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.

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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

The Danger of Putting your Dream on a Pedestal

The Danger of Putting your Dream on a Pedestal

As someone who thinks of dreams, who lives for dreams, who worries over dreams, who endlessly talks about dreams…I naturally live my life around my dreams. Many would say that’s a good focus to have, and it is. But too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing. At some point I realized that I had reached a dangerous zone of idolization.

Leviticus 19:4 says “Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.” Our minds initially go to physical idols, like statues. The Bible is indeed addressing these, but we forget that it’s also addressing intangible idols that we can set up in our minds. This can be anything, and anything that begins to take God’s place in our thoughts and attention ultimately becomes an idol. The scary thing is, this can go unnoticed because it’s not directly in front of our eyes.

After a serious bout of stress because I had convinced myself that my dreams were never going to be fulfilled, I realized I had risen my dreams to a level on the verge of obsession. It became harmful to my mental life, my daily habits, and my relationship with God.

During those times when it seems like our dreams are on hold or they look bleak and impossible, perhaps that’s the season of character building. As I’ve said before, Character comes before dreams, Character is more important, Character is God’s greatest concern for us.

By all means, follow your dreams. Pursue them with passion and persistence. But beware of putting them on a pedestal and obsessing over them. It will just make you an anxious, bitter, dissatisfied person. Nothing good comes from obsessing, even when the topic is a positive one.

 

What I’ve learned about writing so far…

What I’ve learned about writing so far…

When it’s come to my journey of writing, I’ve also had the opportunity to learn about myself in the process. And there’s been plenty to learn. If there’s one thing that has stood out, it’s that writing is all about the right moment. It’s both versatile and formulaic, and it really depends on the moment when choosing which route to take. I’ve also learned…

  • I enjoy editing perhaps a little more than writing. It’s a good thing I want to be an editor, then. It’s especially great when I have writer’s block and need something to work on. I have found, though, that even when I do have something to write, I tend to enjoy making existing pieces better.
  • Goals are goldFocused goals are the best. With each draft of my novel I established a small list, generally 2-3 items, of specific things to focus on when editing and rewriting. For example, with my current draft, it’s all about adding detail and increasing word count by 5,000.
  • I’m not reading enough. No matter how much it’s been stressed, it should always be stressed some more. If you are a writer, you must read. You know what always looks great? When you know your authors. Therefore, it helps you in the industry to be well-versed.
  • I pretend I’m an actor. Actors ask themselves the question, “How would this character respond?” If I’m not physically acting out something, I will at least give voice to dialogue or narrate prose. I pretend I’m an actor playing this character in a movie. I think what it helps with the best is bringing emotions to life. If I’m not sure how a character should be expressing a feeling, I put myself in their shoes.
  • The process of writing is however long you make it. You can make time to write. The question is whether you will.
  • I doubt my ability to be versatile. A writer should learn to write in different voices. I often convince myself that I can only write one way, but then I end up succeeding. I still have doubt, but I’m working on it.

 

What are some new things you’ve learned on your journey so far?

Things I’ve learned on my journey so far…

Things I’ve learned on my journey so far…

There’s always new stuff to learn, and no matter how old I get or how far I get, I’ll always still be a kid in a classroom, getting some knowledge. Here are some new things I’ve learned:

  1. Not making a change when you need to can make you miserable. Only a select few can live contently in the same place doing the same thing, but more often than not, you’re not that person, and you’ll be miserable soon if you don’t change something. And you don’t have to be a young 20-year-old just starting out. The smallest changes can be the difference between a haphazard life and a fulfilling one.
  2. Don’t change too fast, though. It’s very easy to, once you make one change, to suddenly get into a groove and change everything. Take it easy. Only change one thing at a time, and give space in between them. Some things are meant to stick around longer. Best thing to do is ask God. You will know when he gives you the green light; you will.
  3. Stop blaming the forces outside of you. I am guilty of this, and it’s amazing the switch that happens in your brain when you decide to just be satisfied instead of giving control of your life to outside forces. Yes, perhaps that factor is making it hard to do something or be happy, but it all begins and ends up in your head. You can control that, so if you can’t change what’s on the outside, change the inside.
  4. Your fear may motivate you, but don’t let it be the ultimate catalyst. Fear can be useful when it pushes you to move or change. BUT! if it’s the only reason why you’re moving and changing, then its time to rearrange your motivators. In the end, if you continue to be controlled by fear, it will bite you in the butt and you’ll never be happy. You’ll always be fearful!
  5. Stay in your lane (don’t let others’ choices sway you). People are going to be ahead of you. You’re also going to be ahead of people, and that’s how it’s suppose to be. This goes back to that Bible devotion from Psalm 37:7. Are you going to be discouraged or inspired? Stay your path and don’t get distracted by the progress of others, including those who are behind you (yes, they can distract you, too). Refrain from judging or evaluating them. Put some blinders on your eyes concerning your lane of progress, and stay focused.

 

What are some things you’ve learned recently in your journey?

The Gift of a Handicap

Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size-abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
-2 Corinthians 12:7-10

5 words I’m focusing on this year

Starting this year, I’ve decided to make a habit of choosing a handful of words that will be my focus for the year. This was inspired from a Monday Night gathering, where a challenge was to choose a word to focus on for the year along with a related scripture. My word was trust.

Here are five words, including trust, that I’ve chosen to focus on for this year:

  1. Trust
    One thing that I have been working on for a while is trusting in God, and trusting him in all areas of my life. I too easily fall into self-dependency and forget to lean on the Lord, especially in situations of which I have no control.
  2. Change
    Something stirred inside me at the beginning of 2014: this year is going to be very eventful. I don’t know why, but that was consistently there in my mind, and I took it to be a preparatory message. Since January there has already been significant change and progress, particularly in my personal life, and the adventure is like no other.
  3. Write
    My goal to write, write, and write some more has never been so strong. It helps having a Creative Writing class at the moment too. This endeavor has pushed me to search for those opportunities to write, like internships, submissions, and progress on my novel.
  4. Prayer
    This is something interesting: I want to advance in prayer. At the moment I am struggling with it, with what exactly I’m not sure, but it’s a very important part of my life that I never want to lose grasp of.
  5. Expand
    With this word I am specifically speaking of my skills and experience. There are several hobbies I want to embrace, and certain activities like editing, crafting, and blogging are specific areas that I want to expand with, not just in experience but in professionalism.

What would you say are your “focus words” for this year?