On Dorm Life

Every year around graduation time the seniors have to go up in front of the dorm girls, roll out a mini-bio, and give a bit of advice to the undergrads. Without fail, a couple seniors will walk up to the podium and advise against requesting roommates.

Needless to say, I don’t believe that in the slightest. My father always told me, along with a great many things, “If you don’t control your circumstances; your circumstances will control you.” Personally I would rather hold the happiness of the school year in my hands, than trust that to some Master’s student working for the Dean of Women. I mean I wouldn’t want to overwhelm them. They’re probably too busy hunting down naughty girls that make coffee in their dorm room and don’t call dorm supes “miss”. I’m really doing them a favor, if you really think about it.

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I’m not a total control freak! I do believer that everything in life happens for a reason. Everything is either preparing us for something in the future or strengthening our weaknesses. If nothing else, I’m sure it’ll make for a good story some day. As of today there 215 days until graduation. Over the last three years I have had 7 different roommates, lived in 4 different rooms on 3 different wings.

Fortunately, I’ve had really good roommates over the years. Probably cause I followed Principle A stated above, but anyways. The worst things I have had to deal with are girls who drink milk straight out of the carton, were too chatty in the mornings, sang all the time, never slept and cried constantly.  Compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard, I’ve had a great dorm experience.

Well, as good as “dorm experiences” can get anyways. Ha ha ha. Like I said before I’m sure it’s all just preparing me for something I’m going to have to face later in life. Before this I had never dealt with community bathrooms, three-dollar loads of laundry, Nazi dorm supervisors who read the handbook for fun, and of course living out of plastic furniture. It all works out in the end, and if nothing else it definitely makes you appreciate anything you have after this.

Who knows? Living in the dorms might’ve been a necessity for me. Before this, I’d never had to share a room anyone or be forced to deal with problems like this. It’s been a great learning experience. Let’s just say that God knows what He’s doing:)

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Lessons Learned From Grief

“I walked a mile with pleasure;

She chatted all the way;

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow;

And ne’er a word said she;

But, oh! The things I learned from her

When Sorrow walked with me.”

-Robert Browning Hamilton

There comes a time in everyone’s life, sometimes multiple, when they he experiences grief, and everyone faces it so differently.

I always remember the turning point-that moment when I knew nothing would remain the same. That night almost eleven years ago when my parents sat me down at our dining room table and told me they were getting a divorce. As a ten-year old girl I reacted the same way I do now, with numbness. An outward appearance of strength that’s hiding the turmoil underneath. I remember walking through the hallways of our house and stopping  in front of every family picture we had, realizing there would be no more. All I had left were these pictures and my memories. So there I stood in front of every photograph, trying to take in every last detail as if they too would be taken away from me.

Two years later, things had settled down for the most part. We had established a routine. My sister and I spent every other weekend with my dad. We had moved to a new city, a new house and started a new school. I had just begun to adjust and find a little bit of stability with my new life, but life had different plans.

I came home one day after school and saw a message on my answering machine. I pressed play and went along unpacking my school stuff, as usual.

“Hey Natalie and Stephanie, this is your dad..”

“Where is he? There is so much background noise” I thought to myself.

“I’m at the airport right now about to board a flight. I called to say good-bye. You won’t be seeing me, maybe even hearing from me again.”

“NO!”

“I’m boarding now, but..”

“NO!”

“I love you.”

Click.

I vividly remember leaning against the counter and sliding down to the floor and just bawling. I kept telling myself that I should’ve made it home sooner; if I had taken that shortcut, I could’ve talked him out of it. I could’ve…said good bye. Everything inside of me was shaking, and everything around me was spinning. I grabbed the counter and unsteadily pulled myself off the floor only to fall right back down and continue crying.

That was nine years ago. I never did see him again. Even though he wasn’t taken away from me, the fact that he chose to leave didn’t make the grief any less real. Grief is grief.

“Moving on” wasn’t an easy process either. I had my fallbacks. I felt abandoned. I remember the day of my high school graduation. I looked around the room  hoping to see him there. I sent invitations to his side of the family in hopes they would let him know about it. He never came. I held onto my phone all day, waiting for a call. He never called. I was definitely hurt, but as I looked into the crowd and saw those two rows of people that love and care for me; I felt that I was gonna be okay. There was people here who did care for me, and they mattered.

Everyone grieves, but we can’t stay there. We have to move forward. I heard that my father remarried and started a family. I am a chapter in his life, just as he’s a chapter in mine.

I faced some grievous news this week. Once again, I felt like my world was shaken. I’ve learned that God sometimes chooses to use times of sorrow and grief to remind us that only He can provide true stability and security.

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help…Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Psalm 146: 3 & 5

For the Love of Laundry

Peace and relaxation sound different to different people.  For me, it’s the resounding hum of the washer. Strange? I know. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that your duties are taking care of themselves. It’s almost therapeutic. All I have to do is load it up, turn a dial, and press a button. Simple. At the end of it all, I feel like I’ve accomplished so much by not actually doing too much on my part. I guess you could say I’m easily fascinated. Also, I’m at my parent’s house, so it’s free!

Let me explain how “laundry” works during the average school year. I have a business relationship with the washing machine on my dorm floor:  I debit my laundry card loaded with two dollars in exchange for his services. I get jipped. Every time. The dryer is even worse. By the end of the whole transaction, I have three dollars less in my pocket, and a laundry bag full of clothes that are still slightly damp. For nine months out of the year laundry waits until my underwear drawer is bare, no outfits can be combined from the lone stragglers in my closet, and my wallet actually contains enough cash to put in the machine.I do wash my clothes on a regular basis at college; I know that you were worried there for a minute;)

Now, I’m sure you understand my fascination. You can call me crazy; I call it appreciating what I once took for granted.

The Beauty of Routine

Spontaneous, that’s something I am definitely not.  I wince at the very thought of someone springing something on me at the very last minute. I’m a planner.  I need to know things in advance so I can prepare myself for them.

It’s not my fault. This temperament was ingrained into my very being as a child. Being raised by an ex-Army Ranger meant a lot of things; the first of which was whenever there was a problem, there was always a corresponding reference to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War . My father strongly believed that Ancient Chinese military strategies were the answer to everything, even the menial, mundane monstrosities that face adolescent girls. Growing up, I did not find them to be the most compassionate pieces of advice, or sometimes even remotely applicable. I did, however, remember one thing my father told me: “All battles are won before they are fought.”

The sole thing I did glean from that was that preparation is everything. I know there are people out there who will disagree with me and say that they perform better under pressure. Good for you. I don’t. “Off-the-cuff” has never worked for me. Now for a word from our sponsors: my fellow classmates will remember “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance!”

MornImageings. They’re rough. I’m definitely not one of those girls that jump out of bed at sunrise ready to embrace the opportunities of a new day. I looked forward to my junior year of college solely because my Jericho contract had “expired”. This meant that I no longer had to deal with adormitorysupervisor “nudging me” out of bed five A.M. every weekday. I was free to ease myself into the morning; start the coffee (vital), arrange my outfit, read my devos andultimately just get ready in peace.  Like most people, I have found that mornings are usually easier when you have a routine in place. Doing the same thing every morning just helps me mentally prepare myself for the upcoming day.

Now that I’m home for summer, one of the things I had to work on was keeping a routine. It’s not like I’ve had too much to prepare for, but  routines keep me sane. Nine months out of the year I have a set schedule, as much as I wouldn’t admit while I was there…. I like it. I have set hours for school and set hours for work. I’m home now and I Imagereally don’t have too many set hours for anything. I know that after reading the first part of this you’re probably surprised to find that I don’t plan out every hour of my summer a week in advance. My days would start off with such good intentions and end one hour of Pinterest browsing, a couple pages of a good book, and three episodes of Mad Men later. It’s never easy to try to do something that requires self-discipline and keep yourself accountable on top of that. With the help of to-do lists and newly implanted (you guessed it!) routine I can make it.  I’m getting there, little by little.

Twenty-One

“Oh, to be your age again” my mother commented to me the other day. I’m positive she’s not the first mother to look at their 21 year-old daughter and yearn to experience that youth once more.

When my mother looks at me she sees a young woman doesn’t know what it’s like to have crow’s feet, stretch marks or a wedding ring. She sees “fresh starts”. Despite Jennifer Garner’s prayers to be “thirty, flirty and thriving”, I imagine that most people would like to  relive their twenties. I mean the store is called Forever 21 right?

That’s just the thing. I have my whole life ahead of me; that’s just as scary as it is exciting. I’m going into my senior year of college this year. A lot can happen in one year, but as of right now I’m not sure where I’m going to be after graduation. There’s no job offers on the table, but graduate school is not looking too appealing at this moment. Moving back home might be the most financially-sound option available; however  I’ll be the first to admit that it is definitely not the most desirable alternative to a college graduate seeking to “spread her wings.”

My mother doesn’t remember what the “not-knowing” feels like. I probably won’t remember when I’m her age either; I’ll find myself uttering that same phrase to my daughter as I’m sure has gone on for generations. If everyone is dying to be this age again, I should relish every moment of this coveted stage of life. After all, you’re only young once (unless you’re Dorian Gray;).)

She is so “Together”

I know we shouldn’t care about the way people view us, but I must confess that it does cross my mind occasionally.  As I approach my senior year of college, I think back to what the seniors looked like when I was a freshman; they seemed so “together”. I would listen to them nonchalantly mention student teaching and working, and I just sat there, dreaming about the days when I would be a senior and my life would miraculously fall into place; I would  get to speak about these scary, daunting feats in a confident “been there-done that” tone.

Now I am that senior.  I look in the mirror and wonder why this wisdom and confidence hasn’t arrived yet.  The thought of standing up in front high-schoolers and teaching them anything makes my legs tremble just like it did my freshman year.  I’m twenty-one years old, and I have yet to pass my driver’s test; I mean most sixteen year-olds in America have me beat with that one.  “There is no way any freshman looks at me and thinks ‘oh man, she’s a senior; she’s got it all figured out’” I think to myself as I still stand in front of the mirror. Maybe there is. I don’t know what people think after all.

“What do people think of me?” I wonder again. As I mentioned earlier I’m aware that what people think of me shouldn’t matter. I know we live in a society that thrives on the “I-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks-of-me” mentality, but you can’t deny human nature. Approval is a basic human need.  I mean I just want to live in such a way that when my name comes up in conversation people don’t have a disgusted look on their face. Haha. Then I found the answer.

“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart; so shalt thou find favor with God and man.” Proverbs 3:3 &4

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

The reference were a little vague and random, but they spoke to me. This whole time I was looking in the wrong place. It’s not wrong to want approval; it’s wrong to make your decisions based on the approval of others and how they will view you. I should be seeking the approval of God.  If in the future there is a girl that looks at me and thinks I have it all together; I will have to tell her my secret:  it’s God holding me together by a seam.