You were born in love, you will die in love, and you are held in love every second in between. Home is love. And love is where you belong.
The Butte County fires eradicated so many people’s homes. It affected all of us, even though where I live is far away from the fires. My college campus looked like an apocalypse last week as everyone was wearing masks due to hazardous air quality. Our classes got canceled because it wasn’t safe for people to be outside. Our 3 day weekend turned into a 4 day weekend. Our 4 day weekend turned into a 5 day weekend, which turned into a “God must be really looking out for us who have midterms today.” But then 5 days turned to 6 and then the rest of the week, and then until the week after Thanksgiving. It created so many problems for workers and professors and students. But forget about what we’ve been going through. If we’ve been affected by the fires this far away, I can’t even imagine how bad things are closer up. My heart is broken for all the people I go to school with that are from there who have lost so much. Tragedy like that really puts gratitude into perspective. We all have so much to be grateful for.
So we were confined to our dorms the whole week before Thanksgiving hardcore studying from a.m to p.m. By Thursday I was going insane, and when they texted us that Friday classes were canceled my brother called me and asked me if I wanted to go home with him as he had been stuck in his apartment the whole week too.
“Yeah, I think it’s time to go home,” I told him.
Home. What is home?
Davis has become home to me. I’ve found mentors, friends, and the best community I’ve ever had. I’ve adjusted to the dorm life, become obsessed with the dining hall, and have adopted the cows outside my building as pets. I’ve learned to bike with my hands off the handlebars and study like crazy every day. And I’ve learned to be so thankful for what I have here, because this is such a special time.
But in the process of making UC Davis my home, I had also made a home in my anxiety and my fear. I began to strive like no other, carrying a weight on my shoulders that I wasn’t meant to carry. I had made a home in a game of jenga where every block was a pressure to perform, becoming more and more unsteady trying to do things out of my own strength. I made a home with scarcity and believed that I didn’t deserve anything more. I made a home with constantly judging myself for the thoughts that I had, believing that I didn’t deserve grace or self-compassion.
And that wasn’t where I belonged. God had been chasing me down, stretching his hand out to me as I drowned in the sea pleading, “Lea, it’s time to come home.”
I thought God was done with me after fall retreat. I thought I was set free over the weekend somehow and that the process of healing was finished. I was so wrong.
I had an academic advising appointment 2 days after the retreat with Health Professions Advising to get my schedule checked for next quarter. I almost forgot about it.
Manisha, my advisor, was so gentle and warm. I don’t know how, but so much came out that I wasn’t planning on talking about. I told her about how I’ve been struggling in all my classes, all the resources I tried that were unhelpful and the resources I discovered that were amazing. I also told her a little bit of my high school story of nearly failing algebra, the multiple panic attacks I had freshman year, the counselor that told me to drop the class, and about not listening to her because I believed there was nothing to learn from giving up. I told her how shocked people were when I got a 5 on the Calculus BC exam senior year because there were people who thought I couldn’t do it.
“And it now it’s kinda like back to square one,” I said.
She nodded, and smiled.
“Well, it sounds like it took you a little bit of time to figure out the transition from junior high to high school, and you kept going and you made it. And I have no doubt that the same thing is going to happen here. You’re reaching out early, because you’ve been in this place before and you know what to do,” she said.
She takes a slow breath. “You keep mentioning the word breakdown. Do you have those often?”
“Not like super often, but I did have one last week,” I said, and explained what happened.
“Okay I’m going to show you some more resources,” she said. She pulls up the website for the Student Health and Counseling Center. “You can check this out sometime. There are support groups on campus for anything from eating disorders to anxiety. There are also a bunch of therapists that you can see.”
“Would you like to see a therapist here?” She asked me.
The question processed more as, Do I want to unravel the depths of my heart with a random therapist in Cowtown? My first instinct was no. Heck no.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I do have a therapist back at home. She’s amazing.”
“Okay. Do you think you can keep seeing her? Where are you from?”
“Sacramento. Gold River.”
“Oh, I know where that is. I used to live there. So that’s not a sustainable drive back and forth,” she said.
“But I only see her now like every few months. I saw her regularly the summer after my junior year, but then after that I felt really equipped to use those tools on my own.”
I describe therapy as trying to figure out where my anxiety, thoughts, and emotions fit into the puzzle of living a healthy life. In the beginning, we set a foundation. We set goals. At the end of the summer, all those goals had been met. And I wanted to see how far those new discoveries would take me, so I ceased therapy, and allowed myself to practice seeing the world through that new lense. But when I got stuck somewhere, I would check in with my therapist again, and she would give me the extra piece of the puzzle that I needed to continue to fall deeper and deeper into healing. The signs I needed to check in included having a breakdown, being emotionally full, and having super negative self-talk.
“Hmm. Well, maybe then you were in a place where you only needed to go in for tune-ups here and there. But now you are in a new place, a new environment, struggling with things that maybe are familiar,” she eyed me with a smile, “but they are still new struggles. Maybe it might help to have another therapist as well.”
“I don’t know. I do feel really well surrounded here. I’m part of a fellowship, I have a small group, I have a mentor who meets with me pretty regularly…”
“It sounds like you do. But you might also benefit from having a therapeutic relationship on top of all that, so your needs are met in every area.”
Crap. She was right.
“I am super passionate about therapy, but I don’t know….”
“It sounds like you know what you want,” she said, gently.
“You might as well try it,” she went on.
“Because if you try something and it doesn’t work out you can always drop it but if you don’t try it at all you might be missing out on something amazing…” I finished her sentence.
“Exactly,” she said, nodding.
I took a deep breath, and gave in. I would see a random new therapist in cowtown.
“How does it work again?” I asked.
Intervention number one was hooking me up with a therapist on campus. Intervention number 2 was that I would have to take a dance class or something next quarter.
“It sounds like there is very little joy in your schedule right now. We need to bring that back,” she said. She opened up my 4 year plan and added a P.E class to every quarter. I told her that I wanted to minor in psych and she made room for that, and assured me there was time and room for everything I wanted to do.
“College is so much more than taking classes to finish. You have time to find who you are. There’s no point in trying to do all that you want to do if you’re not happy,” she said.
“I think I’m going to cry,” I said, tears of relief welling up in my eyes. I was going back to therapy. She saw what I was going through and intervened. She pulled the, “but wait, there’s more” card. It was as though she had gone through the same thing before or something. She understood what I needed so well.
“Cry. It’s okay! There’s a tissue box right there,” she said, gently. We both laughed as I took a tissue and wiped the tears from my eyes.
“I wasn’t planning on talking about half of this today,” I said.
“I think it was on the tip of your tongue,” she said, smiling. We both took a deep breath.
When I stopped crying, she said, “Right now you feel like everyone is smarter than you. You’d be surprised how many people feel the same way you do, they are just very good at faking it. I’m very happy you reached out early. You are reaching out in all the right places.”
“First we have to get that anxiety under control though. When we do, I have no doubt that the grades will just come.” She smiled again. I nodded, at a loss for words.
We both stood up. “Thank you so much,” I told her.
“You are so welcome. Come in and let me know how things go. I better see at least one fun class in your schedule!” She said, with a wink.
I cried for an hour after that appointment. Manisha let the light in. I was having a vulnerability hangover, and I had just experienced a miracle. I called my therapist and texted Michela after that happened because I was crying so many tears of relief.
God wasn’t some magic pixie that took away all my problems in one weekend. Instead, he was the Shepard that was constantly guiding me through life, making more and more room for healing through each step of the journey. And there is always more healing to walk in and freedom to experience. God is never done restoring us.
So I came home from college this week. I came home to family, home-cooked meals, and amazing friends. I came home to intense Nintendo Switch games, thrifting, my piano and my car.
I came home to my therapist, who showed every toxic thought and feeling I had so much compassion. She gave me tools to take into my next season and wrapped them with so much grace. I came home to healing and restoration. I came home to rest and peace.
I came home to love. God’s love is so deep. We can build our lives upon his love. That love is something no wildfire, no tragedy, no amount of untruth, and no emotion can shake. His love knows the depths of our hearts and chooses us anyways. His love is joy in the mourning and peace in the uncertainty. It’s an everyday kind of love.
And it is always waiting for us, and it is always more than enough. This love is something I am so incredibly grateful for. It’s everything I could ever need or want. Today, maybe it’s calling you home.
Happy Thanksgiving guys!! 💗