I remember learning something in high school. It concerned countries whose economy relied upon the exporting of one particular good; whomever the teacher was taught us how those governments need to have a plan B when their one big export doesn't work out for some reason, because they'll crumble without it. It's the same concept as diversifying investments (I think; Chris Rowekamp, let me know if I'm wrong) and the same concept that inspired the phrase "don't put all your eggs in one basket." This story is one of how God matures us for just such purposes. It's also why I can juggle with my feet during a handstand: so that I can join the one traveling circus left in the U.S. if this whole "arts administration" thing stays aloft in Dreamland.
Today, a friend articulated something for me that I had not yet specifically articulated (this particular friend has a habit of this). If you have ever met me in person, it was likely quite obvious that I am indeed an extrovert. In fact, that may be too mild of a term. I feed off of the presence of other people like a fish drinks water. Those guys hardly come up for air. What champs. Worry not, that was not the revelation. You may wipe the sweat from your brow and sigh.
The revelation is that living in the Middle of Nowhere (I mean that endearingly) and commuting to a job between Nowhere and Fairfax (The Plains, Virginia) for what has now become 9 or 10 months has been an invaluable experience. Never would I have chosen this situation from among options. I have felt quite alone and I have learned how to be alone.
I am specific in my use of the word "felt" in the last sentence. I do not mean to be a drama king when I talk about being alone. I am not a hermit; I've been living with my dad, who is one of my closest companions and a brother in Christ who has been quite the conduit for God's transforming and maturing work in my life. I have found a small but wonderful group of friends in the area whom I am dearly fond of. You must, however, understand: even given this reality, I felt quite alone fairly often. It was, at times, quite difficult. I am energized by the presence of others, especially friends. I lacked much of the contact I was used to and felt I needed.
It some time, but some vague time near the end of Winter (the beautiful season) some new modes of operations began to emerge in my heart and mind. I learned how to be at home alone for the day and feel good and get things done. I learned how to take trips to the park or the used bookstore and pray when I felt myself slipping into destructive moods connected with the loneliness. Mentally, I became used to a lack of the social energy that often fuels me. I still love it and thrive on it when I have it; but I have learned how to continue normally when I lack it.
I must be clear: this post is not at all about a resignation to melancholy. I am honestly joyful for this journey of growth because God has used it to free me a little bit more from bonds that have held me back. Perhaps I worry about emphasizing this point too much. Some of you will know exactly what I'm saying because it's how you operate innately, and your lesson has happen through putting yourself around groups of people and learning how to be with them. I will phrase it thus: my dependency upon other people was to an unhealthy and severe degree. I still retain the great joy of being around people, but am not saddened when alone.
My hike showed me that the only things that are truly important to me in this world are Christ and other people. The time after my hike has showed me how to live with a minimum of other people and to fill the emotional void with Christ.
The time was tough, and if God has given me a choice there's no way I would have done it; but that's because there's no way I could have dreamed of the beauty of the result. I, Zach Armstrong, to no credit of my own, am finally okay with being alone.
I type that last sentence with a smile on my face. It is indeed a very good thing.