The High Highs and the Low Lows

Grab a snack or a drink and sit somewhere cozy; this’ll likely be lengthy.

How do I begin to tackle junior year? Well firstly, to any and every soul that has crossed paths with me this year, thank you. I really, really mean it. You rock. Every single one of you.

Freshman year was incredibly messy. I was lost in just about every aspect of my life, or at least, I didn’t feel confident in anything. I can genuinely say I have never been more insecure than when I was nineteen (hence my novel… but we’ll get there soon). Sophomore year ended up being a reboot and a security blanket; I established Hope as my new home, I became more involved in campus life, and I expanded my social horizons beyond the two friends from freshman year.

Junior year… Honestly, I think it has been the year of confidence and fearlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a terribly anxious person that needs to be calmed down every other day. But I have made decisions my eighteen-year-old self would have keeled over thinking about: going to Ireland in two days without any super close friends, working in Grand Rapids this summer and potentially living alone, and small things like volunteering to present first in my novels class.

Both semesters were crucial to my personal growth in very different ways. In the fall, I lost a family friend, Luke, to cancer. It was a real tragedy; I still believe he was the embodiment of the color yellow. Pure joy and faith. Frankly, that loss shaped my entire semester, even though we were never super close. Luke’s loss represented the first conscious grief in my adult life, coupled with the real spiritual frustrations that come along with such an unfair loss.

Luckily, God also placed some huge rays of light within the semester, including a memoir class that allowed me to process my emotions and a concert to see my all-time favorite musician, with my sister.

By the time finals rolled around, I was utterly exhausted, friends. The world had got me down in some really tough ways. But grief is a natural part of life and it has to be seen through, and that is what my fall semester taught me. It taught me how to deal with and walk through grief in a way that I had to learn on my own. Thankfully, I was blessed with a restful Christmas break at home with my loved ones.

Yes, it was a sad and challenging semester, but in a beneficial way. We cannot evade grief forever and grief allows us to fall back on community we so desperately need as humans, and realize the beautiful little blessings we have every single day in the grand scheme of life.

Grief humbled me, increased my introspection, and broadened my attention toward everyone around me, and I would not trade that for anything.

Now, in this brief reflective period before I skedaddle off to Ireland in two days, I have spent most of my time reflecting on my spring semester. I grew within the past four months in more ways than I ever thought possible, and I can confidently say that my spring 2018 semester was the largest leap in personal growth I have ever had in my lifetime.

Despite the emotional trials and tribulations my Communication internship in Hope’s recording studio brought about initially, it gave me immense confidence in who I am as a professional, which is a facet of my character that I have never stopped to think about or set goals for before. Clearly, though, I have lived with the pain of rejection in professional endeavors from the past; a fact which was exacerbated by the sluggish start to my internship. But I’ve learned I can handle way more than I thought possible—I can be a self-starter and teach myself photography if I want to, I can be a manager and juggle schedules and deadlines, and I can analyze social situations and problem-solve through strategies.

Through both my religion and literature classes, I allowed myself to ask hard questions and take a deeper look into the outcasts of the world that can sadly be too easily ignored sometimes. I wrote a paper about how the Christian community should interact with the LGBTQ+ community. Too often different opinions in hot button topics are labeled ‘evil’ or ‘good,’ and it was refreshing to slow down the discussion enough to acknowledge the humanity within both sides, take what is given to Christians through Scripture, and then apply that to rationally form an opinion on how the communities should interact. (P.S. I would love to share my paper with you and even discuss it together if you are interested in the topic!) My literature class really drove home how much of a bubble I live in. It helped me acknowledge my own ignorance and stereotypes in relation to ethnic minorities, which I am determined to rectify over the course of my life.

And, of course, I cannot forget to mention the immensely emotional journey that was my novels class. As I told everyone on the last day, becoming an author was always a huge dream growing up, but one that remained incredibly abstract and unattainable. The class gave me the concrete steps I needed to turn that dream into a realistic possibility.

Not to mention, my professor shot down my initial work in progress that I desperately wanted to work on. Looking back, I realized my frustration at not getting to work on my work in progress was a result of fear.

I truly believed I had no other stories to tell.

But I wrote a story that is very close to my heart. Remember freshman Annah I mentioned? When I was really insecure? That is essentially what my story is about—a girl overcoming herself and her own doubts in her abilities and value as an individual. I believe in Ryden, my protagonist’s, story, and I will work my butt off to get it published. I believe in her story because I believe in my story, and I believe the world needs to hear my story because it is unlike anyone else’s. I am confident in that.

I’m aware I’m going to be opening my heart to anyone who chooses to pick my book off the shelf, but that is a risk I am officially willing to take.

Outside of my professional and academic growth, I’ve realized there are two big changes in my social life, too.

  1. I am willing to have hard and necessary conversations with my loved ones.
  2. I have become unapologetic in building relationships. If I think you’re cool, I let you know. There’s no beating around the bush or being afraid of other people’s opinions anymore.

Okay, okay, enough about me. Can I just talk about the people I have been blessed with this year? This is the moment you all have been waiting for, right?

Firstly, my apartment-mates from both semesters. They helped me through my grief with prayers and laughter. They listened to my frustrations and confusion over a billion different things. (Ah, the female mind.) They showed me tons of hilarious videos. Not to mention, they put up with my loud music and the times I jumped out and scared some of them.

Secondly, shout out to the “sharpening friends.” A couple of them were my apartment-mates, but we did an incredibly valuable book study together first semester about rejection, which also was an immense necessity in a time of grief. We had some much-needed discussions and heart-to-hearts.

I already wrote a long post about James Fixx, but he and the rest of the students in the recording arts program really made me feel welcome at my internship, which I am incredibly grateful for. They were the “coworkers” I didn’t have, and they made my work fifty times more enjoyable through pictures, interviews, social media posts, and music projects.

I am thankful for Kelly and our great coffee dates, when we talked more about life than homework. I am grateful for Michelle who I ate with three days a week. She reminded me of God’s goodness every meal. Keri and Ceilidh are the biggest reasons I survived the non-stop work in our novel class, and motivated me when I had no motivation. Deb keeps me creative and awkward in the best ways possible, even when she’s hours away. Becky is the biggest hero I know and inspires me regularly.

But wait—there’s more. Shout out to Peter from Oregon for making me laugh on a daily basis and taking time to listen to my random thoughts even though he’s super famous. Thank you to Kevin @ Seven for letting me be on my very first radio show (which was a hecka ton of fun!!! I have the audio recording to prove it.) Also, I have to thank Michael for letting me take pictures of him before I really knew him, believing in my amateur photography skills, and putting up with my incessant sass. What wonderful goons.

Last but in no way least is an appreciation statement for Miranda, who has become such a devoted friend in the blink of an eye. I am so grateful I can remember faces well when others can’t, because that is how we ended up hanging out for the first time this semester—she wanted to know how I knew her (from like a two second interaction over a year ago).

Thank heavens it is never too late to make friends, because there are so many quality people around campus. I’m sure I’ll have some new friends after my coming trip to Ireland as well. But again, I truly mean it when I say I could not have done this year without all of these people and so many more. Every smile and interaction from every single person pushed me through both semesters. Community is so needed and I cannot emphasize that enough. We need each other, sometimes in more ways than we can even know until we are at rock bottom.

Happy summer, friends. Enjoy your time. Rest well.

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My television debut
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Miranda!!!
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Emma, Kaitlyn, and I before the last Gathering.
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My recording studio mentor and apartment neighbor, James.
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David let me shadow his recording project over the semester. This was the last recording session when he tracked the drums (and a taste of my photography).
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Finally, let us not forget the best “dingo” in the world: Gracey Rose.

~Annah

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Grade 15

A heavy workload. Aching eyes that cried too many times to count. Tough, beneficial conversations. Deep loss. Deep grief. Some 3 AM nights. Other 11 PM nights. Big career conundrums and frustrations. Little blips of clarity concerning one’s true passions. The realization of one’s youth. The realization of one’s maturity. Old friends. New friends. Internships. Housing crises. A lot of sass. The assurance of things hoped for. My very first novel draft. Large steps of independence and individuality. A fearful introvert becoming fearless in times of uncertainty. Constant pushes outside of cozy comfort zones. A broadening of my awareness for diverse opinions and lifestyles. An ear for the minority races and sexualities. An ear for the broken and confused. An ear whilst everyone else has lost theirs. Flinging into spring. Lots and lots of hopeful yellows that echo truth into my weary soul. Heavy weariness with a belly laugh of a silver lining. Crying girls in bedrooms. Crying boys in bedrooms. Smiles in between tears. Romance and the tenderness of feelings, so breakable indeed. People from the bad parts of town are people too. More attention to the minorities and outcasts. Protests for change. Sorrow that things will never be the same. Spontaneous outings for yummy treats. Professional resilience. Unapologetic appreciation for whoever puts a smile on my face. An introvert yelling friends’ names across rooms. Remembrance of commonalities. The necessity of music with its soothing narratives of pain and joy. Bittersweet, this life we have crafted for ourselves. Oh wait… It is not for yourself. Moldy hearts, forever being tilled. 💛

Junior year: defined as “how to power through anything and everything, one breath at a time.”

~Annah

Sophomore Teachings

Sit tight; this could be a long one.

Last year I sat down and wrote a really difficult blog about how challenging my first year of college was. God has definitely been with me through the deepest of pits and that never changes, as sophomore year was a whirlwind of emotions. There were many sweet moments and some rough patches strewn throughout. But mostly, (I can thankfully say) sophomore year has been sweet. I have learned a lot from both God and the people I have journeyed alongside:

 

  1. Be open with others.

The thing is, college seems like a super social place, but the reality is hiding is incredibly easy. Sometimes you become tired of all the “I’m good”s and the constant smiles on social media. You start to wonder if you’re the only one who’s actually not having a good day, week, month or even year. I used to loathe crying in front of anyone growing up because I didn’t want to burden my loved ones. However, the older I get the more open I’ve become with my emotions and although sometimes it may seem like I cry a ton (sorry fam!) I’m thankful I don’t hold my emotions back anymore.

Not only is this freeing for the mind, but it automatically helps relationships when I can have a good cry. Something about someone having seen me at my worst creates a new bond in our relationship. One day I was having a rough time and I thought about calling my mom, but instead I texted a friend I wasn’t super close to and she ended up sitting with me and we talked for an hour. If I’ve cried in front of you, it’s a good sign I love you a lot.

I also love having serious conversations about faith and sin, like one night when my pal and I watched Nacho Libre and then hung out for an hour talking about our struggles with lust. Another cool moment was at church when people were invited to have leaders of the church pray over them. Specifically we had been talking about control, which is something I struggle with a ton, so I timidly went up to my statistics professor, promptly started crying from nerves, and had her pray over me. That brings me to my next piece of knowledge…

 

  1. I struggle immensely with control and selfishness.

God is constantly illuminating sin in my life, but this school year these were the two most prevalent sins. I need to let go of the burden of grades and the future especially. I grip to those things so tightly when I don’t need to. Selfishness has always been something I’ve known I struggle with but this school year really illuminated how it impacts the ones I love. You would think selfishness would only hurt yourself, but sin always leaves its mark on others. My roommate in particular really helped me see that and how I wasn’t cognizant of all of her struggles.

 

  1. Examples of Godly forgiveness.

The sad thing about being close to any human is you’re going to hurt them at some point. I’ve found the true character of a person to come out when they forgive someone and how they forgive someone (or don’t…). The first instance I truly experienced this forgiveness was last summer (yeah, yeah, it’s not totally consistent with sophomore year). I left an uncomfortable voicemail on a previous friend’s phone about my struggle with lust and how I felt it was negatively impacting our friendship and we should probably cut ties. Personally, if I was in his shoes I would have been super upset and uncomfortable, as he had every right to be. But what stopped me in my tracks was the fact that he messaged me back, which I at first took to be a slap in the face (that I really did need), but at the end he said, “Annah, I hope you do well for yourself.” I cannot to this day get those words out of my head, simply because of the grace and forgiveness that rests within them.

My roommate was another person that really exemplified not just what it means to say ‘I forgive you,’ but how to truly forgive as God calls us to. Back to what I started referring to about my selfishness and lack of cognizance, she acknowledged my actions/words, conveyed how they hurt her and then looking past them to say ‘I love you.’ (Roommate, you are such a blessing in my life.) Finally, I can only imagine the amount of times my mother has had to gracefully forgive me for dumb and mean things I say to her. Thank you, Mom, for showing me how to gracefully forgive others in a quiet, humble way.

 

  1. Everything you love has faults, if it’s not God.

Basically, this is me saying I never thought I could dislike an English class, but American literature proved me wrong. It’s nothing personal; pre-nineteenth century writing is just not my cup of tea. (But did you like how eloquently I stated that instead of ‘I didn’t like an English class’?) Although it is still true in a serious way, I think sometimes we forget and are let down by the world.

 

  1. Talk to who you want to!!!

I’m an introvert, and while I have a secret sassy and loud side only certain people see after hanging around me for so long, I’m generally not a very spontaneous, I-love-talking-to-strangers type of person. But sometimes I have hardcore friend crushes and I’ve begun to gradually ignore my fears of ‘oh, but that could be weird’ or ‘but I don’t really know them, I shouldn’t join them,’ because I want to hang out with people I think are cool! Even if it might not be obvious to others I have at least internally gotten bolder this year about socializing with people I’m not good friends with. (Maybe it’s because of my public speaking and barista experiences?) One time I just messaged a girl I thought was cool and was like can we please hang out sometime I’d love to get to know you and she was super flattered! (Maybe she’s even reading this!) I asked people to lunch I wanted to get to know a little better and I even spontaneously hung out with a group of cool tall dudes and had them teach me Spike Ball.

 

  1. God’s plan always happens and yours does not.

I am a planner so every week I would map out what I hoped to get done and every week my perfectly laid out plans would fail. Who knew? Oh right, God. I definitely still struggle with a healthy balance between school and socializing, as I have a hard time studying with other people around. Thus, when my work I hoped to accomplish doesn’t get done right away, I become easily frustrated (so basically, I was frustrated most days.) But my goal for next year is to really let go and be okay with how every day goes, even if it’s not what I envisioned. Because frankly, it will never be what I envision, as much as I love and try to deceive myself that I’m in control. So thanks God, for constantly reminding me of this one.

 

  1. Listen to everyone, especially those you disagree with.

This semester I took an argumentation class for my Communication major that focused on analyzing arguments and forming our own valid ones that were not just ‘your view sucks!’ I’m pretty sure everyone in the class was either in the ‘this is hard’ category or ‘this is boring,’ including my professor (who is also probably the best one I’ve ever had!) who blatantly said ‘yeah, I don’t really enjoy teaching this class, it’s not the most interesting.’ Well little Annah was silently sitting in the corner like ‘I kind of loved this class.’

Normally I avoid controversial topics and conflict in general at all costs. But since taking this class, I’m more confident in sharing my opinions, even if they aren’t popular, because I genuinely want to hear the opposing side’s thoughts and try to understand them. I love when argumentation and viewpoints (especially controversial ones) can be looked at subjectively and broken apart so that the emotions are not involved, to really analyze why people feel the ways they do. It’s not just ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ but it’s humans versus humans, and I want to understand it all!

So sue me, I’m super nerdy about forming and analyzing arguments.

 

  1. A hip hop musical was the best idea EVER!

This one is essentially for my father. So he’s probably groaning and rolling his eyes right now, thinking ‘not again!’ But I would be lying if I didn’t mention Hamilton, the current Broadway phenomenon taking over America, because it was a big part of my year (and how my roommate and I interacted with one another.)

Honestly when I heard the first couple of songs I thought 1. History is not my favorite, I don’t know if I’ll like this. 2. Holy crap, they’re singing really fast, how am I ever going to keep up with this?! 3. I never really listen to rap or hip hop, this will be interesting. So I’m sure my dad has similar thoughts. But then you realize there are slower songs and you also start catching on to the beat and smooth syntax, (the poetry is ingenious, yet historically accurate!) and before you know it you’re bobbing your head and crying at the same time. I finished listening to the soundtrack while I was home filling out my taxes. Needless to say, I’m not sure which thing made me want to cry more. But dad, since you love words, I promise you’ll enjoy it (despite an arm and leg being cut off to get tickets. That might hurt a little).

 

  1. Don’t wait to tell people you care.

One way I exemplified my love for my friends was writing spontaneous letters to people and putting them on their doors. Always tell people how much they mean to you; that will also strengthen friendships.

 

  1. I am truly blessed in every way possible.

Music, writing, food, college, a home, friends, family, and every boss I’ve had so far in life (knock on wood)… I cannot be reminded enough that I am truly blessed, especially in the midst of annoyance with homework or finding a job.

I love the messages God pulls out for us to remember in certain seasons of our life, whether sophomore year of college, first year out of college, or first year of retirement. Keep your ears open to his words.

~Annah

To Every College Student

This is something I desperately want you to hear and truly understand, as I am part of your population. I don’t think anyone stops to tell you this or remind you of this. Here’s the thing, sweet college student reader (or really anyone in their twenties): there are so many question marks in your life and I think you put at least one too many upon yourself. There is one too many burdens on your shoulders.

We are constantly on the move, constantly planning, constantly trying to hang out with our large spectrum of friends. There is a need to keep socializing, meeting new people, and branching out. You scroll through social media and everyone is posting pictures with their groups of friends or talking about friendships through written posts. That is all well and good, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Believe me when I say we were made for community.

However, I’m afraid we’re not stopping to love ourselves. I don’t mean stop and find some alone time once in a while, because I think we’re all decent at that. I don’t mean we hate our outward appearance, I think we all have at least okay self-love. What I mean is that I want you to slow down, disconnect from everyone else, and really observe yourself. Take time to journey on your own now and again. This is not because I want you to be antisocial or self-centered, but I want you to establish confidence and knowledge of who you are and what being you truly means. In this time when we are figuring out who we are, I think it’s crucial that we have confidence in our individualism in order to do that. Too often we are in groups and in community, so we forget the importance of establishing ourselves in our own unique capabilities when no one else is around.

Why do I think there is a lack of self-confidence and individualism? I see it constantly and have experienced it numerous times. Sometimes when eating alone people become oddly self-conscious. Or on the flip side, people see others eating alone and feel bad. Almost no one attends church, clubs or events alone. There is an unspoken thought that solitude equates loneliness. Therefore, we remain constantly surrounded by friends.

When you go out in public, it does not need to be a group outing. Go out alone, dare I say it. Enjoy being on your own, and if it’s uncomfortable, continue to push yourself to loving you.

You have a presence that is all your own. Your identity is not in your friend group. Push off the burdens of insecurity and uncertainty about being alone and embrace the experience. There is nothing wrong with solitude, there is nothing wrong with not being in community all the time, and I just wanted to make sure you heard that.

So to answer your unasked question: Yes, you are good enough as an individual.

~Annah

You’re Hired

My first half of college is quickly drawing to a close (yikes, that’s scary!) and summer is approaching. The past few months and the next few weeks will continue to be application season for so many people, and I among them. To be honest with you, these seasons are very difficult and disheartening for me. But I’m always oddly calm, too.

Growing up, I always placed too much emphasis on my grades. Now after 14 years of school I’m starting to realize I’ll be okay no matter what the grade is. My life will go on. But now I face the struggle of putting my identity in jobs, or more appropriately, having numerous applications rejected. I’ll admit I’m a pretty naïve person when it comes to jobs and applications. I have so much confidence that I can land any career when the world is far from that simple. When things don’t work out, which is more than the number of times they will, I get super bummed and feel a little unwanted. Have you ever felt that way?

But it’s not even just the rejection from jobs that bothers me. There’s this pressure that I need to be super stressed and worried when things don’t work out. Yes, money is obviously necessary in this world, but if it takes me a little longer to find a job the world will not go up in flames… The thing is in the midst of the chaos and application season when everyone is rushing and frazzled, I kind of step back and intentionally try to do the opposite.

I’m weird, I have anxiety and worry a ton, but when I’m in a huge group of people who are all worrying that instantly makes me want to calm down. Everyone was freaking out about housing earlier this year and constantly kept asking me what my plans were, concerned for their future living situations. I would reply with something like, ‘you know, I don’t know where I’m living, but I’m honestly not that worried. Somehow it’ll work out.’

The pressure college puts on us to be constantly stressed about the future really turns me off. I just want to yell, “No, I’m not going to enter this season worried and I’ll be better off for it, thanks!” Was I bummed when an interview I thought went really well didn’t land me any of the multiple jobs they were hiring? Heck yeah! But then I dusted myself off and thought that that Dad of mine has something else in store this next season and I’m going to trust that. Instead, I’ll be working with my school newspaper crew again next school year. They’re pretty cool, so I’ll walk through that open door.

I’m at least starting off this coming summer at the coffee shop I worked at last year. Honestly, I was pretty bummed none of my other job efforts paid off and a little frustrated with God for personal reasons. I’ll keep applying and hopefully at least acquire another new part-time job on the side. I thought my season at the coffee shop was over and needed to be over, but God has a different plan. He always does, doesn’t he? I told one of my coworkers I was returning and her sweet response made me feel a lot better. Maybe it wasn’t my ideal vision but there are people there God has blessed me to work alongside.

What I want you to know and hear if you are in my boat of changing seasons is that things work out. They always do. And you will meet some cool people that teach you more about life and all the kinds of intricate people you share the planet with.

~AnnahIMG_0448 (2)

Concerns from a Christian College

I go to a wonderful school with so many beautiful people. Its name is Hope and it’s tagged a Christian school. But it’s also a scary place.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 7:21

Not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is and I think that’s pretty evident when we think of “Christians” who have tainted the name for the rest of the world. They profess they have faith but their actions do not line up with the Scripture. They spread hatred and intolerance for people different than themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, we all screw up and no one is a perfect Christian, but beware of those who don’t actively walk with the Lord daily.

When you have opportunities to attend chapel three times a week, church on Sunday, and Bible studies, it’s so easy to pretend. And that’s scary. We have to be discerning and examine not the outward actions of our peers–anyone can do that–but what is truly at the core of their heart. God? How they appear to others?

As my dad says, look for their fruit. That will tell you a great deal about their true identity.

As for my friends who are non-believers, I have to be honest with you. Chances are you have run into “Christians” throughout your life who are not actually representative of Christ and what they claim to believe. Don’t just take their word for it. Maybe even ask them about their faith.

Believers, please examine your faith and ensure that you are on the right track. How is your relationship with God? Does something need to change? Are you missing something?

It can be difficult, especially in a setting like a Christian school, to pick out the genuine believers. But keep a watchful mind and use God and his Word as your guide.

~Annah

A Brief Thought

So I went through a rough year and a half. I learned what it is like to fail and battle with my inner demons, as dramatic as that sounds. Satan is real and present in my life. I’ve learned how evil of an enemy I can be to myself. But I’ve also learned how loving God has been through it all.

Now I’m in a different period. I’ve been trying to figure out what it is.

I’m still trying to search for God’s voice, but it’s not as hard to hear. I had a hunch this year would be better than last year and God has blessed me with that. But also God has been showing me that His plan trumps mine every single time.

I had a vision of what friends I would grow with this year–He pulled me to different people. I had an idea of how I would do in my classes–it’s not what I expected. The doubts plaguing my faith are being touched upon and calmed by Him day after day.

“He whispered to assure me–I’ve found Thee, Thou art Mine.”

This period of my life is called reassurance.

~Annah