College Lessons and Things

Nostalgia

As I sit here tonight, knowing in less than 48 hours I will walk the stage, I look around my room and can’t help but laugh. It’s a disaster and my dad will be here tomorrow to help me move and I couldn’t even bring myself to start packing today. I couldn’t even start the tidying-up process. I have shoes and clothes everywhere. I didn’t do laundry yet. My kitchen isn’t clean. There’s paperwork all over my table that needs to be sorted through (and probably thrown away). And it occurs to me that as silly as it is, maybe I didn’t do any of those things today because I don’t feel like I’m ready to leave.

I’ve spent the last four years living on this campus. I spent the last four semesters in this apartment. This has been the place I’ve called home for the better part of four years. And tomorrow (or today, because it’s the crazy late middle of the night) I’m moving most of my stuff into a new home.

This week didn’t go like I planned. Today didn’t go like I planned. Like the rest of life, the last four years have come with their own set of trials and tribulations, but it definitely wasn’t bad.

This week I was talking to a friend, a guy I met in College Algebra freshman year many, many moons ago, and we were laughing about the crazy professor we had. The stories he told us, in the middle of his sentence explaining the math problems. The random ramblings of a crazy man who stuck a wrench in a freezer at Walmart. And we laughed. Hard. I remember how much I hated that class because I was so bored and it was at 8 a.m. and no one wants to do math, even if they are good at it, at 8 a.m. But he was right when he told me I’d miss those days.

In four years, I’ve grown. I’ve grown to make mistakes and learn from them (or in some cases, just learned how to better deal with making the same mistake over and over again; it’s part of my charm). I’ve grown from a goofy high school kid to a goofy almost grown up. I’ve grown to learn that sometimes you just need to call it good for the night and try again after sleep. And I’ve grown to learn that my decisions are my own.

UMHB, the campus, my apartment, has been a home for four years. And now I’m ready to make a new place a home. But before that, tonight and tomorrow, I get to feel nostalgia for the memories I made and the friends I shared them with.

College Lessons and Things

And there it goes…

It occurred to me last night that I am not only into single digit class days, but I only had to attend three more classes before graduation. I can count those on my fingers. That’s how close to graduation I am. And then this morning I went to one of those classes. So now, I’m down to two.

Graduation is terrifyingly close, but it’s so exciting at the same time. And then I wonder what happened to my college years. Where did they go?

Four years ago, I was preparing to graduate high school. I was thrilled to begin college. I was ready to be done with petty high school drama. I was nervous, of course, because college was a totally different beast, but this is what I spent 12 years of school preparing for. I was ready.

Three years ago, I wondered where my freshman year went. I was thrilled to begin my summer vacation a month earlier than my family. I was ready to live, if only for a semester, with my best friend. I was nervous about the prospect of studying in London six months later, but I was ready. I just did a whole year of college on my own. Could three months in London really be that different? I was ready.

Two years ago, I came home from London, changed for the better. I officially decided to declare my major. I was thrilled to come back to a job I loved in the fall. I was entering the second half of my college career with no idea what my plans were, but that didn’t phase me. Life was going to sort itself out and I would be ready.

One year ago, I realized I needed to start figuring things out (like getting a driver’s license) so I could get things together in terms of internships to graduate because all of a sudden, graduation looked much closer than it had. So I spent the summer working on that because that was step one and I wanted to be ready when fall came.

Half a year ago, still without a driver’s license, I was pretending everything was fine. Graduation is still a long time away. Plus, there were only nine hours left to complete my degree. I’d take those, I’d do my three internships, it would all work out fine and I would be ready.

And today. Today, it did work out fine. I am taking the nine remaining hours and I am almost done with my internships. But today, I also wonder where the last four years went, because I don’t feel ready.

Real grown-ups always talk about how life just passes you by if you let it. They talk about enjoying every day. When you’re a kid, you don’t really understand. Every day seems like a lifetime. And then you start college (and enter a time warp) and all of a sudden you get it. All of a sudden, the years just pass you by. One day it’s January and the next it’s April. And you’ve blinked, and there goes college.

Time for the real world. I’m [almost] ready.

College Lessons and Things

Anticipation and Apprehension

Tomorrow, I begin my senior year of college, and with it, I imagine the start of many changes.

This year already feels different because instead of the usual “classwork” things I’m supposed to do, I need to do some internships and I’ll be working on my resume and preparing to graduate, which I hear is mostly a ton of paperwork.

My parents finalized their divorce last week. That brought some sense of relief, as it has been an ongoing thing for a few years, but it was still sad. And we all know change is hard and this will be an adjustment, just like everything else.

I’m still working as an RA and while it’s a challenge sometimes, I do still enjoy getting the opportunity to help my residents make the most of their college experience. And I get to make the most of mine in the process, and that’s kinda cool. It’s interesting because when I started, I was the youngest around. I was the youngest on my team, I was the newbie, and I was younger than most of my residents. Now I’m one of the most senior RAs on my team. It’s crazy when my coworkers ask me questions and I know the answer because I’ve already been there.

The biggest change this year will be the decisions I have to make. I will have to decide on a major and potentially a graduate program. After this year, it’s onto the real world: a real job and real apartment and real adult things, like bills and paychecks and stuff. I still don’t know what I really want to do, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon enough (or at least in the nick of time, like everything else I do).

But the best things haven’t changed. I still have a wonderful support system, which includes my best friend, Roseanna. She’s been there for what seems like forever. And my family will continue to support me. And those are the important things, really.

I’m excited about completing my undergraduate degree in May, but I’m nervous too. I’m considering grad school, but I’m not sure that I have more schooling in me. In addition, I don’t actually know if I’m ready for the “real world” and my solution to that problem is telling my dad I’m just gonna come live on his couch after school. I’m mostly joking. Mostly. I do know that by the time I graduate, my teachers will have prepared me to the best of my abilities. Everyone was right, college really is the best time of your life. I’m excited to finish this adventure and begin a new one in May.

In addition to all that, I have clearly gotten away from my writing and I would like to make more time for that. So that’s where I’m at with life today.

Good luck to everyone moving in and starting school!

College Lessons and Things

College Lesson 35: Remember What’s Important

This week, Colten was diagnosed with Leukemia. And all of a sudden, there were much bigger things to deal with than finals. They just didn’t seem as important. Now, don’t be confused. I still studied and did well. No worries there. But it just seemed miniscule as compared to cancer.

This reminded me that the most important thing in life isn’t the right letter on a piece of paper or even the piece of paper I’ll get at the end of four years. Suddenly, making sure Colten was okay, making sure that Colten had every chance to get better, was more important.

And it illustrated the importance of prayer.

There was nothing I could do from here. Nothing I could bring him and no way for me to fix it. Nothing to make it less scary for him. Nothing to say to comfort him. Nothing but sitting here and praying, because God’s got it. It’s covered. And things are going to work out okay.

That helped me get through this week. Knowing that even though praying was all I could do, I was doing it. And then I remembered that Colten wouldn’t want me to do poorly because I was worrying about him. So kept him in my thoughts and kept doing well.

College Lessons and Things

College Lesson #34: Communication, communication, communication

So, this week, I had to be a real RA for the first time all semester. Now really, that’s a lie. I’m always a real RA. I like to think I take good care of my residents and all that. But I had my first real problem this week.

This actually started last week when I was doing room checks. One of my girls came up to me on my way home and mentioned that her and her roommate were not getting along. I checked my phone, because it buzzed and my generation is just obsessed with our technology. And her roommate had texted me and said essentially the same thing. And I just about flipped out on life because I had about a million things going on that needed to be done.

But I took a breath and went and talked to my RD. Who basically told me to just do the room check.

So I got up there and these girls were not happy with each other. And I felt dumb, because I hadn’t really noticed the problem. Like, come on RA pay attention.

Any way. I told them that I wanted them to give each other some space and I would be back up on Monday and we were gonna figure out whatever was bothering them. And was that room check awkward. Talk about tension you can cut with a knife.

So I went up there Monday and sat them in the living room and told them to find three things that were good and everything that wasn’t working. (That was my roommate’s suggestion.) And then I sat there for twenty minutes while they wrote. Like, dang guys, I didn’t know things were that bad.

And then I went through their lists and asked them questions and started finding some solutions. And after about twenty minutes of winging it with these lists, we figured out it was a communication issue.

Girl number one wasn’t in the mood to hang out with her roommate and that made girl number two think she was mad at her, so she was doing everything with that in the back of her mind. When girl number one snapped out of it, girl number two wasn’t talking to her so she thought she was mad at her.

Like. Are you kidding me?

So, what I learned, is that communication is important. In everything we do. So, talk to the people around you. Really communicate. And you can avoid this chaos.

College Lessons and Things

College Lesson #33: Don’t Let Perfection Paralyze You

The lady who came to speak to us in Chapel last week talked to us about a lot of stuff.

She told us that all her life she was a perfectionist, because she thought the if she managed to keep everything together, and everything looked good on the outside, everything would be okay. And in her trying to make things perfect, she missed some of the important things. One day, she was driving and got into a car accident and was paralyzed from the chest down.

And she realized that her life now is fuller than it ever was. And she told us to not let the “ideal perfection” paralyze us.

I think that is an important sentiment for everyone. Sometimes, we want everything to work out just the way we want and we get so caught up, we get stuck. How frequently do you start a project and decide that it wasn’t working out like you planned and you just stop and decide you’ll work on it later? Does it ever really get done? Why do you think that is?

It’s because we glorify perfection. But, if you finished, what would you learn?

Don’t get me wrong, I love when things work out the way I plan, but sometimes they don’t. And instead of getting caught up on the little things, we need to accept it and move on. Sometimes, what you think was wrong will  grow on you. Or you’ll learn something new. What people used to think were failures are now super important. And sometimes, what we thing is really super important, really isn’t a big deal.

Perfection can paralyze us. It can stop us from doing what needs to happen. Don’t let it.

College Lessons and Things

College Lesson #32: Be Present Here and Now

Today was probably the best chapel we’ve had all year, in my opinion. Even more than that, I think it was what I needed to hear.

Today we had Sarah Thebarge come speak to us in chapel. Let me tell you her story:

She had it all planned out. She wanted to be a medical journalist for a big newspaper or a magazine. When she finished her undergrad, she decided she wanted two master’s degrees: one in medical science and one in journalism because she believed this would make her the most competitive in her field. She was accepted to Yale. After graduating, she wanted to go report on the health system in Africa. She was dating a guy and they were making plans to get married. She had everything she could want.

She went to the doctor and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had surgery and the cancer was removed and the doctor told her there was no chance of it coming back. When she went back for a follow-up, they found that it had come back and it was more aggressive. She had more surgery and started chemo but she had to put everything else on hold. And everything pretty much fell apart.

When she got done with chemo, she got sick with pneumonia. When she was finally got out of the hospital, she decided there was nothing left for her in Connecticut and sold all of her stuff and flew to Portland.

When she got there, she had only a suitcase of clothes.

One day she was riding the train, and a lady with two young girls got on the bus. The younger of the two was very tired and crawled into Sarah’s lap and proceeded to pass out. She was worried the mom would think she was trying to take her daughter, so she started a conversation with the lady. The lady, who did not speak English very well, told her that they were refugees from Somalia and she had five daughters under the age of nine.

When they got off, the lady left Sarah with her address. A few days late, she went over there and found that this family had nothing. The girls didn’t really have clothes except what they were wearing, there was no furniture or food. So she decided, as a human being, she was going to help this family. Her church helped and she managed to get the girls real shoes and clothes and food. She spent a lot of time with them, a few nights a week, teaching them about America and helping them with their school work.

And she decided to help send these girls to college, so she wrote a book.

When the book was put together, she looked over the first manuscript and felt something missing. There was nothing about her character to explain why she decided to help this family. And that’s when she realized that while they were very different, they were the same. They were both refugees of sorts and they both wanted to start over. So, while she was helping them, she realized they were helping her.

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She taught us a lot today, actually. It was a really great story.

She talked about how broken she felt and how many pieces she felt like her life was in and that God came in and put it together in a way that she never imagined.  She never got to go to Africa, but she met this Somali family. She never wrote for a newspaper or magazine, but she put her writing skills to use and wrote a book.

Her first thing was this: Bad things happen. And we’re not going to like them. But good is going to come from it. And we’re going to get through it, and we’ll be better on the other side.

Her next thing was that God uses the broken. First she talked about the Pharisees, whom Jesus did not like; they “lived in their heads and not their hearts.” She talked about Paul and his transformation from a persecutor of Christians to a man who proclaimed the Gospel. And Sarah and Elizabeth, who were well beyond child-bearing age. God took them and blessed them with sons who He used to change the world.

Her last thing was that when God uses us to change the world, he changes us first.

And then she made one of the coolest connections I have ever heard in my life. Jesus talks about His people being His vessels. And Jesus is called the Living Water. And we’re broken. And this Living Water wells up and fills us and then spills over into the people around us.

Sometimes, we need to slow down and live in the now, and we forget that. Sometimes we’re too busy with planning for the future. We’re too busy worrying about what’s next. And God has a way of slowing us down and saying, “I got that, I need you here.” If Sarah had decided she was too busy to visit this family, she would never have been able to help them. And she would never felt the love and experienced the healing the gave her. And that was His plan.

Here and now there is a plan for all of our lives and our struggles are nothing with God on our side. Because He’s got the big plan already figured out. He just needs us to listen. And be here.