I know in the past I have regaled you with things that I’ve learned so far on the Camino, but as our adventure winds to a close, I have a few more things I’ve learned that are, at least in my opinion, slightly more important and have certainly been more transformative for me. I suppose there is something to be said for that whole “Twenty-something self-discovery” thing or whatever. And while I won’t treat this like a diary and share with you everything I’ve learned about who I am and who I want to be, I do want to share some of the small insights the Camino has given me.
First of all, you should know that this past year at school hard. It was certainly one for the books. (To get the depressing details you can read my old blog posts) It was a year of sadness and lostness and pain and hurt. 8 deaths of friends or friends of friends, 2 incidences of sexual harassment, physical impairments, mental breakdowns, broken hearts…you name it, it happened this year. And I came into the Camino with a mixed attitude.
Part of me was excited about an adventure. I’m 21 and vying for any adventure this life can take me on. But honestly, mostly I was excited for the 2 week trip FOLLOWING the Camino that my dad and I have planned in Italy and Austria- that was the adventure I really wanted. Part of me was like let’s just get this thing over with and then go party for real. And part of me was absolutely terrified of the Camino because that’s a long time to spend alone with your thoughts and I really just didn’t want to deal with my own thoughts. After a year like the one I’ve had, I wanted nothing more than to sweep it all under the rug and move on as if nothing bad ever happened.
But there was no sweeping.
I was confronted with memories, questions, pains, and hurts from this past year. Why do people we love get taken from us so early? Why are people so unkind to each other? Why do people think it’s ok to violate another human in any form or fashion at all, let alone in a sexual capacity? Why do such awful tragedies occur on a seemingly daily basis? Why? Just why?
And as I’ve processed the brokenness of this year, I’ve decided that I believe 2 things for certain.
- I don’t believe in a God who orchestrates tragedies.
- I believe in an enemy who does.
Thankfully, my heart hasn’t been the sole heart on the chopping block these last few months. By and large, I’ve been the witness to the heartbreak, pain, and suffering of those I hold most dear. And on the one hand, I’m glad that it wasn’t just me, as selfish as that sounds. But on the other hand, my compassionate heart has been broken right alongside my friends and family. Their pain became my pain, their suffering, my suffering. I am an empathetic being, and I hurt when you hurt.
As I’ve been with my sweet friends through their trials and tragedies, there is always a common theme in their pain- they want to know why. Why him, why her, why them- why?
And as I’ve thought about this over the last 32 days and processed the “why’s” I’ve decided that if I’m going to hold anything close to my heart it is the belief that God isn’t a puppeteer who pulls the strings on hands holding the triggers to horrific, painful events. He doesn’t design tragedies. It’s not in His “plan” to have your best friend killed, your cousin raped, your mom diagnosed with life-threatening cancer or whatever other terrible thing you can of. I think that’s an unfortunate and hurtful concept that is perpetuated especially within the Christian community. Times of hardship or pain are met with comments like “It’s all part of His plan” and “You’ll understand why this happened one day.” And I just don’t believe any of that. That’s not the God I know, and I refuse to believe that His character is anything similar to that.
I do believe in an enemy who does all he can to rip our lives to shreds- to tear us away from love and joy. An enemy who thrives as we fall, who trips us just as we get back on track, who lives to destroy. And I have no doubt in my mind that every horrible, awful, heartbreaking event in our lives is at his hand. It’s an unfortunate consequence of the gift of freewill. If we are free to do whatever we want as humans, we are free to fall into the snares.
However, that being said, the 3rd belief I hold true is that our God is a God who lives and works among the brokenness. He is a God who can bring healing from pain, wholeness from brokenness, joy from sorrow, life from death. And in every tragic moment in our lives, He is there. He is there in many forms- words or people, smells or hugs, song or silence- He is there. And He will always bring you out of the misery the enemy leaves you in.
You just have to let Him.
Which needs me to the next demon I faced.
If you read my last blog post, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I’ve had issues with self-worth in the past. Who hasn’t?
I’ve gone through many phases of Rach in my life and I’ve never been totally satisfied with any of them before. I’ve always let the enemy sneak into my heart and take up residence- tell me I have no worth and that I am unworthy of belonging and love. I’ve let that little voice inside me scream out that I’m not good enough for a long time- that I’m not strong enough or smart enough, pretty enough or fit enough, funny enough, or kind enough. I was never enough. The little voice inside me told me that I had no worth and that I was unworthy.
But here’s what I’m learning: we’re all flawed. We’re all terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people at some point or another in our lives if only for seconds at a time. We make mistakes. We do the wrong thing. We hurt other people. We hurt ourselves. We’re flawed. That’s just how it is. And you can beat yourself up over and over about your flaws until you’re a self-loathing disaster. Or you can recognize your flaws and love yourself anyway.
Because while we’re all terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people at some point or another in our lives, we are also insanely wonderful, beautifully strong, resilient, fierce, loving creatures. And, thanks to Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, I’ve come to view the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad parts of people as just hungry monsters to be fed. The more you think about how terrible you are, the more you fixate on the bad parts of yourself, the more you feed the monster. The monster inside you thrives on hearing how terrible you are and yearns for you to hate yourself.
But cut that little bitty off. Ain’t enough food in this world to feed that thing, amiright?
Remember that you’re an insanely wonderful, beautifully strong, resilient, fierce, loving creature who don’t need to take no crap off the monster inside you.
You are strong.
When faced with hardships, in the wake of tragedy- remember this. You will not be defeated by your circumstances.
Destiny is for losers. You’re captain of your life. You wake up and make decisions and choose how to live your life- you choose your actions and your reactions and you’re in charge of you. Destiny is hogwash. You’re not the victim of forces beyond your control. You decide. Figure out what you want and get after it because, like I said, you’re an insanely wonderful, beautifully strong, resilient, fierce, loving creature, and you can do anything you set your heart on.
You have worth and you are worthy.
You’re the captain of your life. Don’t let the monsters inside you stage a mutiny. Take charge and believe in yourself.
Be kind and do good.
That’s the next bit of advice life has thrown at me on the Camino.
On the Camino you interact with dozens and dozens of people. I’ve met people from 23 different countries and 19 different states. There are dozens of languages spoken, a bajillion different brands of clothes and gear, different looks and different cultural norms- but in spite of all of our differences we pretty much all treat each other the same.
On the Camino, no one gives a flying flip how you look. If you’re not dirty and sweaty are you even doing the Camino? No one cares what your GPA is or what your extracurriculars are. No one cares how much money you make or what your Christmas bonus last year was. No one cares what car you drive or how big your boat is. I’ve met millionaires and homeless people- college kids, and businessmen, miners and high schoolers, retired people and little kids. No one cares. No one cares if you take 17 minutes to get up a hill or 2 hours. No one cares if you’re old or young, fat or skinny, gray haired or blonde. No one cares what brand of gear you have, whether you’re using walking sticks, or if you even have a pack. We just don’t care. You’re a pilgrim and I’m a pilgrim and that’s the end of it.
All the external factors, societal pressures, surface level BS we deal with in the real world falls away. You know what we do care about on the Camino? If you don’t say “Buen Camino” when you pass. If you’re rude and impatient to the local Spanish people. If you cut someone off without even acknowledging them. If you don’t tell someone when they dropped a sock. If you don’t get someone’s attention if they’re going the wrong way. On the Camino, we care if you’re kind. We care if you do good to other people.
That’s a lesson I hope to carry with me forever- be kind and do good and let the rest fall away.
Next, the Camino has taught me that time isn’t money.
Don’t let anyone or anything ever convince you otherwise. Time is not money. Time is irreplaceable. Time is worth more than money could ever buy. Time is a gift. It’s a moment of laughter with a stranger, it’s resting when you need to, it’s getting to know other people better, it’s getting to know yourself better- every passing second is an invaluable present. Don’t waste it.
On the Camino, we run on what we have affectionately deemed “Camino Time.” Everything is late. Stores open late, trains run late, your bill comes late, you eat late. Everything is late. Everything is lazy and leisurely in all the best ways. And in Spain, the siesta is a real thing. All the shops and schools close in the middle of the afternoon. There is a certain disregard for punctuality and hurriedness that I think is so valuable.
Treasure the time you have. You haven’t been given this time to spend it rakin’ in the dollas and forget who your loved ones are.
Run on Camino Time. Take your sweet time at meals and enjoy the conversation. Pause in your day to take care of yourself. Work to live, don’t live to work.
Time isn’t money.
And to go right alongside that, the last piece of wisdom the Camino has given me is that it’s important to spend time with the people you love.
My parents are funnier, smarter, weirder, sillier, cooler, wiser, kinder, and way more humiliating and embarrassing than I had ever realized (I mean that in the best way- if you’re not embarrassing your kid at least once a day, are you even a parent?). They are incredible guardians who are slowly and surely becoming incredible friends. I wouldn’t trade these days with them for anything. They’re my people and I love them wholeheartedly.
Find the people in this life you love wholeheartedly and spend time with them. Walk through their tragedies with them, love them, care for them, remind them of their worth, and never make them feel like they come in second to other commitments. Because at the end of this life, when all is said and done and you’re meeting Peter at the gates of heaven, you won’t have your face pressed against the bars anxiously looking for and awaiting a reunion with your BMW.
God doesn’t orchestrate tragedies. You have worth and you are worthy. Be kind and do good. Time isn’t money. Spend time with the people you love.
It has been a buen camino, my friends. Thanks for keeping up with me.