What I would tell my first week self (Sohphore edition)

Or, 29 things I learned during my third semester of college.

1. You actually can’t spell without spellcheck/autocorrect.

2. You thought last semester was tough… just wait…

3. You will experience failure. When your roommate said, “You’re going to have to fail sometime!” it was bound to happen. Failure is part of life. But it does not define who you are.

4. You will make mistakes. Get prepared to come face to face with your humanness and your sin in ways you haven’t before. You are going to feel guilt and shame. The quicker you forgive yourself, the quicker you will be able to move on. There are no regrets; there are only lessons learned.

5. You will question a lot. This is college, this is sophomore year, and this is okay. Cling to Jesus because ultimately He is the only thing that does not change.

6. Speaking of Jesus, even if it means getting up earlier, don’t stop taking time to process life and spend with Jesus. Without doing those two things, you end up feeling like you are getting sucked into a black hole.

7. (And by the way, black holes don’t actually suck in. Also, Astronomy will become the bane of your existence. And you will survive it.)

8. Late nights in the library can be beautiful, but especially when you leave.

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Taken on a foggy night, at midnight, after many hours of paper writing.

9. Priorities will change throughout the year. You will struggle with what matters, who matters, and how to spend your time. Just know—you still stand on solid ground. You just got mixed up for a while.

IMG_1353.jpg10. That mental breakdown during fall break? Best thing that happened
to you this semester.

11. Stop and let your soul catch up. You are an introvert who loves people. You need to take time to recharge. It is completely all right to take mental breaks and just sit in quiet. You will be able to love people better as a result.

12. Coloring books are still very relevant.

13. Sophomore year is the year of “dis-equilibrium” when life and beliefs and academics and relationships feel uprooted. Go ahead and accept that now, so that you don’t have to freak out later.

14. Your roommate is about to have her toughest semester so far (and maybe of her college career). She is strong, but be there to support her.

15. Expect the unexpected. Life throws you a lot of curve balls this semester. Ephesians 3:20 holds true.

[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

15. Let go of all the crap that caused you to stress and worry about moving off campus. Finances work out, utilities work out, and housemates work out. Plus it will be a decision that you won’t regret at all!

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16. Walks in the woods are never platonic. Listen to your roommate. She knows what’s up.

17. Some people who you relied on will let you down, and others will far exceed your expectations. But ultimately, no one is perfect. Grace is a good thing to learn to extend.

18. You will doubt your decision to study Arabic for the first solid month of the class. But it turns out to be the best decision of your semester. So trust and hang in there. (Also, the haters are going to hate. But you’re just gonna shake it off.)

19. Make pre-decisions—decide what you are going to do in awkward situations before they happen. You will avoid uncomfortable moments later on, and you will be better prepared to face temptation.

20. The transitions between home and school get easier, but the goodbyes never do.

21. Find a way to stay in touch with your family better. You feel more comfortable out on your own and you don’t feel the need to call home as often, but they are still the most important people in your life. Also, if you start to worry that the distance is becoming more than just physical, let me tell you that when you get back together, you remember why you loved these beautiful humans so much in the first place.

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22. A stressful situation coming up? Something you are worrying about? Imagine Jesus in the picture. See? The anxiety disappears and peace replaces the space.

23. It may feel like you are drowning academically and that you just can’t get it right. You will be humbled (a good thing!). But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The semester eventually ends, and when you see those grades roll in…let’s just say, they aren’t as bad as you anticipated. Yet remember: your GPA does NOT define you.

24. Your day may be busy, but your soul doesn’t have to be. This means taking time for the spontaneous conversations, the unplanned dinners, and random encounters. At the end of the day, you will remember the people so much more than the classes.

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25. Missing people is really hard. Yet this is a new season of your life, where friends aren’t always in the picture. People come in and out of your life, and friends become spread out across the globe. It is a risk to  get close to someone you know will leave, and it may hurt when they do—but the risk is worth taking and friendships are worth making (and so are spontaneous rhymes).

26. Be aware of what you are rehearsing and repeating. At the end of the day, the things you replay over and over in your head are going to become the tune of your heart—the way you feel about yourself and the way you love others. Taking the time to be thankful and shift your perspective makes all the difference in how you enter and close your day. On a practical note, taking time to write down three things you are thankful for each day really does improve your attitude.

27. You will not regret any of the time you spent with people instead of with homework. Always worth it.

28. You will want to transfer, go to an easier school, move to an organic farm, or drop out to start your own business. But just wait! Once again, come the last few weeks of school, you will be immeasurably glad you are a part of the Tribe.

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29. Even numbers aren’t a bad thing, but odd numbers are still your favorite.

Breathe Deeply. It’s Finals Season.

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Breathe. Take a deep breath. That is what they tell you. But you can’t. You are choking. You are gasping for air. It feels like you are drowning but the liquid filling your lungs is the dark murkiness of fear. Anxiety bubbles up inside you. You can’t raise your head above the dread.

Think. Think positively. Think broadly and conceptually and creatively. But it doesn’t feel possible. You are numb. Thoughts are routine and mechanical, not your own but ruled by notes upon endless notes of regimented classes gone by. Your thoughts are clouded, foggy, restless. Exhaustion and worry seem to block the creativity from flowing out…or in…

Stuck. Numb. Anxious. Unmotivated.

Yet it feels good, because it means that you have it hard. And hard means that you are taking challenging classes. And challenging classes means that you are smart. And being smart leads to good grades. And good grades are followed by success.

So we allow ourselves to become consumed. We stay up late. We watch the clock. We complain about our schedule. We talk about how many hours we spent in the library and how many shots of espresso were in that afternoon coffee. Finals become a competition – who will stretch themselves to the breaking points yet not snap? Who will lose the most sleep and sanity, but gain the highest grade? We push and pull and strive. And slowly the competition consumes us.

Maybe. Hm. Maybe the battle is not against sleep and classes and exams and papers and the clock and our fellow students. Maybe our weapons are not caffeine and color-coded notes and a deep focus playlist. Maybe the battle is not against finals at all. Maybe the battle is against our human tendencies. Maybe our weapons are peace and joy and perspective and a good friend. Maybe the battle is to not be consumed.

Breathe. Breathe deeply. Suck in life. Let peace and purpose fill your lungs. Feel joy bubble up within you. Take advantage of these moments. They won’t last forever. Appreciate your friends. Take time to enjoy the coffee and the cookies and the dogs.

Think. Think positively. Process the fact that you get to learn. You are among the rare ones in this world who get to graduate with a degree. You get to walk around a campus filled with interesting and passionate students. You get to hide out in the library surrounded by your best friends.You get to study this fascinating and beautiful world around you.

Breathe deeply. Because this is life. And you are given the precious gift to live it.

*a short article, because it is finals.