Some days are great. The sun shines brightly, I have an extra spring in my step, and the world is my figurative oyster.
Since coming to Berlin 2.5 weeks ago, I’ve been fortunate to have many of these days. I found a church immediately, joined a small group, and met many really awesome people through that. Only a week after arriving, I managed to buy a bike for well within my budget, so now I can get around the (massive) city with relative ease. I even managed to register with the Bürgeramt (bureaucratic office) after only 2 days of trying, which I’ve heard is next to impossible. To top it all off, I have a wonderful roommate, Nutella in my cupboard, and cornflakes every morning. Yes, many days are great.
But on the other hand, some days aren’t all that awesome. You might think that, because I’m “living the dream” and doing my dissertation research in Berlin that everything would be hunky-dory. I usually think like this. And when I catch myself not being happy enough, I start saying (sometimes aloud) stuff like, “Get it together, Steffi!” and “Be happy, Steffi!” … which can be dangerous because there are a lot of German girls named Steffi, haha. I want to be happy. I want to be content. I want to experience joy. But if I’m completely honest, that’s sometimes just not the case.
Yesterday was one of those days. I was minding my own archival business when I stumbled upon a 20-year-old dissertation that bears an eerie resemblance to mine. And to make things worse, this discovery came just a week after I had a major breakthrough with my own project. After months years of trying to nail it down, I’d finally managed to nail down what I am doing and why it matters. And just as my happiness balloon had started to get off the ground, the “reality Grinch” snuck up behind me and popped it, leaving me feeling sad and deflated once again. All I wanted to do was crawl back under the covers and cry. But I knew that wouldn’t solve anything.
Grad school can be like that—a stupid, frustrating, manic emotional roller-coaster with no apparent way off. You can spend countless hours trying to carve out your own minuscule niche in the vast universe of knowledge… only to find out that the spot was taken decades ago. Uggggghhhhh.
Yes, I know that I’m ranting. Yes, I realize that this isn’t the end of the world. And yes, I even get that my dissertation’s Doppelgänger can’t be exactly like mine simply because I am a different person, using different sources, and writing at a different time. I understand all of this and can accept it on a rational level. But sometimes, like right now, I just don’t feel like being rational. Right now, I just need to be able to rant.
In moments like this, I don’t really feel like reading the Bible. And yet, if I stop and think about it, I’m profoundly grateful for the example it provides, especially in the Psalms. In a remarkably short span of verses, the psalmists often experience and express a whole range of human emotion: anger, frustration, discouragement, guilt, sadness, etc. This encourages me, not only because I identify with many of these feelings, but also because they remind me that God has room for my complaints. I don’t have to have everything together to approach Him; I don’t need to wear a happy face to enter His presence. Instead, He lets me meet Him exactly as I am—irrational rant and all. And I find this to be strangely comforting, like the spiritual equivalent of someone saying, “That stinks, and I’m sorry”, instead of trying to fix it. Sometimes there is no solution, or if there is, I’m not ready to accept it yet. Because sometimes I just need the room to rant and blog and cry.
Yesterday was crappy. In many ways, the sun did “come out tomorrow” (by that I mean, today), and I have a much better perspective on my situation. I know that everything will be alright and, at some point, this bad day will just be a distant memory (albeit one immortalized in a blog post). And looking back on yesterday, I am thankful for family, friends, and a Savior who love me enough to let me be upset. And I’m grateful for the Psalms and for their tangible reminder that feelings, even negative ones, are okay.
That said, I could still use some comfort food. Where did I put that Nutella?