I recently had a conversation with a friend about the differences between surviving, living, and thriving. My friend used the phrase “abundant life” instead of thriving, but we decided that they could mean close to the same thing.
The last three years of my life, I would say I have been in “survival mode.” What do I mean by this? I mean making it to the end of the day, but not being sure if I can do it again tomorrow. I mean being tired all the time, wondering how many more minutes there are in the day before I can lie down. I mean getting the bare minimum done and not having time for things that might be fun or life-giving. Doing the urgent-only stuff, not getting to make time for stuff that is important.
That sounds pretty bleak when I describe it like that. And okay, not every moment of the past three years has been like that, but there’s certainly been seasons like that, and when you’re in times like that, they seem to last forever. I may have walked the line between surviving and living, but I certainly don’t think I’ve made it to “thriving” very often in the past three years.
Three and a half years ago I had a baby, and obviously life has been different ever since. Two and a half years ago I started a new career, and a few months after that, I began online graduate school. I’ve been getting by, pushing myself farther than I thought I could go, being braver than I thought I could be, but it’s been very tiring.
As I near the end of my graduate program, I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I’m starting to wonder if I could move into a time of thriving. What would that look like?
There’s an anime show called “Your Lie in April” that I really enjoyed. One of the main characters in it is the epitome of what I would call “thriving.” She is living her best life, enjoying the small moments in life, not rushing through them. She is a violin player, and when she performs, instead of performing the piece perfectly as written like the judges want, she puts herself into the piece and interprets it differently. She plays to feel and to let the audience enjoy the music; she comes alive when playing. She forfeits first place in order to be true to herself and thrive.
Ever since I’ve watched that show, I’ve wanted to be like her. But how? I think a big part of it is being true to yourself. There’s something very freeing about allowing yourself to be who you are, not trying to fit into anyone’s accepted version of yourself, not worrying about what other people will think if you do or don’t do something.
I also loved that she brought joy and happiness to everyone who was around her. I want to be someone who can do that for others. But honestly, I don’t really think I am.
What does it look like for you when you are thriving? What does living your best life look like? How will you know it when you see it? I think it’s extremely personal for each of us – how I thrive will look different than anyone else.
As I think about this, I’m going to challenge myself (and you) to do an activity. Think of three things that would signal to you that you are thriving. Think of times in your life when you felt good and felt like you were really living – what were you doing? What did you enjoy spending time on?
Here’s my list:
Creativity – the times in my life when I’ve leaned in to my creativity make me feel like I’m thriving. I’ve always loved writing, but when I was younger I also loved drawing. I wanted to be an artist for Disney. A few years ago I taught myself to crochet amigurumi dolls, I have rarely done that since starting graduate school. I also love to sing and dance – I love hosting fun parties and get togethers at my house (like Pi Day parties). Allowing myself time for creativity is something that will help me to thrive.
Being adventurous – when Dean and I started dating, we really connected over doing fun and adventurous things together. We love to have fun and laugh. We always loved taking goofy pictures together. I feel like I was more open to new experiences, I was more interested in learning about the things he liked. I think maybe I’ve gotten into a rut where I don’t want to branch out as much, I desire safety and security, but to get that, I sacrifice the new and the fun. I’ve let fear get in the way. This next year, I want it to feel like old times where we can do something crazy and enjoy the new and unknown.
Feeling free to be myself – why is it that we desire so much to blend into the crowd, to fit in? Some of us were made to stand out. If being true to myself makes me stand out, then so be it. I want to give up being perfect for being me. I want to worry less what others will think and lean in to who God is calling me to be and what he is calling me to do.
(Optional 4th) – Thriving spiritually – feeling really connected to God is something I long for and I know would help me to thrive. I recently read a book called Soul Feast, and the author discussed different ways we can work on connecting with God. A big one for me is the idea of rest and Sabbath. When I’m so overworked and overwhelmed, I don’t feel connected to God. I don’t have the energy to be who he wants me to be, because I’m just surviving. Thriving spiritually will look like me having the time to spend with God, and feeling confident of my purpose and calling.
Thanks for reading! – Erica