Just a Concept

That’s how I feel about love. It’s just a glorified concept that alludes me, always just out of reach. I don’t believe it to be a tangible feeling, but rather a legend we tell around the campfire to help us sleep at night.

I’ve heard it said that God’s love is enduring and forever, the only of it’s kind; we should feel it and know it to be truth. To me, love seems just beyond the next hill or maybe around the next turn, the perpetual chase. But today especially, I feel too overwhelmed and exhausted to chase it. I don’t feel God’s love and I definitely don’t feel any other kind. All I feel is the injustice of love’s interactions.

We tell ourselves that love is worth it, right? That one day there is a happy ending somewhere in the midst? Like when the nicest girl you knew in high school lost her father to cancer, or when your best friend gave everything she had to a man she loved, but he changed his mind? Happy ending, right? Or when a friend of yours just wants the beauty of marriage, but her boyfriend of two years is too afraid to commit so they break up. Or when her roommate wants to date someone that shares her values and beliefs, but she’s stuck in a whirlwind of hurt and disappointment from the lack of evidence that such a man exists. Tell me love is real. Tell me why, after confronting the man that broke my heart and stole my virginity apologized, I don’t feel any differently; not relieved or happy, just numb. Tell me love is real.

I need to know that one day pain isn’t going to twist the knife in my heart anymore, or that shame won’t tighten its grip on my throat anymore. I want to feel that love is real, and I want to be able to breath again when I think about my chances of having a happy ending. I want my friends to know the riches of love, and I want to believe in it again. But for now, it’s just a concept.


Identity Crisis Series: Introduction

It’s often told that an identity crisis punches the clock at exactly the ages of 40 through 50, especially in the unhappily married community. It’s not exclusive to the underpaid and overworked 40-somethings who need a change of pace and some heavy counseling (although that stereotype can still be correct). Tradition fails to mention possibly one of the most underestimated truths in our culture: people of any age are susceptible to an identity crisis.

Developmental or childhood influences, stresses, struggles, and societal demands can all be ingredients in the melting pot of an identity crisis. Maybe it was something traumatic that happened as a child that has always mentally scarred you, maybe it was a life-altering situation that you haven’t fully dealt with, or it could even be the pressure in society to perform a certain way or look a certain part. Regardless of the cause, it is impossible to put an age restriction on an identity crisis!

So why does an identity crisis happen? Each individual has their own experiences, perceptions, and coping mechanisms. Let’s take 9/11 for example, since we’ve just recognized the fourteenth anniversary of that tragic day. Millions of Americans were impacted by the same situation, yet each person reacted in a different way entirely. Though we can all remember that day very clearly, the experience varies for everyone. We’d all been involved in the same situation, but in ways that altered our personal perceptions and ignited unique coping mechanisms on an individual basis. A fork in the road is found, and we can either retreat back to our fundamental truths to cope or try to forge our own understanding without the help of others.

An identity crisis holds that very essence. I’ve found that I’m in the middle of an identity crisis because I took a wrong turn at the fork in the road. As I’ve said before, my fundamental truths lie in Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible. My problem is not that I retreated back to my values when my world was shaken, but rather my problem is that I didn’t. Our generation has such a concentrated focus on autonomy, but nobody tells us how lonely, difficult, or unsteady it is.

Autonomy whispers, “You’ve got this! You don’t need anyone else, they’re just going to let you down!” It is just a glass ceiling that superficially holds us up in the face of gravity. It wasn’t meant to support us when the world comes crashing down, because what happens when the world shatters the glass on its way down? Are you going to fall through the ceiling and land on your foundation, or do you keep falling through the air waiting for someone or something to catch you?

The whispers of autonomy are wrong, because salvation is an external entity only. I strongly believe that if salvation could be self-governed, suicide would be impossible. If we could handle anything on our own, suicide wouldn’t overcome the depressed or lonely. Autonomy is merely an illusion, and fuel for the flames of an identity crisis.

Danielle Rice/Parker/O’Conner

I don’t know you, but I know you. You were the most poetic and polar anomaly I’d ever seen. I was sure I could see your eyes sparkle when you looked around as you stepped onto the bus, amazed as if you were a newborn beholding the world for the first time. You were beautiful, especially in the modest and pure way. You weren’t dressed provocatively and you wore almost no makeup on your kind face, but it could never be any other way. Like real art, you held beauty and meaning. You were delicately bold.

The bus rumbled along the highway. I looked over, and you were writing as fast as your pen could move in a cheap, pocket-sized notebook— humble. Then you held your chin high with pride as you tore your eyes from the freshly paved words and eagerly whipped your head left to face me. You simply wanted me to pick your new last name from a list of imagined ones you had selected. Parker or O’Conner? I chose O’Conner, and you chose to continue our conversation. Your messy but particular ballerina bun bounced on your head as you eagerly asked more questions, some as simple as spelling. I was conflicted from that moment on. Were you wise or naive? I mean, society tells us that everything needs to fit in a box— a labeled, organized box. We shouldn’t question our last name, we shouldn’t be headed halfway across the country to New York to be a mortuary beautician, and we should always plan the next step. That didn’t stop you. Was I sensing innocence, or maturity most people don’t reach in their lifetime? Were you utterly lost in this great big world, or were you living vivaciously? During the breaks in our conversation you’d fiercely scribble in your notebook again, focused and distracted all at once. Quiet and reserved, yet curious and cordial. Never once did you annoy me, as you were brave to speak and determined to listen. All I wanted to do was figure you out. I wish I had more time, because an hour on the greyhound wasn’t enough.

In a way, I wish I could be you. You were so content with life, but also somehow yearning for more. You only had a simple flip phone to keep you connected, but that was all you needed. You were all-consumed by the unknown yet completely free to make your own destiny. I don’t remember my first impression of any of my close friends, maybe due to the length of our friendship. Regardless, you’ve had a bigger first impression on me in that short hour than anyone else has had. It’s been nearly a year, and I wish I could talk to you again to ask how you’re doing. Did you get that job in New York? Did you find that happiness you already had anyways? Is your new name as glorious sounding as you’d hoped? While you were writing, I was too; about that bus ride to the Indianapolis airport with one of the most complex individuals I’ve ever met.

Some would say I don’t know you. You’re a perfect stranger, but I know you. I know it’s lonely to be always searching and roaming. I know we all want (and arguably need) a fresh start sometimes. I know that it takes courage to loose control of your life, and dedication to keep dreaming amidst the darkness. I know that we all need hope like you. You are no one and everyone all at once, and I know that we all need to learn the balance of mastering contradictions as you have. I know that you’re doing fine, because you’re unbroken— not so much on a temporary basis, but permanently. You’ve made it this far, what can life throw at you that you haven’t overcome? I know you’re strong, so I know that you’re somewhere out there still delicately bold.


I realize that I haven’t had an official introduction to my newfound love of the blogging world, so let me just take a moment to word-vomit for you now. It’s a little hard for me to wrap my mind around this concept of journaling for the world to see, but as I’ve said, I’ve really grown to love blogging. I usually find myself plagued with insomnia somewhere around 3 am, armed with a laptop and a universe of thoughts swirling through my mind. I use to be afraid or ashamed of how dark my thoughts can be, but honestly they just seem more beautiful with age. (But what do I know, I’ve only just turned 19 last month.) Maybe my next boring monologue will be my testimony, but for now I’ll save that story for another day. Let’s just say I’ve been through enough in my life to know that I wouldn’t be here without my faith in Jesus. But again, I’ll explain that another day. Nights like this I love to curl up in my surprisingly comfy dorm bed with my favorite blanket so that I can hash out my feelings with WordPress. To sum that last minute I’ve wasted of your life: yay blogging, probably an insomniac, Team Jesus, getting to the point.

And now, the point. Are you wondering what the title means yet? I’m getting my first [and only] tattoo tomorrow. I haven’t really told my friends, so I definitely haven’t told my family. I don’t know if it’s a fear of disapproval or a mistrust of the people I care most about, but I don’t want lectured or convinced that I shouldn’t do something if no one thinks to understand. Honestly, I use to be strongly against getting a tattoo myself. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the artistry and sentiment of tattoos on others; I’ve just never had an urge to get one myself until this past November. What changed my mind, you ask? Well… I’m not sure. I have mulled it over for  two months now, and I think it’s something God has placed on my heart. (Save the scoffs please.) One night I was having my birthday dinner with some of my best friends when the subject of tattoos came up. Both of them announced what they wanted tattooed when they found the time or money and immediately turned to me to ask what I would get if I were to get one too. Without hesitation [to my amazement], I just blurted out the word “unbroken.” Of course they wanted to know why, so I found myself explaining a recent self-discovery I had made. First I will give you the context:

November held a lot of trials and tribulations for me, but I probably wasn’t handling my emotions in those situations properly. I always find a way to beat myself up. In this particular case, I spurred that process on with disappointment, loathing, and disparity towards myself. In my poem “Red” I discuss some of my behavior, including my ongoing war with drinking. The only word I thought could best describe me was “broken,” because I felt shattered inside and out. I thought that word defined me, and I was rolling in anguish. In my leather-bound journal, my last entry before Christmas Break read:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I don’t mean to push people away, but it just kind of happens. I hate burdening people with my struggles or pain. So I guess I just shut out everyone and everything. I mean it’s definitely easier, but it’s also lonelier. I’ve been at a loss for words lately. Just listening, watching, waiting. One step at a time. I’m ready to be done with this semester, but if Thanksgiving was bad how will Christmas go? Or my birthday? Can I just stay out of trouble one time!? And I need to decide if I’m going to cut myself off from my toxic friends or learn how to say no… my soul is weary God; give me rest. I need rest. I need You.

And so I made it through. (Yes, I’m getting to the point soon. I promise!) Now for the journal entry after Break:

Friday, January 9, 2015

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve written in this; almost like saying hello to an old friend. I’ve learned a lot in such a short amount of time about myself. I love how unfailing God is. There has been a lot of pain, but there has also been a lot of truth. I finally told *insert douchebag guy here* how I feel after years of liking him, but I’m still confused about that whole situation. I’ve really missed Bloomington for so many reasons. For being home though, I actually managed to stay out of trouble (which was amazing considering everything). I’ve come to realize that I don’t have much of a relationship with my dad or sister. Actually, I think my boyfriend/general guy problems stem from my trust/daddy issues. No matter how broken my body or heart is though, my faith remains unbroken. I really relied on God to get me through Christmas Break, and of course He delivered. I get why I felt so broken before, but I was just confused. I banked every belief and decision on the fact that I was utterly broken; while that may be true to some degree, Jesus also broke for us. For us. So that our faith– our souls– would be eternally unbroken. So I guess I take it back. I’m not the ugly, shameful, unworthy, “broken” that I thought I was. The life I have, the way I choose to live, proves just how unbroken I really am. Sure I stumble or fall sometimes, but isn’t that why it’s called faith? A strong conviction that God is beyond the choices we make, because He is the path we take. He’ll get us there, even if we trip into a thorn-bush or two along the way. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. So to clarify, yeah I may be/feel “broken,” but my faith sure stands unbroken.

And lastly my clarification entry that following Sunday during a wonderful sermon at church:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

It’s so liberating to know that having brokenness is different then being broken! This is an incredible revelation that I’ve overlooked my whole life, and now I can move forward in my walk with God. Am I weak? Yeah. Limited? Of course! Frail? Duh. But broken? No, thanks to Jesus’ resurrection. It changed everything. It shows what God declares for us. And my sins can’t change that.

Alright, it looks like another summary is due. Pre-Break Meltdown + Post-Break Revelation = Unbroken. Now for my choice of placement. In late middle school and early high school, I self-harmed to a small degree. I use to take mechanical pencils or nail files, and I would scrape at my left wrist until the skin would break. (Again, dealing with emotions isn’t really my thing.) It never left a strikingly obvious scar, but I can still see it sometimes if I look close enough. With my new revelation in mind, I feel that tattooing “unbroken” over my scar is perfect. If I can, I also want a small, solid sparrow beside the word in honor of my favorite hymn, “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” (Fun fact, the inspiration of the song came from Matthew 10:29-31.) So you see? My reasoning is a little complicated and long-winded for the average person. But that’s the beauty of it! The reason God has put this on my heart is simply that He wants my tattoo to be a conversational tool I can use to initiate conversation about my testimony and faith. So although some would argue that getting this tattoo is an unwise or reckless decision, I find very serious reasoning behind my actions. And that’s okay. I can’t please everyone [nor do I want to]. Now that I’ve rambled on for hours, I think I’ll go to bed. Tomorrow is a big day for me.