I’ve officially finished my first year at Westmont College, it’s almost unbelievable. Six evacuations later, a Major change, deciding to study abroad next semester, and I’m still standing. I can genuinely say, I’ve never grown as much as I have in the past few months. It has been one of the hardest, but most rewarding experiences I’ve ever gone through.
So what is freshman year of college like? Well, it’s one big blob of chaos: moving from clique to clique, friend to friend, just trying to fit in, trying to figure out the whole independency thing, and most of all, discovering who you are and who you want to be. Oh yeah, and getting a good GPA. Basically, it’s a whirlwind. I’ll start with first semester…
In the first few weeks, I was overwhelmed, but incredibly excited at the adventure before me. All I thought about was who my ‘group,’ would be, what guys I’d be interested in, how I would do socially, getting good grades, etc. etc. To be quite honest, all I thought about was myself. God was sort of important to me, but I was pretty much all about me. I put value in grades, likability, friends, social life – which is ironic, because I’m totally introverted – and surprise surprise, I was disappointed. I found friends, had crushes, and did pretty well in school. However, after the excitement wore off, I realized towards the end of the first semester that it was all exhausting. I realized that my friend situation had become quite toxic, and I was surrounded with people who didn’t bring out the best in me. I took a step back from some friendships, and once I did, I had room to breathe. However, I’ve learned that people don’t like to be left behind (I wouldn’t either), so social life sorta took a turn for the worst. I’ve also learned that I don’t always handle situations like these the best. I’m (very unfortunately) good at getting into toxic situations, but not too good at getting out of them; I usually just realize I need to. The week before school ended was one of the most exhausting weeks of my life. In addition to the social drama, the Thomas Fire broke out. I had gone home because of the bad air quality, but shortly after I left, the fire came dangerously close to campus, and the school was officially evacuated. The Thomas Fire became the largest wildfire in California history. It actually was feet away from my dorm, but our miraculous God used brave firefighters to save Westmont’s beautiful campus. Before I went home for the evacuation, I had decided to move out of my room. I took charge and wanted a fresh start. Although it was a relief to know I’d get this fresh start, I kept asking myself, how did this happen? I thought college was supposed to be fun! Little did I know, college is so much more.
Second semester rolled around, and I settled into a new friend group, and a new routine. I became comfortable again. We were all recovering from the fire, and mourning for those who had lost so much. Three days into second semester, the Montecito Mudslide hit, and Westmont was evacuated again. Our town was demolished, with 20 people dead. I personally didn’t even realize how bad it was until I watched the news. A catastrophe happened five minutes away from me. A week later, classes resumed and we were all astounded at the destruction that had occurred. Again, we mourned for those who lost lives, family members, and homes. Nevertheless, things got back to the new new normal. I felt solid in my faith, friend group, and academics. I took a break from the whole guy thing, and did my best to give it to God, and felt pretty content with not thinking about it, but I’ll save the longer version of that story for another blog! Let me tell you friends, you should never be comfortable. If you are, get ready for your world to be rocked. In one of the calm moments (as far as evacuations goes), I had a major break down. I sat in my new dorm room doing Philosophy homework (yuck!), and I was reading about evidence against God’s existence. Mind you, exactly one day earlier, I was on the phone with my mom and I told her I would never question my faith, I felt good. Well, I was wrong. One day later, I was crying, sobbing, actually. In one monumental moment my world came crashing down. Was God even real? Was He really out there? I doubted the existence of the almighty Creator, who I thought I had known my whole life. I remember calling my dad and asking myself, what’s wrong with me? Why was I doubting? I was so, so scared. My dynamic and perspective on life took a drastic change. I went through about a month of doubt and uncertainty, swimming around the unknown. But something inside me was stirring and changing, I could feel it, but I didn’t quite know how much was changing. I suddenly wanted to dedicate every moment of my day to reading the Bible, praying, and worshipping. I wanted to hold my arms out (I often did) and scream to Jesus, my life is Yours! Yet, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t supposed to go through all this alone. I felt pulled towards this new life, but the people who surrounded me weren’t necessarily headed in that same direction. Suddenly I began to realize that I needed to find people within the community who got it, and who would encourage me in Christ. People who would comfort me in times of doubt and suffering, and encourage me and show me light, people who I could lean on for spiritual support. I was changing, and knew that my routine, and the group surrounding me was going to have to change yet again. I didn’t fit in anymore. Criticizing myself, I wondered why on earth the same thing kept happening to me. I’ve realized that I like to be needed, and I generally attract people who need me and lean on me. I’m usually the “mom” of the group, the caretaker, the one trying to pull others to Christ. I’m always the shoulder to cry on, but I rarely lean on any of my friends for my own tears and spiritual struggles. I always end up disappointed because I put too much value into people needing me; but I’ve learned that if I put Christ first, everything else seems to fall into place. In a friendship/relationship where God is the priority, my true self, the self that strives to serve God with her whole heart, comes out like a roaring lion. These friendships blossom and grow, because they’re focused on heavenly dwelling, as opposed to friendships that are focused on world ambitions. Thanks be to God, I think I’ve finally learned this lesson – the hard, hard way. Every significant relationship in my life must be geared towards serving the Kingdom. If not, I’ll continue to go through the same thing over, and over again. I want to be clear that I’m not saying I refuse to have any relationship with a person who’s intent is not to serve the Kingdom, I’m saying any significant or deep relationship must be with a person of like-mind regarding Christ. In the last two weeks of the semester, God brought a few new friends into my life who love Jesus Christ, and I began to see what fellowship is supposed to look like. I realized that every part my life needs to reflect who I serve. After realizing this, I had the best two weeks of the whole year. I was able to deepen relationships with people who love Christ the same way I do. We grew closer through church, worship, fellowship, Bible studies, and so much more. These friends had been through the same doubt as I had been through, and it was beautiful to feel that connection. I appreciate every person in my life, but there is something about that kind of connection – it’s incredibly special.
So, what did I learn in my first year of college… well what didn’t I learn? Besides learning how insanely stupid philosophy is (although it changed my life), I’ll pull from the phrase on the @motivatehumble.com shirt I’m wearing in the cover picture (which you can’t quite see). I learned to put humility over honor. I learned to fall on my knees, and praise the Lord with every fiber of my being. I learned the consequences of valuing honor from social life, grades, relationships and worldly accomplishments. I learned to sacrifice my pride in wanting people to need me, so that I could need Christ the way I’m supposed to. I learned to remember that God really is in total control. I learned to be in reverence to Him. Friends, the greatest advice I can give you is let yourself be changed. Let God destroy your heart so He can save it. I wouldn’t take back any second of my Freshman year in college. It was hard, incredibly so. The last two weeks I basically had to start all over. Yet, if I hadn’t gone through it, I wouldn’t be the person I am now, and I wouldn’t know what the person I want to be looks like. I’m still growing, still learning, and I can’t wait to see how God works through the coming years.
Yikes! I’m a sophomore!