On September 2nd, I turned 22, with little fanfare.
That was how I wanted it. I’ve been dreading birthdays since I was 15. Though I do like thoughtful gifts and kind words, of course.
It’s not that I fear growing older. I actually look forward to being 70 years old with gray hair, rocking a grandbaby or two on my knee as I take in the warm evening air on my front porch. I hope I’m a fun old person. I hope I still write. I hope my home is welcoming and warm. I hope I can care for myself. I hope I’m not a burden – more than that, I hope I can still contribute.
Anyway. Random tangent over.
All that to say, I’m not afraid of being old, but maybe it’s the aging process I don’t love. Or maybe it’s a fear of looking back at the past year and realizing I didn’t accomplish everything I thought I would’ve.
22. Practically middle-aged, really.
And I’ve already held this age for 2 months.
I decided to make a bucket list for this year.
I generally fail at this type of thing, but maybe if I’m blogging it I’ll feel accountable. So here goes. Here are the 22 things I want to do before I turn 23. I’ll try to blog about all of them.
22 Things to do Before I Turn 23
Travel to a new country.
Take a class. Learn something new.
Pick lavender. If you want to visit a lavender field with me, say when.
Buy my first bee hives. And the bees to live in them, obviously. And try not to kill said bees.
Read 12 books that have been on “your list” for ages. Seriously. You can’t go on pretending you’ve read Moby Dick for the next 40 years.
The books in question:
Moby Dick, Beloved, To the Lighthouse, As I Lay Dying, Midnight’s Children, Leaves of Grass, For Whom the Bell Tolls, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, On the Road, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, one other, or as many others as I can manage. (Let the record show that when I searched a few lists of 100 great books you should read, I had read most of them and I now feel better about myself.)
Practice a random act of kindness every day for a month.
Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston AND/OR go to the Smithsonian Institute museums you haven’t been to.
Write every day.
Spontaneous roadtrip somewhere new.
Do something aesthetically pleasing but don’t post it to any social media.This one is just for your enjoyment.
Complete a crossword puzzle. No cheating. Except to ask mom for hints, maybe.
Make a friend much older than you.(At least 30 years your senior)
Make a friend much younger than you. (At least 10 years your junior)
Apply to a grad program.
Learn (and retain) some facts about every single president.
Explore two American cities you’ve never been to. (1/2 done.)
Hammock in a national park.
Make a food that intimidates you.
Go to see a band you don’t know. Let yourself be completely surprised.
Discover/learn/try something new in the world of specialty coffee.
Speak with a fake accent for an entire day. Because what is life without being a little silly sometimes?
Go to a botanical garden.
Alright alright alright. Only 10 months to go. Follow along and suggest things you think I should add or try next year!
Wow. It’s been awhile. Life has been a little crazy. Almost two weeks ago, I walked across a stage and accepted a diploma. (Well, really, I posed for a picture with my school’s provost holding a diploma case that I wasn’t even given. Because first of all, they send us our diplomas in the mail, and second of all, it was raining, so they didn’t even hand us the leather diploma cases the way they normally do.)
Over the past weeks, I’ve had a surplus of free time for the first time in… four years? I’ve had some time to ruminate on the fact that I’m finished. It is 8 parts joy and 2 parts sadness. 8 parts sweet freedom and 2 parts wanting to go back to school in the fall. 8 parts finally getting to DO some of the things I kept saying I’d do after I graduate, and 2 parts realizing I was never going to do those things, whether in school, or not.
It’s hard for me to see the changes in my life from the last four years. It’s hard to pick out specific things, and know that they have changed for the better, or the worse. My high school graduation seems so long ago I can hardly remember the person I was. I remember telling my parents that I wouldn’t change in these four years. They were worried I would be “corrupted,” and I assured them that my core beliefs were unwavering. That I wouldn’t change in those 4 years.
I have changed a thousand times. There were times in college, that I was so much worse off than I ever was in high school. There were times when I struggled with who I was and what I believed. My morals were shaken. I was confused about the right next step. Plenty of times I worried so much about what I should do, without even bothering to ask God what He wanted me to do. But not once in college did I question my belief in God’s unwavering, unconditional love.
Many students do walk away from God in college. I am thankful and blessed that my faith only grew stronger. Some of my friends have asked me how I’ve stayed so sure. My reply: Jesus is the most important thing in my life. Everything else stems from my connection to Him. It’s a relationship – the most important relationship in my life. And it’s not something I could just walk away from because of one or two professors who tried to tell me I was wrong, or because of one or two great writers who happened to be atheists. Peers have pointed out to me how may great writers – writers I love – didn’t believe, or don’t believe. And to them, I generally throw a few names like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, or T.S. Eliot, who happen to be three of my favorite authors, and three of the greatest intellectuals of the twentieth century. For every person who left the faith, I can find one who held fast.
I’m more certain today than I ever was in high school. I have made discoveries of God’s love in this past year. I have seen His hand move in unprecedented ways. And it has changed me in the best possible way.
My favorite Bible passage throughout the past couple years was Proverbs 3. The whole chapter is so good, but verses 5-8 are the verses that really stuck out to me.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
Someone shared this passage with me when I was on a mission trip in Alaska, the summer after my Sophomore year of college. It was my hardest year of school. The only year I felt like I was losing myself. Anxiety really hit me hard, and I was stressed out for pretty much every moment of every day. That trip to Alaska was, for me, a turning point. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that trip impacted me, turned me around, and began a change in me. Looking back, I see that I heard God’s voice very clearly there, in the wilderness, in the stillness, in the solitude. I experienced Him in ways I hadn’t before, and I couldn’t look away.
Up until that point, I hadn’t been trusting God. Not with my whole heart, anyway. Not even with most of my heart. I was trusting in my own intellect. I was trusting in my own knowledge. And it wasn’t working. This passage is a promise that I can lean on. If I chose to follow Him, He will make my paths straight. Up until that point, I was leaning on my own knowledge, and on my own skills. In the two years since, I have tried my hardest to lean on Jesus, and to acknowledge that he can give me so much more wisdom than I could get anywhere else.
He is all-knowing. He is the giver of understanding, and He is a generous giver.
A few months ago I read A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy for the first time. (I’ve read it another time since then.) Oh man. If you’ve never read Tozer, do yourself a favor, and read Tozer. He so fully encapsulates the relationship we should have with our Father. He talks about getting back to the source, and about God’s Holiness, and makes me realize how much I should spend every moment of every day on my knees. Because God is worth it. One moment in His presence is better than a lifetime anywhere else.
This is a passage I jotted down from Tozer a few months ago, and it continues to be my daily prayer.
“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”
I know I’ve talked before, about wandering. I feel like I’ve been wandering for so long, through time, and space, and I feel like I’m beginning to find my place. He is good, and He is constant, through all of life’s changes.
This book is an engaging, comprehensive biography of Lewis, Tolkien, and co. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf, calling to me for nearly a year. So far I’ve gotten through Lewis and Tolkien’s childhoods and their time in World War 1. One thing that stood out to me so far is the way loss (of parents, and so many friends through illness and the war) shaped their lives, their writings, and their faith. Any page now, I think I will read about their first meeting in Oxford! My nerdy heart is happy.
Tomorrow, I graduate from college. 16 years of school. 4 years of hard work, and sweat, and tears, and stress, and wanting to quit numerous times…
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky”
This is the end. I know it won’t hit me until autumn, when I should be buying school supplies, and ordering books. For the first time in 16 years, I won’t need to buy pencils, and notebooks, and backpacks.
“Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…”
Despite all of the bad, I loved school. I loved “being an English major.” I loved learning new things. I loved the race against time to get a project or a paper turned in.
“In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.”
Tonight was my last class. My favorite professor made my classmates clap for me multiple times, probably to make up for the fact that he can’t make it to graduation (and that he made me come to class from 6-8 on the night before graduation).
“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,”
Tomorrow, I’ll walk across a stage (number 448 in the school of arts, humanities, and social sciences alone). This is the end.
“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
On this, the eve of entering the “real world,” lines from my favorite poem keep running through my mind.
“And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?'”
There are things I’ve read in college that I probably would not have read otherwise. T.S. Eliot is a big one. I read Eliot in high school but wasn’t impressed. I remember studying “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and not understanding it (or just not caring).
“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
In college? Eliot was enlightening. I read “Prufrock” again every couple months, and every single time I read it, I see something in myself that I need to work on. If I’d left high school and not gone on to pursue an English degree, I would probably never have read Eliot again. I would think a little differently than I do now, and I would be a little more passive. There are steps I wouldn’t have taken and chances I would’ve ignored.
“For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;”
“Prufrock” is all about passivity.
“I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?”
Passivity is a problem I see all around me. It’s a problem that is often attributed to my generation – to millennials. However, Eliot saw this same problem in his own generation, almost 100 years ago! He saw people letting life pass them by, rather than taking life by the horns. He saw people who measured out their lives in… coffee spoons? What a small and insignificant thing to measure your life by.
“And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.”
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” is a well-known line. I see it in cute little prints and coffee shop chalkboards, and I always smile to myself, because I know when Eliot wrote it, he meant it as a bad thing. This is why we should not take quotes out of context, people.
“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.”
In the poem, Eliot’s character, J. Alfred Prufrock becomes so passive, that he begins to question his ability to make even the smallest decisions. At the beginning of the poem, he’s alive. He’s even thinking about daring to do something as big as disturb the universe. At the end of the poem, he’s questioning whether he even dares to eat a peach.
“Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,”
One thing I learned in college is how to step out of my comfort zone. In college, I had to put myself out there if I wanted to meet anyone. Another way I jumped out of my comfort zone? Living abroad for over 5 months. I learned to conquer fears I didn’t even know I had.
“And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!”
Another thing I really struggled with during college was anxiety. College is all stress, all the time. The more stressed I became, the more anxious I became. There were times I was too afraid of the future to sleep. Thanks to Jesus, and thanks to my Mama encouraging me when I genuinely wanted to quit school, I overcame my anxiety.
“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”
As I leave school and enter the “real world,” I want to be unafraid of taking chances. I want to make good decisions without always second guessing myself. I want to follow my dreams of writing fiction and being published, and I want to continue to do everything I can for the Kingdom.
“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.”
Here’s to the class of 2016. Here’s to following our dreams without fear. Here’s to making our mark on the world!
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