Before this year, I used to believe that the most difficult year of my life was 2008, the year after I returned home from Estonia. I was 23, feeling really disjointed and shocked, especially after the profound impact the semester made on my life. I experienced the end of a two-year relationship. I had no time to go back to my university, but instead went straight to graduate school, which was a major adjustment, and one that I did not deal with very well. My sense of hope and togetherness was, at that time, its lowest.
Spending Midsummer/St. John’s Day on the island of Saaremaa, June 2007. I’m second from the left. Photo by Topi Nykänen.
However, in that year, I also made a lot of headway in terms of figuring out what was important to me. The next year, I turned 24, became an Orthodox catechumen, finished my master’s, and moved to Canada. I would meet Jen that fall.
Two years later: chrismation. July 2009, St. George Chapel, St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, Louisville, Kentucky. From left to right: Fr. Aaron Warwick, Fr. Theophan Buck, Dn. Daniel Greeson (my godfather), myself.
Ten years later, in 2017, I have turned 33, and there have been times where I have felt disjointed and shocked over what has happened. Things have gotten better, but the struggle still continues. Unlike 23, where I wanted the struggle to go away, I am finding myself more understanding of the presence of struggle, as well as its importance in our lives. Of course, I would do anything for my daughter to not have narcolepsy with cataplexy, if she didn’t have to. But that is not the way things are.
If I focused only on the struggles of this last year, I would be doing the year a great disservice. I have been given much in terms of joy. Our family has been given much in terms of love, grace and support throughout all of this. It’s not to say that things are not still hard. They are really, really hard. But we are finding it progressively easier to deal with things as they unfold before us.
Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos (+1995) was quoted as saying “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.” My daughter’s diagnosis is such a mystery. Our work is that mystery. Our lives are that mystery, and instead of being afraid, I am praying for the strength to accept that mystery with joy and humility.
10 years down the road, and I see that I overcame what felt like a struggle. The struggle, in retrospect, seems a lot more superficial, but that’s not one of those things you can really see until you’ve been far away enough from it. I think it would be fascinating to travel back in time to encounter my 23-year old self, sitting at a coffee shop brooding over being home, and to say to my younger self, “Look. This hurts now, and it’s okay that it does. But it will make sense later. Some things will make sense sooner than others. But you will be better off than before.”
My prayer, and my goal for this year, is to never forget that it will make sense later on.
And, wherever you are, 43-year old self, you can come visit anytime you want.
A blessed New Year to you all. Christ is Born!