Graduation Reflections

Image

Yesterday I graduated from college with a BA in Psychology. Of course this has left me rather thoughtful as I look back over the past five semesters.

I did not graduate when I planned to, but I think I graduated when I needed to. That is the first thing that sticks out to me. I remember the moment my advisor told me that it was not going to be possible to graduate in May of 2013 unless I was willing to take 18 unit semesters and take courses outside of the University I was attending. I was mortified. I felt like my plans were falling apart and that I had somehow failed to achieve my goals.

In reality the timing worked out better than I had expected because I don’t know what I would have done without this last semester. If it were not for my December graduation date, I would not have gotten the chance to spend a summer living in Southern California. I would not have been able to take a trip to the Grand Canyon, invest in a new church family, or get as connected with my university as I was able to.

It continues to astound me that God’s timing really beats mine every time…and for the better.

I’m grateful that my family let me chase my Southern California dream, and thankful for everyone who encouraged me to leave. I cannot imagine who I would be if I had not packed up my 2001 Buick Century and left for a tiny little private school in the middle of Orange County. The people I have met, the friends I have made, the things I have gotten to do, and the things I have learned have shaped me. Walls were torn down and better, healthier, more functional walls were built up. I made friends and met mentors who will continue to walk with me through this crazy life even when almost the entire state of California is between me and them.

You see, post-graduation I am sad because I am going to be leaving all of these wonderful things, but at the same time I take joy in the fact that I get to leave wonderful things behind.

When I came down to Southern California I was running. I was running from my family, from my past, from the clouds, rain, and cold. I wanted a fresh start, something new, something different, and a place where I could hide from everything that had surrounded me for so many years. Instead of hiding I found a home, and in that home I found people who have taught me that I don’t have to run anymore.

There is nothing I have to try to escape. I’m free.

I am free to live, be joyful, sing, laugh, form new friendships, and continue with old ones. I do not have to separate myself from my Southern California life because it is just as much a part of me as my life in Oregon will be. Slowly but surely I have managed to become an integrated person. My life is no longer a series of separate little boxes, with each one having its own expectations of who I am supposed to be and how I am supposed to act. I am me, a dynamic, living, breathing person who is the same in Southern California as she is in Oregon and will be anywhere else I end up.

I’m just me and I’m okay with that, because somehow God still uses me to do cool things. That last statement, more than anything else, is worth more than my college degree ever will be. 

Advertisements

The Dreaded Question

What are you going to do after you graduate?

I’ve begun to dread this question.

It seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue whenever I bring up my December 2013 graduation date. If I had been asked this question last fall I would have been able to give a long-winded, five-year plan for my life. As it stands today, my only answer is this: I don’t know.

You see, I’ve learned that my life seems to work in two-year increments. I try to plan further ahead but those plans never see the light of day. In high school I was sure that I was going to go to a four-year state college and study English. Plans changed my senior year when the local community college offered free tuition for two years to any graduating high school student with a 3.5 GPA or above. I put in two years and in those two years I graduated with my associate of the arts degree, switched my major to psychology, and had grown a lot as a person.

My next plan had been to go to a state college and finish out a degree in psychology, but even those plans fell by the way side. The Dean of Students at my community college encouraged me to apply to at least one school in Southern California on the off chance that I would be accepted. You see, I’d fallen in love with Southern California after a few vacations and it was my dream to go to school there…but I nipped that in the bud because it seemed so impossible.

I found Hope International University and instead of going to a state school like I had planned, I packed up all my stuff and moved. It is a decision I have yet to regret. Yet my tendency to plan did not stop there. By my second semester at Hope I had decided that I was going to eventually apply for a 5-year PsyD program. I would put in my time and then figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Then last December happened and I realized that planning away five years of my life was not what I wanted, nor was it what God had in mind. I think I’m finally beginning to understand why my life has to work in two-year increments. When I get caught up in the plans I have for myself I forget to live, to serve, and to love. I begin to cling to my plans instead of to God. I begin to pursue my own desires instead of the paths that will bring me closer to God and refine me into a more loving, mature individual.

So when people ask me what I’m going to do after I graduate and I say “I don’t know,” what I really mean is, “I’m leaving my future open because I can’t predict where I’m going to be spiritually and fiscally, where my family is going to be, or what opportunities might arise if I just wait for a while.” It is hard for me to proceed without knowing exactly what is in store for me but I know this: It is going to be good.

Cheers to the class of 2013

Image

Today I watched my friends and my peers graduate.

My heart is filled to the brim with joy.

Not just because of graduation, but because I know these people are going to go out into the world and make a difference. I’ve gotten to know them, I’ve learned their stories. I’ve laughed with them, cried with some of them, and had deep conversations about psychology, faith, and life. I have gotten to know these people, my friends, and I’ve gotten to see where their hearts and passions lie.

I could not be more proud to see them all graduate today.

As they move on in their respective fields, either into a job or further schooling, I just pray a blessing over them and their lives. This extends to any graduates who will be seeing the fruits of the last four years of their labor in the coming weeks.

May the spring graduates of 2013 go forth into the world and make it better. Not for their own profit, not because of their own selfish desires, but because they have learned that it is simply the right thing to do. They have done something amazing these past four (ish) years and I pray they take these experiences and go forth feeling empowered to serve, work, and most importantly love, no matter what path they end up taking.

From the graduation ceremony today:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”  – James 4:13-15

So go forth, my friends, and live for something greater than yourselves.

Congratulations to the spring class of 2013!