Sorry for the thousands of times I use the word “shit” in this post. I normally don’t cuss, but sometimes you have to say it like it is.
My senior year of high school, one of the volunteers at my church organized a bible study for a handful of us senior girls to prepare for college and leaving home. What started out as a bible study quickly fell apart as we got distracted by random tangents or started opening up more about our lives. As people started sharing more and more, though, we came up with this thing: The Shit Chair. And so, once a week, someone in the group would get a turn in The Shit Chair. It was literally just an opportunity to talk about all of your shit, and it ROCKED. It was insanely cathartic – first off, we were in bible study and using the word "shit" (rebel!), but more importantly, how many opportunities do you have a chance to just spill your secrets and everything that you’ve been struggling and hiding from the world? It was wonderful and healing to have each other to pray for us, follow up with us, and to truly know what was going on behind the façade. At the same time, it was jaw-droppingly MIND OPENING. Because EVERYBODY. HAD. SHIT! Even though I knew all of these girls for a pretty long time and saw them almost every day at either school or church, we were sharing heart-breaking experiences about our families, ourselves, and our fears. And they were BIG problems, not just the ones you expect. On one hand, it was heart breaking because I realized how everybody was so broken. On the other hand, though, it was so liberating to realize that everybody else was so broken. I realized how good everybody was at hiding their shit, and that I was not just a total weirdo because I had to deal with things that other people couldn’t see. At the same time, when I shared my own story, everybody said the exact same thing to me: “I had no idea. You hide this so well!”
So, since then, I’ve decided against hiding things and putting up faces. The majority of my very close friends already know the shit that went down back then, and in the four years since, I’ve told this story to others and to myself as a means of saying, “Don’t worry. Everyone has their shit.” I have X and Jane has Y and Stacey has Z; everybody’s got something. What I didn’t realize, though, is that sometimes you have to take a few turns in The Shit Chair. About a month ago I had to deal with something large in my life – it was traumatic, embarrassing, humiliating, and frustrating in so many ways. As I expressed my aggravation over why I had to deal with this, my housemate echoed back the exact same thing that everybody has their own issues and everybody has their own shit. Without even thinking about it, I shouted back at her, “But I already HAVE my own shit! __________ is my shit! I’m not supposed to have another one!”
Boy, was I wrong. Since that day, I’ve realized two things: we really have so little control over our own lives & we don’t need to reduce our lives into understandable packages. For the first one: Even though my original shit still has some effect on my life, for the most part, it’s a thing of the past. I’ve made significant amounts of progress, and because of that I feel stronger. Yet foolishly in my mind, I had this deal with God: “Okay, I’ll accept this. I know it was meant to be in my life, and I know You’re using it for such and such purpose in the future. This will be my burden to bear.” But what in the world was I thinking? Life sure does not work like that!
As for the second point (and maybe this is just my Type A personality coming out), I’ve realized that so often I want to be able to reduce and condense my entire life into definable and understandable statements. It’s like the Alcoholics Anonymous phrase: “Hi I’m ________, and I’m an alcoholic.” I want to be able to say, “Hi, I’m Amanda. I’m 22. I’m a graduating senior from Penn. I have a mother, father, and brother. I’m a Christian. I’m an Asian American. I like this, this, and this. I’m really happy about this. And the shit I have to deal with is this.” When I’m able to explain my entire 22 years of existence with simple statements like that, it means I understand what’s going on, and I’ve got at least some level of control over things. But our lives can’t be reduced into simple statements like that. We have more than one thing that we love, more than one interest, more than one major accomplishment. We’re all probably going to have more than one career in our lives, more than one major relationship, and for sure more than one piece of shit.
So, to you who actually took the time to read this immensely long post on shit, I encourage you to take a nice long sit in The Shit Chair. It can be with me, it can be with someone else, but let it out. And for the situations when you need more, I highly encourage you to talk with someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Like so many other people at this school, I finally went to CAPS today and it rocked. We all have shit in our lives, and we all desperately need to talk about it. And when you’re done, don’t say bye too quickly – because I can guarantee that at some point in the future, you’ll have to take a few more turns in The Shit Chair.
Word count on “shit”: 23.
And because this picture is too appropriate to not include: