Reflections on Getting Lost
As I was reading the speech by the professor from Millsaps I couldn’t help but smile and think about the times when I was the student in the audience. When I graduated from high school the administration boasted of how great our class was: how much we had done, how smart we were, how many hundreds of thousands of dollars we had earned for college by our intelligence, ingenuity, creativity and good looks. We were honored and respected for our loving and Christ-centered responses to the world events such as Semptember 11th as well as when our classmates lost love ones such as parents. We were the best that had ever walked the halls of Sacred Heart Academy; at least, until the next class graduated. The same was the case when I entered Belmont that fall. The entering class of 2002 was the best thing to hit the campus, we were the smartest, most involved, and caring, and I’m sure our parents thought that we were the best looking too! Like we had all done before, we remained at the top until the next class came in and proved to be smarter, more involved and caring than we were.
When I was reading for this class, I thought about how the best keeps getting better and as a result, one would think, the previous best goes backwards a little, and slowly begins to regress away from being the so called best. An interesting thought crossed my mind, though, perhaps it’s not that the “best” is the capstone to such experiences, but yet, simply a starting place. I thought about why we were considered to be the best when we entered, and what was I like at that moment of time. We weren’t the best, we were simply the most qualified. Being the best is an individual thought that comprises not only one’s qualifications, but the actions that one takes to act on those qualifications and make the most of every opportunity that is presented for growth. I really hope that when I sit at graduation in a few short months (229 days, 11 hours and 44 minutes from the moment this paper was written) I wonder if myself and my classmates have really allowed ourselves to be the best that we were allowed to be.
When I think back over the opportunities that I have had and when I look at academic work that I have done, I see such an incredible amount of room and opportunity for growth. When I first entered Belmont I had starry-eyed dreams of being the next big artist manger for the music industry. I have no idea where that desire came from, but I am grateful for it because it gave me the opportunity to really discover what I was meant to do. Reading back over my reflective essay from my third semester at Belmont, I’m surprised at the generalness of my ideas for myself. I think that when I came into Belmont, I had thought that I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and I quickly found that I really had no idea. That was a scary place for me even though I refused to admit it at the time. I find it interesting that the ideas that I held as important that the time are now much more important to me now- even as much to be a driving force behind my actions. I wrote that I “have a strong desire to help people, to help them through tough times in their lives, and be a source of advice and a place where people an come to talk or for help”. Not only do I still strongly value those things, but I have had the opportunity to practice it through my roles in the University community and this passion has aided in the discovery of my passion- college students. My desire to be loving caring and to be a servant only grew over my time here and I really am grateful that I was pushed to move past my qualifications for being the best into realizing my potential to be one of the best. This is not to say that I have already reached that place, but that I have realized that being the best is a life long process that doesn’t stop at graduation.
The Convocation address went on say that the purpose of a liberal arts education is to create knowledge, which when done by an individual takes the shape of idea and value formation, rather than acceptance of what one is given in these areas. I felt as though I were directly being spoken to as I remembered the things that I valued and believed as first year student at Belmont. I held to some values simply because I had been told that they were true by my parents and I never thought to question these things. Being at Belmont has taught me the importance of what it means to have values and knowledge that are uniquely my own. These things might be the similar or even the same as someone else but they are uniquely mine because they are the result of inquiry and searching on my part. In reading my own reflective writing from the beginning of my college life, I am reminded of how black and white the world was to me. Although much of the world is still simply black and white to me, it is that way because I have learned it to be that way on my own. I have stepped outside of my traditional legalistic box and discovered that some of what is found within it is good and should be kept while others of it is complete garbage that should be tossed.
Ward quotes Edward Young who said “Born originals, how comes it to pass we die as copies?” There was a long period in my life that the idea of dying as a copy was very appealing simply because it is easier that way. Anyone can look at what someone else is doing and then copy that person’s actions, beliefs and just about anything about them. It is much harder to stare the hard things in the eye and struggle with them, tear them to pieces and build them back together. When I think about this idea of originality I think of Picasso and his work. In my head there is normal, non-abstract portrait of a person; it would be very easy and mind numbing for Picasso to copy that picture and leave it at that. However, Picasso looks at the person, (not the portrait already made) and then rips it to pieces, making some parts bigger or weird colors and puts it all back together. In the end, a unique masterpiece is created that is unlike anything else in the world. It is uniquely Picasso. So should our thoughts and knowledge be treated and I have found that I am more willing to take the risk to face the hard thing than I was before.
When I think back on my spiritual journey of the last three years, I’ve made some drastic growth. When I began as a freshman, my faith was simply a gimcrack, a worthless object that was used only to define myself to others. I have grown to make my faith in my faith in multiple ways. The first way is through my true knowledge of what it means to have faith. My beliefs have been tested by the things I have read and studied in my classes at Belmont. My religion classes have been especially challenging to me because they have presented me with ideas about things that I never even knew existed. I have had the time to study and to take things in and make them my own. Because of that I am more rooted in what I believe on certain issues, thus am more confident in standing for those issues. Because of my much deeper understanding of issues of faith, I am more confident that my faith is becoming a part of my life. I think that I have become a person who is lives by what they believe more. I understand the need to be consistent in the way that one lives and believes, which means living without discrepancies over actions. I believe that God has been continually bringing to my attention different areas of my life that He is beginning to work in and through. It is amazing to me how it is that God will place people in ones’ life so that they are able to see an example of what they are learning modeled in another person. An example of this was sophomore year, when God really laid the idea of learning what it means to be a servant on my heart. I worked as an RA that year with one of the most godly man that I know who was a servant at heart without any wavering or inconsistencies. As God began to work in my life to show me how to be a servant (something I
am still learning to do daily), I was able to watch this friend be as servant without ever thinking twice.
I know that the pursuit of knowledge and being the best never ends. It’s an ongoing process that is a result of all things in ones life and perhaps that’s the greatest lesson that can be learned from college. It is probably one of the best and biggest thoughts that I have learned in my time in college. I am simply the result of the actions I have taken to realize on my potential and use the opportunities and gifts that I have been given. We should never stop growing and developing because to stop doing those things it to stop living.
I feel so pathetic that I’m sitting in my room with a good cup of coffee and a handful of Skittles and the most profound thought that is in my brain is that even after 21 years of Skittles eating, I still hate the purple ones. I never have liked grape flavored anything. I remember a time in my life where if I were challenged over my hatred for the purple Skittles, I would have no doubt caved into my challenger. I would have done this for there is no doubt that they, more likely than not, had a more valid opinion of Skittles and what tasted good. Now, as a college senior, I realize, that I really don’t care about anything other than the fact that I hate the taste. And that is good enough. I am confident in my answers, in my faith, in my life and in myself. And, I realize that if someone is going to argue with me over which color skittles tastes the best, they need to grow up and realize that there are more important things in the world than that, like poverty, hunger and AIDS.
I find the writing of a paper reflecting on the last three years as one that is very difficult to do. This has been the best experience of my life, thus far, and to explain what that means and what the changes in my life look like is a very difficult thing to do. I don’t see my development as a person in words, but in pictures and memories of situations. I think of Wright and Maddox Halls and how many valuable lessons I learned in those hallways and rooms. I learned to love, be loved, to let go and be let go of. I learned what servitude, compassion and genuineness look like through the lives of those whom I was privileged enough to serve with. I think of learning how to whole heartedly have a good time by having crutch races in the lobby and creating a new game very similar to volleyball, but played with couches and paper wads. I see the memories of mud wrestling the girls I would go through this journey with from start to finish. I see us showering on the third floor after mud wrestling, because we were convinced that the girls who lived down there were horrible people, so we should use their shower. I learned how to play practical jokes, like saran wrapping my friends car or dumping cold water on a friend while she was in the bathroom. Through my classes I learned to be more confident in my intelligence and ability to perform well. I think of my accounting professor from freshman year, who had more faith in my abilities than anyone I know, and who still does. I see the Deans who convinced me to double major, even if it was more work, because it would be worth it in the end and because they believed that I was smart enough to pull it off. I think about the jobs that I hated doing, and how they taught be perseverance and to love those who you don’t like.
Despite all of the faces I see, I know that one things I in common with them all. Through each of those faces I was able to see the face of God a little more closely, and learn something new about myself, but also about others who are God’s children. I know, more clearly now than ever, that God’s fingerprints are all over every human being on earth. There is something unique and special in everyone of us that is there for a purpose. Part of that purpose is to work in a way that brings glory to Christ that others’ can’t, another reason, is allow others to see another aspect of God. I firmly believe that through the uniqueness that each person brings God’s marvelous light is shown.
I think that one thing that makes this paper so difficult to write, is the knowledge that writing this paper means that my college years are almost over. I knew that this time is coming, but it seems so weird to say that it is coming to a close. I feel as though a large portion of my life is coming to a close and like there is so much that I want to do before it ends. I wonder if I have really made a difference at Belmont in any proportion to the difference it has made in my life. I want to have left a legacy or a lasting impact on life at Belmont, and perhaps the reason that I am so sad about graduating so soon is that I feel as though I haven’t done anything of substantial worth to the university. I know that I am not the same person that I was when I entered the university. It seems so long ago that I was that student that was sitting in the audience being told that they are a part the best thing that the university had ever seen. I know now that I am one of many incredibly talented individuals to grace the campus of Belmont. I am not unique in my qualifications for a greater purpose, but what does make me on of the unique ones is the way that God has used things in my life to forge those qualifications deeper in my soul and drive me to define myself in new ways. Not to define myself by accomplishments, or words, but by the actions that are a result of a selfless faith in a loving God.