Well here we are again…another school year has passed. This year at Abilene Christian University, I lived in Morris dorm in room 211. The mold, no air, many fire alarm drills, and sharing a very tiny room with 2 other girls CANNOT even compare or outweigh to the GREAT memories me and my 2 roommates made in there. This was my last year in a dorm and as I sit now in an empty room moving things into a house, I thought of the top five things I learned this year and this was what I came up with:
5. College goes fast.
2 years down. 2 years to go. Somehow I have survived 2 years of college and am only 2 years from going into the “real world.” I always heard people say, “Enjoy college now because it goes by fast” and I didn’t really think much of it…but HOLY COW they weren’t kidding. COLLEGE GOES FAST. You start in August, then its Christmas, then spring break, then BAM..it is May and you’re already moving out of your dorm again. It literally seems like just yesterday that I arrived as a freshman, a little scared, but so excited to see what the future held. I remember freshman year imagining what kind of friends I was going to make. What my classes were going to be like. What it meant to live in a dorm. What it meant to be a “college kid” and now….I sit here in an empty dorm at the end of my sophomore year realizing that I have lived out what I imagined just 2 short years ago. I have made those friends. I have been through 4 semesters of classes. I have lived 2 years in a dorm. I am a college kid. You have to make the most of every opportunity. You cannot let an opportunity slip out of your hands because you may never get it back. Time is flying so make sure you can keep up. Take lots of pictures. Make a lot of memories. Go on adventures. Be spontaneous. Be silly. Be yourself. You have to make sure you make the most of your time because you will never get it back. You will never get to go back and get a night back. College is an awesome time in your life. You are on your own. You get to make your own decisions. You make your own plans for the weekend. You are in control of most things, so make sure you make the most if it. You should want to look back on your time in college and not regret anything. Don’t waste your time just sitting in your dorm. Put yourself out there. BE BRAVE. You never know…you might surprise yourself with what happens once you get out of your comfort zone. Time is not slowing down. Seize every opportunity. College goes fast…don’t wake up one day and realize you missed it.
4. Communication is key.
A big thing to learn in college is that you have to communicate. People are not in your head 24/7. They don’t know what you are thinking all the time. They don’t know what you want. Only you know your thoughts and if you don’t communicate them with people, people are never going to know. You can’t assume people know either because they have their own assumptions. I play on the soccer team at ACU and it has been such a blessing. Coming in my freshman year, I was quickly given 27 new friends and many have grown to be my very best friends. Soccer takes up the majority of my time, from being gone every other weekend during season to having 3 hour practices every night during season and off-season. I spend a lot of time with these girls and they are the first ones that I call to hang out. We have a similar schedule so when we are free, we obviously want to hang out. However, sometimes spending all that time together can be tough. No offense to anyone on the team (clearly I love y’all), but sometimes you just need a break. I needed an escape, but for the longest time, I couldn’t find one. Freshman year, I met Nicole Heidelberg and she was my get away from soccer. We hung out ALL the time. She lived down the hall, but basically lived in my room, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. She unfortunately transferred after freshman year, and I knew I was going to be a little lost. I wasn’t going to have that friend that I could call whenever and she would be there for me. I wasn’t going to have that person that I could go to to escape soccer for like 5 seconds and think about something else. About halfway into the first semester, I made the decision to rush, and I eventually got a bid to pledge into Sigma Theta Chi. However 5 days into it, I just couldn’t do it. It was conflicting too much with soccer and I wasn’t willing to let soccer slip in order to be in a social club. I wanted it SO BAD, but it just wasn’t the right time. I made to decision to de-pledge and then a few weeks later, I felt stuck in a rut. Soccer was over and I had nothing to do. Everyone else was in a social club and I just felt lost. After Christmas break, I was at a point where I just felt so lonely. Did I tell anyone? No. Did I communicate how I felt to anyone? I tried, but I just didn’t want to sound weak or dumb, so I just kept it in. One day, I had finally had enough. I was tired of feeling lonely and being stuck down in a hole. I texted one of my friends that goes to ACU who I knew before we both came and asked if we could talk. I just broke down in front of him and told him exactly how I felt and I will never forget what he said back to me. He said, “Natalie, I had no idea. I thought you were always with your soccer friends on the weekend. I thought you were fine.” He told me that if he knew I was sitting alone half the time, he would have done something about it, but he just didn’t know. I never told him before. I never told anyone, yet I expected people to know how I felt. I expected people to know. YOU CAN NEVER EXPECT PEOPLE TO KNOW THINGS. COMMUNICATION IS KEY. You have to tell people how you feel so they know. It will make everything better because they will know exactly how you feel. If you tell people how you feel, you leave no room for assumptions. You know how the old saying goes anyways…assuming makes an …
3. It’s okay not to be okay.
Personally speaking, after my freshman year of college, I was coming off quite the high. I thought college was the end all be all. I thought I had everything figured out. I thought I had found all my friends. I thought it couldn’t get much better. Nothing had gone wrong, so why would anything go wrong now and even if something did, I was going to tell myself everything was going to be okay. I always try to tell myself everything is okay when something goes wrong so I can stay positive and not dwell on the “not okay” times. College is a time to grow and find yourself and so I quickly learned….IT IS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY. I repeat IT IS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY. College throws a lot at you even into your sophomore year. New classes, new friends, a new schedule. Just like freshman year, you have to learn how to make it all work. You have to find balance. You have to learn time management again. You have to build on your foundation that you have already built. Everything is not going to go your way 100% of the time and you have to be okay with that. Some things are going to go wrong and IT IS OKAY. If you continually try to tell yourself that everything is okay, one day it will all hit at the same time and break you. You cannot bottle everything up and keep it inside because when it comes out, you will break. You will feel very defeated. It is okay to be upset. It is okay for things not to be okay. I seriously can not stress it enough. IT IS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY!!!! It does not mean you are weak. It does not mean you are doing something wrong. Some things just happen and you just have to accept the fact that you cannot control everything. For me, I thought everything always had to be perfect. I am a very positive person and when something bad happened, I always tried to look on the bright side, but sometimes, even the bright side has a dark cloud above it. It is okay not to be okay. Feel pain. Feel sadness. Be upset. Be happy. Be positive. Feel joy. Be able to handle everything life throws at you. Leave your door open. Don’t let one rain cloud scare you from the rainbow that is sure to follow.
2. Don’t let taking a picture and trying to come up with the most clever caption keep you from enjoying the moment.
We live in a generation now where people are addicted to their phones. Literally…there is even a term for it: Nomophobia. People cannot set their phones down for even 5 seconds, constantly surfing between the different social medias. Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. Snapchat. Vine. Social media has consumed our lives, but the funny thing is is that it has made us less social. We hide behind a screen and are able to communicate through text messages, yet our ability to hold a conversation face to face has gone away. So many times I have been places where there is a group of young people and they are all just staring at their phones. I’ll sit there and watch no words be exchanged for minutes at a time because they are all consumed by their screens. I have also been places where people can’t even enjoy what they are doing because they are to worried about taking the best picture or taking a picture every 5 minutes to remember everything. Now…I will be honest. I have been that girl. I am a big advocate for taking pictures because they last forever. However, I would rather be able to look back at a situation or event that took place and be able to remember everything about that moment. I want to look back when something happened and know that I enjoyed it, rather than looking back and only remembering holding a phone in my hand and being consumed with getting the perfect pose, making sure the lighting is right, and making sure the picture is just perfect. With taking the right picture, comes posting it on Instagram with the most clever caption. Don’t lie to yourself…you’ve sat there with a picture uploaded asking everyone thats around you “What should I caption this?! No that’s not clever enough. I need a good caption!!” But guess what….no one really cares. Too many times people (even myself) have sat there and compared pictures with others thinking they are not good enough because they didn’t get as many likes. But honestly lets be real…what even is a like? Why should your life be judged by how many likes an edited picture can get? The picture you post is only .2 seconds of time. You only post the good pictures to make yourself look good and show the good times. Enjoy every moment. Don’t try to make your life look like it is coated with cupcakes and rainbows all the time. DO NOT LET TAKING A PICTURE AND TRYING TO COME UP WITH THE MOST CLEVER CAPTION KEEP YOU FROM ENJOYING THE MOMENT. Don’t live your life from behind a screen. Put down your phone. This media we call social is anything but, when we open our computers, it’s our doors we shut. Truly enjoy every minute of your life. Soak everything in for phones can break, but memories cannot.
1. Let nothing define you, but Jesus.
This was the biggest lesson I learned this year, and it hit me like a slap in the face. LET NOTHING DEFINE YOU, BUT JESUS. Not a boy. Not clothes. Not a grade. Not a sport. Nothing, but Jesus. For as long as I can remember, I have been known as the soccer girl. When someone introduces me, it is almost always followed by the phrase, “oh you play soccer right?!” I used to not mind, however now I am over it. Soccer for me is (most likely) ending in 2 years and I always have wondered what I am going to be known as once that is gone. When I get into the “real world”, soccer is going to be gone. I will not be playing anymore and so when I get introduced, a new phrase will follow up my name, but what will it be? On April 12, 2015, I got to proclaim that I have been saved by Jesus Christ and boy was it a long journey to get there. I made the decision to accept Christ into my life and heart on the night of June 28, 2013 when I got the news that my best friend, Nicole Quincy, had died. I didn’t know where to turn, and finally I turned to Jesus and asked for help. Over the past 2 years, He has helped me and I have grown in my faith. Before that night, I knew God and I knew about church and the Bible, but there was never a pursuit for a relationship with Jesus. Everyday I am growing in my walk, but taking the first step was the hardest. I have dug deep into the faith and the Bible, and on April 12, 2015, I was ready to proclaim out loud to everyone that I have been saved. That day, I made the decision to have a new title behind my name. I am now a Christian. I am a believer and I am not afraid for people to know that. I want to be known for that. I don’t want to be known as the girl who got a C in history class. I don’t want to be defined by that one time I missed an open goal in a soccer game when I was 12 years old. I want to be defined by God’s grace and my relationship with Jesus. One of my best friends, Kate, shared a post after my baptism that stated, “Happy baptism day Nat! Thank you for being an amazing Christ like image for me these past 2 years. I am blessed by your friendship and couldn’t imagine a better person to spend college with. I am proud of you but most of all I know Nicole is proud of you. She is looking down on you today and loving every second of it!” I was so touched by this post because I didn’t even know the kind of reputation/definition I was setting for myself, but Christ was shining through me in ways I didn’t even know. So, DO NOT let that boy from 3 years ago define who you are now. DO NOT let your sport define you. DO NOT let what other people say about you redefine who you are trying to be. DO NOT let the fact that you didn’t pass 1 class in high school define your academic ability. LET JESUS DEFINE YOU. If you have not found Jesus, I pray that one day you will. Let your relationship with Him define who you are, for that is one heck of a relationship to have. [John 14:6]