“HURRY!” said the College Student’s Brain

It’s a Friday night. I’m a college student… and I’m sitting in my room alone, writing this blog, and listening to 80’s music. And honestly, this is the most relaxed I’ve felt since my senior year started a month ago.

Daily I watch housemates, strangers, and friends zip from classes to school clubs to bars to exercise to restaurants, and on and on… Perhaps this academic year more than any other I’ve done the exact same thing, too. But the stillness tonight has revived me and helped me realize how utterly exhausting and burned out my peers and I are from this frantic pace. I hate watching my friends with a constant frown on their face or a wrinkle in their brow, while a glowing screen reflects off of their vacant eyes.

Dear fellow college students, we are terrible at setting aside genuine relaxation time where we can be alone and recharge. Maybe this is just me, but reflective introspection in solitude is absolutely necessary for my wellbeing, just as much as three meals a day, exercise, and belly laughs with friends.

We don’t know how to be alone and be okay being alone… As in silence without the presence of the internet. But those kinds of moments are exactly what can be the most liberating and recharging, and I highly suggest trying it at least once a week; but more if you can. Journal. Draw. Listen to music and reflect on the past week. Read something you find interesting. Reprioritize for the coming week. Remember what you value, not what the world tells you to value. For me, that means my faith and getting to know the people around me in a deeper, authentic way.

I think the inability to say ‘no’ for many people my age is part of this struggle. Yes, there are always fun things to go out and do, but sometimes what your brain might love you the most for is taking a night to be still!

“Slow” is really not a word in our vocabulary, but it’s one we need to start incorporating into our regular routine. It may not be the most popular option, but it sure is a lovely, healthy option. Go-go-go is only going to wear you down, even if you’re go-go-going with fun things. There’s a reason you need a certain amount of sleep to function properly. There’s a reason you can’t burn through all of your homework in one sitting. We were created to rest. That’s not “lame” or a weakness, it’s just a fact we need to shape our lives around.

Trust me, solitude and stillness will never lead you wrong; it can only help you in the long run.

~Annah

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Idolization of Relationships & Boys

This story has everything to do with God and Niall Horan.

I’ve liked boys for as long as I can remember. Boys never had cooties; not in my world. And I always had to have a crush on someone; having no crush was boring. If it wasn’t a classmate, it was 5 different celebrities.

Really I think idolization started in elementary school with Joe Jonas. I know it’s humorous to talk about now, but it’s honestly really sad, too. At 11 I had already been tainted and pressured by the romantic expectations of a shallow world. I would get genuinely angry when I’d check the internet and find out he had a girlfriend.

When it came to “real-life” crushes, I could and still have a hard time letting crushes go. I NEVER took the idea of dating lightly either. I had 3 kind-of, not-really boyfriends (if you count lots of emailing and a couple hugs). The first was during eighth grade, and I was convinced we would get married! The other two were right after throughout ninth grade, but I think they were mainly a result of not processing through the loss of the first one, who had dumped me, combined with me always needing a crush. A relationship’s the end to problems and sadness, right? Wrong, Annah.

In ninth grade, I discovered One Direction and became obsessed with Niall Horan, who represented idolization for me. I watched all possible YouTube videos in the universe with him in them, I swooned over every line he sang in their five albums, and I fantasized about a day I would meet him and we would fall in love. Sadly, none of that is new to him, and in fact, might be tame compared to other fans.

Then it happened: I went to a One Direction concert after my junior year of high school. I wrote Niall a heartfelt letter and brought it with me, naively believing I could give it to someone who would deliver it to him. Into the venue we went, I watched the Irishman intently for a couple hours with binoculars, we left in a stuffy crowd, and drove back home, a weary, exhausted van of people. In my window seat, I shut my eyes, soft One Direction music floating out of the nearby speaker, letter still clutched tightly in my grip, and a grapefruit-sized lump lodged in my throat.

The following day I drove home, climbed in the shower, and sobbed my heart out. I realized how unattainable my hopes had been and felt like the biggest idiot in the entire world. Mostly, I felt ashamed for caring about a famous person so much, and that’s when my idolization and lust (which can manifest in more than purely sexual ways!) really started having a negative affect on my life and (who knew!) also that of the guys in question. I had dehumanized Niall in my obsession.

Every sin has consequences and eventually sicknesses break out.

Flash forward two years and I was having a really sticky conversation with a guy friend regarding this issue of lust, but ultimately idolization–I had made him into someone he wasn’t, which is incredibly devastating. But I kept writing little Niall letters along the way (yes, even in my first semester of college).

I thought that was that after I talked to that guy, honestly. I had done a terrifying, humiliating thing in talking to him about my sins against him, and I thought the immense pain would have surely squashed all of the idolization and lust out of me. Wrong, Annah.

For the next two years I didn’t even realize the issue… until this past summer. Through prayer and conversation with friends–it’s honestly really hazy now–I realized all of these years the truth was that I’d idolized relationships and despised singleness. And I was devastated. This had been a majority-of-my-life issue! I had wronged guy after guy. I had drank society’s poison of “completeness,” trading in something filling and wholesome for pursuit of something empty and broken.

So what happened? That’s a pretty fresh wound still, right?

And it is, you’re right. But I have a whole lot of hope now, and that’s a result of a month and a half of steady prayer, cries of frustration, Bible readings, God as my Romancer, and family time. I’m not wholly fixed, and honestly, I’m always going to be broken. But there’s still more to the story.

August 28th, the first day of classes for my senior year of college, I went to Niall’s concert. Uh oh, we’re back to Niall?! This can’t be good…

BUT IT’S SO GOOD, FRIENDS!!!

Halfway through the concert, Niall played his song “Flicker.” It seems to be the most dear to him from what I’ve heard, and it pulled at my heartstrings every time I heard it on my phone or in the car. It’s about a flicker of hope in a bad situation.

Niall told us all to put our phones away and be in the moment, and that already won me over. He had the lights dimmed, because he wanted us to respond in whatever way we found comfortable. And right before he strummed those first chords on his guitar, he leaned in close to the mic, and added, “Feel free to pray if you want.”

I sang along, I swayed, I closed my eyes, I prayed.

“Still a flicker of hope that you first gave to me that I want to keep, please don’t leave.”

And suddenly, the song turned into a plea to God from me. I wasn’t trying to paint over the wrongs done. When I decided to open my eyes, tears brimming, I looked at Niall, and all I saw was a man. Just someone doing something they loved and trying to sing through life’s pain.

I used to write Niall letters out of lust and idolization, and I write now from a joyful place of respect for a man who is just as real as my dad.

I used to say with angst, “I want to marry Niall!” But praise God I can now say, “I want to marry someone like Niall,” like I told Fran on the way to the car. And maybe that doesn’t mean a whole lot to you, but it’s truly a world of difference to me. And if my biggest idol is now a human to me, there’s a lot of yellow hope peeking through the clouds.

Please listen to the following joyful song to celebrate with me because “it feels like I’m finally free.”

~Annah

https://youtu.be/OWs7CRvV9Bg

A Spectator Wounded

My schedule this month has been utterly inconsistent, but that’s my life right now. So here’s a random Monday poem.

 

He lifts the ten-ton weight

On his shoulders.

He thinks that mountain pose

Will hold him up.

But he’s drowning under the waves

He used as yoga metaphors.

His arms grow numb

And he crumbles into a frothy blue,

Coated in grainy apathy.

The waves push him

Who cares where.

 

Presentation nerves

And 3 AM homework nights

Are juvenile complaints

As I watch him fall,

Swiftly crack, bleed.

Again he pulls himself up to

Pick up that damn burden.

 

I look above him.

Of course, a hook

Dangles from the ceiling,

Patiently awaiting release.

 

~Annah

Crushing Comfort Zones

This is a story of a girl who has both felt the crushing weight of comfort zones and has crushed her comfort zones.

When I was little, my family would get together for Fourth of July every year at my Uncle Joe’s on Duck Lake. About mid-afternoon, there came a dreaded time: when all the cousins would clamber onto the speedboat and zip around on tubes. Year after year my siblings and cousins begged me to try it, but year after year I stubbornly stayed in the shallow water, convinced that I would lose an arm tubing.

My oldest sister, Dilyn, frequently mentioned how I never left my ‘comfort zone.’

Eventually I tried tubing and felt a rush of victory. But that didn’t stop me from spending middle school and high school only immersed in what I chose and what I knew I was skilled at: writing and music. Those were familiar realms, comfortable and natural for me. Of course those still remain my biggest passions.

But I think the weight of comfort zones lies in the lies. We feel like we can’t try new things, or that we couldn’t succeed in areas we don’t immediately gravitate towards.

I’ve admittedly felt trapped in college many times. I’ve always loved every art form, but I felt like I could never chase dance or theatre because I hadn’t done it before. I felt inadequate, “too old” to try (UGH, what a LIE!), and with theatre especially, that I didn’t possess the right personality, that I was too reserved on the outside.

I think people college-aged generally are afraid to try. We’re afraid to wade in new, unfamiliar territories, because we can’t stand the possibility of being bad at something. So we stick to what we know and try to force down the voice that might be whispering, “But you should have tried it…”

It’s my senior year of college. But as Paradise Fears sings, “It’s never too late to create a new canvas.” So I’m in a tap class and a hip hop class. And I’m by no means the best person in the class, in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m one of the least apt in both classes (definitely the least flexible!)

But it’s a really beautiful, humbling, and FUN experience!!!

That’s only the half of it though.

My school has an incredibly talented improv team called Vanderprov. They held auditions for new members at the beginning of this week.

Now let me set the stage (heh): I’m taking 6 classes right now, working 10 hours a week, and acting as Production Manager of our newspaper. (Believe me, though, I was actually twice as busy last year, so it’s really not as much as it sounds.) I’ve also been having digestion issues since school started, so I’ve been pretty under the weather, consistently nauseous, and simultaneously starving every day. (I got medicine and I can properly eat meals today YAY!!!)

Monday night was auditions, as was Tuesday night. I went from watching Vanderprov last weekend, to laughing about the ridiculous notion of me auditioning, to sitting in the Anchor on Monday night with a group of people I love but honestly don’t know super well, and all of a sudden I heard the words, “I might audition for Vanderprov” come out of my mouth.

Honestly I think it was a decision not only of mine, but of God’s for me. Because if I truly wanted to follow my own plan, I would’ve camped out doing homework all week, trying not to throw up, because I’ve been enslaved to school my whole life (but that’s a whole different monster).

Once my mind was made up, nerves set in for 48 hours and I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm expressed by loved ones upon hearing my plans. No one tried to tell me I was too quiet or doubted my potential, which has meant more than I could ever express. Too often I’ve let my crippling comfort zone crush me in the past, but not this time. So I auditioned Tuesday night, laughed a good deal, and acted crazier in front of strangers than I ever had in my whole life.

Before my initial audition, which was set in my college’s chapel basement, I walked into the dark worship space, sat in a pew, and prayed that I could just be myself and smash my fears with happiness.

That audition was the first time I ever did improv and the first time I’d properly acted (I had a chorus part in a musical in high school, but I didn’t have any lines or got to be that expressive).

Well I ended up landing a callback for yesterday, which completely shocked me if I’m being honest. So many people I had acted alongside and watched had incredible talent and left a smile on my face. Admittedly, I still hadn’t been entirely liberated from my own doubts and insecurities while auditioning that first time. But callbacks were entirely different–I had the time of my life. I felt more at ease, nervous in a good way, and arrived at home unable to erase the smile from my face.

Friends, I didn’t make the improv team, but I’m still SO HAPPY!!!!

Even two years ago I would have passed out if you had told me I would audition for Vanderprov. The concept of acting weird in front of others would have sent debilitating fear down my spine. But just as I’ve grown in self-confidence, self-love, and identity, I’ve yanked down comfort zones left, right, above, and below me. They have no place in my life anymore.

Coming from a very stubborn background where I frowned at the thought of tubing, I stand sure and joyful in my decisions. I’m trying everything, I’m humbling myself in order to meet more cool people, and I’m eliminating regrets. I’d love to see 7-year-old Annah’s face if I told her.

~Annah

My Final Academic Summer

And here comes another end to a season… this one marking the end of summer/college transitions.

Here’s what I did!!!

⁃ I SPENT A MONTH IN IRELAND?! STILL pinching myself about this one, still in awe of St. Patrick’s cathedral. I want to live laidback like the Irish.

Fearless doggie at the Cliffs of Moher

⁃ I worked 26 concerts and met some cool people in the music business and at Frederik Meijer Gardens (some of those volunteers were absolute sunshines)

Selling venue merch with my fellow intern, Carlie.

⁃ Unfortunately, I moved SEVEN times. We don’t talk about it.

⁃ I’m finishing up book #10 by classes (Tuesday), which is two more than last summer!

⁃ I tried and utterly failed NaNoWriMo. HECK YEAH! That means I’m actually human. Plus, prioritizing matters more than ever in a non-stop world. Learn when to press pause and play in life, you’ll thank yourself.

⁃ I saw Harry Styles perform in Detroit

Styles bringing back the 70s

⁃ I went geocaching for the first time with my dear friend Emma.

⁃ Many beach trips!!!

⁃ I had a much needed family vacation

⁃ I was on the news, hula-hooping behind a reporter! Still trying to find it…

⁃ I partook in Mason’s Amazing Photo Challenge! It’s for an INCREDIBLE cause and an even more incredible guy—here’s the info!

The ‘rents

⁃ I went to a fair for the first time in 10 years and rode rides for the first time!

Here’s what I learned!

⁃ Loss takes many forms, like losing my life dog 🐶 💛 And thus, I would own any and every dog if I could.

⁃ Cribbage

⁃ Paddleboarding

⁃ Hula hooping (right before they asked me to be on TV!)

⁃ The shoot dance

⁃ I idolize relationships and spent years despising singleness

⁃ I’m an AMBIVERT! nowadays

⁃ I have more spunk than I realize—don’t mess with me👊🏼

⁃ I need variety in a work environment

⁃ I’m addicted to social media

⁃ I’m constantly looking for ways to challenge myself (like giving up social media)

⁃ I have a passion for music and will do whatever it takes to find a career manifestation of it

Four years ago this ending would’ve freaked me out. But I’m not the same young adult I was at 18, who constantly looked backward. I look at the present and the future now.

This is a precarious year—so many question marks on the balance beam of both my and my classmates’ lives. It’s a guitar string pulled taut. For years I’ve been trapped by grades, worry, and stress. I’ve kept thinking only one more year of what I like to call ‘robot Annah,’ my least favorite version of Annah. She only comes out during the academic season. She’s more selfish than usual, near-sighted, a homework slave, and bristly to the touch. If you put robot Annah on a dance floor, she would stand there motionless and roll her eyes at everyone. She’s a real mood killer.

But as I sat in the bathtub for the first time in over 8 years last night, I found stillness again. And a little thought bubble flickered across my consciousness that said, ‘if you’re constantly letting these little things worry you, what does that say of God’s size to others?’

Because the way robot Annah acts, you’d think God’s the size of a piece of paper, or an online application. And that’s really pathetic. AND disgraceful.

I’m not meant to spend this coming year hoping for the future or wishing for the past. I’m striving to delete robot Annah from existence. So I’ll let you know how it goes.

~Annah

What Matters

Really think about that question and ponder it daily. At the end of your life, what do you want to have focused on and placed your energy in? Relationships? Work? Creativity? Technicality? Yourself? Others?

This past July was crazy for many reasons, but in the midst of the emotional turmoil and literal constant transitions (I moved twice and will move twice this month too), it has made me realize what I really care about.

This summer has been a whirlwind of too many things for my taste. But it has been essential nonetheless. On the surface, people might scoff. I’m only working one unpaid internship, with irregular work dates. How am I feeling a ‘whirlwind’? Aren’t I just lazy?

I certainly am the poorest of the poor currently. No money is being spent out of this girl’s pocket if I can help it. Luckily I’ve been raised frugally, so missing out on a couple shirts or snacks isn’t a huge deal for me. So if you prioritize work, maybe you’d say I’m having a pretty unsatisfactory summer. If you value money, you’d say that’s an utterly terrible season.

But I’m not measuring it by those things. I do certainly love my work, even though it’s not paid. Ironically work and the lack of money have not been what has made July such a rollercoaster.

Let me back up. We all have to prioritize in this lifetime. It’s not an option; you either consciously or subconsciously do.

For me, this journey of prioritizing started at the beginning of 2018, when I hoped for a year of stillness and received anything but… because the other side to prioritizing is having the world shove prioritizing opinions at you in 50 billion different ways.

Remember: only you can solidify what your priorities are.

In May, I had the opportunity to broaden my culture just a little bit through my gorgeous roots in Ireland. As I sit here crafting this message to Irish songs, I’m once again uplifted by something that does matter to me: human culture.

Work is fleeting. Money is fleeting. People are what ultimately matter to me. Helping and/or starting conversations with people through entertainment is essentially how I will pick careers in the future.

Fast forward to July, after I had grown accustomed to my internship, living situation, and finished my classwork for my study abroad trip, and I found myself pulled in a billion directions. Have you ever been in such a scenario?

I found myself pulled to have relaxation time after a stressful and emotionally taxing academic year, job hunt relentlessly to gain money, participate in July NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to ease my inner doubts, establish a strict exercise regimen (which I need to delve back into…), start worrying about THE FUTURE (why do we have to worry?! No thanks.), and be the most social of butterflies.

You’re probably still confused. No, none of those things are terrible, and they’re all manageable for the most part. However, as I started to juggle all of them at the beginning of the month, I swiftly realized they were not meant to be my priorities for the summer OR my life.

I gave up social media at the end of June, which certainly improved my use of time this month. The first week of July I realized my housemates and I had to move for the month, which was definitely a frustrating wrench in my plans. I had to move at the end of the school year, fly to Ireland, move every couple of days in Ireland, move to my summer housing, and I would be moving at the end of July and then back to school in August, which meant this unexpected move would bump my total to 7 (not including all of the Ireland transitions). THAT’S A LOT FOR 3 MONTHS! Then an added stressor came that week concerning a friend who seemed too out of reach to help in a very scary way.

The second week of July, I realized I struggle with singleness and idolizing relationships, which sent me into bouts of frustration and necessary spiritual time. Then last week, this same issue cropped up in a different way and sent me back into much needed spiritual and friendship guidance.

In between those two weeks, my family decided to put my life dog down, and it ended up being pretty grief-filled. And this past week I’ve been on a much-needed family vacation.

Essentially, the result of such constant and pressing emotional turmoil forced me to my Bible, and made me realize my main priority is my faith and relationship with God. That is something I want to prioritize for the rest of my life, and it won’t change, whilst my job positions, friends, writing projects, and even living loved ones will constantly change. And in my mind, without faith, what’s the point of striving to write a book or establish relationships? Life’s pretty gruesome without it.

Resultantly, I released my NaNoWriMo goals. That’s not to say I don’t care about writing or my novel, but it’s just not at all what I want to prioritize in this season of my life. And frankly, not at all what I NEED to prioritize.

Someday, my story will get published. I’ve honestly had fears I can’t accomplish novel projects without NaNoWriMo, but I’ve since let go of that lie. It’ll all get done. But not today. Not for a while. I’m going to focus on my faith, my friends, my family, my future job, and my future creative projects for the next year. (And I’m not talking novels!)

Here’s to loving people. Here’s to delving deep into my faith.

I’ve figured out what matters to me. What matters to you?

~Annah

To my Dingo (March 22, 2001 – July 21, 2018)

Heartbreak looks like

A wagging tail stilled

Old bones creaking slower

Stinky leavings across the floor

A childhood home without its bark

 

Heartbreak feels like

Lamb’s ears

With the soft, smooth echoings

Of a beloved friend’s

 

Heartbreak tastes like

Little brown hamburger treats

Given away to a puppy

That chomps happily in ignorance

 

Heartbreak smells like

A comforting, pungent, indescribable scent

Washed away from the carpets

And tossed out with the matted bed

 

Heartbreak sounds like

A 4-year-old’s delighted laughter

A 13-year-old’s shrill whistles

A 17-year-old’s deep sobs

And a 21-year-old’s teary recollections of

Gracey Rose,

The dog with the

Dirty nose.

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I know it may seem silly to some to be deeply grieving a pet’s passing, but as a 21-year-old with a 17-year-old dog, I don’t consciously remember a time without Gracey. My childhood home has always been a place Gracey just ‘is,’ which made it one of my favorite parts of returning home throughout college. She has been a constant, loving presence to go home to, especially throughout the numerous lows in life.

It was not at all easy to swallow the fact that she would be put down. I always knew the day of her passing would come, but I never imagined it would be for anything but a natural reason. Past images of her entering the vet’s office shaking in fear came back to me when I heard the news, and while I knew she wouldn’t be aware of the scenario, that certainly broke my heart.

Anyone who knows me a decent amount knew how much I loved my puppy (who I later called a dingo, and then a thestral shortly before her passing, as she lost weight). I made an album for her on my phone, and in the past 2 years alone, I took over 60 pictures and videos of her (which is saying something considering I’m gone the majority of the year). Although corny, we were great friends and companions, and my favorite part of our companionship was when I’d sing at the top of my voice and she’d look at me with one ear pulled back like ‘I’m judging you so hard right now.’

Although she didn’t see all of it, Gracey sure saw most of my life. She was my buddy sophomore year of high school when I didn’t have any close friends. I crawled around on the floor in excessive amounts of dog hair just to play ball and rub her belly. I’d chase her around outside and never catch up to her, because I was out of shape and she was part-Greyhound. She always howled at the ambulances, too, like she was praying for people.

Gracey—you’re welcome. I spoiled you. I let you on my bed countless times, I fed you billions of treats, and I always got you excited about your Christmas stocking.

Some more of my favorite moments:

⁃ When I’d lie down and cry, she’d nuzzle her head in my face

⁃ We played hide and seek

⁃ We played hide and seek with her treats

⁃ Snuggle times and reading aloud to her (she loved Harry Potter, I’m convinced)

⁃ Dancing—holding onto her front paws and letting her walk on her hind legs

Lasts are sad, and potentially moreso when you’re aware that they are lasts… Over the past few days I had my last return home with my furry pal hanging around, my last walk with her, a final treat and human food spoiling, a last kiss, and the last pets of a furry texture well-known to calm my anxiety.

It’s really heartbreaking for me. It’s a long-lasting companion. It’s my favorite smell. It’s my most eager greeter after a long semester. It’s symbolically the majority of my life, all taken away at the same time.

Every time you let a person or an animal into your life you’re guaranteed heartbreak. Maybe they end your relationship, maybe they move away, many of them die… but we attach so much of ourselves to every living thing we encounter. That’s scary. But it’s definitely a good thing, not to be closed off. We were given each other, brother or dog, for a reason. We help each other through the shattered waiting room for as long as we can until it’s our time to pass on. And then we get to cheer on the others.

It’s okay to grieve and be sad about the loss of a pet. I know firsthand that I can attach just as much meaning to a dog as to a person.

And when you do so, it is such a blessing. It means you’re not afraid to love and to love well. I think that’s something our Creator wants for us very much.

Thank you to my parents for buying such a hyper, beautiful, and joyful dog. She was found on a farm, and who knew $15 would bring so much happiness and tears into my life.

Gracey Rose, I love you. Rest well, Snuggle Muffin. What a wise old dog with lots of personality.

God, do all dogs go to heaven? Because they sure exemplify your unconditional love well.

~Annah

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