“Go”als

Here I am again, sat at a computer, doing exactly what I love most: in this particular case, listening to “8 Days a Week” by The Beatles and writing this blog. The feel of a pen or keyboard in my hands and time signatures tapping in my ears is the dream.

How will it translate into a career? Unsure.

This is the week when I’m supposed to post creative writing, but instead am going to talk about creative writing in the bigger scheme of my life, along with music… because I just read this:

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…And it meant a lot to me. I went in thinking it would be a nice little book by a big inspiration, and what I didn’t prepare for were the many tears streaming down my face, because of how personally it resonated with my artistic journey. I saw myself in Leslie’s words: my exact fears, self-doubt, and passion for words and rhythms. I saw my family within his, as he navigated an unconventional journey to find joy and dreams. And while I’ve always known how human we all are, reading his book really brought that home for me in an emotional way.

The world is a “big” scary place when you don’t know what you want to do with it. But when you start making steps toward dreams, you start realizing how small the world really is, and how interrelated we all are, even if you’ve never been across the ocean or across the country. Perhaps it’s scarier for us as artists to realize how incredibly tangible our dreams actually are, as long as we’re willing to put the work in.

My favorite summer show to watch is America’s Got Talent. Today I was struck by an elderly man who came on the show to do stand-up comedy and was then put through to the next round with 4 yeses. Despite his risque humor, I shed a few tears, because that perfectly exemplifies the heart of a true artist.

As an artist, you need a resilience of spirit. Sometimes your dream is right around the corner, and sometimes it doesn’t happen for 50 more years. So the real question is: are you willing to maintain an upbeat attitude and always strive to fail upwards, regardless of the time commitment? Because that will distinguish the dreamer from the achiever.

The past few weeks without social media have been wonderful, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t freak me out. Social media has been the main outlet through which I pushed blogs to readers, and now I don’t have that in my grasp. My reader statistics have gone down drastically and that hasn’t been the easiest for me to watch.

Honesty time: this blog means a lot to me. I’m currently making no money, but the dream I’ve had for a while is to go further with this blog. I hope to eventually invest money into this blog. I’ve considered expanding this blog through YouTube videos, to add another dimension to my interactions with readers, especially where entertainment blogs are concerned. These are all tangible possibilities.

I know my blog cannot be my sole job. I know publishing books cannot be my sole job. I know my pursuit of the music industry in whatever capacity that manifests itself will not be my sole job. I need all three in my life, somehow, some way. I could see myself working for others or being my own boss. But in whatever I do, I need variety, and I think that’s why my interests are so broad.

More and more, I’ve felt like I’m called to something more than unconventional. Something unique. But I cannot place my finger on it.

I’m currently revising a fictional book that is fairly autobiographical. The necessity to have it published is out of a need to be heard and a feeling of under-representation as a petite woman. Throughout my scourings of the internet, I have yet to see anyone sending out such a message as the one in my book. With such autobiographical influence, it has truly become a story I believe only I can tell, which has propelled me forward in the artistic project.

Many of my blogs have originated out of a similar vein. Oftentimes I’ll want answers or agreement on a topic of interest, and cannot find such, so I feel the need to blaze the trail. Mostly because I know the power of silence, where lies can fester and wound. Frankly, even if people hate what I have to say, I’m going to say it, because at least SOMEONE will have talked it about it at that point.

So maybe I do know one piece. Whether I help brush dust off the pop music scene, whether I put out a book, whether I pen 5,000 more blogs, whether I edit books, whether I cover musical events in journalism, and on and on… I think I’m supposed to start conversations.

And I think now I’m ready for the word “go” in all of its capacities.

~Annah

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Opposite Sex Friendships

This is a topic I’ve wished other people could talk about and guide me in, but I really never see much about it anywhere, so I suppose I’ll offer up my opinions on what I DO know to be true in regards to male and female friendships (in this case, I’m referring to both members of the relationship being heterosexual).

When the concept of a male and female friendship is brought up, I either receive responses of ‘that’s not at all possible’ or ‘that’s completely fine, what’s the big deal,’ essentially. Usually these responses correlate with different generations, logically enough. What I do know, however, is that these kinds of relationships are very prevalent among my generation today, and thus, we need to ponder and grapple with how Christians specifically need to approach this societal trend.

I believe Christian men and women can be friends with one another, as long as they approach the friendship with a shrewd mindset.

This opinion was spurred by my incredible father, who talked to me about being shrewd in dress as a woman. The reasoning for being shrewd in dress for a Christian woman is not because men cannot control themselves or women are at fault for what they wear, but because of the knowledge that sin and evil are active in others, and depending on what social situation you are getting yourself into, the goal is to act as conscientiously as possible to decrease the room for evil. Need I remind you, the enemy in cases of wrongdoing is not a person, but sin and the way Satan slithers around in these situations.

So similarly, we need to be shrewd in our friendships among heterosexual Christian men and women (or friendships among the gender you are attracted to).

Before I explain my view further, I’m going to tell you my story with this topic.

For the longest time as a child, I had a male best friend, Nathan, from about 5 years old until I was 10, and then we still remained close friends until I was about 13. We had tons of fun being active and creative, playing anything from imaginary games to video games. But as we got older, we drifted apart, mostly because we gravitated towards more friends our age (he was three years younger), but also I think because Nathan hit adolescence and maybe started feeling differently about being such close friends with a girl.

At that point after Nathan drifted away, I had a couple guy acquaintances through band in middle and high school, but for the most part I didn’t have any guy friends. I kind of felt like I couldn’t have any, or that they had to be friends who would develop into something more, as many people still believe today. Perhaps that’s how it should be at that age, as people are changing a ton hormonally and maturity-wise, and can be a bit unpredictable or fickle in regards to feelings. But I think there’s possibility for friendship for sure once both parties have fully matured. But shrewdness then comes into play.

Nowadays I have many guy friends. I just hung out with one at the library yesterday, I played cribbage with one today, and there are a couple others I talk to almost every day. Keep in mind, I do think the way to approach these friendships varies depending on whether the friend is or is not dating someone and your own romantic status.

Sometimes it can be better to hang out as a group with others, sometimes people can be perfectly fine one-on-one, and frankly, I think it all depends on comfortability, relationship statuses, and most importantly, the potential for lust and other applicable sins to creep into the friendship.

As a Christian, here are some truths to gauge how you must approach your opposite-sex friendships. Sometimes I have felt unsure how to approach some of them, as you likely have, so here is what we DO know:

  • As Matthew 10:16 says, we are to be as “shrewd as serpents.”
  • Lust is a prevalent struggle in our sexualized society and many people struggle with it.
  • Lust can take many different forms, not just purely sexual desires. Matthew 5:28: “But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts.” As someone who has often struggled with this sin, sometimes it can present itself as thinking too much about someone, having false hope where there should be none, twisting their words to create meaning where there shouldn’t be, and other things that have escaped my mind currently. While some of these things are indeed more applicable to when one or both parties are unavailable to date, the main truth here is that Satan is always active and trying to bring you and your loved ones down. Don’t underestimate the number of ways sin can manifest itself.
  • Your friend is a brother or sister in Christ.
  • Your friend should be treated with love and respect.
  • Any romantic partners in relation to the friendship should be treated with love and respect.
  • Mark 12:31: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater as these.”

There have been a couple of times I’ve struggled with liking guy friends who are off limits, in which case I’ve had to wrestle through and change the relationship accordingly. Sometimes that means ending the friendship sadly, sometimes that means making boundaries, sometimes that means only communicating in groups, these things all depend on the individual and what needs to happen to decrease sin.

When you are not struggling with attraction to the friend, though, it’s good to still keep sin in mind and be aware that you never know what sins others are struggling with, especially something like lust that someone is clearly not going to talk to the other about.

In either case, be shrewd with your opposite gender or gender of attraction friendships. Constantly think of how to serve and love your friends. Eradicate room for sin in one another’s lives as much as possible, regardless of whether you know their struggles or not. Act in whatever way will best honor your friends as members of Christ’s body. Make love and respect the main priority in your friendship, and by extension, Jesus. Interact with your friends how you would want to be interacted with, whether single or dating.

Enjoy the beneficial and different perspectives these friends can have, celebrate the beautiful people and company you have with others, but also strive to create a godly community that fights sin and spurs one another closer to the Lord. That’s my two cents on male and female friendships.

Please, please, please feel free to add your thoughts! I’d love to hear them. And let me know if anyone else has addressed this; I’d love to read more!

~Annah

My Addiction

I have an addiction to social media.

This is something I haven’t voiced to anyone before, but I think voicing it causes everything to make so much more sense to both me and my loved ones, because it really is a true addiction that has hindered my relationships with others. I wake up and sit on social media, I scroll before bed, and many times I scroll for multiple hours in between the beginning and end of my day.

It is quite literally consuming my life and driving me to apathy over how I’m spending my days, and that is what scares me the most. It has stolen too much of the past 7 years of my life, and I don’t want to live that way, so I’m indefinitely logging off all platforms until I can rid myself of this negative chain around my neck.

However it’s not easy for me to give it up, not just because it’s an addiction, but because the main side effect that I’ve experienced is FOMO (the fear of missing out). As the years have gone on, my FOMO has multipled, because people utilize social media more and more frequently, and I know my friends will be constantly using it while I’m not, so there’s the fear that I’m missing out on important information in their lives. Sad, but true, and not just in my case, but hundreds and potentially thousands of others’.

I think this is a prevalent addiction in our society, yet no one is talking about it. It exacerbates mental health struggles, it makes me feel guilty, it causes me to push people away, it forces me to be less social than I am, it fills me with emotions like apathy and anger. So WHY are we not talking about it and getting people the help they need?

According to an article written by the Washington Post, the 6 questions to test social media addiction are:

• Do you spend a lot of time, when you’re not online, thinking about social media or planning to use social media?

• Do you feel urges to use social media more and more over time?

• Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?

• Do you often try to reduce your use of social media, without success?

• Do you become restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?

• Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job, relationship or studies?

I personally would say “yes” to all of these questions. And honestly, I think there are a lot more people my age that would too, who don’t realize they have an addiction.

Over the past 10 years social media has become ingrained in our DAILY lives. People spend more time than ever staring at their phones over the people around them, taking pictures of experiences rather than just experiencing them, and making relationship updates on social media more important than the real life relationship! We choose to find our worth in the amount of likes and comments we get rather than conversations face-to-face, and we are overloaded in pointless or angry information that stirs up nothing but negativity, and oftentimes, comparison.

Social media has screwed up a lot of things in our lives. People under the age of 30 on average do not seek news from real sources, but deal with “news” mainly through angry Tweets by celebrities or grotesque pictures of violence on Facebook. We don’t know how to properly respect opinions different than our own, because we can just scream at one another through a computer screen and block the people we disagree with.

As a Communication major, I am utterly disheartened by how minimally we actually communicate with our loved ones. Sometimes it seems like people would rather divulge private information to 500 acquaintances than their closest friends, and I think there’s something really wrong with that.

Every culture, generation, and time period has to deal with unique struggles and distractions. Honestly, as I struggle to stay off social media for the next couple of months at least, I really wish I didn’t live in a time with social media. Social media can isolate in many ways: cyber bullying/hate comments, sending people to their rooms to be alone for hours at a time, increased depression rates, reading terrible news constantly…

But I think we overlook how social media can isolate because it can make those without it, especially millennials and generation z, feel out of the loop with the rest of their peers.

All addictions should be taken seriously; I truly believe that. And so, as I journey through the beginning/hardest stage of recovery to freedom, I think being honest about my addiction and allowing loved ones to know about my struggle is the most important part. To my loved ones, feel free to support and encourage me through emails, phone calls, or text messages. I know it may sound silly, but my brain has been in pure panic mode at the thought of giving up these websites.

But despite the panic and fear, I know it will radically change my mindset, my perspective of myself, and my productivity. This addiction has kept me from better relationships with others, productivity in work and school, proper health/self-care, and even the desire to do fun activities like reading and writing. I’ve allowed this addiction to run the majority of my days for 7 years.

I want to live and really live out my passions and purpose that I believe I’ve been given. I can’t do that when I’m stuck within the tiny confines of an Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat feed.

~Annah

How to Prepare for (and Survive) Difficult Spiritual Seasons

I hate to break it to you, but it’s inevitable. Difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible spiritual seasons are going to come around, whether you’re mad, confused, frustrated, grieving, feeling distant, feeling disconnected, or mental health is blocking you from reaching God. Hint: I’ve experienced all of these types of seasons.

I’m writing this from a fairly good season where I’m eager to engage with God and tag-team this summer together. I have some questions I’d really appreciate answers to (*cough*), but mostly it’s smooth sailing. But I know it won’t always be, and I can’t plan how long the sailing will remain smooth, so that’s why this list is so vital. For those of you in a difficult spiritual season right now, know that I’ve had plenty of turmoil within the past 10 months and it seemed pretty bleak at the time, but I’ve come out on the other side, and you will too.

  1. Dig into Scripture consistently/have verses at the ready

Yes, we all know this one should be a given, but I think a lot of us (I’m already raising my hand) don’t crack open the Word nearly as much as we should. This doesn’t mean you have to scarf down 50 pages in one sitting, take one verse at a time if you’d rather! This is about fitting in truth into whatever little crevice of the day works for you, because we are fed the world’s lies on a daily basis and it constantly weighs on us either directly or subconsciously.

Whether the verses you read end up being applicable or not to whatever your next difficult season entails, I don’t believe that entirely matters. Oftentimes I’m so desperate in my difficult season that verbally or mentally speaking any kind of truth (a.k.a. any verse in the Bible) gives me a pinprick of hope that I’ll make it through. But also, you can never go wrong with the truth within the Gospels, Psalms, or one of the letters in the New Testament, like Philippians. My personal favorites to calm me down are Philippians, James, Psalm 139, and Hebrews 12:1-2.

These verses are love for you, they are your sword, they have been provided for you to stab the darkness when it lashes out at you, so grab the pages and start soaking them in.

  1. Confide in an honest community

Make sure you are a part of some kind of group that is comprised of faithful people who feel comfortable sharing their trials and victories with one another. Community is essential for Christians, and these people will be able to support you in your difficult seasons through prayer and reminders of God’s goodness, according to their unique perspectives.

The great thing about difficult seasons is that we don’t all experience them simultaneously. The great thing about sin is that no sin is isolated; someone else will understand what you’re going through in some capacity. Put these two facts together and the darkness begins crumbling.

Make no mistake, young people are incredible, and as 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” However, being able to talk to people older than you with more experience is always comforting, if you want to obtain a larger perspective on things.

  1. Pray

Everyone knows how important prayer is to faith, but more specifically, I think physically documenting prayer in some way is really beneficial for difficult seasons. I like to keep a prayer journal whenever I have time, because later when the going gets tough (or I’m just curious), I can look back and see how God has provided and answered prayers.

What does that ultimately mean for your difficult season? That God is faithful. That God sticks to his promises—he will provide for you, in one way or another, even if that means the afterlife. I mean, what better provision could you have than Heaven? I’d say we’re pretty well looked after, even when the evil of this world temporarily holds us within its grasp. I think it’s pretty clear who’s going to win the fight, so bask in the promises and the conversation God has maintained with you through your prayers.

It’s pretty comforting to dwell upon what God has carried you through in the past, because it just assures you he’ll carry you through the uncertainty and funky feelings once more.

  1. Have those go-to people

Maybe it’s a YouTuber, a podcast, a musician, a writer… it always helps to have faithful entertainers in your life whose words are ready and waiting for you to easily find again when the darkness returns. Pick those wordsmiths who you know will restore hope in your soul, because that’s really what these difficult seasons are about… hope in relation to faith, and a lack thereof. God is constant. God is always who he says he is. God is always good and faithful to his promises and his people. You need as many voices as you can who will remind you of that.

  1. Put together a hopeful playlist

Along that same vein, this point is kind of what spurred me to write this blog. My favorite way to prepare for hard seasons is through music and compiling either a physical online playlist or a soul-list you can easily pull out when it’s pretty hard to see anything good about your faith or your life. I believe the entertainment we intake, especially as Christians, is life-shaping, and our duty is to locate messages that bring us closer to our faith.

That doesn’t mean explicitly Christian music (although it can), but words that help you feel less alone in your anger or frustration or confusion, words that make you feel less crazy for feeling what you do, words that encourage you and remind you it will get better again, just hold on.

This summer I have been considering starting a radio station when I return for my last year of college, called Annah’s Anxiety Tunes. I want to provide songs of hope for listeners to store up for hard seasons, whether mentally or in general, because I know how desperately I seek that. Regardless of whether or not it ends up happening, storing up hopeful songs is something I will actively continue to do and share with loved ones.

 

These are the primary weapons you need to poke a beaming yellow happy face in that blanket of black. God is on your side. He will not let you go. You matter. You are valuable. God has not forgotten you.

~Annah

Body Image and Lies that Crippled me for Years

Two years ago, I would have never imagined writing this blog. But after writing a rough draft of my novel, where I placed some of my biggest insecurities on display through my protagonist, Ryden, I feel confident that it’s time for me to be vulnerable about my insecurities. So hello internet, this is the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. But I truly believe people need to hear this to feel less alone.

There are so many times I have felt utterly trapped in my skin and have desperately wished my body could be anything but what it is. To just write this makes me cry, because it’s so sadly true. But my tears I have right now also fall, because that is such an ugly, twisted lie that millions of people believe when they look in the mirror daily. I think about all of the young women in elementary, middle, or high school who look in the mirror and abhor what they see. The petite young women in high school, like I used to be, who look at themselves and think something needs to change because they are “not enough.” You are enough and you are perfect just as you are, and I wish I could’ve told my younger self that.

I have told myself so many lies based on my body, including:

  • My skin is ugly
  • My nose is too big
  • I’m not tall enough
  • I’m too skinny
  • I don’t weigh enough
  • I don’t have enough curves
  • My body is not deserving of love

And perhaps the worst lie I realized two years ago that I’ve told myself for years subconsciously:

  • You will not be loved because you don’t have boobs

These are my lies I’ve lived with since adolescence, and I cannot say I simply got rid of the lies because that would be a lie too, but I’ve realized how essential my unique body is and that I need to stand up for the other women who look like me, because they are likely silenced by their lies right now. It’s so scary and yet so liberating to be sharing this with you right now.

This might sound corny, but if you could please participate, I want you to do this with me. Find a piece of paper and write down all of the insecurities you’ve had over the years about what you look like. I will write mine down.

Have your list? Good.

Now I want you to rip it up and throw it away.

The physical act of throwing it away is so impactful. You are free. You are not those things you wrote down. You are worthy of love despite all of your imperfections and those insecurities don’t define you. Not anymore.

Every single thing you wrote down is a LIE and that is the TRUTH.

For years, I let my insecurities silence me. For years, I let myself feel isolated and alone in these insecurities. For years, these insecurities won and sometimes these lies try to creep back into my system. Sometimes they float around in my system for a little while. But they never stay, because I know I’m my own worst enemy. I know I pick up on little things no one else does about myself, things that don’t even matter. I believe I was given this body for a reason. I believe there is something out there that wants me to feel inadequate and insecure.

I know I’m just like every other human on this planet because I have doubts about my body.

Our bodies are unique, and because of that, there are numerous insecurities we have about ourselves that we feel alone in. But the truth is we are not alone. Maybe someone doesn’t understand what it’s like to be petite like I do, but they know what it’s like to look in the mirror and disapprove of what they see. To look in the mirror and doubt that anyone could ever accept what’s there besides your family. These are lies that the devil of my belief system (or whatever the equivalent is for you) will take and run with, to convince you that you are not deserving of love, whether romantic, familial, friend-wise or spiritual.

It’s hard. I know it’s hard to love what you see. But whether you can see it for yourself or not, know that you are perfect just as you are. You are enough just as you are. You don’t need to change for anything or anyone. You don’t need certain clothes or shoes or makeup or a hairstyle to be seen as lovable.

This is your one body. Love it as much as you humanly can… which means sometimes you won’t love it. So when the doubts start creeping in, step away from the mirror, walk outside, and look at the beauty in the people around you. They possess the same beauty that you do. You know how you pick your friends up when they talk themselves down? You deserve that kind of self-talk, too.

Your body is perfect, so get used to that beautiful truth. Even when you don’t feel like it is.

~Annah

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