Dear Starry-eyed College Me…

Dear Starry-eyed College Me…

You probably just graduated high school, and congratulations. It’s not every year a student does it in three instead of four. I admire your deadpan focus and rock solid determination. It helped you get a long way.

I ought to warn you, though, that there is danger behind that foundation.

Some would say that setting your goals into the ground, kind of like a house, is a good practice. Most of the time it keeps you in check. But, after a few years since graduation, I’ve found that there’s a more world-agreeable practice. It’s hard to see it now, but reality is a biter. It likes to ignore you when necessary. Then it coaxes you with breadcrumbs, like you’re a pigeon. Then it shifts its foot, and because we’re all skittish pigeons we flap and flutter in hysterics.

Then we do it again.

This is how things are. Don’t waste your energy denying it; you’ll only wear yourself out. I’m not telling you to be a puppet in the system, though. Here’s what I’m saying: accept what works, but don’t forget what works better. Go with the flow; discover the checkpoints. Does that make sense?

As you enter into the “college stage,” here’s a few things that you must know:

Figure out what you want-learn how to get it! It looks like you have all the time in the world to dilly dally, but please, for the love of God, do your research.

Start saving…now! I can’t stress enough how much money will soon become one of your greatest obstacles. You’re gonna hate it. Prepare yourself. You know, there’s great resources out there for you. You just have to find them…

Get over yourself and meet people. It’s time to stop being an antisocial baby and learn the art of networking. Your future, your career, and yourself will thank you.

Understand your weaknesses; operate in your strengths. There’s a great deal of importance in both. If you’re good at something, then do it. If you’re weak in something, understand why and move on.

And when the stress and the anxiety and the frustration and the depressive thoughts come (because they will come), have a plan of attack ready. Right now. Are you ready?

 

Here’s another thing: start community college classes now. Don’t wait half a year like I did. And then, before you finish your Associate’s, prepare for which school you will go to for your Bachelor’s, because you’ll need a Bachelor’s. I know, you’re angry with the system. You want to go outside the beaten path. You want to achieve the same thing in a different way. Well, you will, don’t let go of that. But be ready…life isn’t kind to those who travel a different road. But remember what Robert Frost said?

“And I…I took the road less traveled by,
And it has made all the difference.”

For college students like me, Earnest can make a difference in one of the greatest known hardships amongst young adults: money. Especially the kind paid towards school.

What I’ve Learned About my Battles

What I’ve Learned About my Battles

For the first post of the year, I’m going to get personal. I want to share some inner battles of mine that perhaps you are also facing, or can at least relate to, for which you can receive some inspiration, encouragement, or wisdom.

These four battles have either been longterm ones that maintained their status as the most trying battles throughout my life, or have just begun their onslaught. They are all battles I’m still facing today. Among the many different kinds I’ve faced, or am facing, these have stood out as the most resilient (but no less beatable!)

  1. Anxiety

Once upon a time I used to think anxiety wasn’t a legitimate mental problem. Then I experienced it for myself, and realized that it’s the real deal. The toughest part is the physical affect it has on me. It’s amazing how a problem that’s entirely in the mind has such power over your body and health. I’ve experienced drastic panic attacks that caused me to faint, and I’ve experienced the very subtle yet nagging symptoms like chronic nausea and inability to sleep soundly. Of course, though, I would really just like to be at peace in my mind for once.

What have I learned about it?

Anxiety is a heightened, severe version of worry. It’s gone past feeling concern for the future. It’s feeling straight up fear. So when we fight it, we have to treat it as fear. You know what we do with fears? We face them. Sometimes the best way to fight anxiety is to charge in to the very thing we’re anxious about.

For the physical symptoms, there’s a few things that can do some serious help:

  • exercise
  • healthy diet
  • taking vitamins
  • yoga and meditation
  • drinking plenty of water
  • herbal tea

Counseling, spending time with friends, reading, and partaking in a hobby have all proven, at least to me, that they can really help one deal with chronic anxiety.

2. Shame

This was no longer an issue of shyness or social awkwardness. I eventually realized that a lot of my social behavior stems from embarrassment of merely being in public! I act (and think) as if I am less than everyone around me, that I’m no good, useless, pointless, without purpose…and then I become consumed with shame.

And yes, sometimes, this feeling produced thoughts of suicide.

What have I learned about it?

This shame is an absolute, genuine, unadulterated LIE. I never needed another person to tell me that. I knew it for myself. Yet, I still let it hang around. That usually created this horrendous cycle of shame (“I’m ashamed that I feel ashamed”). How do I fight it? I recount the things I’m good at, the people who love me, and what I’m passionate about. I remind myself that I’m good at such-and-such, that so-and-so loves me without condition and has proven it, and that there’s somewhere I’m willing to make a difference: I am good, I am not alone, and I have a purpose.

3. Self-pity

Self-pity is a very dangerous game to play. Let it latch itself onto your heart, and suddenly you’re impossible to please, you’re bitter, you’re hateful, you’re narrow-minded, you’re unbearably selfish, and you’re a wet blanket. Basically, you become the kind of person no one wants to be around. It’s not too hard to wonder why.

My battle with self-pity became so bad that it reached the point where God had to convict me. Hard. It was destroying me. It is destroying me. It’s proven to be one near-impossible root to pull out. I let it become a part of me. I let it manifest itself in my everyday behavior and thought pattern. I have come to detest the person I am when I operate in self-pity.

What have I learned about it?

Self-pity goes hand in hand with clinical depression. Does this mean I’ve been depressed? Maybe. It puts blinders on our eyes that only lets us see ourselves. We’re the only ones we can possibly think about. How horrible is that? So you know what I do to fight it? I force myself to think about those in worse situations than me, like those with a terminal illness. Compared to them, I have no right to victimize myself. It quickly snaps me back into right thinking. With how deep self-pity has dug itself, it’s practically every other minute of my life. But I fight on. If there’s one thing I refuse to become, it’s a self-pitying wretch.

4. Jealousy/Comparing to others

I did not know that I had a deep-rooted issue of living in people’s shadows until the day I went up for prayer back in youth group. I had no clue what I needed prayer for, I only knew that I needed prayer and I was too compelled to stay back. Then the youth pastor began praying, and she prayed…that I stop living in my older siblings’ shadow. It shocked me so hard that my eyes shot open and I reeled just a little. That was an extremely emotional moment. It was like a glass had shattered and a light came on all at once.

That day I discovered that I struggled with being jealous and comparing myself to others.

I particularly compare myself to those more successful than me. Sadly, in my mind, that ends up being everyone! I make up some reason of why anyone and everyone is better than me. I secretly, and guiltily, desire for their success, desire to do what they did to get it…desire to get it faster. The end result is a dissatisfaction with myself, with where I’m at in life, and with what I’ve accomplished. I’ve even been so bad as to be dissatisfied with my current age. That’s when it’s just stupid and crazy.

What have I learned about it?

First of all, comparing is a big, fat waste of energy. Being jealous just makes you an unhappy cynic. The best treatment method? Thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness. I fight by replacing thoughts of jealousy and comparison with finding something to be thankful for. I don’t always succeed. I don’t always fail. So I’m making progress.

 

Do any of these sound familiar? Relatable? It’s okay. It’s normal. It’s human. Every kind of battle is capable of being fought and won. They each take different strategies and levels of action, but they’re all the same. You can do it, just like I can.

2017, the year of…

2017, the year of…

Tomorrow is a new year, and it’s time for a new word. For 2017, it is the year of Endurance.

2017-the-year-of

Halfway through 2016, this could have honestly been my word instead of Independence. My mind was already shifting to this focus. This year I wasted a lot of time being disillusioned about my life; I fantasized way to much and ended up disappointing myself because, surprise! life isn’t a fantasy. My writer mind wishes it can create my own story just as easily as it creates others, but I’m not the only one who can throw curveballs into the fray. By October 2016, I figured out what word I needed to focus on next. It came like a clear beam of sunlight through the reddening autumn leaves.

Here’s why Endurance is my word for the year: I’m a wimp. I’m not saying that because I started hating on myself. I really am a wimp. Or, in nicer words, I don’t have as thick skin as I thought I did. I am a naturally emotional person who quits on things too soon because I didn’t get an instant “click” within the first few days. This bad trait has caused me to make several regretful decisions that I try to distract myself from to keep the shame level low. I don’t seem to have any endurance, for anything.

I think it was when I came across Hebrews 10:36 one September morning as I was on the bus that I decided on the word:

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

“Patient endurance” kept playing over and over in my head. It certainly was what I needed right now. The Bible has so many examples of people who endured through much suffering in order to finish and receive the reward: Joseph, Job, Elijah, Paul…not to mention Christ himself.

With a focus on Endurance, I want to develop every part of my endurance: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. I don’t want outside forces to determine my choices anymore. I don’t want to be such an easy quitter anymore. I don’t want to be controlled by flighty emotions that just end up driving myself and others crazy. I want to endure, especially during the hard parts. I want to get strong. I’m working out this year, and I mean my mental muscles.

year-words-so-far

past years’ words

Going Crazy: A Poem

Going Crazy: A Poem

Just gonna first say…oops! I’ve missed FIVE weeks of poem posts! Because of that (and because of previous occasions of missing weeks), I will no longer falsely title my posts “a poem a week” because, well, it has not exactly been faithful to that timeframe. Anyway…have a poem!

Going Crazy

I pull the string and get off
Anywhere, and I walk, walk, walk.
Sit in front of a house I like
And close my eyes, pretend I live there.
Pretend, pretend.
Daydream until it breaks my heart.
Until I’m broken.
Then I get up and breathe,
Walk, walk, run.
My feet clop-clop on the sidewalk
Because I wore my heeled boots today.
And I breathe to that sound.
I breathe, and lose, and lose,
And can’t stop running.
Away, away,
Sit down and hold my breath.
I see another bus pass by.
Close my eyes again because
I can’t scream.
I tap my toe, bite my lip,
Bring my fingers to my scalp.
I look up to the leaves,
The shining orange leaves
That are beautiful and feel like forever.
They could stay forever, in my mind,
If I choose to let them.
There’s a house with a porch
And I almost take the steps,
Just so I can stand there and pretend
I could stand there forever.
And then I remember: nothing lasts forever.
There’s a bus stop three meters away,
And I walk, walk, walk.
I put headphones to my ears
And forget I was ever here.
And so to the end, the end of days
When I’ll remember this moment again,
And I’ll think to myself,
“Boy, was I crazy.”

Catherine Joy

5 Ways to keep your eyes on the prize (a.k.a. your dream)

5 Ways to keep your eyes on the prize (a.k.a. your dream)

  1. Make it visible

Keep your dream in front of you at all times. A great way to do this is to make a vision board. At least have your dreams or a motivational quote written down somewhere where you can always see it.

2. Have accountability

Designate a friend or family member to be your accountability for your dreams. They will be the person to keep you on track and check in on where you are with achieving your goals.

3. Seek out a mentor

This person is different from your accountability. They are the knowledgeable one who will train you in the area of your dream and help you develop.

4. Dedicate a space

Find out where and how you work best. The right space will be organized and designed to provide you the most focus and output. It may be your room or a coffee shop or your local Barnes & Noble. Experiment in different locations and observe your level of concentration and productivity. Then, keep going back to that place!

5. Learn your productivity triggers

Do you know what motivates you to work? Pay attention to the things that trigger you into ultra-drive, that inspire new ideas, that energize you, that feed your passion to take on the world. When you know your productivity triggers, you can use them as tools to get yourself into the working zone.

Scripture Devotion: The Way of Perfection

Scripture Devotion: The Way of Perfection

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

-Psalm 18:30

Whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, every single one of us is actively pursuing perfection. A vain pursuit, of course. But there is a way we can pursue that happens to be perfect.

God’s way.

The honest truth: we will never achieve what we’re looking for (perfection) without God. And even when with God, there’s still a chance that we will slip out of that perfect way, because, yes, following God’s way isn’t easy. It’s a path that we must be active on, conscious on, intentional on. But it is Perfection.