About 2 months ago, while sitting at my desk at work, I could hear the Lord speak softly into my ear. He stated, “Write a letter to the college, explain your situation and request readmittance into the graduate program.”
I sarcastically responded internally. “Really, God? After a year of absence, I should write them a letter, explain my life story. And expect, what…..???”
I ignored the request and continued to work.
One week later, I heard God’s request, again.
As clear as day, “Write a letter to the college, explain your situation and request readmittance in the program.”
This time the request was much sterner. I could feel a sense of urgency. I proceeded to turn on my work computer and sat down in my chair. The office phone had yet to ring. No urgent notes of follow-up awaited me. Neither had anyone arrived into the office.There was silence. Just my computer screen staring back at me and a lump forming in my throat.
I clicked on the Microsoft Word icon and the lump in my throat grew larger. I quickly exited Microsoft Word and returned to my computer desktop. I clicked on the Google icon and chose to check my work emails instead. I hoped to see an email that needed my immediate attention or something that would take away my focus from the letter I’d been instructed to write.
“Only the local city upcoming events circular and advertisement emails. SMH. Ring phone. Someone will call and require my attention,” I thought to myself.
Five minutes or so passed. Same silence and the task of the letter remained.
UGHHH, THE LETTER.
You see, it wasn’t just a simple letter of readmittance. It was me having to put words to the emotions that I had bottled up for nearly the past three years. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the power of written words. However, the words in this letter would be different. They would open wounds that I had home remedied and tightly bandaged.
Here’s the backstory….
I had been out of undergraduate school for over ten years. I’d always planned to enter graduate school right after college but…well…life happened. My focus shifted. I was privileged to obtain employment right after graduation. I married my husband, Jelani, one year after undergrad. We welcomed our first child, Ayanna, one year and five months after marriage. Then, our son, Jordan, arrived five years after Ayanna. When Jordan turned two, I felt as if I had allowed enough time to get away from me. I revisited the notion of graduate school. This time, I’d decided that I did not want to attend graduate school and obtain a degree just for the sake of it. I wanted to attend school and a study a field that I would truly enjoy and utilize for the rest of my life. I had also decided that I was not going to take out any more loans. I had incurred enough loans with my undergraduate education and was determined not to add to the deficit. I wanted to be able to pay for grad school out of pocket. Cash. No loans…debt free!
Then, I was unexpectedly laid off from my employer of nearly seven years and graduate school took a back seat once again.
In the winter of 2015, despite the layoff, I decided to research possible grad school options and began to submit program inquiries. To make a long story of discovery short, I finally found a graduate school program that sparked my interest and began the application process. After months of correspondence and financial configuring, deposits were made. I began my first graduate school course in the fall of 2016. My excitement and optimism about returning to school was reignited! I was on my way to obtaining my master’s degree and finally accomplishing one of my major educational goals.
Then life happened once again. Due to health and financial challenges, I withdrew from grad school. That was that.
Back to THE LETTER…
Dear Dr. (Insert Grad School Founder’s Name),
I hope this finds you well.
My name is Margaret Smith-Williams and I am writing to you regarding my status as a graduate student within the (insert graduate school program) at (insert grad school). I was enrolled during the fall of 2016 but due to unforeseen circumstances……..
I stopped typing. The lump in my throat was now the size of a boulder and my eyes were filled with tears. To prevent the tears from falling, I attempted to take a deep breath. But I felt as if the air was being withheld from my grasp. I pushed away from my desk. I stood up and walked towards the hallway.
I screamed inwardly, “Someone, please walk through the door! Or phone just ring! Where is everybody? Why isn’t anyone here asking me to do something?”
There was nothing but silence. My computer screen continued to stare back at me. I needed something, anything, to deter me from finishing this letter.
As I stood in the entry way of my office, the tears began to fall. Not those pretty girl tears that you cry when you want to preserve your makeup. I was crying an ugly river. The Mississippi River. I held my chest and gazed intensely at the computer screen. Due to the tears, the screen appeared blurred. But the assignment, although daunting, was crystal clear. I needed to finish that letter.
I walked back to my desk and sat down. With a river of tears and streams of snot running down my face, I returned my fingers to the keyboard. I placed on them on the home row keys and resumed typing. The home remedies applied to wounds of my heart and soul began to drip and the bandages unloosened. I felt bare; as if I was on an operating table and my heart was being repaired. My heart and soul were exposed. My spirit was vulnerable. This letter was taking me to a place that I’d being trying to avoid going……….
After 4 hours of writing and continuous crying, I finished and emailed the letter.
I felt extremely drained. Empty. Naked. Yet, light.
I took a few moments to gather my composure and reflect on all that had occurred. I internally posed the question. “After a year of my withdrawal from grad school, why would God ask me write this letter now? So that I could be given another opportunity and be readmitted?
God’s immediate response to me: “So that you can surrender and be healed from disappointment.”
Webster defines the root word disappoint as “fail to meet the expectation or hope of.” I define it as stepping in a pile of crap while wearing my favorite leopard flats. No matter how much I wash them, discard, or even replace them with a new pair, the stench and memory of the crap still lingers. While writing the letter, the emotions that I experienced were from the pain and burden of disappointment. After I withdrew graduate school, I just kept moving because that’s what I do. I’m a natural born mover. You know, those people who keep moving regardless of what’s going on. You just keep moving because that’s all you know how to do. You rarely stop to think or feel because life, responsibilities, demands or basically self-imposed obligations require that you keep going. I did what I had to do, and I kept going. Besides, there were people experiencing far greater disappointments in life than I. My life hiccup didn’t deserve any melodramatic attention. There was no time for me to sit, sulk, cry, whine or complain. Life goes on and so did I.
Yes, I moved on physically. But emotionally, mentally, and spiritually I was still stuck in the pile of disappointing crap while wearing my favorite leopard flats.
Writing that letter forced me to acknowledge, express and feel the emotions attached to the disappointment. Not only the disappointment of grad school. But the disappointment of not living up to my own expectations. The disappointment of allowing time to get away from me. The disappointment of not grinding or hustling hard enough. The disappointment of being laid off and not reaching a certain career height prior age 30 and the layoff. The disappointment of having our home ownership plans halted. The disappointment of “watching everyone pass me by.” The disappointment of me not being in control. The self-imposed embarrassment…the self -imposed shame…the fear that I would never really live up to my own expectations.
In the eyes of my parents, my husband, my children, my closest friends, I was a gem. But in my own eyes, I was a failure. I felt as if I had failed and that I did not “try hard enough.”
I felt as if the disappointment I experienced was nothing compared to the boulders of life that were destroying other people. I felt as if my disappointment did not deserve to be acknowledged. But, no matter the size of the disappointment, it needed to be addressed. The disappointment that I felt was real, and it was festering inside my soul. I needed to release myself of the pressure and surrender every ounce of that weight. I needed to allow God to heal and renew my spirit. I needed God to renew my faith in His plan for my life.
Writing that letter was my first step in acknowledging the silent, yet detrimental affects that hidden disappointment was having upon my life. Writing that letter was gateway to a freedom that I didn’t even know I needed.
“Thou shalt not down play disappointment. It’s okay to be disappointed. You can be disappointed and content at the same time. It is not the experience of disappointment that defines us but the definition we assign to it. Disappointment leads to destiny, if you allow it to. If you don’t allow yourself to die in the place of disappointment, you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. “– Pastor Steven Furtick
Step by step, day by day, God is teaching me the importance of surrendering to His will, humility, trusting His process, and that remaining faithful to His instructions. God’s will always trumps meeting my own timelines or the world’s standards of success. I am learning that most of the pressure that I feel is self-imposed and if I don’t keep the pressure to a healthy balance, I will self-destruct.
I’m constantly reminded that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.
As with a lot of things in my life, specifically over the past 3 years, I am unsure of the outcome of the grad school letter. Yet, here I am. And whatever happens, whether I’m allowed to re-enroll or not or even if I have to begin a new program, I’m content with that. I must remain faithful, continue trusting God and His plan for my life – even if it doesn’t quite line up with the plan that I’ve imagined for myself. In the end, God’s plan and His intentions for my life, WILL ALWAYS BE GOOD!”
“Father, I thank you for Your Sovereignty and Your love that never fails and never gives up on Your children. Today, I specifically pray for anyone reading this entry that may be experiencing the sting and stench of disappointment. Reveal Yourself, Your plan, and Your intentions for them. Help them to release the hurt and the pain that they have buried or are currently feeling. Relieve them of the self- imposed or situational pressure. Grant them rest in You; For, your yoke is easy, and Your burden is light. Help them to allow You to redirect and rebuild. Father remind them that despite the magnitude of their disappointment that You are the only one who can bring beauty from ashes and joy from pain! As you are doing with me, teach them the importance of surrender, trusting you and knowing that your intentions for our lives are always good and perfect in Your sight. Father, remind Your children that there is life and purpose after disappointment! In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen!”