Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Did You Become an Adult?

We were in the car, driving up to my grandparents, maybe two hours after I'd walked across the stage of Hillside (Adventure) Christian Church in Roseville and received an empty folder (for my come-September diploma). Just that morning, one of my best friends and I lay in bed wishing it weren't 6:30 am. We reminisced over how this was the last sleepover. The last time doing our hair and makeup. The last everything. Then, around 10 am, we filed into the giant auditorium and became adults - I think. So of course, sitting in that car, alone with my dad, I was essentially posed the question of, "how did you become an adult?"

What he really said was, "What did you learn in college?"

I thought about it for a moment. You see, I really hadn't taken it in yet that college was truly over (It feels a little more final now that I've seen my grades). But in actuality, I've been coming up with the answers to that question for a long time. I've been thinking it over for four years.

Freshman year, I put in an application to become a Student Ambassador with Admissions - essentially, a tour guide and overnight host. Every tour I give, I tell the students my two cents on picking a college: you're not just picking a school, you're picking a place to call home for four years, and you better want to live here or else you're missing on on something important. 

And honestly - now that I'm done - I stand behind that advice all the more firmly.

You can go to any college and get a halfway decent education, but most of what I really learned in college had more to do with life than anything else.

In the fall of 2012, just three months out of high school, I moved into an empty dorm room, took lots of pictures with my parents and grandparents, said goodbye and spent the next two weeks crying my eyes out. Honestly, I couldn't decide whether or not I wanted to leave home. I debated it for months and after getting acceptance letters from both the four-year private schools I applied to, I went with William Jessup, not only because I liked it, but really, because the financial aid was better.

Those first few months were torture. Though I did love my classes. Half the time I was lonely and confused while surrounded by a crowd of friends. It was bizarre and stretching all at once.

I bought my own shampoo and toothpaste for the first time. I went to the bank alone. I saw movies where I paid for my own ticket. I bought groceries. And I suffered through the flu without my mom to go and buy medicine for me.

That was lesson #1 - You can do it yourself - even when you're under-qualified and scared. You'll learn on the fly, and it will be okay.

The second semester came a little more naturally - but that was after I found my college best friend (I think I have one for for all of life's stages). But I needed her so badly. Finding Emily taught me about the power of prayer and trusting God.

I look back through my prayer journal and I can't even count the number of times I prayed for someone like her. And during my sophomore year, the first year we roomed together, when she called me out for some really poor, passive-aggressive behavior, I knew she was the real-deal as far as friendships go.

That was lesson #2 - Look for friends who will build you up, not just puff you up or keep you company when you're bored. 
Lesson #2.5 - Trust God to answer prayer.

Still, I can't say that my sophomore year was by any means easy. I had a job sophomore year. I'd never done that before. I learned how to use a cash register and keep track of my paycheck - you see, we'd been apart of a surprise move from the dorms into the on-campus apartments. Suddenly, I was also cleaning house and learning how to cook. My new meal plan didn't cover every meal, so together, we muddled through the art of cooking and grocery shopping (only one of us had a car).

But all that wasn't so bad. It was kind of fun - I love cooking now and by Junior year I had a car. Nevertheless - while living in the dorms, none of us had to work together. Not really. Maybe a complaint or two about a messy roommate. We had a cleaning service that came through and took care of the kitchenette, floors, trash and bathrooms. All that changed when I moved into the apartments.

You see, there are two different philosophies of house-keeping. Learn them now and you won't be so disappointed.
1. I take care of my mess, you take care of yours. 
2. We share this space, therefore, we share the chores.
When these two philosophies collide, it turns into a standoff.

You see, the one you thinks, "You'll take care of your mess," sees a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and assumes that the roommate who used the dishes will wash them. While the one who made the mess looks at their busy schedule, looks at the chore chart and thinks, "Oh, I'm on vacuum duty. It's their turn to do the dishes. I have a paper to finish."

You can see where this one goes.

For me, I was the bleeding heart who thought, "oh, they're busy, I can do it. When I have a busy day, they'll return the favor."

Let me warn you - people are not mind readers, and they most certainly won't know you were the one who pitched in since you, in your humility, decided not to make a big deal out of it. Still, you went in with expectations. I did. I assumed. That was my heartbreak.

Junior year, I had 18 units and was falling asleep on the couch every night trying to pull all nighters. I barely finished my work that semester and dealt some heavy blows to my friendships. My bleeding heart had me cleaning up after my roommates all semester at the expense of my studies. But of course, how were they to know? It wasn't as if they were watching my every move. So I went to classes, cleaned all day and studied all night until my roommates were frustrated with my books splayed all over the living room (I didn't want to keep my roommate up).

I just kept praying that they would see how hard I was working and give me a little grace.

Instead, I kept up my frenzied habits, watched my life explode and fell asleep crying - all the time.

That was lesson #3 - when you do an act of service, do it out of the goodness of your heart, not because you have expectations or assumptions. 

My bleeding heart got me into all kinds of trouble. My friend Emily once told me, "Decide who to say yes to." Because really, I say yes to everyone. I hate letting people down and I'm desperate to be in their good graces. So whenever a favor came my way, I would say yes. No questions. Just yes. 

I guess I'm one of those creative types - I make things all the time. My down time looks something like pinterest throw-up (in a good way?). If someone sees something I make, I often hear, "will you make me one?" It's the highest of compliments; I normally say yes.

That's my downfall, admittedly. 

I had an identity crisis of sorts while in college. Because, for so long, I was the kid with good grades. I was the teacher's pet. I was a tutor. I was a TA. I was good at school and never received anything lower than a high B (except high school Chemistry, I tried everything and still couldn't balance reactions). 

Then, I found out - I like being crafty, doing favors and housecleaning more than I like writing papers. I would rather mop the floor and do a load of laundry. I would rather make someone a wreath out of book pages than write a Christian Theology or American History paper.

As a result - I flunked a course for the first time in my life.

Oh, and boy did I cry over that one. I had all kinds of anxiety, waiting to see if I could just pass that class. Even by the barest of points.

Nope. I failed.

I'd never done that before. I had one of the highest academic scholarships. How does someone with an academic scholarship flunk a class?

Because I said yes to the "good" things when I should have said yes to the "best" things.

My dad told me that one.

I look back now and see all the people I let down because I said yes to everything - I just couldn't get around to it all. And to think, I said yes because I wanted to please them and the exact opposite happened.

That was lesson #4 - choose who you say, "yes" to, so you'll never have to worry about having time to to the important things. 

And it was lesson #4 what led me to lesson #5. Because, while in the throes of my identity crisis, I was afraid to admit that I was struggling. I didn't want people to know. So I struggled alone, until finally I called up Emily and admitted I had three late papers to finish and a matter of days to write them. 

So... we went to Starbucks and I wrote one of them. Then I went home and wrote another. She sent me texts or would ask me every time we saw one another how I was getting along. I did my best not to lie. 

That was lesson #5 - Never go it alone. We were created for community, forget about your pride, it'll only get in the way. 

I don't know what your college years looked like. Mine were memorable, if anything. Maybe I grew up? I'm almost twenty-two. I have a degree. That has to count for something, at least, that's what I told my dad, sitting in the car that day. 

But then again, I totally and completely lost my phone during that trip home. So who am I to say I've finally made it? But perhaps, just maybe, becoming an adult is a bit more complicated that just a degree and knowing it all. 

In one of my classes this past semester, we discussed the difference between soft skills and hard skills - soft skills being the intangible life lessons we've acquired (character). Hard skills are the things that can be taught - the technical know-how required to accomplish a task. 

What did I learn in college? Well, I learned a whole lot about Bible and Theology (my minor) and plenty about Western history - America, European, Medieval, Californian, Environmental, etc. (my major). 

I can tell you that in Romans 12:19-20 where it says, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance in mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals in his head," has nothing to with making your enemies feel guilty. 

That passage is actually a kind of pay-it-forward scenario. It refers to a coal-bearer, who in Hebrew culture, would be given a heap of coals, which he would deliver to the homes of the area so that they could start their fires. So by giving your enemy a heap of coals, you are equipping him to care for others. 

I can also tell you that when Spanish Conquistadors discovered California, they thought it to be the home of the Queen Calafia from The Adventures of Esplandian. Because of the gulf of Mexico, they presumed the land to actually be an island. They named it California because it resembled the island of women Calafia ruled over in the story. And honestly, they weren't so lucky - instead of an island of women, they faced inhospitable harbors and scurvy. 

I suppose those are the hard skills. I learned something. 

But that girl who cried for two weeks is not the person I have become. 

Sometimes, when I interact with the underclassmen, I wish I could simply pound the soft skills I've learned into their frustrated lives. They complain about the same things that bothered me two or three years ago. But I hated listening to reason then - I figured those "reasoned people" simply didn't understand my situation. 

But I'm confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).  

That's what I learned in college.