I woke up at 7:30am, ready to start my typical, morning routine before class (typical for Sunday mornings) when it hit me-
I graduated from college yesterday.
Just to make sure that it wasn't a dream, I skipped over to my desk, only to be greeted by a glorious, leather book with my degree carefully placed inside. Thank goodness it wasn't a dream!
Alas, with every major milestone in life comes a series of reflections, whether they are in dreams, in spare moments of the day, or in conversations with your father on a back porch, waiting for an oncoming storm. How metaphorical, right? The past four years of college have been a whirlwind of new experiences, both large and small, that have shaped me into the person I am today.
Here are a few things that I have reflected on in the past few hours that have changed me, shaped me, and made me appreciate life and what it really has to offer:
*I traveled to Sweden, Germany, & Portugal. I love to travel, and I'll go anywhere given half the chance. Paying my own way certainly taught me how to work really hard to save up for something that I really wanted.
*Won a scholarship through the Rotary Club to study abroad in Oslo, Norway. This is one experience that has honestly changed my entire life. Taking that step off that plane into the airport in Oslo showed me that I thrive with change and that it is really is good for me.
*I fell deeply in love only to be utterly and unbelievably betrayed a year later. I've learned (and I'm still learning) how to heal from such betrayal. One thing that I have defiantly learned is the difference between the hard and easy way out. The easy way out is to be with someone else, make the same plans, suddenly shove all of the emotions aside of what has been left behind, and try to forget and replace the person that you left or left you. The hard way is to handle the floods of emotions that catch you completely off guard (sometimes embarrassingly so), find a non-destructive outlet, pick up and sort through the pieces one shard of glass at a time, find the strength that God gave you, try to find closure in some form, whether you know why or when you know that the truth will never come, and move on when you know that you are at peace. After unknowingly taking the easy way, I chose to take hard way. Trust me, it is far from easy, but God has shown me a lot about who I am as a person and how I handle things. While this 'experience' is far from what I had hoped for, I am thankful, in a sense, that this is the path that I have chosen. My point is to take the hard way out- you'll grow in your faith, yourself, and you usually will not hurt anyone else in the process.
*I have made plans that have completely changed because they were not God's plans. Lesson learned- Trust God. He knows what is best for you.
*I've been stuck in an airport overnight, and believe me, being stuck at 4 am in Philadelphia will teach you how to be 'hood' really quick. Thank goodness that a family from Hamburg adopted me that night! I'm still so grateful for them. While this sounds like a crazy story (and it certainly is if you have about an hour to listen to the whole thing), they showed me just how much a small, extending, helping, kind hand could mean to someone else.
*I have taken a train to a foreign country. I even saw a moose on the way! This certainly goes in the small category, but there is nothing like being on a train with a journal in your lap. It was truly humbling.
*I learned how to ski with my hardcore grandfather who is probably in better shape than most people my age. One of my friends instilled this into my head- "You don't get old from exploring...You get old when you stop exploring." My grandfather is one of the youngest men I know, and I certainly want to keep exploring like him, no matter what my age.
*I took the leap with my poetry and became a published poet and photographer. Submitting your work to the public eye is extraordinarily scary, especially since poetry is so personal!
*I started my own photography business at 21. I'm thankful that I did because it has certainly taught me a lot about handling funds and being patient with myself and my work!
* I can honestly say that I have laughed so hard that I've had to pull the car over. This happened on numerous occasions. Anytime I have a bad day, I try to remember those goofy moments! Take joy in the things that make you look and feel ridiculous...I promise that it is worth it.
* I picked up a paintbrush, grabbed some oil paint, and haven't stopped since. Finding an oasis with paint has been such a 'shaping' thing to me because my mind completely clears when the paint hits the canvas. Outlets that let you clear your head in a non-destructive manner usually bless you and others in the end.
* I've made the type of friends that listen, have picked me up and brushed me off, and have always been there, no matter what the circumstance. I wouldn't have made it without them there, especially this past year. True friends are the ones who have your best interest at heart, not theirs. Hold on to the people that truly know your best interest.
*When I was 7, I came up to Dr. Hinson, the conductor of Piedmont College Chamber Singers, after his fall concert in 1997. I told him that I would be in his choir when I came college, and sure enough, I kept my word. I've shared so many emotions through music with this group that I cannot even begin to express in words. Having a group of people that you know will not judge you but are there to make music with you is one of the biggest blessings I have had in the past 4 years. These types of groups bring people joy and heal them when you least expect it.
*And trust me, not trying to blow my own horn, but I made Dean's List this year. Before you assume that I am trying to inflate my ego, let me explain this one a little bit. I am very open about having two completely separate learning 'difficulties,' because I want other people with similar situations to know that they can do it, despite the obstacles (I hate referring to them as disabilities, because the Lord takes away something in order to give you something else that is a gift from him). I have never, ever, ever used them as an excuse, but I have struggled to find ways around them. I was always the student that would spend hours studying and couldn't retain anything, which reflected in my grades. This year, I finally found a way around one of them, which has made a huge difference in my life and my schooling. Underestimating myself and never having any confidence isn't something that I want for others to face. If you learn anything from reading this, may it be to always believe in yourself and your potential.
*"Some people change, some people mutate." I have watched people that I placed a lot of respect, love, and trust in turn into someone that I had never met before. It is one of the hardest things in life to watch, knowing that you have no control over them. Thankfully, I am one who learns by watching other people make mistakes. My father once told me to try to envision yourself making the same stupid mistake. If you turn red by just thinking about it, it's probably not a good idea.
*And for some comical relief.... I was pulled over twice during college. The first time, I ran a red light after I had already stopped, saw the turning lane turn green, and I didn't have my glasses on. Whoops. The second time, our police officer in town pulled me over to give my family a sack of tomatoes. Welcome to Georgia, Y'all. Not only did I learn to be a little more careful at stoplights late at night, but I also learned to truly cherish the small things in life, even when it includes being blue lighted for a gift of homegrown tomatoes.
*Always keep your moral compass in check. This is, of course, a very broad statement but a very important one.
*First and foremost, I really learned what it meant to have faith and trust God. It has been truly difficult some days, but he has never failed me, and he never will. Without God, I would never have reached this milestone in my life and seen the opportunity to learn something in the things listed above. For this, I am forever grateful for Him.
WHEW. That only scratched the mere surface, but there are some of the most important 'perspectives' I can offer out of the 36 hours of reflections. Milestones in life are great for reflecting, but it can be a little overwhelming when it happens all at once. As I have mentioned before, writing is a great outlet. Take a few minutes to write out some of your experiences over the past few years, how they've shaped you, and what you've learned from them. It is very humbling, and you might be surprised at what you come up with.