Graduation

Graduation. noun. The receiving of an academic degree; a ceremony marking the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. See also: commencement.

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Dear freshman Anna,

On Friday, you graduated from college.

Right now, you think this day will never arrive. And when it finally does, you will not have high expectations.

On the morning of graduation, you will be a cranky monster. The day will seem anticlimactic, since many of your friends will have already graduated and you’ll have four weeks of student teaching remaining. (You’ll stick with that double major you’re doubting right now. It will be painful sometimes, like when you have to continue student teaching even after graduation, but hopefully it’s worth it.) Worries about being late and not wearing the right thing and still having to go to school on Monday will be overpowering. You might have accidentally say “Can we get a move on?” out loud during rehearsal.

But graduation day will turn out to be surprising and complicated and sweet. In fact, your whole college experience will be surprising and complicated and sweet.

Right now, the campus buildings are still becoming familiar. You still don’t remember exactly where the registar’s office is (much less what a registrar does). In four and a half years, those halls and classrooms and sidewalks be stamped with memories.

You’ll spend hours in that office in 3rd floor Naz. That professor intimidates you now, but eventually you’ll work for her and she will find out all of the details of your life. You’ll learned the value of a juicy red pen and write sentences about a grapefruit named Ruby, who will go on dates and have picnics by the lake.

You’ll pound out workouts in the gym with the basketball team. You will be forced to play intramural volleyball games at 11:00 pm, and you will barely tolerate it. During the basketball season, being a freshman benchwarmer will knock the perfectionism right out of you.

You’ll live in Hartill 254 and 255 and 155 and 259. Now, you tote an Audrey Hepburn poster and a vague hope for community as you walk into Selah 2. You will find: some of your dearest friends, 2 staffs of Hartill RAs who will share stories and laughter and birthday cards and movie nights, a hall of girls you’ll lead and love for a year, much late-night conversation, brownies eaten straight from the pan, and the ability to hang decorations without nails. Your sister will live in two of those rooms a few years later, and that fact will amuse you.

On the island, you’ll swim on warm evenings and canoe on spontaneous dates. In a few weeks, your hall will go stargazing there, and when you’ve finished singing worship songs, you’ll accidentally witness a boys’ dorm initiation. An entire hall will streak by in their boxers, jump in the lake, and run back, yelling. They will never knew you were there. (You’ll also live in an apartment with the RA who organized this stargazing trip, which will be a random gift from God.)

You will not do much homework in the library. When necessary, you’ll find the tables by the big windows passable. The people-watching is the best there. Don’t go upstairs, where it’s too quiet, unless there’s a nice guy who you need to study Chinese with.

You will never establish one precise spot to sit in Maha, though you’ll prefer somewhere the right side, a few rows down. You’ll sing worship songs every Friday, and learn the names of people you will never meet as you scan their IDs, and tell 500 freshman about your search for identity. In this same auditorium, you will graduate.

On graduation day, you will walk in behind the World Languages banner, though you could have fit equally well under English & Literature or Education. You will feel a flicker of accomplishment when the president congratulates you for your honors, when you move your tassel and become alumni. Your boyfriend will surprise you after the ceremony. (Yes, you will get a boyfriend, if you follow the library and Chinese studying instructions.) You won’t be expecting him for another five days, and you’ll almost lose your mortarboard when you see him walk toward you, bearing flowers. One your current roommates will be there, catching the ceremony between her brother’s hockey games. She will have shared endless YouTube videos and buckets of support with you in the past years. Your family will take you out to dinner at one of the coolest restaurants in St. Paul, a former warehouse with tall skylights and excellent salmon. You’ll forgot your car on campus and the Public Safety officer on duty won’t ticket you when you call and beg for mercy. You still won’t like talking on the phone. The day will end with Sebastian Joe’s ice cream cake, a sweet finale.

Right now, as a baby-faced freshman, you think that this graduation day is a magic ticket to being a competent adult. You watch the seniors, who walk around campus so purposefully, and assume that in four and a half years, you too will have everything figured out. You think that you might have a job lined up, or the promise of a ring by spring, or maybe even style.

Hate to break it to you, honey. But at graduation, you will still feel as clueless and uncertain as ever. Right now, you value your own efficiency, discipline, and ability to excel. You place your identity in those things. In four and a half years, you won’t anymore. You’ll lose confidence in your own merit. You’ll realize how messy life is, and you’ll lose hope that working hard can fix everything. But you’ll gain more important things. You’ll find composure in front of a class of middle schoolers. You’ll discover passion for investing in relationships. You’ll gain definition in your cheekbones. And the things you’re learning in life are just beginning.

Every graduation speaker will tell you that commencement does not mean end. It means beginning. (Pretty sure you said this in your own high school graduation speech, actually.) It’s horribly cliché. But it is also true. You’re launching into the rest of your life soon, a new beginning, and it’s scary. You won’t ever feel totally ready.

But if you’ll learn one thing over the next four and a half years, it’s that you’ll make it, even through the scary and unknown and intimidating.

Have fun, kid. Make some memories.

– Me

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May (2015)

May. proper noun. The month of real spring and finals week and graduations. Includes holidays such as May Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and The Last Day of School (don’t try to tell me that’s not a real holiday).

May

It’s the end of the month, which means I’m joining Leigh Kramer’s link-up to share what I’m generally enjoying this month. Honestly, May has whipped by in a blur of hard and good things, and I’m feeling a little off-kilter about my current state of transitional living, so I’ve probably forgotten important stuff. Oh well. Here’s what I’ve got.

Reading

Paper Towns – John Greene. I have a problem with John Greene. I can’t put down his books, and I neglect all responsibilities for the few hours it takes to finish them. Admittedly, this is the best kind of problem. This book, about a boy who’s in love with a girl who disappears, is his typical style and his typical amount of excellence. The movie version is coming out sometime this summer, and it would most likely involve far fewer tears than The Fault in Our Stars.

86, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff. This darling book is a real-life collection of letters exchanged over years between a New York woman and a bookseller from London. She’s sassy and he’s British proper. It’s a quick, charming read.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien. I have strongly resisted anything by Tolkien since reading The Fellowship of the Ring and being bored out of my mind by it. This one was more fun. And significantly shorter. According to my sister, this is proof that books meant for children are far superior to books for adults.

 

Watching

Friends, up to the beginning of Season 3. Watching a show about people in their 20s who have no idea what they’re doing is both relieving (I’m not the only one screwing things up!) and stressful (so you’re telling me this never gets better?).

Pitch Perfect 2. The plot was meh, but the music was aca-awesome.

 

Listening

James Bay’s album Chaos and the Calm was on repeat for all of finals week. It’s somehow both chill and motivating, both of which are necessary for end-of-school sanity.

Country radio stations have kept me company on long drives, especially songs like “Love You Like That” by Canaan Smith.

 

Loving

The Sugar Box blog makes me ridiculously happy, and this post about fantastic fictional teachers is spot on.

Minnehaha Falls. Wear Chacos, hike the trails, and get your feet a little wet. It’s even better if you have a good guy by your side.

Picture snapped by the boyfriend

Picture snapped by the boyfriend

After packing up all of my crap, I would believe these statistics about the amount of stuff we own. I’d love to pitch half my possessions and become minimalist, but I have a heck of a long way to go.

Birkenstocks. My mom laughs because I used to make fun of her Birks, but now I get it. They’re comfy and make me feel granola.

 

Doing

All the last stuff. Last friend date for the year at the Stone Arch Bridge and Mall of America. Last ResLife hangout at our end-of-the-year retreat. Last angsty, painful time pounding out papers and taking tests (halleluiah). Last time moving out of Hartill, my dorm for the last four years. Hello, emotions.

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(staff photo borrowed from Facebook)

Watching wonderful friends graduate from college, and helping my younger brother celebrate high school graduation a week later.

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(college graduation photos borrowed from Facebook)

Celebrating my cousin’s wedding (the day after Caleb’s graduation, no less). There are 27 first cousins on that side of the family, and all of us were there. Cue all of the family photos. Highlights include flying from MN to WI thanks to a really generous uncle, staying relatively dry in spite of the rain, and getting to sit in the copilot seat on the flight home.

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Currently driving back and forth between Minneapolis, the cabin, and home a heck of a lot and keeping most of my possessions in the back of my car. Ay.

Next month: running a half-marathon, moving into an apartment, starting a new summer job, and having all kinds of summer adventures. Be prepared.

 

What were you into this month?

Résumé

Résumé. noun. According to Dictionary.com, “A brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.” According to me, “The paper on which I try to make myself sound smart, qualified, and professional. It’s a struggle.”

This is my "Hire me!" face, if you couldn't tell.

This is my “Hire me!” face, if you couldn’t tell.

Lately, I’ve been polishing my resume and sending out applications for summer jobs. Unfortunately, in the interest of being professional, many of my best skills, developed over years of training, had to be left out. It’s quite depressing. Just think what kind of jobs I could have snagged had I been allowed to present potential employers with this, the honest version of my resume:

Education

  • Degrees: Communication Arts and Literature Ed (grades 5-12) and ESL Ed (grades K-12) – Able to stay up really late and appear chipper with small children the next day. Reads lots of YA lit. Remembers maybe 7 words of Mandarin Chinese.
  • Attended small Christian college – Knows big theological words like predestination and transubstantiation. Still doesn’t know what she believes about most issues.
  • Member of the Honors Program – Interested in everything, apparently.
  • Writer for the Examiner (spring 2015) – Sometimes able to be concise.
  • Speech team (spring 2013) – Performs Prose Interpretations without crying or throwing up.
  • Member of the women’s basketball team (2011-2012 season) – Willing to demonstrate the proper way to box out. Able spotter in the weight room. Was once in really good shape.

Work Experience

  • TA for Honors Program and Advanced Grammar – Anal about proofreading other people’s stuff (her own, not quite as much). Spends semesters writing sentences about the adventures of class mascots such as grapefruits named Ruby and koalas named Ace. Knows what a subordinating conjunction is. Good at bulletin boards.
  • Pool manager, swimming lessons instructor, and lifeguard – Can be in the sun from 8 am to 9 pm and not get sunburned. Able to catch small children jumping off the diving board over and over (and over and over and over). Treads water for very long periods of time. Tried really hard to keep accurate accounts, with occasional success. Can yell at that kid, in the blue trunks, hanging on the slide, without knowing his name. Quickly learns the names of troublemakers. Confident enough to wear a swimsuit and towel to the grocery store after work.
  • Assistant Resident Director – Loves her staff. Knows how many lamps it takes to make a classroom appear cozy. Patient attender of meetings.
  • Resident Assistant – Able to plan allllll the events. Takes irrational pride when her residents become friends. Can decorate an entire hall for $50.

Additional Experiences and Skills

  • Maintains personal blog using WordPress – Good at finding “productive” ways to procrastinate. Willingly reads lots of other blogs for inspiration.
  • Completed research in collaboration with professors – Can accomplish an amazing amount the night before a meeting.
  • Has nice handwriting.
  • Follows schedules to the letter.
  • Just learned how to add the accents over the e’s in “résumé.”
  • Able to put together a resume that looks nicer and is better organized than this one (hopefully). Whether it lands some employment for the summer is yet to be determined.

September

September 2014. proper noun. The beginning of real school and cooler weather. It hath 30 days.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer and other bloggers to share What I’m Into for September.

Reading:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. The speed with which I finished this book is possibly miraculous, considering its length and the amount of stuff I should have been doing instead of reading fun books. I have now officially read through the entire Harry Potter series twice, which I count as a significant life accomplishment.

Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I got this book as a free trial for Audible, the online audiobook store, so I “read” it on my commute from my placement. Listening to Mindy read is like having a sassy friend sitting in the passenger seat who actually wants you to laugh at her. I happily obliged. If you’re ever in a bookstore and looking for a pick-me-up, skim through the chapter on what the ideal man should be. Or the one on romantic movie heroines who don’t exist in real life.

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson. Though I’m less than 50 pages in, I’m loving this book. It’s a surprising, irreverent look into philosophy and the meaning of this world. Surprising, irreverent, and philosophy don’t normally go together, but it’s absolutely working for me.

A multitude of textbooks. (Though honestly, skimming would be a more accurate description of what I do with these.) The list includes such stimulating titles as The Grammar Book, which is 854 pages on everything you ever wanted to know about the English language. (Or didn’t want to know, which is more likely the case.)

 

Listening to:

An embarrassing amount of Meghan Trainor. I’m obviously into “All About that Bass,” but I also enjoy the rest of the catchy tracks she has on Spotify. They’re all poppy and feel-good. Play them for instant good mood.

Modern remakes of hymns. (In other words, the opposite of Meghan Trainor.) Sarah Bessey recommended Lullaby Hymns by Katy Kinard on her blog a while back, and even though I’m about 18 years older than the intended audience for lullabies, I’ve listened to it a lot this month. I’ve also been revisiting Roots Run Deep by Jadon Lavik.

In October, I am determined to find some new music. I beg for recommendations. Tell me what you’re listening to this month – I’m all ears. (Ha. Ha ha.)

 

Watching:

Not that much. This thing called school is cramping my media viewing.

The only new-to-me thing this month: The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Somehow I missed watching this movie during my childhood. This is possibly okay, since it was surprisingly dark and complex for Disney. I’m curious how similar it is to the book, but not curious enough to actually read it. Also, this poster. Sad but true.

via Google Images

via Google Images

Other notables: Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version) for the 436th time with dear friends, a few reruns of Parks and Rec while awaiting the Netflix release of new episodes (THEY’RE HERE!), and half of Sabrina (the Audrey Hepburn one, obviously) because I fell asleep in the middle. I never fall asleep while watching movies. I am turning into a grandma.

 

Randomly Loving:

City skylines. My favorite part about city life. The Twin Cities area offers two of them, and I got up close and personal with both this month. I’m becoming such a city slicker.

Tea. I have to be awake before 7:00 every weekday this semester. Tea is the only reason this not-so-early-bird is surviving. My current favorite is vanilla caramel chai with a dash of milk and a little sugar. It’s heaven in a travel mug.

Changing leaves. I’m trying real hard to have a good attitude about fall. It’s actually going okay, since we had some gorgeously warm days and since the leaves on campus right now are flamboyant and fabulous.

Photo credit to my sister, who was roped into taking pictures of me for a video I created for teaching prepositions. (This is me IN the leaves, if you were curious.)

Photo credit to my sister, who was roped into taking ridiculous pictures of me for a video I created to teach kids prepositions. (This is me IN the leaves, if you were curious.)

This list gives you suggestions for what you should read now based on what you loved as a kid. What fun.

The James J. Hill mansion. It’s like Downton Abbey, but in real life and fifteen minutes from my school.

 

Keeping Me Busy:

Homework. Imagine that.

My middle school ESL placement. I spend two days a week working with 6th and 7th graders. Despite the early mornings (who on earth decided that middle schools should start before 8?) and a long-ish commute, I’m really enjoying it. I get to work with my favorite age group and an excellent cooperating teacher is excellent, and I’m gaining lots of experience. Working with ESL students is also giving me all kinds of thoughts about language and school culture and societal structures that are still baking, and probably will be for a while.

Officially ending the summer season and packing up the cabin. Sniff, sniff.

Connecting with RAs, both past and current. The RA staff I was on last year got coffee together last weekend, which was beautiful. So many wonderful women in one place. I miss them so. I’m also getting to know my staff this year, and I’m so glad I have the rest of the year to invest in these sweet ladies.

Trying to figure out how to have friends and spend time with them in addition to everything else that’s going on in my life. I’m more balanced than I was last year around this time, but I’m still feeling out how to do this well.

 

What are you into right now?

Done

Done. adjective. According to Dictionary.com, “Completed; finished; through.”

Yes, I am a complete sap. Image via Pinterest.

Yes, I am a complete sap.
Image via Pinterest.

So apparently I’m done.

My junior year of college is complete.

The rooms of Phileo 2 are empty, their inhabitants tricking out into the world beyond Northwestern. The dusty pennants and the banner graffitied with ballpoint pen are down, soaked with excited girly screams and snippets of hallway conversation. The rooms will never be filled with the same blend of spunky and sweet and hardworking and kind women; next year, different lives and stories will cushion the industrial furniture and white walls. I know that many of the sweet girls will still be on campus in the fall. But no longer will the same group gather to eat fondue or roast s’mores over the stove burner or talk about art or build the community I dearly loved.

These babes. I like them so much.

These babes. I like them lots.

The Hartill staff has dispersed, spread to summer housing and foreign cities and familiar homes. No longer are we cemented together by our common duties and struggles. That the year with these beautiful women is done cracks my heart. I just love them so much. Through JoJo’s from Trader Joes and books read aloud and vulnerability and desperation to be understood, coworkers have become deep friends and sisters. I’ve been cheered by their goofiness, shaped by their Christ-love, stretched by their wisdom, encouraged by their tender hearts. No longer do we live just halls apart, the threads of our separate lives knotting together every week. We’re cut loose, linked a little less tightly.

So much love for these women.

So much love for these women.

Friends pull away to their summer lives of work and travel and separation. Chance encounters in the coffee shop and casual weekend movies don’t work quite as well. I don’t receive the everyday afternoon update on the building of their lives. We’ll all be reunited in the fall, both changed and the same. Slowly we’re moving on, chipping closer to real life, with brand-new announcements of engagements and fast-approaching graduations. This summer, we feel that.

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Longtime, lovely friends

 

More awesome people who play intramural volleyball

The rockin’ intramural volleyball team

This is weird.

The closing of the year is always a strange thing. For the last days on campus, end-of-the-year loom dark over finals and move-outs. I try to swallow them until the whole thing is done. And then, all at once, it is. Tests over, assignments in, room empty, goodbyes said. The car pulls out onto Lydia on a one-way trip, burdened with stuff. And after six hours and only a few breaths, I’ve slipped into the comfortable routine of home, though my boxed-up college life still lingers in the entry. But I feel like it’s just another school break, that a few days more will find me packing my clean laundry and trucking back to the Cities for another helping of this year, the same people and routines and scenery and themes.

But that’s not true.

It’s really done.

All that remains of this year are the moments that I tuck away, like trinkets in under-bed boxes, to later rediscover, a little dustier and a little dearer. Late-night dance practices in end lounges. A lamp-lit circle of girls crowding my dorm room, sharing their ordinaries. Weariness tempting eyelids down under fluorescent classroom lights. Cinnamon tea warming hands on frigid mornings. Prayers from tired RAs dissolving inexplicably into laughter. The warm-sugar smell of cookies baking in dorm ovens. My rapid heartbeats as student eyes watch for a lesson’s beginning. Salty stovetop popcorn and chick flicks. Wandering red lines scratched over messed-up grammar tests.

The gentle handling of these moments is sweet, heavy with God-breathed blessing. Letting them go is hard, a little hesitant, as life keeps drifting on. But it’s expected, this shifting forward of life. The seasons warm and cool, hesitant and apprehensive girls slapping on Resident Assistant nametags become a little less unsure, shaky voices firm with confidence. And then the cycle starts anew.

This year is fading in the rearview mirror, with all of its difficulty and beauty and stress and joy.  It is done.

But here, now, today, another season begins.

December

December. Derived from the Latin word for ten, December is the twelfth and final month of the year. It is also often considered the first month of winter.

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Image via Pinterest

I’m linking up with Emily Freeman and sharing What I Learned in December. Keep in mind, I spent December preparing for finals. And procrastinating for preparing for finals. Evaluate this list accordingly.

1. I am weirdly fascinated by Internet personality quizzes. Without them I would not know interesting tidbits such as my Disney villain alter ego is Maleficent, who’s power hungry and hates being left out. You should be terrified of me. Also, of all of the Friends characters, I am most like Monica. Translated for the Friends uninitiated, this means, “You’re a little uptight, but you’re a great cook, a great host, and a great friend.”

2. Blasting One Direction is fabulous motivation to finish studying for one last final. I know. I succumb to catchy pop beats and boys with ridiculous hair. It’s official. I have no taste.

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So. Much. Hair.
Image via Google Images

3. Speaking of hair, girls’ hair is gross. To the lovely women who live in my hall: I like you a whole lot, but it took half an hour to cut all of your hair off the bottom of the vacuum. That’s sick. There’s one downside of being an RA that I never anticipated.

4. Knitting is a fabulous hobby. As a preteen, I made one very lopsided dishcloth and have neglected the needles since then. Man, have I been missing out.

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Yes, this is our family’s Christmas picture, and yes, I was actually knitting.

5. Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, uses the adjectives drunk, last-ditch, and lethal more than most authors. (If you’ve read the books, this should not be that surprising.) This information comes from this article, which looks at the variation between words and sentence structures in The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter. If you’ve read the books and actually like English, it’s fascinating.  If you think word choice and sentence structure are snooze-worthy, I’ll share one more fascinating point with you: It’s scientifically proven that Twilight is emotional drivel.

6. Netflix is both a wonderful and very dangerous thing. One episode of a show ends, and you have a whole 14 seconds to decide if you will be a productive person or waste your life watching a screen. I am a slow processor! It takes me longer than 14 seconds to make good decisions! Since my discovery of Pinterest, procrastination has never been so easy. It may be a good thing my free trial runs out soon.

7. The creators of Frozen, the cute new Disney animated movie, really nailed the older sister/younger sister dynamics between Elsa and Anna. My younger sister is a melodramatic sweetheart who does not excel at long-term planning, just like Anna in the movie. Of the two of us, I am more likely to be icy and isolated. Though I don’t have any magic powers that I know of.

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The famous Frozen sisters.
Image via Google Images

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The not-quite-as-famous parallels. Can’t you see the similarities (even though this picture is more than 5 years old)?

8. Methods are survivable! For anyone who is not a “teacher candidate” at my school and has no idea what I’m talking about, methods is the semester of intensive classes that instructs future educators how to teach their specific subject areas. Normal classes all get squished into Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while Tuesday and Thursday are dedicated to observing and teaching in a real classroom. Nasty rumors get circulated about this semester. Younger Ed majors, I regret to inform you that most of them are true. You will be sleep deprived and have little free time and stress-eat chocolate late into night. But you will survive. One of my lovely classmates compared completing methods to running a marathon: you’re always exhausted, everyone is cheering you on but doesn’t really understand the pain you’re going through, and your prize for the months of training that got you to the finish line is a crappy t-shirt. I feel a little ripped off that I didn’t even get a t-shirt. But I did cross the finish line, at least.

This concludes the final What I Learned of 2013! As a learner-type girl, I love tracking my cool discoveries outside the academic world of college (and it makes my random Internet surfing seem much more justifiable). I plan on keeping it going in 2014, so watch for more What I Learned next year, too!

Dance

Dance. According to Dictionary.com, “To move one’s feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, especially to the accompaniment of music. To leap, skip, etc., as from excitement or emotion; move nimbly or quickly.” Also the subject of this first post in November on thankfulness.

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Image via Pinterest

Since college, I have learned something surprising about myself.

No, not that I am a serious introvert or that I dislike doing my own laundry or that I would be lost without a planner (though these things are true).

I have learned that I actually like to dance.

If you knew me in high school, this would shock you.

In high school, I put on extra eyeliner for school dances and bobbed along to the thumping Top 40 hits, but I lived by the mantra of “I can’t dance.” The aimless booty-shaking and ab-rolling confused me. How did they know what to do? Did they not feel idiotic? Why did they not look as awkward as I did?

It wasn’t always this way.

As a little kid, I took dance lessons along with basketball and piano and other pursuits I actually stuck with long-term.

In third grade, I had some sass. I also had some swanky dance pants, which made me the coolest eight year old ever.

Those bangs. That attached belt. Ah yes, elementary school

That attached belt. That pose. That shirt. Oh my.

Then came the preteen years, where I wore feathery purple headdresses and learned tap and jazz and ballet to “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “RESPECT” and beat out “fl-ap, opp, same, fl-ap, opp, same” with shiny tap shoes.

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Andrew, don’t kill me for this. Also, your bowl cut was precious.

In these stages of life, I didn’t know if I was a good dancer. I don’t think I cared. According to my mom, I was precise. That word about sums me up as an elementary schooler.

There was no need for precision at high school dances. I was a little lost.

Then I went to college and heard about swing dancing, where you learn actual moves with actual patterns. This put me back in my precision comfort zone and made me a little happier about dancing. (The jazzy music helped, too.)

And then last week came Nostalgia Night, the annual event for my dorm where each hall choreographs a dance. Cue self-consciousness and minor agony. RAs like me are supposed to lead these things, but this felt way out of my element. I can be athletic, but not in a graceful way (ie: running a straight line, posting up in basketball). I can be sassy in wordplay, not hip-rolling. I don’t mind talking in front of crowds (I’m going to be a teacher, after all), but I hate performing in front of them.

Preparation for this night was extensive. A wonderful friend choreographed five and a half minutes of groovy moves. I made four terrifying videos of me dancing all by myself. We practiced for hours in an end lounge. I pretended that knew what I was doing.

Then as I practiced our dance, faking confidence and really rehearsing enthusiasm, I realized something: when I wasn’t freaked out about forgetting the moves and looking like an idiot, dancing was actually fun.

So last week I put on a lot of teal eyeshadow and strapped a ribbon across my forehead and went out in front of our student center shook my groove thing. (P.S. Relax. That’s a song we danced to.)

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Too bad you don’t get full view of the eyeshadow. It was intense.

I don’t know if I looked good. (I am in blissful ignorance since I haven’t seen the recording yet.) I’m trying really hard not to care.

Regardless, I did have a ton fun.

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Of course I had fun! I got to dance with these rock stars!

So right now (even though it’s a week later) I am thankful for dance.

It’s reminding me that sometimes, I get so caught up in getting the moves right that I forget that life should not be a lockstep of emotionless calculation. Instead, it should be joyful and expressive. I might forget the moves. I might twirl left instead of right. But I can keep going. I can laugh a little and make stuff up. I can remember that enthusiasm and heart matter more than perfection and precision.

I’ve come a long way since high school dancing days. I might even think high school dances were great now.

But that’s probably taking things a little too far.

Still

Still. adjective. According to a hodgepodge of definitions I pieced together, “Not moving or making a sound, undisturbed by wind, sound, or current; calm and tranquil.”

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Woman Bathing Her Feet in a Brook by Camille Pissaro

People, my life is swinging.

(If my life is so swinging, you may ask, why I am typing this instead of doing productive things like reading textbooks and reading YA books and reading emails and reading the back of cereal boxes while staring uncomprehendingly at Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee. Maybe I need to create and arrange words rather than just read them. Or maybe is good for my mental well-being. Like practically as good as working out is for my physical well-being. Or so I’ll tell myself, anyways.

My days are overflowing with good craziness. I have a beautiful, wonderful hall full of beautiful, wonderful girls who are worthy of more love and attention and time than I can possibly give. I have classes that stuff my head with knowledge (hence all of that reading) and make me churn out ideas that might actually come in handy someday. But my calendar and brain drag with the weight of jam-packed days, of moments flooded with words and lists and responsibilities and classroom applications and deep breaths.

But I’m going to quit venting about my nutty schedule, because pretty much everyone I know is busy, carrying lives full to the brim with stuff to do and places to be. Let’s not play the I’m-busier-than-you game, because it’s dumb and no one wins and, in the words of an oft-quoted Internet meme, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

(Side note: I can’t believe I just typed that. Lord help me.)

Instead, I will tell you what God’s whispering to me among the shrieks of the urgent and looming.

Be. Still.

That’s it. Two little words. Two little syllables. It’s a saying easy enough for a wriggly two-year-old to remember, small enough to stamp on a bracelet. (I have it stamped on a bracelet, if you were wondering.)

Yet that teensy bracelet-able command is so dang hard.

When I get busy, I am the opposite of still. I am harried and strategic and efficient. I scurry and speed-walk, scheduling and commanding and accomplishing. Things become items to check off. People become items to check off. Jesus and sweet communion with him become items to check off.

When your life becomes a to-do list, something’s broken.

In Psalm 23, David talks about God leading us beside green pastures and quiet waters and restoring our souls. I’ve heard that in Old Testament times, water was a symbol of chaos and danger. Apparently the Israelites weren’t very good swimmers. But this passage evokes no raging waves or churning rivers or navy depths waiting to claim those who can barely dog-paddle. Instead, there is calm, the sense of toes skimming glassy early morning lakes and quiet brooks drenched in forest stillness. Peace and comfort envelop souls, smooth the brow wrinkled with worry and fear. Maybe the waters won’t always be subdued. Maybe they’ll flood tomorrow, sinking fragile boats and human hopes. But for right now, they are quieted under the watchful, protecting hand of God.

I need a little quieting of the waters right now.

Rather than the turmoil of a hundred expectations and the never-ending checklist chopping up my life, I want rest. And not just on weekends. I want to know that that my schedule will not drown me, that I am not trapped in the current of endless lesson plans to create and love to give. I want to look at my stress and choose to say, “You do not control me.”

There’s a little work to be done in this sighing heart before that happens.

But if Jesus can still troubled waves, walking right over the water threatening to swallow his friends, I’ve got to believe that he can quiet the troubles of my heart too.

Let’s start praying for a little miraculous storm-calming, shall we?

Freshman

Freshman. noun. According to the all-knowing Dictionary.com, “A student in the first year of the course at a university, college, or high school; a novice or beginner.”

Image via Pinterest

In a few days I will begin my junior year of college.

Shut up.

How did that happen?

Most days I still feel like the uncertain freshman who’s getting her bearings amidst life’s topsy-turvy. I still look the same as that girl, the one who toted picture frames and fuzzy blankets and turquoise cups into her dorm room for first time. We’re both rather tall and very blonde and slightly sunburnt. Sometimes we act the same, too. We get our homework done and read books for fun and like things organized and understood.

But as I look back on the past two years, there’s a lot that’s different about me, too. I’ve done new things, like play college basketball, comprehend Chinese, attempt to give speeches, write lesson plans, and take on the roles of TA and Orientation Leader. I’ve felt tearfully homesick and overwhelmingly stressed and hopelessly weary. I’ve been grateful and joyful and swept up in love and peace and grace.

You learn a lot more than textbook facts at college.

And for the dear freshmen entering the fray for the first time, I know that going into college can be exhilarating and anxiety-ridden and joyful and terrifying in the same breath. I know independence looks freeing and fascinating and frightening. I know it’s bittersweet to leave behind the comfy familiar and dive into something completely foreign. And I know this whole thing might feel a bit out of control. (And most days, it kind of is.) But you aren’t in this alone. I’ve done the freshman thing. So have lots of people. And we can look back and pass on what we’ve learned, what we hope you’ll learn. So, to the sweet ones heading out into this brand-new world, here is my heart for you.

I hope that you will try stuff. Even the stuff that’s scary. Especially the stuff that’s scary. Try out for the team even if you don’t think you’re good enough. Join the club even if people back home might think it’s lame. Stick with the class even if the syllabus is intimidating. Jump into the Ultimate Frisbee game on the campus green even though you don’t know anyone playing. Dive into every single opportunity that you can.

I hope that you will meet lots of people, and that while doing so you will remain kind and open and authentic, looking for what you can give rather than what you can be given. I also hope that while meeting people, you will not be frustrated when everyone else has someone to sit with at lunch and you haven’t found your people yet. It takes time. You are not hopelessly awkward and annoying and unlovable, so give yourself some grace and take a hearty helping of patience for good measure.

I hope that you will give your roommates a chance, that you will remain flexible and patient even if they have quirky personalities and are not exactly like you and do not put on the toilet paper the right way.

I hope that you will transform your stark dorm into an actual home, surrounding yourself with beauty and comfort and joy. (You’re going to need it after long days in lecture halls.) Post pictures of family or sunsets or Audrey Hepburn or whatever makes you happy. Hang Christmas lights and flip on floor lamps so you don’t rely on nasty fluorescent overheads. Cozy up with blankets and excessive numbers of pillows. Create a space where you can breathe.

I hope that you will call your mom. On a regular basis. Because otherwise she might believe that you have been kidnapped. And also because she cares about you and still wants to be part of your life.

I hope that you will not buy into the comparison game. It’s one that you will not win, for the girl in 8:00 Comp will always wear more Pin-worthy outfits and the boy in the front row will always have better answers and the person lapping you at the track will always run faster. You are not them. Do not try to be them.

I hope that you will not fend off starvation solely with ramen or see sleepiness as nothing more than a call for more coffee. Eat vegetables. Get sleep. Visit the free fitness center every once in a while. Take care of your body. After all, you’re kind of stuck with it.

I hope that you will know that regardless of what happens, it’s going to be okay. Really. It may be two in morning and the paper may be due in your first class and the boy might not have realized you exist yet and you may want to cry or throw up or move back home. But you will make it. Really. No matter what you’re going through, it’s going to be okay.

 

 

This post is fondly dedicated to the college freshmen in my life, from my little sister who’s joining me at Northwestern this fall to my friends from work and school and church to the lovely ladies who will be moving into my hall in a few days. Blessings on your new adventure!