that real life has been forgotten about, and instead it’s the highlight reel that everyone focuses on. (Something that I touched on a while back, in this post..!) What gets shared on social media is, more often than not, the best bits. In many ways – that’s what this blog is; a vessel to share ‘real life’, and start those honest conversations.
In Christian circles especially, it can be really easy to walk into a room, and just feel as if everyone else around you has it all together.
If you take time to think about it realistically, then I know that won’t be the case. We’re all broken people, living in a broken world, and only completed and restored through the grace of Jesus Christ. But on first glance, it can be a bit intimidating. I know that at Church, it can be really easy to pretend everything’s fine – and while you can get by, sometimes you can feel as if you’re missing something.
Instead – taking those leaps of faith, to be vulnerable, and to answer with honesty – ‘keeping it real’, can sometimes lead to some really special relationships; ones that are deep, wholesome, and Christ-centred.
Now – I’m going to wrap this up now, because I’m aware how long it is – but I really hope this makes sense, and maybe I’ve caused you to challenge yourself in how we act in our relationships with people. I’d be interested to hear any thoughts you may have too, so please get in touch!
Will you join me in the challenge of ‘Keeping it Real’?
Till next time,
If you’re interested in finding any of the other ‘Honest Reflections’ instalments, you can find them here!