I Feel Like I'm Wasting Away


Question:
I feel like I'm wasting away my youth/20s, and need advice on how to live it in a more fulfilling way.
OK, this is going to be lengthy. If you get to the end of this and proceed to give me some advice I would like to thank you very much. 
So the story is I'm a 21 year old woman who's gone through some pretty tough times. I was the slightly chubby and extremely awkward girl who had a very difficult time going through puberty. I tried to get over that and spent 2 years of my life (from 14-16) devoted to school. I would call that period in my life achievement #1 . I am probably most proud of myself when considering ambition and drive. It was a thrilling intellectual journey although socially unfulfilling. 
Achievement #2 happened probably from when I was 15 to late 16. I gained more confidence about myself than I ever had before and I finally formed a social group. It was probably one of the happiest moments of my life, having friends and feeling at least comfortable with my looks and etc.
The dark parts happened afterwards and since then I would relate that to being caught in a dark and turbulent tornado, excuse the dramatics but thats really how it was. The truth is I developed a very embarrassing condition in which I was unable to control my flatulence. I attribute all the misgivings from my depression to my suicidal thoughts to my anxiety attack and the pushing away of family, friends, and etc to this very problem. I would go deeper into my sob story but then that would require me to write a novel.
 
I know that what I have gone through was necessary, but I do regret spending the those years in which I should've been crazy and living it up... 18, 19, 20, and 21...miserable, depressed, detached and etc etc etc. I have sought help and while I have not been able to figure out exactly what is medically wrong with me, I have somewhat sort of reclaimed enough control where I am able to go to school without too much fear again. Socially though, this mysterious medical problem has left me mentally very weak and worn. I have had to reclaim all those simple things I used to take for granted...like looking people in the eye, or looking your own mother in the eye or making casual conversation with the cashier...or enjoying outings with your friends. Or even feeling relaxed and safe in your own home. I feel tired and sorry that I had to spend all that time so tormented.
My 22nd birthday is approaching and before I know it I'll be 30 and then i'll be 35, 40. I'll wake up one day and there it is. Retirement. I don't want to become an old lady who has spent the majority of her life awkward and miserable. Putting this strange medical problem of mine aside, I really just want a few suggestions on trying to prevent this regret that might creep up on me later in life.
 
On a lighter note, there might be an achievement #3. I defied my parents and went to art school. It hasn't really given me or anyone else real fulfillment yet but it's a possibility. If I could take this further and make this a full fledged achievement I would try to create a story or a movie that would move or inspire people in a deep way.
They say you can't have it all, so maybe I'm being greedy. What I want to happen before I turn too old for anything to happen is to be in a loving relationship a couple of times (I have not been in a relationship for obvious reasons), to help others, to be able to find those things I thought I lost...home, comfort, family, true friends..
And a curious thing I have not been able to do is enjoy my feminity. I have always been extremely embarassed about attracting attention whether good or bad, so I haven't been into shopping or having fun being a girl. A lot of times its a question of who I would be dressing up and feeling pretty for? And why. I once tried to dress up and embrace the girlier side in me last year but I got treated pretty horribly by one of my teachers who probably thought I was an airhead who wasn't serious about art school. It's a problem I'd like to fix as I know I won't be young forever and I want to be able to feel beautiful without having that be the only thing that comes across when I communicate with people.


My Reply:
Wow, what a life's journey you've had so far! Granted time is moving fast, you are still only about 22, and have a lot of time before you have to worry about 40 (not that pushing 40 is much to worry about though).
All throughout your life though, all I hear is sadness, and trying to fulfill the void with life's accomplishments. And as you enjoyed some for a little while, the joy never lasted. So you want something to fill your void, and you want direction in your life so you can stop feeling so worthless. Is this right?
Here's what I suggest:
1) Come to know Jesus Christ (I'm serious here). If you've never prayed, then imagine Jesus asking, "How are you today?" Then after you answer, imagine Jesus asking, "No, really...how are you today? Tell me what's going on." Then tell Him everything you just said here (and whatever else you're feeling, experiencing, and fearing). It may feel like you're talking to a wall or thin air at first, but trust me, He's listening to every word.

2) If you don't have a Bible, get one. Any Christian bookstore will have them and anybody at them is more than happy to help you find the perfect one. (They may even help you get started on reading it if you ask.) Carry it with you everywhere. Read a chapter a day from it (anywhere in it), and pray about anything you don't understand.

3) Get connected with a church. You'll need to be around others who know what it's like to have lived a broken life, such as yours, and who've given themselves to Jesus. People who will love you where you're at, and who you won't have to prove yourself to.

How will this help you? 
1) You've got a void that you've tried to fill, but no matter how hard you've tried, can't. Jesus will fill that void permanently, if you ask Him to.
2) You want direction in your life. As you begin to pray, keep your eyes open for daily answers to your prayers. And as you continue to be filled with joy, learn to listen as you pray...prayer is meant to be a 2-way conversation between you and God. So as you ask the Lord for direction and guidance, He'll answer, take you places you've never been, and introduce you to people you never knew.

At the age of 21 (1993), I hit rock bottom. About that same time, I accepted and came to know Jesus Christ. My life's never been the same since, and I'd never go back.

I'll pray for you, too.

---Pastor Andy