I’m a structure person. Always have been. But recently I’ve noticed that most of my peers are most definitely not. They hate the idea of having structure because it seems more like “restrictions”. They don’t want to adhere to a certain set of rules or a specific schedule. They hate the idea of being tied down, having limited options, being “forced” to do something. Spontaneity is seen as freeing, open-minded, non-commital. You’re more “chill” if you just go with the flow, while structured people are just uptight and rigid.
I agree that too much “structure” can be, well, too much. When I was younger I had crippling anxiety in part because I wanted complete control over the structure of my life. Turns out that just can’t happen. I let my love of structure limit me. Later, during a performance review in college, I was told that I needed to learn to “plan to be spontaneous.” At first this irritated me, but in classic Haley fashion I decided to try. I started training myself to be flexible, to work within a frame that allowed for more movement.
Today, I see freedom in structure. Now that I’ve begun to give up my need for control, I have recognized that spontaneity isn’t always stifled by schedule, but can actually benefit from it. Just as an artist is free to create after mastering the set standards of line, color, and space, or an actor can improvise within the set rules of a particular scene, I find that structure provides a foundation from which to be spontaneous.
In the end, I think we all need to find a balance between the two, which might look different for different people. The main thing is to give yourself a sturdy foundation, something you can tether yourself to, and then trust it enough to take a leap. So that’s what I’m trying to do.
But tomorrow I probably won’t.
That’s pretty typical for me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve finally reached adult status. I’m meeting deadlines and finishing work projects and paying bills and I just did my own laundry dang it! But next thing I know, I’m curled up on my couch watching Disney movies on Netflix and eating pudding and sprinkles with a princess spoon.
It’s not that I’m unhappy about that. I just expected being an adult would feel differently. I always thought that adulthood would initiate one day, like flipping a light switch or turning on my laptop. But there’s not some proverbial threshold that adolescents cross that suddenly makes them adults. There’s no magic button to press or Stargate to go through or certificate that says you’re official. It doesn’t just happen; it’s always happening.
When I was a kid, I thought adults had things all figured out. I thought they’d reached the end of childhood, like it was the first level of Life’s video game. But I realized that adults are just big kids playing dress-up in business suits and heels. They are still trying to figure stuff out. Instead of a flipping a light switch or leveling up, adulthood is more like getting halfway through a huge puzzle. The picture gets a little clearer, but you’re still just trying to figure out where all the other pieces go.
I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like an adult, or like I’ve left my childish ways behind, and I’m okay with that. It’s not that I think that adults aren’t allowed to be kids. I just refuse to believe it has to be this big transformation. I don’t believe there’s such thing as a grown up – we’re merely all growing up.
Success isn’t counted up in dollars,
or measured out by your acclaim,
It doesn’t depend on colored collars,
or how many people know your name.
It isn’t marked by job or title,
Whether on a card or plaque,
It’s not position that is vital,
It isn’t based on skill or knack.
Success is knowing you’ve done something,
Tacked it down and signed your name,
It’s never losing faith or doubting,
even when you’ve lost the game.
It’s believing that you’re worth it,
When everybody says you’re not,
It’s trying even when you’ve failed it,
And always giving one last shot.
It’s persevering in times of trouble,
Even though you know you’ll fall,
It’s working hard and doing double,
When you haven’t got the strength at all.
Success isn’t based on fame or glory,
It’s built by living well each day,
It’s being brave enough to live your story,
With all your will, in every way.
Most people know that I struggled with an anxiety disorder for the majority of my life. Thankfully, and through Christ alone, I have overcome that horrible 10-year period. The funny thing is that as I leave that part of me in the past, many of my friends and loved ones are experiencing it in the present. Through my struggles, I came across a little nugget of truth that has helped me tremendously. I guess this post is my way of passing that truth on to someone else who needs it.
The first two years of being a Resident Assistant at my university (Southern Methodist University) I held a specialized position entitled the “Academic Resident Assistant,” which is a fancy way of saying that I was the nerdy one. Essentially, I had an extra day of training on academic resources and study skills, and I had to host academic programs throughout the year. Fun stuff, right? I got an extra stipend every semester so it was totally worth it.
One year during training, we were learning about test anxiety and ways to combat it. One suggestion was to write an inspirational mantra or calming statement on a note card and keep it in your pocket on test day. The idea was to take it out right before an exam to help you mentally prepare. The Trainer said that this method worked well for several of her past students, but it changed the life of one in particular – her son. Now a lawyer, her son still keeps that note card in his pocket and reads it right before he goes into court for every trial. This is what it said:
It can’t eat me.
Go ahead and laugh. That was my first reaction. It can’t eat me? It’s such a simple phrase, almost idiotically so. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the truth behind its simplicity. After eliminating situations involving bears or other large carnivorous animals (in which anxiety becomes legitimate fear), no matter what you are facing, no matter how anxious you feel, no matter how much you want to throw up or run away or cry till your eyes hurt or hide in the back of your closet, whatever you are facing cannot and will not eat you. And, in a weird way, that notion is comforting.
I took that nugget to heart and I refer to it almost every day. And slowly, but surely, I’ve come to believe it. And you can, too.
“I can [endure] all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13