valuable

It’s a Sunday, and I am currently making French press coffee. I have at least 20 things I need to be doing (many of them including coursework and cleaning), but I ardently miss writing so I decided to stop in the midst of my endless to-do list and do something that I truly love. I decided to write.

One of my great ambitions in this life is to show people that they can be who they are without trying to gain acceptance of the world. Through interactions, words, and actions, I hope I can be a testament to the freeing, empowering, and abundant mercy that God can shed upon a life. I was once in desperate need of worldly acceptance and affection. I deeply desired the pursuit of a boy and shaped my values, ideas, and philosophy on how to attract the people that would accept me. My entire set of values were, at one point, conformed to the eyes of the sinful world we live in. I had very little self value and self respect. I wore things that were disrespectful to my body and to my Father, I said things that didn’t reflect the values that had been instilled in me by my parents, and I was a person that had been molded by the world. I cared very little of the qualities that are valuable to life. I desired not to be seen as a woman of character and depth, but I valued the superficial and artificial acceptance of others. I settled for the promises of society and once I achieved those things, I found them empty and I found myself unhappy. I didn’t value my mind or the gifts that God had given me. I valued the way I looked and presented myself. I didn’t see importance in generosity, altruism, equality, or love-fueled sacrifices. I was blind to the truly beautiful qualities in this world. I lived a life that was shallow. I say these personal things about myself because I think I can I relate to many, many other girls right now.

It is an unfortunate circumstance that our lives are consumed by social media. I know personally that Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat subject my own thoughts to comparison of others. We see the hand-painted, perfectly edited, and flawless versions of the lives that we “follow”, and we become vaguely self-aware of our own lives. In my opinion, this type of self-awareness is extraordinarily detrimental. We see perfectly slender bodies, flawlessly applied makeup, and seemingly unshakable relationships. We see the lives we desire and our own become a shade less exciting and important. We observe achievements and success in the lives of others and our own successes become less honorary. We are captivated by comparison and begin living a watered-down version of the beautiful, unique, and meaningful life that God has given us.

I connect these two anecdotal points by this: I see many girls that I feel are where I was many years ago. Trapped by beauty and aesthetic pleasure. In the constant need of affection and love from a boy. I see women with talent and intelligence and creativity abandon it all for superficial external satisfaction. I know that social media contributes to this (because I am a victim as well!), and I just hope and pray that these beautiful, strong women are saved like I was. It is a tiring life, trying to be everything that the girl beside you is. It is hurtful. It is full of disappointments. But I’m here to tell you it truly doesn’t have to be that way. I am a living example of this!

He restores. He gives purpose. He fills you with self-love. With a love deeper, wider, and more genuine than any love you have experienced before. He replaces your yearning for acceptance with a desire to make others feel accepted and loved. He restores self-worth, self-respect, and self-values. He has given you a spiritual gift. He has given you a calling in this life. Only in restoration will you see your value to the world. I once desired worldly acceptance.

I am now restored from these empty desires. After many years of being loved the way I was supposed to be and giving the love I was called to give, I have peace. I have purpose. I have talent. I lead a meaningful life because God has shown me what matters. Not only has He given me a unique talent, but He has paved the way for so many opportunities for me. He replaced my loneliness with abundant friends. He replaced my yearning with a satisfaction. He made me valuable, and I know He has done the same for so many others. You can be beautifully complex, incredibly valuable, and perpetually loved all by being the natural, authentic you. Someone much more important than me has made that promise.

cogito ergo sum

Descartes
A Saturday morning cup of coffee and contemplation.

When I sit down to read René Descartes, it is more like sitting down and getting lost in conversation with an old friend than sitting alone while reading philosophy. I love Descartes. I am utterly captivated by his approach, explanations, and rebuttals. I want to share some of my adoration into this philosophy and specifically Descartes’ way of approaching God. I have personally found this short, concise book to be very influential in the way I methodically approach understanding and especially difficult spiritual questions.

Before I begin on Descartes’ methods, I should explain his background briefly. Pre-enlightenment, scientists were artists and philosophers and all of these creative roles were generally classified under the umbrella term, “thinkers”. Today, these disciplines are so extremely divided that scientists have abandoned art, artists know nothing of science, and philosophers the most removed from both. Although I think this dramatically harms our current society (the separation of explicitly intertwined ways of thought), there indeed was a time where these things were married and remained congruent in society. René Descartes was one of those men who was innately curious and this crept into everything he did in life. He was a scientist, a mathematician, and a philosopher. He was a Frenchman and wrote many of his philosophical musings during the 17th century. His perpetual skepticism is what attracts me so magnetically and is one of the chief reasons I regard him so highly. He doesn’t accept what anyone before him has argued and he even calls into doubt everything he has argued. His methods are logically sound, scientific, yet elegant and beautiful. He is clear, comprehensible, and takes your mind places and into thoughts you’ve never been before. He makes you think in novel ways, about new problems, with a unique perspective. He isn’t afraid of refutation or objection, in fact, he welcomes it and applauds countering opinions. He seeks the Truth, not status or some kind of intellectual superiority (like others I like much less such as Socrates). He brings together science, faith, and reason and shows that they are not separate from each other (not largely challenged during Descartes’ present day, but within a century would become a ludicrous argument in the eyes of modern scientists). He shows that we don’t have to compartmentalize our “selves” and can indeed prove that every particle of our being is in fact connected. He shows that at our most reduced selves, we remain thinkers. We possess the ability to dwell on things, contemplate them, and make decisions of logic and reason. René Descartes’ philosophy is one I hold very close to my heart.

Meditations on First Philosophy in Which the Existence of God and the Distinction between the Soul and the Body Are Demonstrated

Okay, Descartes wasn’t afraid of lengthy titles either. Often shortened to Descartes’ Meditations, these series of thoughts walk through his own methodology for understanding the existence of God. He doesn’t yell at you, throw anything at you, he never even speaks of sin, but he holds God at the foundation of his understanding (inadvertently expressed through the way in which he speaks of God at the beginning of the Meditations). Descartes’ thought journey is certainly spiritual, but it is not solely spiritual. It is intellectual. By nature, he approaches problems with a logical magnifying glass. He pokes and prods at the question from different angles, essentially using a complete reductionist approach (what a scientist).  He begins by calling into doubt every single idea he has ever stored away in his thought bank. Not individually, but as a whole. Everything he knows and believes is erased and everything he once held as true becomes questionable, doubtful, uncertain. In doing this, however, he removes any prejudices. He becomes objective. His mind isn’t muddled by the opinions he has developed over the years. He takes a completely cynical and skeptical approach on a topic that is usually regarded as blind, with no basis for logic. He takes this route, walks you through a series of investigations of reason (dreams, physics, mind and body separation) and arrives at a beautifully comprehensible and sharp picture of what he was working through the entire time. His conclusions aren’t complete, and he even expresses his lack of empathy for those that only dwell on his conclusions and not on his methods of getting there. Descartes is not cowardly. He does not fear refutation. He shows that everything we know, everything we can know, and our most central reason for being is governed by God. Not because of lapse in reason, but because of reason. I won’t work through all of his argument, although I would love to, but I will leave some fragments of his work and an additional resource where you can contemplate your own conclusions from this book. Whatever you believe or don’t believe, much can be learned from his calculated, succinct Meditations and the mental joy ride he takes you on as you work through them.


On dreams being equally as devious as reality:

How often does my evening slumber persuade me of such ordinary things as these: that I am here, clothed in my dressing gown, seated next to the fireplace – when in fact I am undressed in bed!”

On mathematics being the only reality not subject to perception:

“Thus it is not improper to conclude from this that physics, astronomy, medicine, and all other disciplines that are dependent upon the considerations of composite things are doubtful, and that, on the other hand, arithmetic, geometry, and other such disciplines, which treat nothing but the simplest and most general things and which are indifferent as to whether these things do or do not in fact exist, contain something certain and indubitable. For whether I am awake or asleep, 2 plus 3 make 5, and a square does not have more than 4 sides. It does not seem possible that such obvious truths should be subject to suspicion of being false.”

On what cannot be called into doubt:

“I am therefore precisely nothing but a thinking thing; that is, a mind, or intellect, or understanding, or reason – words of whose meaning I was previously ignorant. Yet I am a true thing and am truly existing; but what kind of thing? I have said it already: a thinking thing.”

“If the objective reality of any of my ideas is found to be so great that I am certain that the same reality was not in me, either formally or eminently, and that therefore I myself cannot be the cause of the idea, then it necessarily follows that I am not alone in the world, but that something else, which is the cause of this idea, also exists.”

Rene Descartes: Meditations, Objections, and Replies

 

 

 

research

Yesterday initiated my third week of research. When we got here on May 30th, they warned us that we would learn a lot about ourselves during this ten week experience. I wholeheartedly believed that I would learning something during these next few weeks, but I highly doubted I would learn anything significant about myself. Well, the truth is, research teaches you a lot. It teaches you an enormous amount about beautiful, elegant science. It teaches you about investigation of our natural and physical world. But beyond the bench, it shows you life lessons and brings you together with people who are absolutely extraordinary individuals. The truth is, research is humbling. I can take things I experience in the lab and apply them to my life outside of the lab. I want to share some of the applicable (and a few less applicable) lessons I have learned in my short duration here at Vanderbilt.

The first, and most important, mistakes are inevitable and everyone makes them. I had to list this first in consideration that I may lose a few people throughout the rest of the post and this is undoubtedly the most important thing I have learned so far. I am quite confident in my skills and that is required to perform well in a research lab. First of all, there is a lot going on as far as reagents and tubes and very expensive machines and deadly chemicals and such, so confidence in action is quite a standard. But, confidence should never smuggle its way into your mind and cause you to think you are invincible. I make mistakes in the lab. I do silly things that could have easily been prevented. They are not excessive, but they happen sometimes. The best thing is, I’m not the only one that makes mistakes. Everyone does. The most seasoned researcher. The newby (cough* me) and everyone in between. Something I have learned is that although I may not have full control over my decisions when the mistakes do happen (such as pouring a clear solution on top of a filter with a remarkably clear lid – lots of napkins involved), I do have the ability to have full control over both my reactions and emotions in response. Instead of getting upset and doubting my abilities and kicking myself for making an avoidable mistake, I mentally pick myself up, react in a constructive way, and decide to avoid that mistake in the future. I don’t get upset. I don’t worry that I won’t be able to recover from the mistake. I decide that I can recover and will prove myself capable in response (and I have, every time). The fact of life is that we will all make mistakes. We will make choices we regret, say things we wish we wouldn’t have, and maybe make choices that impact our lives for quite a long period of time. The point of fixation here is the response to the mistake, not the mistake itself. Decide to move on. Decide your reaction, will it positively impact your future (as in orchestrating a technique perfectly after you mindlessly forgot to take a clear lid off) or will your reaction negatively affect your future? Everyone makes these mistakes. My research mentor does. My labmates do. Your best friend does. Your parents do. The preacher makes mistakes. The president does. We all are subject to the flaws that are inherent to our beings. I’m thankful that my time at the bench has taught me how to hold myself towards my reactions to mistakes.

A positive attitude will attract a positive attitude. I really enjoy the lab I am in and the people I work with everyday. The primary researchers in the lab are from Ukraine and speak variable levels of English with heavily accented pronunciations. I find this fascinating and love hearing them speak their native language (so much so that I am *attempting* to pick up conversational Russian). Knowing that I was going to be surrounded by individuals from different backgrounds, mindsets, cultures, experiences, education levels, and personalities, I was excited for the novel experience. One active condition I have incorporated into my lab practice is to be a pleasant spirit. I want to be an enjoyable person to work with, even when sometimes I am very tired or mentally overwhelmed. What I have found is that being positive in turn attracts brighter attitudes into my own life. I’m not sure if this is caused by negative attitudes not finding compatibility or maybe it’s a true magnetism between positive attitudes. I can apply this mindset outside of research towards other areas of my life where I have to work closely with other people. For example, my family. My friends. My church. My classes. My hobbies. Adjusting with my internal attitude externalizes a more joyful experience for both me and those around me.

Other less important things I have learned that are equally important to me:

How to have extremely steady hands (pipetting)

How to explain really complex science in very simple words

How to walk really really fast to navigate various parts of the medical center in a short period of time

How to work a real job with real, long hours

How to communicate with people that are different from me

How to actively listen and learn

How to eat lunch really fast so I have time to call my mom for a solid 30 minutes

How to do solution stoichiometry rather quickly

How to have patience, patience, patience

and importantly, that there are some really wonderful, brilliant, and inspiring people out there. I have been blessed to live with a few of those people, be under the direction of two of those lovely people, and be around them in close connection everyday. Life is comprised of these moments with these people learning these things. Our lives are these moments that we realize we are living and we decide to find meaning in every mindless task. In every conversation, in every encounter. Life isn’t about fulfilling it, but rather filling it with an abundance of these small, profound moments. Thank God for this life.

 

 

 

adaptability

It’s time to talk about change. I’m not talking about national campaign agendas or world peace or equality or restoration of the constitution or any of the pressing issues that are featured in the tabloids and news websites. I’m talking about the changes we experience on a personal level throughout our lives. Change is undoubtedly hard. Our human nature encourages us to maintain an inertial groove that we have established for ourselves. We hardly discuss the mechanisms that are necessary to deal with change, and especially the methods that we use to deal with change that can actually optimize our lives during change.

We often experience change. Throughout our entire lives we move through school, changing grades every year with new teachers, new material, and possibly new classmates that we see everyday. Some people may have experienced more profound changes, like moving schools, houses, or even states. We experience change when we switch jobs, learn something new, or gain failure or success. Our lives are constant waves of change, sometimes small and unnoticeable and other times crashing, extraordinary waves. I think our reactions to change largely determine what we gain throughout the experience.

I speak from a very personal experience with change right now. Nothing in my life right now is as it was this time last year. For the first time in 17 years I had to leave my family vacation early, I flew home alone and stayed at my house alone washing my clothes and packing myself to move away for the summer, I am not being in my hometown for the summer (for the first time in my life), I am living with people I have never met in a place I have never lived doing something I have never done. I am experiencing one of those crashing, extraordinary waves of change. I have learned a few things about change that have really modified the way I both approach change and deal with it.

The first thing involves perspective and the second involves emotions. When it comes to change in life I feel there are many ways to view it. The two most important ones for me personally are terms I have identified as reflective perspective and progressive perspective.

Reflective perspective puts your vision in the past, focusing on the ways in which your life is different now than what it was previously. Reflective perspective invites feelings of nostalgia, past memories, and often times, homesickness. This type of mindset encourages you to compare your life during change to your life pre-change and can entice feelings of anxiety, worry, and uncertainty. I think reflection is really important but not at the brink of change. A reflective perspective means that you are constantly contrasting your past to your present, and with it the person you were then, the people you had around you, and the experiences that you had during that time. You live in the past and find yourself yearning for that time. Reflective perspective can make change seem inconvenient and negative.

Progressive perspective is the vision of where this change is taking you. Although not all changes are necessarily positive, their outcomes can always be. Progressive perspective means that you are controlling your change and not letting it control you. When we experience great movements of transition we typically feel helpless and out of control. A progressive perspective means that you view the change as what you can extract out of it for the future. Instead of the change compromising what you had in the past, you actively use it as a tool to enhance your future. Progressive perspectives rely on comparing your current situation during the change to where you are headed in the future. I have found progressive perspective to give a more positive aspect on change. Although it is surely scary sometimes to imagine where life is traveling towards, it is important to be watching out the front window towards the future than staring blindly through the back.

I mentioned emotions as another important part of handing change. I want to briefly mention this and plan on writing about it another time because it is very important to me and has transformed the way I hold myself towards my emotions. Emotions are entirely controllable. 100%. We are thinking humans with the ability and the capacity to manage our emotions. Emotions are these tricky little things that can really alter the way we behave and view our world. Emotions can send someone from smiling and laughing into a raging fit of anger. They can turn a truly enjoyable experience into one that is anxiety-inducing. When you learn that you have control over how you feel towards certain things you can learn how to create the best possible outcomes for those things. I’ll give an example.

You get a new job at a new place. When you arrive, you keep thinking about the old job and the people that you will miss and the memories that you have there. The people at your new job are kind, welcoming, and attempt to make conversation. You are so consumed with feeling sadness for the loss of your old job (reflective perspective) that you are incapable of allowing the future to come into play. You then decide that this is your new job and you feel excited to have the opportunity. You make friends and decide that you can use this to strengthen your portfolio and gain skills for your future (progressive perspective). Throughout all of this, you have fleeting emotions of anxiety, worry, joy, contentment, excitement, and uncertainty. I don’t think you should suppress these very real emotions, in fact I think they are a fundamental human trait; however, I don’t think you should allow emotions to control your perspective. Feel them, acknowledge them, but then remember your ultimate goal is to embrace the change and maintain a steady emotional peace. Truly experiencing and allowing these emotions to capture your mind will feel like a roller coaster during times of immense change. Just food for thought (and discussion) on the importance and adaptability of emotions and our control as humans over them.

I am going through change right now with my research internship. It is new, exciting, overwhelming, encouraging, and has required some shifts in perspective and emotions. I cannot wait to experience the next ten weeks, accompanied by all of the failures and successes that I will encounter. I know that change is inevitable but with mindfulness and contemplation, there is a best way we can all seek and attain optimal joy, fulfillment, and happiness.

childlike awe

As I sit and look at the great beauty and enormity that is the ocean, I can only be reminded of the great and beautiful God that is at play. A God that loves the birds of the sky and fish of the sea as much as He loves my own very own existence. A God that is personal, yet remains enigmatic in so many ways. A God that has the power to rule the earth in any capacity He chooses, but chooses to rule in a way where His beauty is displayed in all walks of life, from the constant roll of the ocean to the beauty of a work of art. God’s beauty is the foundation for which all other forms of beauty are held up against. It is a pure beauty, unadulterated, untouched by the trials and manifestations of men. It is a rare beauty, but widespread among the earth. Rare because of perfect quality, not limited quantity. His beauty touches all things. The way an illness taints a population, God’s beauty cures our blinded hearts so that we can see the world as He made it. Constantly we are stripped of this authentic beauty and traded for an artificial form of the world’s beauty. When we realize that all of the things we think beautiful, pure, true are held together by the ornate form of beauty that God instilled we will notice this rarity in all mediums of beauty. We will see it displayed in art and science or literature and nature or the synchronous flow of sound in music. All of these things should be appreciated for their own beauty, for their own sake. We cannot take the beauty away from these things and replace it with our lackluster, incomplete idea of beauty. No, we just admire the beauty that is within all of these creatures and concepts, and we acknowledge the pure form of pleasure that they give us. We stare and hear and know the beauty, but not because we made it. Not because we created it. We are children staring with wide, curious eyes at the handcrafted toys in a toy shop. We see and wonder at the beauty. But we know with our childlike minds that we did not create the toys. We know that the toys did not create themselves. We know that somewhere beyond the glass plastered with our smoked up breath and fingerprints, beyond the grandeur display of beautifully crafted toys, is an extravagant, meticulous Creator. The one who is the source of the beauty within the toys. As I sit back and see the wonder that is the ocean and I close my eyes to the incessant sounds of the sea, I know that I am that child. I am the one in fervent, childlike awe of the beauty that the Creator put before me.

accepted

Today is my two year anniversary with WordPress. Two years of writing. Two years of dramatic personal change. Two years of being proud of what I’ve written most days, and two years of half-finished writings stored on my phone and in my computer. A lot can be learned from writing. I especially enjoy writing about my experiences in the world, and when I sat down to write today I thought I would explore my fascination with the human heart. But as I write, I keep thinking about all of the less-than-satisfactory words I have put together over the past two years. The stories that didn’t make it outside of my file folder, or outside of my journal, or outside of my mind. The beautiful, but broken, stories that I felt would not be accepted or celebrated. I realized midway through my journey of writing that I never want to write for an audience. I never want to write to appease a crowd or get “likes” (although I do enjoy getting feedback from my posts). I would always write from my heart. I would always write words that were motivated by genuine intention. For this reason, sometimes many weeks go by before I write. Edgar Allan Poe once wrote about in “The Philosophy of Composition” that all stories are premeditated with the end in mind, that no stories occur out of divine inspiration. I disagree though. I am convinced that some of the most beautiful works of literature were inspired purely by the capacity to write and the want to do it. Not all writings were designed to deliver a purpose. Not all words were methodically placed together to convey a message, at least one that was anticipated beforehand. This makes me feel as if one of the purest forms of art has been reduced to pushing an agenda. And I just can’t believe it. I truly think some words, at least my own, are inspired by an intent to write. Not an intent to satisfy the reader.

But I think of those flawed, puzzling pieces of my writings that remain unread by those other than my own eyes. I think of the times I have started writing and ended prematurely. I think of the times I imagine writing something that would be moving, exciting, celebrated. And then I stop, and insecurity floods in. I am not a writer. Many times, I hide what I write.

I think human behavior can relate to the way I view my own stories and compositions. The good pieces are always published. They are always on display for others to read. Everyone has access to what I view as my more polished writings. But the faulty ones, the less perfect ones, they are hidden for my own eyes to see.

Humans are flawed.

We are all flawed. Yet we try, so diligently, to create a flawless image in the eyes of others. We are all guilty of this. Myself most definitely included. We paint pictures on social media of lives that are full of happiness and success. We post images of our friends, our husbands, our beautiful homes and cute outfits. We attend church and sing songs that portray a life that is without pain, without suffering. We chat with our friends about all of the good things that are happening in our lives.

But all human lives are flawed.

And I truly think that if we showed more of who we really were, more of who we are everyday, day in and day out, that we would be a freer human race. Humans weren’t created to experience pure joy. We shouldn’t be expected to maintain an image that shows this standard either. We are made of disappointments and successes. We are made of triumphs and defeats. The little intricacies that make our lives are what comprise who we are. I am half-written, sloppily-tied-together ideas left in a journal. I am phone notes full of thoughts that I started writing about. My life is spattered with disappointments, heartbreaks, and very real sadness. I don’t always win, I don’t always succeed. My brightest days are complemented with my days of uncertainty. No one holds immunity to life. No one writes perfect pieces all the time.

I love that human life is flawed. I think one of the greatest things about Christianity is that the ruler of the universe, the maker of the world, sent his own son into the world to experience the human dynamic. I believe a big thing we can realize is that God in the flesh didn’t hide his suffering. He cried out. He felt betrayal. He knew pain, and he expressed it. What makes us any more human where we feel scared to show others that we suffer?

Would I be a worse scientist if I didn’t tell people the many, many times I failed to understand? Would I be a worse Christian if I hid from people the own doubts I have about my faith? Would I be a worse writer if I didn’t tell people of my incomplete and unworthy writings? Surely the answer to all of these is yes. But I truly don’t know. I feel being real and genuine would allow us to explore even deeper into the things we love. Knowing we have failed, and will fail, offers a liberation from a standard of perfection that is unattainable. I know my desire is unlikely. I just yearn for a world where we could all see the value in being more real, more authentic. We shouldn’t feel ashamed of the less perfect aspects of our lives. We should treasure the diverse pieces that ultimately fit together to make the imperfect, unique, and valuable us.

But my writings remain hidden and my flaws remain covered. And one day when someone is bold enough to unashamedly show their less perfect lives, my words will be set free and hopefully we will be too.

 

college

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

I don’t remember exactly where I saw this – maybe in the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch? – but I do remember having scribbled it on a post-it note and sticking it on my bookholder that sat in front of me as I sat at my desk for long, monotonous hours last semester. I really love this quote because I feel like it resonates with me on a fundamental level. College has been so incredible in many, many ways. Two of those ways are my academic opportunities and the friendships I have made. These two facets of my life have transformed me just within the past 10 months. I truly think both are related to the quote mentioned above.

Coming from a small, rural high school, I was indeed terrified of the academic monster that was college. I am actually somewhat resentful now for the previous students I had heard describe college as basically an obstacle that cannot be tackled, despite the effort. Many students from my high school spoke of how college was exponentially harder than high school, and they certainly emphasized the lack of preparation that Lewis County offered for someone pursuing a college degree. The truth is that they were just passing off their own disappointments on the very teachers that spent many years believing in them. In my year of college, I have learned that yes, college is definitely way more difficult than high school. But it is designed that way. It is supposed to be. College is a place that trains intellectuals to enter the world and apply what they have learned – it is not created for the same purpose that high school is. So yes, you do have to work harder. A lot harder, but to me (and I could quite possibly be the only one in this boat), the work is worth it. The work you do in college has a purpose and will transform the way you think and view the world. As far as college being a monster than cannot be tamed, this is untrue and I really wish students would stop scaring high school students by continuously saying this. I was definitely one of those scared students, afraid I would fail every test and finally succumb to the attitude that I would never succeed. College is tough, but hard work will find you success. There is a linear relationship between hard work and attained success (at least I have found). The most important, and understated, quality for success in college is passion. Passion for what you are studying. Passion for changing the world in a small, but profound, way. Passion for testing yourself, challenging yourself, and finding out what you are really capable of. This is what we should be telling high school students. That college is so incredible. You will be challenged in new ways, and sometimes your views will be bent and your perspective will be shifted. But along the journey, you learn that you are capable of so much more than you had thought. I thought (and honestly still do) that some people are just extraordinarily lucky. They do nothing and have the best opportunities thrown their way. They score internships, find their names on publications, and seemingly have everything they want so easily. I have learned that behind the success you see are hours of hard work and reaching out. There are denied internships and failed requests. Trust me when I say that “luck” is simply a product of passion, determination, perseverance, and hard work. Anyone who tells you otherwise wants you to think they didn’t have to work hard for what they have. If I could go back to high school, I would tell myself that I am capable despite not attending a private academic high school. I would tell myself to hold onto the passion that drives determination, because in the end that passion will cause fruition of many beautiful things.

We undoubtedly prepare ourselves for our future relationships every day. The way we hold ourselves towards issues, how we treat people, and the way in which we make other people feel accumulate everyday and mold who we are. For many years, I experienced difficulty with developing strong relationships with many people. I felt flawed for my preference for a small number of genuine friends. I have learned that the number of friends we have does not indicate our worth or the value of those friendships. It is the friend that we are and the friends that we surround ourselves with that truly indicate whether or not we have made wise choices in whom we share our lives with. The quote above reflects how preparing yourself to be a good friend will enable you to create long-lasting, important friendships. Preparation (although not the prettiest word to describe what we are doing) allows us to become the people that we need to be before we can have friends that are what we need them to be. This past year, I have met and made some very important and sincere friendships. I have learned the value of sharing my life with others, encouraging their dreams, and appreciating the reciprocation of love they give me. There were many years of uncertainty that led to having confidence in the friend that God designed me to be. If I could go back to my high school self, I would indeed tell her to continue preparing to be a genuine, encouraging friend. Only a year later she would find she is surrounded by some of the best people she has ever met.

It is obvious that this year has been life-changing for me. I have learned more about myself than I ever imagined, I got to study the subjects I love so much (and added a new love – philosophy), I explored what it means to be a part of a community, and I grew in my own faith by forming my own beliefs and exploring what it means to be a Christian. Here’s to a wonderful first year as a college student!