Hiding Behind a Smile

Faith

I paced back and forth in front of the door for half an hour, giving myself a mental pep-talk.

Come on Chamberlain. You are being ridiculous. It’s really not that hard, just open the door and go outside.

My hand reached for the knob then quickly retreated.

I didn’t have some big, important event to attend or a nerve-wracking exam to take. All I needed to do was leave my dorm and go to the dining hall to eat, but I couldn’t convince myself to escape the safety of my cinder-block room. I felt paralyzed by irrational fear.

I was a freshman at the University of Georgia and had just moved to Athens from my tiny hometown, where the population was smaller than the size of the college class I would eventually graduate with. I had always been an independent person who spent a lot of time alone, but my first year of school became one of the most isolating seasons I had ever experienced.

I had one friend and I quickly came to the realization that those numbers, or lack thereof, probably weren’t going to cut it — what if my only friend was busy? Then what? So I did what every logical freshman does. I joined a sorority and a bunch of clubs, all of which I eventually dropped out of.

In high school I was involved in everything and then some, but in college, I couldn’t seem to find my niche — a place where I was comfortable or where I felt like I fit in. My life revolved around going to class and returning to the sanctuary of my dorm room to sleep and study. I was on meal plan, but I avoided dining halls like the plague because I hated feeling so alone in a room full of people; This led me to experience something more similar to the freshman negative fifteen instead of the other way around. I also skipped out on church to steer clear of those same feelings. Whenever I actually did force myself to go to these places, I was miserable, I could literally feel a knot forming in my stomach. I just knew everyone was staring at me and judging me from a distance, although looking back, I’m sure no one actually noticed or cared about anything I was doing. 

Don’t get me wrong, my freshman year of college wasn’t all bad. I actually really enjoyed a good deal of it, but I was also struggling to feel satisfied. I don’t think anyone really knew the internal turmoil I was experiencing. I had a deep sense of loneliness and a desire in my heart for friendship and fulfillment.

My roommate stayed busy, so I didn’t see too much of her. And my one friend started dating someone– I was happy and excited for her, but that meant I didn’t see as much of her either. When I talked to my family and friends back home, I only revealed the things I wanted them to know. The photos and videos I shared were a highlight reel, showcasing carefully curated moments. 

I hid my struggles behind an unwavering smile, allowing myself to be vulnerable in the presence of no one. 

Despite the circumstances, I never once considered moving home. I knew that I was right where I needed to be, I just hoped and prayed (often) that things would eventually turn around.

And guess what? … They did.

Since that first year of school my life has gone in directions I could have never imagined. There have been incredible ups and downs and countless tears of joy and sorrow shed. I started working as a freelance photographer and writer, getting paid to do what I love. I moved five times. I experienced the death of multiple close friends. I performed in a dance showcase for thousands of people. I taught kids about Jesus. I screwed up countless times and learned more about His grace. I lived in Hawaii and Europe for half a year. And I have seen God’s hand at work in all these situations and aspects of my life. A peace that surpasses all understanding now covers me completely.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

As I enter into my final semester at the University of Georgia, I thank God for bringing me this far and delivering me from the feelings that formerly held me captive. I’m not the same girl who used to spend hours agonizing over how she could possibly find the strength to face the world. I no longer live in fear. I embrace each day as it comes, knowing that my mighty Savior is with me every step of the way.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. (2 Timothy 1:7)

For anyone dealing with these feelings or fighting any other spiritual battles, know that you are not alone! God is on your side. He fights for you. He wants to see you prevail.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Let me know how I can be praying for you. 

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