Appalachian State University
*not gonna’ cry, not gonna’ cry, not gonna’ cry*
What can I say, it’s already over. Man, how this year has flown by. I think back on my first day at college, move-in day, and remember how exciting everything was, how foreign and new it all was. It was scary, but in a good way, like watching your favorite horror movie only because you know how it ends. The only difference is, how I thought it would end was a lot different than what actually happened. As I was flipping back in my journal, I found an entry that I had written exactly a month after move in day. Yeah, get excited, because few to none have ever read anything out of my personal journal.
As you can see, not all of my first conclusions about college were completely accurate; in fact, I get a good hind-sighted giggle out of reading my old thoughts. (Side note: Keep a journal folks, you will almost always be thankful you did, that is supposing you don’t have any major secrets. Some things are best left unsaid.)
I have experienced significant growth in many areas of my life since the day I entered college. This includes cognitive growth, moral growth, spiritual growth, identity development, a broadening of my range of experiences, better awareness of my interests and skill set, and overall a better understanding life and the value it holds.
A few contributors to this immense personal growth include my newly found independence from my family, being surrounded by a diverse community with intriguing lifestyles and beliefs, hearing the viewpoints of my professors, peers, and elders and challenging myself to consider their reasoning, and most of all, being able to make my own decisions and discover who I am without the pressure of having to label myself beforehand, whether it be a label like sister, introvert, or transcendentalist. I cannot begin to express how liberating it was for me to break up with my long-term boyfriend after the first semester ended. It reminded me that I was not just half a person that was completed by a partner, but that I am a whole, complete person by myself, and having a partner makes me a part of two whole, complete people.
College is such a large atmosphere of young people that there is no possible way to successfully establish a distinct hierarchy of people. Yes, some Greeks rate themselves higher than other Greeks, and some honors students believe themselves to be the elite, but few groups like these are exclusive and there is really no pressure to hang out with a certain group in order to feel accepted. This was a wonderful realization for me, because I have always preferred to lone wolf my way of being confined to one specific group. I feel that with the absence of such barriers, I am able to define myself by my personality and by my actions rather than by who or what I am associated with. This is not to say that I am against organizations, because I love being a part of my church community and the Wesley Foundation, but I also think it is cool to meet people without allowing them to chastise me before getting to know who I am as a person.
I think the lesson that resonates the most from this year is the value of life. I don’t know if any of you watch The Office, but I really enjoy that show for its humor and subtle life-lessons, a similar trait of another one of my favorite shows, Scrubs. In the series finale (sad day), Andy Bernard shares a very intriguing thought: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” During this past year, I have learned how to recognize that any moment could end up being “the good old days”, and that the key to getting the most out of them is enjoy the present moments, even if they seem undesirable. I think that in order to get the most out of life, it is important to appreciate the present rather than to wish for the past or over-anticipate the future. It is also important to carpe diem, or seize the opportunities of the day. I also like the translation, “pick when the fruit is ripe” and the saying, “And if not now, when?” (Pirkei Avoth 1:14).
I know I am guilty of wasting the day, though “wasting” can be interpreted in many different ways. I find myself often saying, “There are just not enough hours in the day.” The truth is, there are enough hours in the day, I am just not using them as efficiently as I could. I waste time on the internet, I waste time snacking, I waste time sleeping in, I waste time texting, I waste time walking, I waste time watching movies, I waste time showering for extended periods of time, I even waste time just sitting and thinking about things that I have thought about a million times before, yet have always come to the same conclusion. The question is:
But seriously, what if I never wasted time? This is not to say that I never want to relax and put my mind at ease. I like watching the sunrise, painting, reading, writing, dancing, running, hiking, singing, and spending time with friends, but I do not believe any of those things to be a waste of my time. Even if I have no plans at all for the day, which sounds like a relaxing day, if I spend the majority of the day doing nothing, I end up feeling terrible about myself! Just like anyone else, my days are numbered, so why in the world would I let one day slip away? If I actually used every hour for something important, I would have made countless works of art, read thousands of books, invested in stronger relationships, trained my body to be in the best shape it possibly could be, and meditated under hundreds of sunrises in the peaceful morning. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty appealing to me.
Appreciating every moment is hard thought. Sometimes I have to do things that I really would prefer not to, like go to class or clean the house. When I really brood over it, I realize that I should be grateful that I even get to do these things. It is privilege and a blessing for me to go to school, so I should be seizing every opportunity possible to learn and to broaden my mind. It is better to think of school as an opportunity rather than an obligation. This same concept applies to other undesirable tasks. It is a blessing to be able to clean the house, because I have a house. It is a blessing to write a paper or an essay, because I am actually allowed to voice my opinion. It is a blessing to cook dinner for my family, because we have the means to do so. It is a blessing to sit in the doctor’s waiting room, because we actually have access to a doctor. It is a blessing to drive around my sister, because I actually have a car and a sister. Maya Angelou said, “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” Learning to enjoy the seemingly un-enjoyable moments instead of wishing for what lies ahead has been a groundbreaking discovery for me, and it has made me a happier person overall. My roommate had a sticky note on her desk that said, “What if I woke up today with only the things that I thanked God for yesterday?” Good point Elizabeth, good point.
So the year is over, which is disappointing, but I do not wish for it back. I am appreciative of where I am now, at home until June 2 when my camp counseling job starts up again. I am astounded that my first year of college went by so quickly, but I suppose that is a sign that it was really enjoyable, which it was. 1/4 of the way done, 25% of my undergraduate accomplished in such a short time. This is an even bigger intensive for me to enjoy the time I have been given at Appalachian State. I’ll leave you with a quote by Andy Rooney,who was famous for his commentary on his weekly broadcast,
Andy said, “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”
Enjoy the climb folks,