When we think of inspiration, we often think of blooming flower fields and hot cups of home-brewed coffee and perfectly organized desks. But I want to challenge that vision.
I believe true and lasting inspiration, and ultimately impact, is found in the stories behind the dying flower pots that you tried so hard to keep alive, and the cold cups of coffee that you couldn’t lift to your trembling lips, and the desks that became a clutter of things you thought you could get done that ended in failure.
These are the hard things. The things we try to hide and pretend never happened. The things we are too often ashamed of and don’t let anyone see.
But they are also the things we learn from and grow through. The things we gather strength from when we find ourselves in those same hard places again, and again, and again.
And I think if we started opening up about the hard parts of our lives more often, we’d come to learn that those are often the things that blossom into the best and most impactful aspects of our stories.
It’s often not the best part of a story that needs to be told, but rather the worst.
And what’s the good in telling a story if you leave out the worst part?
We often omit the bad parts of our stories. We like the good parts better; the ones that tell of our highest achievements and greatest adventures. We like to show the moments that impress our friends and family and capture our best selves.
But the problem I have found with only telling the best parts of my stories is that it too often leaves out the parts that need to be told. The parts that feel as though they hurt a little too much to talk about. The parts that seem too embarrassing to admit or shameful to tell.
Here is to breaking shame and talking about the hard parts.
The past 6 months have been the best months of my entire life. But I cannot just release that statement into the world and call it good. If that sentence is going to leave my lips, so must the stories that come with it, including the ones that are hard to tell.
And I want to preface my stories by saying that what we see on social media and the bits and pieces of amazing moments we hear from friends are NOT the full story.
Curated Instagrams and short Snapchat stories often highlight the best moments and photos, making travel look like leisure and paradise. But there are a million things not pictured on social media that might make you appreciate where you are just a little bit more. There are a million bad stories not told that, if shared more often, could ease the jealousy and discontent that is often driven by perfect social media posts and pages.
This is my meager attempt at putting some of those “bad stories” into perspective.
Although I experienced some of the most life-giving and joyful moments while traveling the world, I also experienced some of the hardest moments of my life so far.
Most of what you have seen from my travels consists of breathtaking hot air balloon rides, towering skyscrapers in famous cities, exotic islands surrounded by crystal-blue water, and smiling friends, dancing the night away while screaming out their favorite songs.
And I am so glad you got to see those things through my eyes and, in a way, experience them too.
But it wouldn’t feel right if I let you think that my trip was solely beautiful sceneries and smiling friends. Because that is far from the truth. My travels were also met with many home-sick nights, heartbroken tears, earth-shattering tragedy, loneliness that felt unshakable, and mistakes that stung deeply.
I want to give you a look into simply one of many hard parts of my story from the past 6 months.
During the entire first month and a half of my travels abroad, I felt a deep and confusing loneliness.
Finding a friend group was harder than I thought it would be, and it left me sitting alone at most meals and in class most days. I napped out of boredom and spent a whole lot of time in my room. I felt like I didn’t belong and that I didn’t fit in with any of the friend groups I had met. I was lonely.
But you didn’t see that on social media. Those weren’t the moments I posted about. I posted photos of the friends I had made here and there, and during the second half of my trip you saw a whole lot of photos and videos of the amazing friend group I eventually did fall into (thank God for them!!).
I had left out the moments where I sat alone in my room confused as to why I wasn’t fitting in, and the dozens of times I walked into the dining hall just to walk right out because I didn’t want to sit alone and look awkward. There were so many moments you didn’t see.
Nearly halfway through my trip I wrote an Instagram caption about this loneliness and confusion I felt, and at the time it made me feel extremely vulnerable. But when I think of that post now, I don’t associate it with pain but with victory. I had overcome my shame involved with that loneliness and knew it needed to be told for those who, like myself, had not yet talked about it.
I wish I could show you every text, DM, and conversation I had about that post with the people who saw it and said, “I felt the same way.”
The life that came from the emptiness I had felt blew my mind. Jesus used my vulnerability to allow others to open up and confront their own pain, while encouraging myself and others. All I could do was stand in awe of His goodness as I watched beauty spring up from ashes.
Not only did that post touch the hearts of others, but it changed me as well. After I confronted my loneliness and told one of the bad parts of my story, I was able to abandon the shame I associated with that loneliness and embrace who I was and the role I was meant to play on that ship.
It was the act of opening up about the worst part that brought me strength and confidence to move into the best part.
And that best part consisted of life-giving conversations with people who would become dear friends, and a boldness that led me to become friends with the amazing people that would change that trip for me.
That is just one out of a hundred hard parts from the past 6 months. One out of a hundred things that you didn’t see but that I felt so deeply. And I am eager to see how I will weave the other 99 stories into my life and yours in a way that creates impact and change that lasts.
I would never have found the strength to overcome and embrace the bad parts of my story if it were not for the grace and love of God. There is power in humility when we accept the fact that God is the only thing in this life that brings real and meaningful change in a world full of bad stories.