Contentment: A Journey, Not Destination

Wrote this a few months ago for a class…

Contentment is a word that either brings someone peace or turmoil. They look at their life and say, “I am rather content,” or, “What am I doing here? Who am I in this situation?” People—more specifically college students—struggle with contentment for different reasons, almost all of them stemming from how they view themselves in the context of different types of relationships: in family, society, and dating. Whichever side of the spectrum one finds themself in these situations, they are either declarative in their contentment or questioning their lack of it. Learning how to come to a place of contentment is much of what the college experience is about and can teach people.

There comes a time in a college students’ life where they must figure out what position they will hold in their family—and what role their family will let them assume. They limbo between childhood and adulthood in how they approach class, their behavior, and most importantly how they relate to their families. Parents want to keep tabs on us yet want us to make decision on our own—but only on the minor things. Every college student has those few things that they fight with their parents about over and over that would not be an issue if they were truly adults. In coming to college, I was ready to become an adult. My parents let me choose (and change) my major without question. They were fully supportive of my decision to live at school instead of going home for the summer, yet they are completely against me getting my nose pierced. They deny me the joys of the college experience yet let me make life altering choices with very few comments. When will I assume responsibility for every aspect of my life and become the adult leading my life? In the meantime, am I okay with my parents still staking some dominion over my life? Will I reach contentment through my reaction against my parents or my peace with the reality that they are paying for school and still have a stake in what goes on in my life? Through dialogue, prayer, and journaling, I have been able to come to a point where I understand their perspective in a clearer lens. I am not completely content in my place in the family, but I am able to respect their contrasting opinion. This mutual respect and acceptance is crucial to having contentment in various aspects of life, like one’s place in society.

College is the setting to find and define one’s place in society. Exchanging the bubble of home life for the bubble of school evokes different reactions out of individuals. I have found that students are exposed to foreign ideas, perspectives, and ways of life. This unsettling fact makes students have a sort of identity crisis. Why do I believe what I believe? Do I only carry these convictions because of my parents? Where is the foundation for my place in society? As a Christian, am I comfortable with being an outsider who will be in society but not of it? When someone questions their very identity, they are not content by the very nature of the predicament. Through research and dialogue with trusted advisors and peers, a person can educate themselves on the various aspects on their identity and can be confident in themselves. As I have been looking at churches, I recently attended a charismatic church. This made me question what I believe about spiritual gifts and what role the Holy Sprit plays in daily life. I have been raised to be cautious of things along these lines—things that could be done for attention or done through the power of Satan; however, people I trust and respect are involved in healing circles and have spoken in tongues. It birthed a burning curiosity in me to learn more and understand for myself what the Holy Spirit does. I have met with my Bible professors and talked to students in the Bible department, my dad (a former pastor), as well as my sister (a graduate student of Old Testament) concerning this topic and am now forming an educated view on the Holy Spirit. This method can be used when deciding political affiliation or any other potentially controversial subject. I am content and hold firm in my beliefs because of the education I have sought after, yet I am still struggling in the area of dating.

The most common place of contentment (or lack thereof) is in the realm of dating. Those in healthy relationships are rather satisfied with their place. If they become discontent, they end the relationship or live in misery. Contentment becomes more of an issue for single people. I have been struggling with this for a long time, and wrote the following in my journal: “It sucks being single. It sucks to tell yourself you are worth pursuing but to have nothing to show for it. People tell you that you are a great friend, you give great advice, and you have a heart for Jesus, yet it isn’t good enough to be pursued by a man. It sucks. As much as I have to force myself to believe this more than half the time, I believe that this longing and time being single (which seems endless) will make marriage that much sweeter. It will make me value a relationship that much more.” Truly being okay as a single person does not come easily—if it ever really comes. It is hard work and often stems from something I would call, “self-talk.” The thoughts a person has when they are by themselves in the dark of the night define who they are. Sometimes I have to scream in my mind the complete opposite of what I’m feeling at the time, but it makes the next time I question my place in life that much easier to deal with.

Contentment is not a figment of some crazy optimist’s imagination. It isn’t a state of being that a person can just check off their bucket list of things to feel. Contentment is a process of figuring out who you are, why you are where you are, and how you are going to respond to those things. Contentment is an attitude in which you can face the world.

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