Cheers to the class of 2013

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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!

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The Problem with Life’s Carbs

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The end of the school year has always been an interesting time for me.

It means saying goodbye to friends who are going to their respective homes for the summer. It means a break from the structure that school provides. At the end of the school year there’s no more homework, no more papers, and suddenly more time than I know what to do with.

I have a hard time with not being busy.

When I’m busy it is easy to live. When I have a set schedule, when I have to show up to classes at a certain time, when other school obligations keep me hopping from one thing to the next, it is easy to drift on by. Structure keeps me from having to stop and just sit and be “un-busy.” Structure keeps me safe.

I’ve found, however, that it is in the times I step out of this structure I’ve built for myself that I grow and learn the most. Classes are great, school obligations are great, even work is great. However, none of them will ever truly fulfill me on a deeper level. They fill up my time, they take up space in my head, and they keep me moving but in the end they are just empty carbs. When they’re all burned off they leave me just as hungry as I began.

So as I’m looking at the summer that lies ahead of me I can’t help but wonder how I will handle being outside of the structure. When I stop eating carbs, what will fill me up? What will take the place of the hole that is left when everything that school and business brings crumbles away for three and a half months?

It is going to be the relationships I step into, the things I do because I’m passionate about them and called to them that will fill me. The good leafy greens and proteins that will help fill me and build me up will be the memories I make engaging with people instead of a textbook. The good stuff will be the times I get to go and just exist for a time. I will be filled by those moments where I get to be a human being instead of a human doing as an old pastor of mine used to say.

Being outside of the structure is going to be hard and won’t always taste good, sure. After all, sometimes the stuff that is good for us isn’t always the most rewarding from the get go. Who wants broccoli when they could have a warm, right-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie? Alright, I know a few people, but I think the majority would agree that the cookie is far more tempting, even if it is far less filling. Yet it is broccoli that is going to give my body the vitamins and minerals it needs and in the same way the harder things in life are going to be the most edifying.

In the end, when in previous years I would dread the oncoming summer, I find myself in a different place. This summer will be challenging, no doubt more-so than all of the ones preceding it, but I have a feeling that it is going to be one where I will come out of it feeling full of new lessons, new friends, and new experiences.

And of course every now and again I’ll snack on a cookie, bask in the structure of work and educational pursuits, and that will be okay too.

Cognitive Dissonance

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When I found a yellow sheet of paper in my school mailbox I was expecting it to be an advertisement for a school event. Instead, on that yellow sheet of paper, were words telling me that I was going to be winning an award at Honors Convocation Chapel. For those not in the know, at the end of the year my school puts on a special chapel for graduates. Everyone graduating in the spring gets to wear their cap and gown and all of the professors wear their regalia as students who have gone above and beyond are recognized for their hard work.

As a December graduate I was not expecting to get anything, so when I found that fateful yellow piece of paper in my mailbox I was over the moon. Somehow I was finally good enough.

Yet the joy that piece of paper brought me was soon diminished as my anxiety set in. What award was I getting? Was it stupid to be so excited about it? Was there someone else who deserved it more than me? What if they made a mistake? There is no way that I have done well enough to get an award…

The thoughts ran rampant and I slept terribly the night before Honors Convocation Chapel because all I could think about were the things that could go wrong. I have anxiety issues. I’m working on it.

I think above all of the anxiety issues and unfortunate events that arose after I received the award (the ceremony going off without a hitch as I didn’t pass out or trip on my way up or down the stairs), I learned something: I put a lot of thought into all of the reasons I don’t deserve an award and completely neglected to pay attention to the reality of the situation. I fight to talk myself out of being happy about being recognized. Why?

I’m posing the question and I don’t even know if I have an answer. There is something about being recognized as someone who is good and successful that directly opposes this other part of me, a part of me that is the exact opposite. Cognitive dissonance comes into play and because I can’t come to some compromise between wanting to be happy in being recognized and validated and this underlying lie I’ve always told myself that I’m not worth it. So instead I justify: I didn’t deserve it or want it anyway.

The best illustration of cognitive dissonance comes from one of Aseop’s fables. A fox sees some grapes and wants them. He gets up on his hind legs trying to reach them but cannot. Then, he decides he really didn’t want the grapes after all because they were probably sour anyway. The award is the grapes, my inability to see myself as worthy of receiving recognition is the inability to reach, and the denial of wanting the recognition in the first place is my justification. Now the question becomes this: How do I move away from that?

Well simple, by admitting that I am someone worthy of being loved and recognized because I am someone who is able to do good things.

Easier said than done most days, but I’m working on. Tonight I’m just going to sit with the idea that it is okay to be proud of the certificate I now have framed on my shelf. After all, I have to start somewhere.