The gymnasium reverberated with the speaker’s repetitive intonations. I sat halfway up the stadium seating quietly taking notes and attempting to sift meaning out of this particular speaker’s relentless droning. This was just the most recent in an almost daily parade of religious presentations and services that I had been attending.
I paused in my scribbling to glance around at all the other students filling the huge amphitheater. They looked enraptured. Their eyes seemed to shine with understanding. I longed to align myself with them. My soul yearned to feel what they were feeling but it wasn’t working.
Why couldn’t I be like all of them? They were all onboard. They didn’t overthink everything. They believed easily, harmoniously. Why couldn’t I?
The voice emerged from my mind clearly and distinctly.
“Run … Run like hell.”
I sat bolt upright, shocked, and looked around. The voice had been so distinct. I was half convinced that someone else must have heard it too. Yet, no one seemed at all disturbed.
All was quiet. There was no more. Yet the voice had left a feeling behind in me, its words echoing throughout my being. I had experienced that feeling before … somewhere. I couldn’t place it now, but I knew it. I was shaken … and suddenly aware of myself.
What was I doing?
It was like the hypnotist’s fingers had snapped, releasing me from my trance. I didn’t recognize the reality I had awoken to.
I didn’t run. I stayed through the rest of the devotional (hoping against all reason that the voice hadn’t been warning me against some impending physical catastrophe) but I had fallen deaf to the speaker’s voice. Instead, I searched my heart. Where had that come from?
It felt true. It felt right in a much stronger and more immediate way than I had experienced in weeks, months, maybe even years. I wondered, for the first time, if what I was doing was wrong. What if this wasn’t right, after all?
Then again, what if this was just the devil trying to entice me away from the truth?
Dylan called that night, out of the blue. He said he missed talking to me. He said that he could accept that we weren’t together but that he missed having me in his life. I missed him too.
I told him everything that had happened. I poured my emotions into the phone like I was bailing water from the bottom of my life raft. Finally, I ran out of words and the line fell silent.
He was quiet for a long time.
Then he whispered, “Andi … What are you doing there?” His voice sounded gravelly and comforting. “I never understood what you were doing there in the first place but now I really don’t know. You should walk into your court with the drop-out form in hand and quit. Quit it all.”
I tried to defend myself and everything else but my protests felt hollow in light of everything that had occurred. The ludicrous nature of my situation seemed to saturate everything around me. Or was I just falling victim to evil thoughts and twisted perceptions? What was real? I didn’t know anymore.
That night I thought about who I was. I remembered who I had been before this torturous new reality had taken hold. Then I thought forward to who I wanted to be. Where was I going? Was this helping me? Or hurting me?
I compared the future me that I had originally envisioned with the person I was now trying so desperately to become. The gap was wide and treacherous. The comparison left a sour taste in my mouth. I didn’t want to lose the old Andrea. I had been fun, interested and interesting once. I had been strong-spirited and strong-willed. I had been unbound-able.
Everything felt wrong.
The next day, I awoke with the urge to run pumping through my veins.
But how was I supposed to know if this was real or just the devil trying to divert me from what was right? I could no longer trust my own thoughts. And in the end, it didn’t matter. My course was already set.
This is the latest installment in my story. If you haven’t yet read the previous entries, click here to start at the beginning. Then continue to read each post in numerical order.