So, about a month ago, I started dating an incredible, generous, fantastic woman. (Insert a Jeffersonian “WHAAAAAAAT” here.) That probably seems like a weird place for me to start, but I think the past month has been illuminating about how to balance living in faith in the present while having hope for the future. There are just things that I haven’t ever really experienced before now that have shed light on this idea.
My life has been quite good. And things have typically seemed to fall into place. Opportunities have presented themselves and I’ve dived in and that has been incredibly rewarding (that’s how I joined the Student Review and interacted with loads of incredible people and learned far more about running a publication and managing volunteers than I ever planned on. That was how I ended up volunteering with the Obama campaign in 2012 in Colorado. How I ended up working with LDS Dems and running the Utah County Dems Newsletter for a while. How I worked for Brainflash, which led to working for Alliance Health. How I joined Washington Seminar and interned for Sen. Harry Reid. How I worked as a Writing Fellow. How I ended up working at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, England for some of the most glorious months of my life. How I have presented at 10 (I think) academic conferences already. How I did an honors thesis. How I ended up sticking around for my MA at BYU and teach WRTG 150 and am the Associate Coordinator for the Writing Fellows program).
Anyway. I have been forward looking in that I generally have a plan of sorts, but I haven’t really ever doubted that the plan would come to fruition. I just knew that everything would work out. I’m not sure what that was—if it was confidence/arrogance or some divine self-assurance or blissful ignorance or what. There were challenges along the way, but I’ve typically been able to think about doing something and then do it.
The point is, I don’t know how much faith I needed throughout those experiences. If I knew, I didn’t need faith. I didn’t need to believe. Now, that’s different. I have no idea what will happen and my mind wanders spinning all sorts of possibilities (I suppose that’s the danger of indulging your creative faculties—they begin to create narratives for your own future too). That’s terrifying. I think especially because I haven’t ever really been in this situation before. And because there’s only so much I can do. This future, this narrative is not dependent on me alone. No matter how much I try to control things, another living, breathing, fully agential, beautiful human is involved. She is a variable that I can influence, but not control and that’s precisely what makes it so wonderful. The uncertainty, the unpredictability, the sacrifice of personal autonomy or whatever for another (not all autonomy, but there is a giving up of something). Yet, in that wonder and joy there’s anxiety. The what if’s. The tragic hypotheticals that my brain can’t stop creating.
We’re frequently in situations where the agency of others is key or there are other factors that we cannot exercise control over. I don’t think this is limited to relationships (though it seems to have taken a relationship for me to really start thinking about it). So, what do we do?
I think we live in the moment. We realize that regardless of what happens later this moment, this now is something that I want to experience. This is beautiful. This is joy. This is life. We believe that that beauty, that joy, that life is something that can continue. That it is something that we can hold onto. That’s faith. Believing when we lack a sure knowledge of things. Do I know what will happen? Nope. But I can believe in what we have now and hope for things to come.
I’ve been telling myself to do that for the past week or so. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not so much. I’m by no means a master of this live in the moment and hope for the future, but it feels true to me. I don’t need to be paralyzed by anxieties about what she’s thinking or why it’s taking longer than usual for her to respond to a text or why we only got together for an hour and a half instead of two hours the night before. (Not that simply telling myself to not worry about it means that I’ll instantly stop, but it’s a start.)
That anxiety is good. (For me, a generally completely stress-free, anxious-less person.) It means that I care. That I value what we have; that I don’t want to lose this. It can propel me to keep an eye on the future—looking forward and hoping that there are greater things ahead. I can devote myself to life as it is, while hoping and striving to make that life something better.
Who knows what is to come. We see through a glass darkly. Yet, sometimes sparks fly in that glass and we chase those sparks of light.
I have no idea what awaits me. (I’ve imagined all sorts of possibilities—incredible, tragic, average, underwhelming, lovely, delightful, awful—but who knows what actually lies ahead.) I believe that great things are in store (hopefully not the “terrible, but great” variety). I believe that great things are happening now. That life is good. That I am surrounded by fantastic people (and one particularly incredible person).
I want to live in this beauty. To live in the joy and wonder and happiness that I’ve been experiencing. To lean into it. To soak it up. Whatever happens, those moments, these days are real. That’s worth any cost. But it’s not just the moments we’ve had and continue to have, it’s the hope, the possibility of what’s to come. I don’t know what that is, but I’m willing to live with the hope for more lovely, beautiful, joyful moments. I’m willing to believe.