The Dorm Diaries: A Letter to the Class of 2019

Monday, August 31, 2015

To the Class of 2019:

I have so many words for you - so many hopes and dreams for you. You stand at the beginning of four years. The best four years, you've been told, of your life. By now you've heard it all: the advice and warnings and anecdotes from parents, adults, and those who have walked this path before you. You've been told to study hard, to call your mom, do your laundry, go to church, don't do drugs, and to avoid parties. And after a while, it all blurs together in your mind and you start nodding politely, thinking, "I already know this; I've already been told this."

I'm here to tell you something a little different. I stand here as a senior, at the end of this college journey with three years of joy, heartache, experience, loss, love, and conversion behind me. And I have four things to tell you, Class of 2019. Four rules, if you will, for these next four years of your life. The first two are simple, and if you've seen Kenneth Branagh's film Cinderella, you already know them:

1. Have courage
2. Be kind. 

Right now, you might be feeling intimidated - you're a new place, surrounded by new people, with your first year stretching out in front of you and you have no idea what will happen. But have courage. You will make it, you'll find friends, and you will grow. Jesus is the source of courage, so never be afraid to ask Him for some. All things are possible in Christ!

Secondly, be kind. You will encounter people who disagree with you, who hold different opinions, who might challenge you. No matter what, be kind. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: to belong. To be loved. As a Catholic, people will look first and foremost at how you live out your faith. So treat everyone around you with kindness, just as you want to be treated. Years from now, you will be remembered, not because of your grades, but how you treated others. 

3. Don't be afraid of failure. 
I've learned firsthand that by trying not to fail, when I inevitably did, there was always an overwhelming sense of I'm not good enough. I couldn't keep it together. Something's wrong with me. 

But guess what? You will experience failure at some point in your life.


I know it's hard, I know it's painful and embarrassing. But I need you to breathe those words in and believe them. Even more importantly, sometimes it's not always your fault. Sometimes life just throws a really nasty pitch at you...and sometimes things go bottom up.

I will fail. And it is okay. Because I am human. I am not perfect. 

Because we all fail at one point or another. You are never alone in that.

Failure teaches us how to stand back up after falling. Failure is what allows us to rebuild ourselves into something better, stronger. Failure is what teaches us humility. Because if there's one thing we need as young people, it's a reminder of humility. We like to feel invincible and passionate and on top of the world; but sometimes, we need a reminder that there's a bigger picture, that we are not the center of the world. God is.

Failure is what teaches us that when no one and nothing else is there for us, God always is. Because to Him, you are never a failure. 

4. Remember that God loves you, no matter what. 
There will be times when you feel far away from Him - distant, detached, alone. There might be times when you'll be sitting in these very pews, exhausted feeling like you have nothing to offer God because you're just trying to hang on and survive the semester.

Switchfoot sings, "I was lost but not alone," and I think that sums up college perfectly. We're all trying to find who we are, find our way - find The Way, The Truth, and the Light - and sometimes it feels like we get lost along the way. But we're never alone. You're never alone. 

You have some amazing opportunities in college - to ask and search for answers, to deepen your knowledge and your mind, to receive the sacraments daily, to join a bible study, to discuss the intersection of faith and reality in our modern day world, to serve alongside your fellow students in ministry, to explore different interests, and to experience this new community around you.

To live and breathe the Body of Christ that is here around you and within you. Supporting you and lifting you up in prayer. 

Someone once said, "Not to spoil the ending for you, but everything is going to be okay." It something I've needed to hear again and again, and something you'll need to hear each year in college.

So I say it to you now, no matter what happens this semester (good or bad), this first year, or at any point during these next four years in college:

 Not to spoil the ending for you...but everything is going to be okay.

Friday Feelings

Friday, August 28, 2015

Heeeeello there, friends! It's Friday. And I have a lot of feelings (when do I not?), and I've missed this. Missed you lovely readers and writing posts. I've kept quiet on here since returning from Paris, just a post here and there.

There were all the feels this week, so this morning right now feels like a small gift...I call them "moments in between." A small, hallowed moment of quiet and calm in the ordinary things of life. I'm curled up on my couch typing away with a cup of creamy, steaming coffee at my feet. Light spills in the window behind me, tumbling over my shoulder and the cozy, warm blanket wrapped around me. Great American songs of swing and jazz permeate the air from NPR's The Jonathan Channel.

It's a moment in between. A simple Tuesday moment on a Friday. A bit o' loveliness for my soul.

Today will be a good day...and even if it goes wrong, at least I had this morning.

An another note, can we talk about how life really is a rom-com but with WAAAAY more of the awkward/life-shatteringly embarrassing moments but none of the sweet, romantic resolution? I've finally come to terms with the fact that most people don't actually say what they feel and confess their undying affection or literally chase the taxi/plane/bus. And that's ok, yo. Just let me still watch it play out on the big screen and cry into a box of tissues. It's an oddly painful yet cathartic experience I crave on especially sucky days.

The other night at work I was listening to Leonard Bernstein's version of "Maria" from the Silver Linings Playbook soundtrack and thinking about how wonderful Bradley Cooper is with his heart-melting smile, baby blue eyes, and gorgeous scruff. I need some more Bradley in my life.

I think everyone needs some Bradley in their life. Can I get an amen?

My first day of senior year was surprisingly "meh" was one of those weird days that should have been good, but in some way. The second day, however - Tuesday, which is quickly becoming my favorite day of the week, thanks to Emily - was much better. Wonderful, in fact. I'm exhausted since I went non-stop from 7:30am on, but all in all, it was a good day.

I saw Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) in concert last night - which means 800 souls, who love Jon + his hallowed music almost as much as I do, gathered in the backyard of a coffeeshop and had our souls shaken loose while he sang and played accompanied by a fantastic cellist and drummer. I'm very, very blessed to have gotten to see him play this way twice.

Jon is one of those rare people who seems made of silver and gold and teeming art, as if the soul in him shows through more than his earthly body. He always reminds me of C.S. Lewis's words: "You don't have a soul - you are a soul. You have a body." 

Jon is a soul, through and through, and his words + music reflect that. When he plays and sings his heart out, flashing that warm grin at the crowd - seeming genuinely happy and overjoyed to play to a select crowd in a crowded dark coffeeshop, something transcendent and transformative happens. The metaphorical gap between the stage and audience if he can sense that we, like him, are hungry for meaning and comfort, longing to express the inexpressible in each of us. And something changes in the air, a crowd of strangers becoming something more, something larger than any of us. The closest thing I can compare it to is worship. To our souls opening up, being stirred, and sensing a Presence larger than anything else.

I believe there are some special souls in this world whose creation + art make us more ourselves, blurs the line between the earthly and the heavenly. Souls who make + create with every fiber of their being, in an act of living worship and carrying out their purpose.

Souls like Jon Foreman. Emily Freeman. Jess Connolly. Sarah Clarkson. Just to name a few.

Enjoy your Friday, friends. May it be one of living out art...and enjoying the moments in between. 

All Will Be Well and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well

Saturday, August 22, 2015

It's late - far past midnight, and I'm reading blog posts about life + hardness and listening to gentle soundtracks with notes falling like golden drops of kindness, notes that soften the harshness of reality and remind me that maybe maybe there is still hope.

All of the above is happening because like every month in college, I'm learning, change has sprung upon me in a matter of moments - before the first week of school has even happened - and I'm being reminded of and being forced to swallow the bitter pill of change that feels like brokenness, the one I've become all too familiar with. 

But this is college. This is life. This is my reality on this green earth. Being broken open time and time again, feeling the swell of loneliness and disquieting solitude rising beneath my skin. Oh, pain - again. 

It slips in like an old friend, and it and I are so well acquainted that I'm no longer surprised to see it...rather, more of a "ah, I didn't realize you'd be here too. You were just over there last month." She shows up frequently and in new places, despite running into her recently. 

She's a herald of change, that Pain. Always offers a half smile as if to say Yeah, I know. Me again. I know you weren't expecting me, but really, we should talk - it's going to be good for you in the long run. It always is and we both know it.

If I'm being honest, it's why I haven't blogged lately. I felt too all over the place with post ideas during the summer and now words don't seem to want to come. And sometimes you don't want a perfectly composed post...sometimes you just want to read something raw and real and honest. 

Or at least I do. I call them "real" posts, posts about life and the restless murmur of its fragility and confusion and depth. Posts about shadows and doubt, about the haunting ache of love, and the quiet whisper of loss. 

I've learned a great these past few years and months. And I know I only have more to learn - that life will continue throwing curveballs, that I will continuously be broken again and again and have to rebuild myself.

So far, I know selfness is a fluid concept, that God can feel as far away as the other side of the universe and yet as near as in your room at the same time, that the ones you dream of are the ones you either miss or fear, that loneliness is not a one-time thing, that you will always feel young and scared to some degree no matter how experienced and old you become, that someone can listen to the truth you speak and not hear what you are actually saying, and that people change. 

Sometimes not always for the better.

That's the hardest, I think. 

Change is many things, but it feels most like a river. Like water gently trickling in calm streams that cannot be held back by any force. At times calm and steady, at others rising in rushing eddies - streaming faster and harder, the current a little more forceful. Still other times, it is an ocean in a river bed, roaring and rushing in waves that knock you under with choking coldness and tumultuous force that prevents you from resurfacing no matter how hard you try. 

Sometimes you finally claw and kick your way to the surface, gasping for air, and look around in sudden startlement and flickering despair because suddenly you are not where you were minutes ago. Your surroundings are different, unfamiliar, perhaps even harsh and foreboding.

And in moments, everything has changed.

Sometimes, I think, it's for the best that we can't control change, that we are inevitably swept up in it and carried away, further down the path we are meant to be. We have a tendency to hold on, you see. To cling, with tightly gripped fingers to places and people and things that we wish to remain the same. We refuse to leave, to move on, to say goodbye.

Most of us don't know how to let go. 

And we keep clinging to our little islands, the rocks in the middle of the river - isolated from shore and new adventures further down the river. But eventually...we get pulled away and what we've been clinging to slips out of our fingers. And everything changes.

It doesn't matter if  you do or don't know how to let go. Sooner or later, you're forced to.

And we look around us after resurfacing, realizing that we are somewhere different. And it's for the best. Change, painful as it may be at times, is always for the best. It might not feel like it at the time. But it usually is, and years later, you look back and see that it always was.

It doesn't matter what the river is like right now...eventually all shall be well and all manners of things shall be well.

It's Okay to Feel Broken

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Broken - it's a scary word. We don't like it...and we like assigning it to ourselves even less. But guess what this wide world full of optimism and cheer and positive Pins doesn't tell you?

Girl, you will feel broken so many times in your life.

And I want you, need you to know that. it. is. okay to feel broken. Because you are an incredibly complex, breathing mass of emotions and thoughts and humanity. And that means sometimes life dashes us down and for a moment, we can't breathe because the waves keep coming and by heaven, they get rougher and rougher and it is so hard to keep swimming.

A little blue fish once told the world to: 'just keep swimming, just keep swimming.' But even the most valiant of us can only try for so long.

So this is me telling you that it's okay to stop swimming sometimes. Not that it's a good thing that any of us like...but rather, it's an undeniable fact of life.

We. are. human.

And that means sometimes we can't go on, that we run out of steam, and all we have strength for is to curl up somewhere hidden and dark to cry tears we didn't even know we had. This is me telling you I see you. I know, because I've been there too. Tossed high and plunged deep beneath icy waters that stole my breath and my bearing to finally resurface, exhausted and disoriented and completely utterly lost.

Sometimes, you have to just let it all go and stop fighting the current - sometimes you have to whisper 'I don't have the strength' and just float...float where the waves take you. even if it feels like you're trying desperately to hold the pieces of yourself together. It's okay, girl. There are and will be moments in life where you have to drive yourself to an empty parking lot to break down in tears, or hide under your bed or in your closet, shut away from the daylight and eyes, because sometimes you need to cry and cry.

Sometimes it will feel like there a million different pieces of you that have been dashed apart by someone or something and it's terrifying because you don't know how to put yourself back together.

Girl, I see you. And I'm hurting for and with you. Because this thing called Life is unbearably hard and no one ever tells you that growing up, and 'broken' is a label we give to things that have culminated into a horrible crash of failure and wrongness.

And we think it's a one time thing, being broken.

But no one ever tells you that broken is what we all are, from the moment we're born. And there's a wild beauty in that, a hopeful grace, because if we're all broken to begin with, then these moments of not being able to swim or breathe or even feel God?

That's okay. That's normal.

Because it means being "broken" doesn't mean there's something wrong with me or you - that we're the few defects of society, the unhappy one in our group of friends, the sole black sheep in our families.

It means that we can admit, again and again, 'I am broken...I can't do this on my own. I need Something. I need Someone....I need You, God.'

 So girl, next time you feel broken...know that you are not alone. And there is hope and beauty in brokenness. We find the sacred, the defining moments, the sweetness of Him in the brokenness.

We are remade, stronger and clearer and better