Endings and Beginnings

4 weeks ago, I ended student teaching.

2 weeks ago, I graduated college.

1 week ago, I moved out of my college apartment.

There have been a lot of endings, and lots of goodbyes. Like most people, I hate endings and goodbyes. I have ended a chapter of my life that has been so tough, yet so fruitful. It's hard for me to grasp the fact that I will never call 622 home again. I will never unlock the door and see three of my best friends giggling on the couch. I will never sit in a college class or do silly projects about Christopher Columbus. I am no longer a college student. 

In the past couple weeks, I've had a lot of time to reflect. I've reflected on who I was when I ended college and who I am now. How I've grown and a person and educator. The value of friendship. And also what my future holds. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on those things...

When I first stepped onto AU's campus as a student, I remember being terrified. I didn't know anyone and I didn't have a roommate. I remember thinking about the day I would walk across the stage and get my diploma. I longed for it-thinking it would never come. During my freshman year, I thought about transferring. I didn't like AU and thought that a different school would be more suited for me (but the real reason was because my boyfriend went there). As spring semester progressed, I made some solid friends and became involved in RUF-the Lord told me to stay at AU. I hated that. I didn't want to spend 3 more years in Anderson. You can read about my final thoughts of freshman year here

The fall of my sophomore year was probably one of the darkest times of my life (you can read more about it here.) I had moved into a new dorm, with totally new people from freshman year, my classes were harder, and I had broken up with the boy I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I held it together pretty well, but I was a mess on the inside. Panic attacks and depression crept back into my life and I felt as though I had no control. The weekend before Thanksgiving, I went home and had a complete meltdown. My parents tried to convince me to stay home, take incompletes and take the following semester off of school. I decided to finish the semester out (it was only a week), but returned home for Christmas knowing that I wasn't returning to AU in the Spring {I didn't tell a soul, not even my roommate}.  

During Christmas break, I spent a lot of time in prayer. I didn't feel like I was given a clear answer on whether I was suppose to return or not. My pride is what convinced me to stay, "What would people say about me if I left?" "Dropping out means I would be a failure."  "I HAVE to graduate with my friends." And that's probably not the best reason, but that spring semester was one of the most fruitful times of my life. After that semester, things at AU felt "right." That's why I encourage anyone reading this to not give up on anything, especially your choice in college only after a few months. It took me a year and a half to finally feel like college was "home." Some people feel that immediately, but don't lose heart if it doesn't happen the second you walk on your campus as a freshman. 

The final two years of college were great. After sophomore year, I moved off campus with three of my best friends. I'd be lying if I told you it was always perfect. It wasn't- we got annoyed at each other for not taking the trash out or unloading the dishwasher. But it really was one of the best living situations. It was great that I was able to experience just a little bit of adulthood and freedom without all the financial responsibility that came with it. Junior year honestly feels like a blur. I can't even really remember what happened that year (you can read a little about it here.) The summer between junior and senior year was a very interesting one. I say that it was one of my best summers, but it was maybe one of my darker summers as well. I didn't follow the Lord as closely as I should had been, but even still, the Lord worked.  I can look back and see how the Lord used everything from last summer to make me who I am today. He's pretty cool like that.

Senior year, this past year, was just incredible. It started out kinda rough, but ended the best way possible. In the fall, I was balancing two jobs, a full schedule of classes, and doing my pre-clinical work at the elementary school. It was A LOT and I was dealing with a lot of personal things going on in my life. I felt like I could never keep my head above water-that I was constantly fighting for air.  In October, I started attending Grace Church and just being in that community, which is so Gospel-focused really brought me back to the place I had been struggling to find again.  I look back now at how lost I was and just praise the Lord for bringing me to where I am today. 

Spring semester was probably my favorite semester of college. The only class I took was once a week on Monday nights. This allowed 100% of my focus on  be on my fourth graders. And because of that, I was able to become a better teacher. The experience I had during student teaching reaffirmed the fact that I want to be a teacher... But I was alone for most of it. In January, I had ended a toxic relationship and my roommates and I had totally different schedules. Some days I put in 10+ hours at school, and came home to an empty apartment. It was difficult in some ways, but it really prepared me for the road I have before me as a teacher. Thankfully, at the end of the semester, as our schedules slowed down, I was able to spend time with my roommates and friends and just really cherish those last couple weeks together. And then on May 2nd, we graduated. 

But now I am back home in Charlotte-unsure of where life is going to take me. I have no clue where I will be working or living in a couple months. And in some ways, that really scares me. But, I have a peace about it. If there is one thing I've learned over the course of the past four years, it's the faithfulness of the Lord. He has never let me down before, and I know He isn't going to stop now. I have consistently told him the great plans for my life and He has {almost always} destroyed them. But you know what? They have been better than anything I could have ever planned.  

If someone were to lay several "life plans" in front of me and ask me to choose one, the one I have lived/ am living is probably not the one I would have chosen.  BUT, because of the Lord's faithfulness, I can truly see how His hand has covered every aspect of my life thus far. I am so thankful. Right now, life is more than I could have ever planned for myself. It is so much better than anything I could've dreamed of. I am thankful that the Lord doesn't listen to me and my plans because I'm pretty stupid sometimes. My life in college didn't go the exact path I wanted it to take, but the experience and lessons I have learned are irreplaceable. This is cliche, but there is not one thing I would change because it has all come together and made me who I am today. 

I am terrified of the next step. I have no idea what the Lord has planned for me. And yes, there are some days that I break down and think I will have to live at home forever. There are days that I feel like a total failure for not having a job. But there are more days where I am at peace. I remember all the days that the Lord has come through for me, and I know that He will come through again. Even when I cannot see Him, and even when I don't see the immediate fruits of His labor....He is there. He is working in and through me. He is working in the waiting. He already has everything planned out, and nothing comes as a surprise to Him. If you are reading them and feel like you are in the same boat as me---take courage, be patient and wait on the Lord. We do not have all the answers, but we do have Jesus. And sometimes, all the time, He is better. He gives us GOOD things (Ps. 84:11). The Lord is with us (Joshua 1:9, Deut. 31:6). 

For me and a lot of my friends, good things are ending. Lots of people I talk to tell me about how they wish they could go back to college--that college was some of the best years of their lives. And I understand that..being in a one mile radius of all your friends, not having to watch your your weight or pay bills. And I will miss it, but I am looking forward to what the future holds. I'm excited to have my own classroom full of sweet children. I look forward to growing up and doing adult things (check back with me in a couple months of this one). And I look forward to hopefully building a life and family with someone. There will be tough times, but there will also be good times...just like every other part of my life. Growing up is something we can fight it and live in denial, or we can accept it. At some point, we must say goodbye to what once was and say hello to what is coming. I believe that C.S. Lewis says it best...

"There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind."

So cherish the memories, but open your heart to new adventures. Call your college roommates every once in a while, but remember to open up to the new people God's places in your life. Think about the great college experience you had-the ball games, the late night Cookout runs and the laughter you shared with friends, but remember to live in the present....those make the best sorts of memories.

Thanks for following me throughout my college experience. I can't believe I actually kept up with this blog somewhat well throughout the course of four years. I was skimming through my blog looking for those links to include and wow, so much life change. I really hope that I will keep blogging in the coming years-it's good therapy for me. I write more for myself than for an audience, because usually its just my mom :). But if you happen to be one of the few..thank you and happy summer! I hope you eat lots of watermelon and popsicles and the sun won't burn you too badly!!