Senior Updates IV / high school story

Thursday, July 5, 2018
Freshman year, 2014-2015: 
I was timid but overconfident. Taking 'all honors classes' (insert smug grin),  I thought I was too good for everyone; or not good enough, depending on the day. Timid because I didn't have the knowledge base that most everyone had (I had a tendency to get lost in my own head); overconfident because I believed that the way I was--which seemed stark-opposite from everyone else--was the right way, and every other way was wrong.

My beliefs weren't my own yet; they were my parents, spat-out and reiterated to fit my agenda. My agenda--acceptance, superiority, audacity? I didn't want to blend in, and maybe I didn't. But I was counting my chickens before they'd hatched; wanting to stand out because of my beliefs and convictions but not having developed them yet.

Every day I waited for something, anything, to happen that would spin me into cosmic relevance. Perhaps this is why I abandoned my best friend, the one who' been beside me every drudging day of middle school. I ate lunch with other friends, who were louder, funnier, easier to shoot the breeze with, I thought. One day at lunch a college student asked me to join her and my friends for small group on Friday. It was her sheer authenticity that persuaded me to come. The next week I went to Young Life. 

And so with one year of high school down, I'd not only survived, but grown a little more into myself in the process. That summer I participated in an online writing internship. That, coupled with my joining of Young Life, pushed me onto a path I would have never had the courage to tread before.

freshman me

Sophomore Year; 2015-2016:
I'm not sure if anyone else has ever had this feeling, but it's happened to me every new school year. It's an uneasiness as you walk into your first class of the first day. You feel different, a little lost, even, because you've spent all summer growing more into yourself and you feel as if you don't know your friends anymore and they don't know you. Over the summer I'd grown deeply in my theology  and in my confidence, particularly in the area of sharing my writing. There'd been a fire inside me, and I finally let it grow enough that it was almost visible on the outside.

First semester I took creative writing and photography, really let myself grow artistically, let myself believe that, yes, I could be an English major in college and, no, I didn't have to go to Clemson if I didn't want to. I joined the literary magazine club; it was full of a bunch of geeky misfits, and I loved it, really felt like I belonged. I had made amends with my best friend over the summer, so we ate lunch together nearly every day. Her friendship was one of the biggest blessing of this tough year.

This was the year that the idea for my current novel project came into existence. It seems silly now, when I think about it; I got the original idea from purely aesthetic inspiration, passing a tree nursery on the way to somewhere and deciding I wanted my first novel to take place in an apple orchard. I started working on it but never got that far. To this day I haven't completed a full draft because I'm still feeling out the story.

That September, I fell under some false teaching; I let someone convince me that God's opinion of me could change based on what I did, even though that idea is completely at odds with the truth of the Gospel. I got caught up in legalism, and eventually, when I figured out that I could never please God with my own actions because I am an imperfect human, I stopped trying. That winter I got depressed. It was only then I realized that depression isn't sadness; it's a slowing-down of all bodily functions, a feeling of intense apathy (oxymoron, I know) that slips into every facet of life. My only real will to live was my fear of failure and disappointing others.

But through all this, I kept going to Young Life. I went to club on Mondays and Winter Camp in January. And throughout all the apathy and dejection, my leaders kept telling me that Jesus at his very core loves me like crazy, more than I could ever imagine, and a small part of me held onto that. That summer, I had the amazing opportunity of going to Young Life camp in Colorado. When I was there, I met God in a different way than I ever had before (you can read about that experience here if you're interested). One day I was writing in my journal, tracing back where I fell into such a hopeless manner of living, and I traced it back to the September before. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. It took courage telling my mom what had happened, but I did, and she was my rock through the whole process. I now know the Christian life is largely comprised of the practice of preaching the Gospel to yourself daily, reminding yourself of your own shortcoming and Christ's sufficiency and the grace you are given daily.

sophomore me
Junior Year; 2016-2017:
After my Colorado experience, I knew it was time for a change. I cut my hair to my shoulders, and when I walked into school I felt even more timid than I had freshman year. Looking back, I think I was afraid that I'd let myself fall victim to some false rhetoric, that it would spin me into the same downward spiral. Perhaps I was more than afraid; perhaps I was terrified. 

I stuck close to my best friend at school and to my homeschool friends; they were my rock. But besides that, I remember remaining largely inside my head. I was taking my first AP English class (which I loved) and taking more APs than I ever had in one year. It was the most rigorous academic year yet, and on top of this I had to drive myself to school every morning--let's just say I got my fair share of tardies. I was taking two history classes-- AP Euro and AP US--and as I studied political history and read political rhetoric in my English class, I began to realize that my parents' views didn't make the most sense to me. This realization was hard to face; I love and respect my parents and I would never seek to disappoint them. So I kept it to myself for the time being, gathering facts and evidence and making sure my impending party-switch was a wise idea. 

I grew intellectually this year. I really enjoyed my classes, kept working on my novel (even submitting an excerpt to the literary magazine), and I finally found a music genre that was intellectually and emotionally stimulating. I was learning about things I'd previously ignored: politics, the environment, the ugly parts of history. My underlying motivation was to search for and find the Truth--academically, religiously, emotionally.

When the winter came I found the apathy again, and it scared the hell out of me. At this time I didn't know about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), best known as seasonal depression. This time around it was coupled with anxiety. I remember sitting alone in a chair in my room, my hands clutching the seat, using every muscle in my body to keep myself grounded because I was petrified and didn't know why. I didn't know why I was feeling what I was and didn't know how to get rid of it, and I thought that if I spoke to anyone about it I'd lose their friendship. I didn't explicitly reach out to anyone during this time, but I can't stress enough how much my friends and family were there for me. I wasn't the best friend or daughter or sister during this time, but they stood by me nonetheless; they reached out to me when I closed myself in, enabled me to find the joy inside me that I didn't know was there. 

It snowed on my seventeenth birthday (which doesn't happen often where I live), and when I woke up that morning I heard my mom singing 'dancing queen.' She made chocolate chip pancakes and we walked in the snow and I was happy. Since this winter had been so awful, I grew spiritually, and I was able to feel deeper joy because I had felt deep depression. I learned that happiness is dependent on circumstance, but joy isn't. 

In the spring I toured Furman University. I was interested, knowing it was a better option for me than Clemson, but I was still skeptical. It felt a little too close to home for me. But as soon as I set foot on campus, I was shown extraordinary hospitality and authenticity from faculty, staff, and students. I knew it was a special place. The spring of my junior year was the beginning of a time in my life where everything mysteriously began to fall into place. I got my first job--nannying for a friend of a friend--over the summer, which provided me with something to do and a little income for my relatively event-less summer.

Even as things fell into the place, the summer brought its own trials--ones that I can't talk about because they aren't entirely mine to tell, but that did affect me deeply.

junior me

Senior Year; 2017-2018:
It's the year I'd been anticipating for what seemed like forever, but when it came I sort of rushed into it. I didn't feel like I was ready. There were things in my life that didn't seem to fit the theme. I'd idealized the idea too much, so when it came I was only disappointed. That's a constant struggle for me--realizing that my high expectations will never match reality because this world is fallen and imperfect, that the very dirt beneath my feet is striving for deliverance from this mess. 

This instagram post describes a lot of what the summer and fall of this year were like. My faith was tested so that I had to redefine faith in my mind. For so long faith had manifested itself in me as a feeling, but I was beginning to see that faith is not feeling, but it is an action and a choice.

When the winter came around, everything was falling into place. I was accepted to my top school and was given a scholarship; it wasn't as much as I needed, but my parents were confident that we'd make it work. So I accepted the offer, put down my deposit, and prayed we could find the rest of the money somehow. I learned to love the moment I was in, to close my eyes and memorize the feeling of joy as it rushes through me. I capture memories through feelings, like how my heart swelled when my friends sang me 'happy birthday' at midnight, how my heart beat against my rib cage when I reached the top of the mountain and saw the view, how sun rays feel on skin after months of nothing but cold, how salt water feels so cleansing when the waves slap my back. 

And then there were the more somber moments. When something is said or realized and I know that I was wrong all along; when I saw a homeless man read scripture for his church; when I realized that I'll always feel like an outsider, and that's okay.

This year was my favorite year yet. Everyone at school sort of banded together in solidarity because we realized it was our last year to be together. I did more 'typical high school things' like going to parties and dances and football games. I got to be Head Editor of the literary magazine. Oh, and that dream to be flung into cosmic relevance from freshman year? Sometime during this year, my friends and teachers began to really read my writing; they told me it was good, and I realized that all this time all I wanted was to be heard. I think I really treasured this year, lived in the moment as much as I could. I learned a huge lesson of gratitude and acceptance of reality, but I also learned to strive to be the best that I can be, to be who I was made to be. Looking back, I can't think of any regrets. I remember always having this feeling of being lost, but now I'm beginning to think that's normal. Maybe we're all lost, maybe we won't be found until it's all said and done. 

We were expecting bad weather on graduation day, but the sun was out for the entirety of the ceremony. It was a good feeling, hearing my friends scream my name from the stands when I walked. I'm so grateful for these past four years, but I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Later this month, I'm going to work at a camp out west for three weeks. I hope to keep a journal to record my experiences there, and hopefully I'll have time to write about them when I return. Then, I'll move into college! I don't know what this little blog will become during the next four years; maybe I'll write about my experiences, maybe I'll post stories and poetry, maybe I'll become too busy and stop posting altogether. But either way, I want to thank all of you for reading what I write; it means the world to me.

senior me : )