Once upon a time, back when I was but a wee freshman in college, I had a conversation with my Bible study group that, in hindsight, has been a great encapsulation of my personal struggles in life.
We were talking about how many different subjects and new ways of thinking we had been exposed to that year, both in the study and in school. My Bible study leader mentioned that she LOVED realizing that there were new areas of life that she hadn’t thought about before; it felt like an open door to explore. In a response that showed significant insight into my nature, I sheepishly admitted that I felt the complete opposite way. When I realized there was something completely new I had to learn or I had a paradigm shift from something I learned in class, I felt completely overwhelmed and terrified. In fact, I kind of hated it.
This may seem like an odd answer from someone who enjoyed school as much as I did. But when you take my perfectionistic and works-based worth tendencies into account, it makes perfect sense. Whenever I came across something really new in my life, whether it’s a new job, a new idea about theology, or a new skill like driving or cooking, I felt like I had to get it and apply it or understand it PERFECTLY, and preferably IMMEDIATELY, or else I was a failure who couldn’t hack it. And when I say perfectly, I mean perfectly. In the back of my mind was the expectation that I needed to become an expert who could teach a class on whatever the new thing was. Thus, major changes that required new thought processes or skills induced panic. Now, of course, change in general is stressful, even if it’s a good change. But when you add that level of expectation to that normal amount of stress, you have a perfect recipe for a breakdown or a paralysis that makes you want to spend an entire day curled up in the fetal position.
I’m happy to report that after what you could call change immersion therapy (i.e., getting married, moving across the country, starting my first “real” job, quitting said job after I realized it was insane, losing two of my grandparents, and buying my first house in about a year and half) and some actual legitimate therapy, I’ve become much better at not freaking out about new things. I’m beginning to show myself more grace, realizing that not only do things not have to be perfect right away, but they can’t and won’t be perfect, ever. I don’t have to be the expert on everything; in fact, if I become an expert on ANYTHING I’ll be lucky. I’m becoming comfortable with the fact that I’m not a perfect wife, employee, friend, cook, or anything else you could fill in that blank, but I’m a good one who will hopefully keep getting better as life goes on, and that’s enough.
I was reminded of all of this yesterday when I was at the grocery store and discovered a new vegetable I had never heard of: a cheese pepper. It turns out that it’s basically a smaller, thicker pepper that tastes pretty much the same as a regular bell pepper, but that’s not the point. The point is that I discovered something new to me in the world and was intrigued and not intimidated by it. I realize that peppers aren’t very intimidating, of course. What was more important was that it reminded me that I’ve been feeling more excited and not so overwhelmed by a lot of other new things in my life or things I want to try that carry a lot more significance than cheese peppers. Things like becoming fluent in Spanish or eventually becoming a parent. This is huge for me.
So thank you, cheese peppers, for not only inspiring a blog post but inspiring me about life in general.