Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Nervous Breakdown of '08

I've finally done it...sort of. I've finally processed 4 years of college (and less than a year after it's conclusion, whoa). In order to describe this blissful yet painful process, let me tell you about my day last week Tuesday...

It started like any other Tuesday. I woke the girls up at 7am, grabbed a shower, called Katie C. (because Tuesday from 7:15-7:30 is our talk time), headed downstairs for announcements and prayer and then took the kids to breakfast. After that, I headed to chapel where I would spend the rest of my day until 3pm. First chapel went well, the student worship teams are doing an AMAZING job and I'm so proud of them. During the break between chapel 1 and 2, I went up to the piano to practice a couple of pieces that I agreed to play for one of my students (she has a flute recital this week and I told her that I would accompany her). Surely a piano player of 16 years could manage to play a few challenging classical pieces. I couldn't have been more wrong. Intense fear set in as I realized that I wasn't going to be able to pull it off. For the first time in a VERY long time, I couldn't "cheat" my way out of something (as in, I couldn't make up something and hope it sounded right to fill up that last paragraph in a 10 page paper, I couldn't turn the classical notes into lead sheet chords, I couldn't look up the answer in the back of the book, I couldn't use a thesaurus to make me sound get the picture). I held back my frustration as second chapel started and once again, the kids amazed me and I felt refreshed and confident that I COULD play the music (yeah, along with processing college, I realized that I kinda have a false sense of confidence when it comes to music). I ate lunch with Dan and headed back to the piano for another practice session. No good. No progress. Two of the songs I could play with ease but the 12-pager was a lost cause. I ran to the sound booth, biting my pride, and emailed a few other piano players asking for help. I got quick responses of a negative nature and I was back to the drawing board. Then, middle school chapel started...bless those musicians' hearts but playing with a full band of 11 and 12 year olds who don't all speak fluent English is one of the hardest things. But for some reason, this week was extra rough. In fact, it was the worst chapel ever when it came to the worship music (that sounds bad, but when your musicians stop playing in the middle of "How Great is Our God" and start talking to each other and laughing on stage, it's a bit hard to take)...I left feeling completely defeated...again. I went back to my apartment with half an hour until dorm duty and I remembered that I had a TON of homework for my grad class due in a couple of days. Then it happened, I collapsed on my couch and BAWLED. We're not talking little tears of frustration but hyperventilating sobs of inadequacy. At IWU, I did everything. If a prof needed something from me, I could do it. I volunteered for everything. I served on committees, lead worship anywhere and everywhere, played gigs, got good grades, worked, made time for friends, had coffee dates with people who needed a shoulder to cry on...I said YES to almost everything. I remember one time in Townhouse 600 my senior year, my friends started asking me really dumb and obvious questions just to see if I could even say the word "no". "Sarah, do you want to eat moldy bread?"...but those girls aren't here in South Korea. If they were, I'm sure we'd be having the exact same conversation...

Last Tuesday, I had a breakdown not because I couldn't play a piano piece but because I realized that I WILL let people down. I can't be the people-pleasing IWU girl anymore. While it burnt me out in college, it will destroy me here in Korea. In full time ministry, if I don't take time for myself or for the Lord, I will fail. If I keep saying yes to anything and everything, I will leave Asia a shell of my former self, burnt out at the ripe age of 25.

I collected myself and walked down to the office to continue on my day. Allen and Angela, the dorm parents, came in and could see immediately that I had been crying (maybe the puffy red eyes and running mascara tipped them off). I told them the story of my day and my realization. Just then, their 5 year old bounced into the office, stopped dead on her tracks and said "Miss Sarah, what's wrong?". Her mother replied "Miss Sarah found out today that she's not perfect." Well said, Angela. Well said.

My student who I was supposed to play for came through a little later and I sat her down to tell her that I just couldn't play for her because it was too hard. Those were some of the hardest words I've said in a long time. Not only did that mean letting down one of my girls in a really important event for her but it meant admitting that I failed. She took the news so well and was very understanding! I hadn't ruined her life after all...

I headed up to my apartment to grab some homework and glanced at my syllabus only to discover that I was actually 1.5 weeks ahead in the class. Bonus! I had time to breathe! But before I could to that, I had to run to the auditorium for the student-initiated praise night (which, of course, I said I would play for). What started as a stressful event with hours and hours of practice during my minimal free time ended as an amazing and intimate time in fellowship with students who worshiped in Spirit and truth. We sang and prayed for 1.5 hours and I left completely refreshed and renewed after one of the toughest days in South Korea to date.

So, I finally processed a bit of college. I saw the girl who woke up every morning to please others melt away to awaken a girl who lives to please Abba. What happened those 4 years at IWU have SHAPED me but they don't have to DEFINE me. I'm sure I'll glean more lessons from those years in Marion but for now, processing and realizing my people-pleasing tendencies and how they've followed me here is lesson enough. May I not forget how this feels. May I not forget the JOY I can have from living to please only the Lord. May I not ever again forget the word "no".


-At Outback Steakhouse here, they have "coffee steak". Yup, it's steak marinated in black coffee...yum?

-We're in the middle of "yellow dust" season. Yellowish colored dust from the desert in Mongolia is blown over the China sea to Korea where it fills the air and subsequently, our lungs. There's a yellow haze in the sky and everyone is warned not to spend too much time outside because inhaling the said dust can be bad for you. People are walking about with "health masks" but it really just looks like there's a SARS outbreak again....people are kinda paranoid about their health here. They go to the hospital if they have a common cold. They go to the hospital if they run into something and a bruise forms...I only wish I were kidding.