Remember the Prairie

It’s strange being a college graduate.  I’ve worked so hard for so long and it’s odd to think I won’t be going back to Morris in the fall.  Still, the school sure does know how to send us off.  The ceremony was everything a graduation should be and I loved soaking in every minute of it.

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Having the event outside in the heart of campus, surrounded by all our class buildings, felt incredibly intimate.  The mall was absolutely packed and, the whole time, it felt like the university was wrapping its arms around me–giving me a long, sweet farewell.  The speeches and performances were on-point, and although the band sounded a bit off-key, marching forward to “Pomp and Circumstance” still made me tear up.

Our student body president and my fellow classmate gave a traditional speech reliving all our shared experiences.  When she came to the end, though, she shied away from the cheesy/vague encouragement that normally infiltrates graduation speeches.  Instead, she told us one simple thing: Remember the prairie.

I adore this piece of advice because it’s something tangible.  She didn’t tell us to pursue our dreams, reach for the stars, follow our path, etc.  (It’s funny, ’cause I draw from the path metaphor for inspiration on this blog.)  She told us to look back at the place we came from and remember the way it shaped us.  It’s a call to never forget where we have come from.

Since the ceremony last Saturday, I’ve moved home and am now one of the stereotypical unemployed English majors living with their parents.  Mind you, this isn’t a permanent situation.  My job hunt is going to be a non-traditional one, but it is already underway.  In a few months, I’ll hopefully be on my way to setting out on my own.

To conclude this post… I came to the prairie four years ago to study what I’m passionate about.  I cannot express how thankful I am for all the people I’ve met, lessons learned, and memories made.  It’s been fun blogging my way through college.  Although it’s time to embark on the next adventure, I will always have a special place in my heart for Morris.  I will always remember the prairie.

Endings

Yesterday, college ended.  I took my last exam, met with my senior seminar professor about my performance, and dragged out my packing boxes.

As my four years in Morris draw to a close, I can’t help but reminisce about how far I’ve come.  If I could go back in time and tell pre-college Amelia who she would become, she would have laughed in my face.

Become a camp counselor?  Travel the world?  Become even more book-obsessed?  HA.  Very funny, future Amelia.

Typical Morris.
Typical Morris.

In many ways, college has surprised me.  I came in extremely ambitious–not exactly sure what I wanted to do, but eager to work hard and achieve material success.  Who’d have thought that attending a tiny and extremely liberal school on the prairie would end in being called to full-time ministry.

I distinctly remember move-in day freshman year.  The bundle of nerves constricting my stomach, numbly hugging my parents goodbye, blindly being hearded from event to event, a constant stream of faces and people.  I remember calling home on day two of classes, sobbing to my mom that I couldn’t do it.  Months of homesickness, of unhappiness, of adjustment.

It took time for me to find my bearings here.  It took ages to find my true friends.

Once I found my place, I’d like to say that things were wonderful from there.  That life was easy.  That I plugged through four years of reading lists, essays, finals, and meetings with happy bliss, surrounded by a wonderful group of friends.  To an extent, those things are all true.  I certainly did all those things and I will forever be thankful for all the wonderful people I’ve met at Morris.

Academics aside, college is HARD.  There’s never been a year that hasn’t been a struggle in some way.  I spent three out of my four years in some kind of isolation–be it physical, spiritual, emotional, etc.  Sophomore year was my favorite–I had a spectacular roommate, loved my classes, had my best friends by my side, and got to be in leadership for our local campus ministry.  But even then, things were never fully sunshine.

But then again–that’s life.  It’s never going to be all you want it to be.

Some people always say that high school is the best time of your life.  Others claim that your college years take the cake.  Honestly, I hope both camps are wrong.  I’ve loved college, but I’m not going to let myself cling to these days when I know there are better ones to come.

I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything.  I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve grown a lot.  I’ve made memories that I will always cherish.  I got to study literature, language, and art.  I travelled the world and lived out my dreams.  I discovered that there is so much more to me than I ever thought possible.  I’m incredibly proud of how much I’ve accomplished.

I came to Morris to study what I’m passionate about and it was wonderful.  Now it’s time to chase the next passion.  I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, but I’m excited to see where my path leads.

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Almost there

Present my senior seminar?  CHECK

Attend my last class ever?  CHECK

All that’s left is to finish two papers, take an easy final, and I’m done with college!

I know that over the next week I’m going to go through a slew of emotions ranging from excitement to sadness to joy to terror and so on.  (Britta articulates the roller coaster particularly well, so check that out.)  For the moment, though, all I feel is relief.  It’s been an exhausting semester and the end is in sight.

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This is my post-senior seminar face. Can you sense my joy?

This post isn’t very substantial, but stay tuned!  Once all my papers are done, I’ve got a week with little to no obligations.  I’ve got a list of posts I want to write and will hopefully get to them.  I’m looking forward to getting back into blogging regularly.  I’ve missed this!

TBT: Words from my eighteen-year-old self

This afternoon, I spent some time looking through my very first blog.  (Yes, it still exists.  No, I will not provide a link.)  Most of the time, when I think about that blog, I shake my head in shame at fifteen year old Amelia and ask, “Why did you think that was okay to post on the Internet?”  As I perused all the old posts, however, I found one that stood out.

Four years ago, I was a high school senior.  All I knew about the future was that I was going to Morris in the fall to major in English.  The rest was a mystery.

Here are some words by my eighteen year old self.  Mind you, it’s not a very organized post.  I go off on random tangents.  What can I say?  I was eighteen and hadn’t studied how to write well.  High school writing classes are a joke.

But I think, overall, I hit the nail on the head regarding what it feels like to be on the verge of moving on.  Life moves quickly.  If you don’t take time to capture the little things, you will forget about them.  A lot of what I say continues to resonate.  Because the little things matter and, in no time at all, they will be gone.

Anyways, just read it.  I liked it.  Maybe you will too.

It’s approximately 10:54 P.M. and I just finished watching the movie Morning Glory with my family.

My response:
OH MY GOODNESS.  THE GUY WHO PLAYS RAOUL IN PHANTOM OF THE OPERA IS IN IT.  AND HE HAS SHORT HAIR AND ISN’T UGLY.

Shocker, I know.

Anyways.  I feel like I haven’t offered anything deep and insightful to the world lately.  Every day is just the same old routine.  Get up when the alarm goes off, pedal through another day of classes, and then spend my afternoon and evening twiddling away on the computer and consuming books.  I haven’t written any poetry in ages.  I haven’t hung out with my best friends outside of school since prom.  I can’t even find something better to do than hang out with my family on a Friday night.
I’m not saying that spending time with family isn’t a good thing… it definitely is.  I just feel like I should be savoring my last few weeks of high school, you know?  I should be out raiding WalMart or star tipping.  I should be laughing so hard I’m almost crying.  I should be sitting around a bonfire reminiscing about good times and making vague plans for the future.

But, you know what?  I’m not.

Right now, it’s 10:59 P.M. on Friday, May 13.
I’m sitting on my bed, typing on my mom’s crappy old laptop, thinking about Rachel McAdams and the guy who plays Raoul.  I’m thinking about the purple dress my mom bought me for graduation.  I’m thinking about Le Morte d’Arthur and all the ways Sir Thomas Malory describes knights valiantly slaughtering each other.  I’m thinking about Morris and I’m thinking about what life will be like on my own.  I’m thinking about getting my third perfect score on a College Sociology test in a row.  I’m thinking about the picture of babies in egg cartons I found in a magazine.  I’m thinking about how, yesterday, I was sitting on my phone, and it suddenly goes, “It’s a fez.  I wear a fez now.  Fezzes are cool”, and I was surprised because I forgot that I changed my texting ring tone to this.
I’m thinking all these things and wondering why I don’t just stop my fingers from typing.  I’m wondering why I’m still going on and on and on about things nobody probably cares about.  And if nobody cares… then I’m wondering why I’m still blabbing.

I guess I think of this blog as my life story.  Every month is another chapter.  Every post is another page.  Maybe I keep writing about all the random crap going on because… one day… I’m not going to remember tonight.  I’m not going to remember watching Morning Glory or those three perfect Sociology tests or hearing the Eleventh Doctor’s voice coming from under my butt as I read Le Morte d’Arthur.  Tonight will fade away and blabbing on is the only way I can keep it from getting lost.

It’s like dreams.  When you first wake up,  they’re clear and fresh in your brain.  As the day goes on, reality takes over and the edges become blurred and fuzzy.  You try to tell someone about your dream and find yourself saying, “I remember it was exciting and crazy and didn’t make any sense… but I just can’t figure out what it was.”  The only way to make sure the dream lives past ten o’clock in the morning is by writing it down the second you wake up.

The same can be said for memories.  One day, even a year from now, what is real today isn’t going to be a reality anymore.  In a year, I won’t be a high school senior with only a few short weeks left.  I won’t be living with my parents.  I won’t be sleeping in the bed I’ve always slept in.  I won’t even have this crappy laptop to write on.  These days, these meaningless days where all I do is wake up when the alarm goes off, pedal through classes, and twiddle away time on the Internet will be nothing more than a memory.  They’ll be a reality that has come and gone.

Don’t you get it?  I need to write about my life.  I need to write about seemingly meaningless days.  I need to write about parties and friends and ordinary experiences.  If I don’t, I’ll move on to the next reality and forget.  I’ll wake up and, by ten o’clock, my senior year will be nothing but a fuzzy blur in the land of days gone by.

It’s now 11:18 P.M.  I’m sitting here, typing away on my mom’s old, crappy laptop, covered in the soft, fuzzy blanket my aunt and uncle gave me for Christmas, and thinking about dresses and movies and King Arthur.

Welcome to my life

It’s all acting

When it comes to academics, there are honestly some days where I feel like one big phony.

At this point, it’s all a game.  Go to class, speak up, do the readings, write the papers, give the professors what they want.  It’s funny how the deeper I have gotten in my upper-level courses, the more I know this isn’t what I want to do with my life.  Academia isn’t for me.  I don’t want to be a student anymore.   When I speak up in class, when I write papers, when I look like I’m so on top of things, it’s all an act.  It’s me playing the game to get the grade.

I want to do something meaningful with my life.  I’m sick of sitting around.  I’m sick of playing the game.  There are times when I feel like Rapunzel, trapped in her tower, singing about all the mindless things she does to pass the time.  The parallel isn’t perfect, of course.  I lack magic hair, an emotionally abusive mother figure, and am certainly not trapped in a tower.  But I’m tired of waiting.

I’m so close to graduating.  There’s just a couple of months standing between me and finally getting my degree.  My life is going places–big, exciting, unknown places.

Do I have it in me to play the game for just a few more months?  I sure hope so.

The Future and why I’m not planning for it

“I’m just so stressed out!  I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life!”

This was said to me a couple of months ago by a high school friend.  I merely gaped at her.  “You’re sixteen,” I thought, “you don’t have to know it all now.”

There’s this idea in our culture that we have to have our entire lives planned out at the age of eighteen.  We need to know where we are going to college, what we will study, and what we will do after graduating.  Then we go to college, change our minds over and over again, graduate, and our careers have nothing to do with what we study.

With holidays coming up, I’m bracing myself for inevitable: “So, you’re a senior in college… what are you going to do next?”

My answer: I don’t know.

I’m twenty-two years old and I do not know what I’m going to do with my life.  And, frankly, I am okay with that.

When I graduate, I fully expect to move home and work until I have the next steps figured out.  A lot of people are ashamed of moving back in with their parents.  I am okay with that.

Ideally, I want to go into ministry.  I want to spend my life doing something worthwhile, building the Kingdom, and serving people.  I’m interested in working within the missions sphere.  I’m not planning on being a missionary, but if that is something that happens, I’m open to the possibility.

I don’t know what steps I’m going to take along the road.  I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now.

But that’s okay.  I’m young.  I’m single.  I can go out into the world and do whatever I want.  (Assuming I get paid enough to pay off my student loans, that is.)

The thing is that people change.  I came to college to study what I’m passionate about, and I have had a blast.  But five years from now, my passions will be different.  Ten years from now, they’ll change even more.

I’m not worried about the future.  Maybe I should be, but I’m not.  I know vaguely where I want to go and, for now, that is more than enough.  The idea that I need to plan all the details of my life right now is ridiculous.  Who knows what will happen?  What’s the point of figuring it all out when it will probably change?

Life is about adventure.  I want to soak in as much as I can.  So I’m going to muddle through the now and embrace whatever comes next.

Looking ahead

Where do the days go?

I looked at my calendar this morning and was shocked to find that July is almost gone.  In mere weeks, summer will be over and I will be back in school.

Since I’m going into my final year of college, I’ve been paying a lot of thought to where I want to go in life.  What will I do when I graduate?  Where will I go?  Who will I meet?

One of my biggest fears is that, a year from now, I will get sucked right into life in the real world.  I’ll get bogged down with a job, college bills, car payments, etc.  I will work just to get by, settle down, and the most adventure I will have is the occasional weekend excursion to the North Shore.  (Not that the North Shore is bad… but I want to go farther than three hours away.)

I want to live a life that is extraordinary.  I want to travel and explore the corners of this world.  I want to do something worthwhile.  I want to make a difference, to touch the lives of people I encounter.

More than anything, I want to live a life that is not my own.  I can make all the plans I want for myself, but ultimately, the life God has planned for me is a million times better than anything I can conceive.  The more I taste of the world, the more I realize how empty and unsatisfying it is.  I want my life to be a living sacrifice, a la Romans 12.  I want to be a city on a hill.  I want to spend my years planting seeds and reaping fruit for the Kingdom.  God has planted heaven in my heart, and I want to spend my life sharing that with others.

During the parent program at my day camp this past week (which was in Rogers, MN), I had one of those “How did I get here?” moments.  I was standing in front of a sanctuary of kids and their parents, sharing about Camp Shamineau and what our mission is.  Briefly, I found myself explaining, “At camp, we have lots of amazing facilities that help create fun, exciting memories.  But as great as fun is, that’s now what we are about.  Our main mission is to take campers away from the distractions of the world and place them in an environment where they have a real, personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Later, when summarizing the lessons of the week, I noted that we told the story about how “Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could spend eternity with Him.  He did this not because we deserved it, but because He loved us.”

Standing on that stage, it hit me.  So many people my age hem and haw and fret about what they are doing with life.  But here I am, at a mere twenty one years old, living the life God has called me to.  Already, I’m living out the dreams God has placed within me.  Through the opportunity to work at camp, specifically being on Program staff, I am learning to lead others and sow seeds.  All the things I long to do, I am already doing.

As my final year of school draws nearer, words cannot express how much I loathe going back.  I’m dreading it, actually.  A life spent sitting in classrooms, reading books, and writing essays is enjoyable, but definitely not satisfying.

But just because I am in school does not mean God cannot use me to further His kingdom.  He has plans for me this year, and lessons He needs to lead me through.  I eagerly anticipate the day when my life becomes less about getting my own name on a diploma and more about bringing glory to the King.