April showers

Snow showers, that is! Even down here in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, we are still seeing snow in the forecast. At this rate, I’ll be wearing mittens in July! OK, that’s enough of my commentary on the weather. 

However, my April showers reference does begin to segue into my message. As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers, right? Maybe this year, we switch the words “bring” and “May,” but still, in the event that they do finally arrive, as they have slowly started to on JMU’s campus, they will be beautiful. Perhaps even more appreciated because of how long of a hiatus they took from last season’s foliage. Why, why am I talking about flowers, though? That, friends, will come in time. 

First, you should know that as I’ve been journeying through the job search and the interview process, I’ve been consuming mass amounts of information. I’ve been researching websites and people and positions. I’ve looked up mission statements, vision statements, and university values. And I’ve loved every second of it. Inundating myself with information, however, often leaves me mentally exhausted and constantly looking for an outlet to share that information. And when I need a break from it altogether, I find myself at a loss. So what becomes my outlet? 

Well, recently, it’s been the Facebook app on my phone, or Snapchat, even Pinterest. I immediately turn to my phone while simultaneously feeling shame that this has become my brain dump. No! Why “no?” Because what am I really gaining from this? Yes, Pinterest has the ability to provide me with a fun outlet for all the crafting I’ll do when I graduate, all of the creative ways to furnish my new apartment wherever that may be. Snapchat keeps me in touch with friends across the country. But Facebook? Most of the time I mindlessly scroll through the lives of other people until I realize I’m not truly looking at anything. Then I go back to researching. I go back to work. 

Here comes my tie back to flowers. Life, like a flower after a never-ending winter, is absolutely beautiful. It is full, for us, of relationships, of opportunities for adventure, of conversation, of family, of faith. Yes, work is a part of that life and for many of us it is a necessity, a means of comfort, of stability, and hopefully a source of joy. However, with some flowers, come thorns. The things that pinch us, stab at us unexpectedly, and make us consider that our flowers are more than beautiful; they carry a threat with them, a reminder that if you’re not careful, what is so beautiful can also hurt you. This, also is true of life. 

Those outlets I mentioned earlier, my social media brain dumps, are not inherently evil. It doesn’t have to hurt us. But when we use it to fill the void, when it becomes a replacement for human relationships, when it deviates our attention and keeps us away from self-reflection and introspection, then is when it becomes a thorn — when the harm begins to sneak in, a surreptitious force that begins to steal the beauty of life from us. In a reflection on being Benedictine, a piece I was reading for a recent interview, the very first section of the document talks about how “we eat, worry, spend, and work too much; we exercise, sleep invest and earn too little.” Then later on that “if we don’t take time to stop, we are buying into a culture that says work 24-7. If we cave into the expectation of our culture, we will be choked off.” Again, this metaphor of the flower and the thorn takes shape, for if allowed to grow wild and unruly, out of control, the thorns will choke out the life that it coexists with — the flower. 

So, as I continue my job search process, and straddle the line between research, work, and the social media platforms that my society tells me I should utilize and love, I must also be very aware that if I’m not careful, these things can be thorns. If I forget to leave space for reflection, for quiet, for the other parts of my life that feed my soul and not choke it, then I will be in a thicket that’s tricky to navigate and difficult to emerge from. That being said, I encourage you to join me as I take a break from some of those expectations we face that might inhibit our ability to bloom and welcome into season our own personal spring, and as I remind myself of a faith that renews in the face of the unknown.

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier is a graduate student at James Madison University in Harrison, Va.

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