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.
- I am willing to have hard and necessary conversations with my loved ones.
- 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.