Confessions of a Self-Improvement Addict

My Project to Become More Fun

This would be the year I would have more fun, I decided, adding a book with the subtitle “100 Days to Discover Fun Right Where You Are,” to my Amazon cart on January 1st, 2023. “I just don’t feel like I’m very fun,” I confessed to my mom, sitting on my parents’ couch in one of those fraught post-holiday conversations when the spirit of the season has devolved into melancholy. “Oh Grace,” my mom replied to my lament. Her compassion in that moment didn’t move the needle: I was Not Fun and determined that 2023 would be the year I would become More Fun. 

Setting out to Discover Fun Right Where I Am, I tried new recipes with unexpected ingredients and played in the snow with my dog. I danced to Irish folk music in my living room and memorized lyrics to a Lizzo song (that I would sing in the privacy of my 2014 Honda Civic while driving to Target). I watched “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” and fell off the couch laughing. But simultaneously, despite reading 100 prompts about Discovering Fun, I still managed to overthink 100 different decisions, have stressful dreams that awoke me from my sleep, get blisters from those fun new shoes I bought, cringe at things I said in both recent and ancient conversations, and cry in public at brunch.  

“What’s wrong with me?” I’ve thought through this year — the last year of my twenties — which, according to everyone, is supposed to be when life is the Most Fun. “Why can’t I just be More Fun?” I cried as a trickle of tears fell into my plate of waffles. As the days have gone by, my plan to become More Fun has, in many ways, been unsuccessful. It turns out that being determined to make something fun is a really great way to actually have no fun at all. Maybe you’ve experienced this phenomenon at an event that is designed to be fun, but felt more like a disappointment (things like prom, the games portion of a baby shower, a family vacation, or your birthday).

 My plan to change my personality, my limitedness, my insecurities — me — has failed spectacularly. You think I’d know this already, but after 29 years, I still forget that efforts to fix myself never actually do much good. 

In Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, one of the main characters, Francis Whitman, first appears with a bandage wrapped around his head and nose. He never gives his brothers an answer as to why he has it until the end of the film, but at one point, in the company of his brothers, he takes the bandage off. As the men look over the bruised and swollen face, Francis remarks, “I guess I’ve still got some more healing to do.”

I began 2023 believing that if I could become More Fun, well, then life would be better, right? I wouldn’t be bored or have regrets and I’d be invited to more parties and I wouldn’t get stress-induced pit stains and I’d have fewer sins to name during the prayer of confession and people would like me and call me fun and say, “Wow, she’s so easygoing!” Right?!

Earlier in the film, before Francis takes off his bandages, his brothers Jack and Peter (played by Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody) have a conversation about what’s happening to their brother. “What do you think he looks like under all that tape and everything?” says Jack. “Well, I don’t know about his face, but I think his brain might be pretty traumatized,” Peter replies.

I might not have bandages on my face like Francis Whitman, but underneath, I often feel like my brain suffers from a chronic case of spiritual amnesia. Remembering that Jesus actually cares about my hurts and hopes is not a thought that is at the forefront of my mind. I have a hard time believing that Jesus actually still loves party poopers who cry over their waffles. I require aggressively-regular reminders that life’s purpose is not progress, or being fun, or never getting bored or being thought of as boring. I need monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly reminders that Jesus really meant it when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

The reality is, no matter who you are, there’s always still more healing to do, whether that be from relational hurt, unmet hopes, personal insecurities, or fears for the future. 

A healing moment came to me a few weeks ago on a quiet April morning at 5:30 am. I was reading The Message translation of Matthew’s resurrection account. 

The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him.

I’ve read Matthew 28 dozens and dozens of times throughout my life, but with a different translation, the words from the resurrected Jesus’s mouth to the women: “Good morning!” brought tears to my eyes. That morning, Jesus greeted me personally. Jesus, whose dearest disciples also seemed to forget the truth of who he said he was. Jesus, who does not want us to live in the shadows of our insecurities but within the balm of his unshakeable, unrelenting, patient, perfect love for broken people. Jesus, who both left behind his bandages and walked out of the garden with wounds. Jesus, who actually loves me, wounds and all.

And so, as I wrap up this six-month progress report about my project to become More Fun, it’s clear that I failed yet again at one of my self-improvement projects. I grew weary of trying to be good, of trying to be fun, of trying to fix myself. But this is not bad news. In fact, it is good news. Because now, when I look in the mirror, I most certainly see my wounds, but I see something else, too. Standing beside me, I see a witness to my wounds: a helper and a healer. To live in Jesus’s sight is to understand that he is more than an idea, a myth, or a savior for someone else. To hear his gentle, personal greeting of “Good Morning,” is to know that Jesus really does want to greet us and meet us, know us and love us — no matter how Not Fun we we think are.

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2 responses to “Confessions of a Self-Improvement Addict”

  1. Juliette says:

    Grace, I love this so much. The “good morning” part reminds me of the Chosen episode where Jesus is healing people all day, and he comes limping into camp where his disciples have been sitting and doing a lot of talking, and he simply says, “Good night,” in a caring and loving way, not resentful or angry in the least. Thank you for this wonderful reminder of Jesus walking with us even when we’re not fun.

  2. John Asirvatham says:

    As someone who googles “list of hobbies” far too frequently, I feel seen. Thanks for this!

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