The College Myth

“How’s college? Do you like it?”, asks every person I talk to.

“Yeah I really like it.” Is my usual response.

A true response would take way longer than the time they have and be much more personal than they wanted to know. The true answer is that most of the time it is great. It finally feels normal and I really like my classes and professors. But 15% of the time it straight up sucks. But no one wants to hear that college sucks. And if you are an optimist(like me) or a mathematician( not like me) my off-handed response of “really good” is an accurate average of my time away at school.

It’s widely said that a lot of a person’s personal growth and development happens during their college years. I don’t disagree. In my four months up at school, I know I have grown as an individual immensely.  Just like those growing pains and growth spurts that you had as a kid, but instead these are emotional growth spurts, both of which sometimes hurt a lot.

People also say “Oh you will make lifelong friends in college.” Or my favorite, “The friends you make now will be your bridesmaids later!” No one tells you that for a while you will feel like you have fake friends and half friends. No one tells you that if you go to a place where you don’t know a soul, that sometimes it gets lonely. They never say, “You will start to wonder if you smell funny before you actually feel as though you have a couple solid friends.”

I think this provides many people with a false expectation for what college will be like. For example, fireworks will not go off in the background when you first meet your roommate and you will not be instant best friends. I know that I was not at all aware of the sub-clauses in those general comments everyone makes about college.  I went into college thinking I would totally have it all together by day 10. Be involved, check. Make friends, check. Ace your classes, check. Grow, check. And by grow I do not mean in your waistline from the freshman 15, just to clarify.

Reality check: man was I mistaken. I never realized how much growing hurt. Being away from everyone I knew for close to 70 days, when I can’t think of a single time that I had spent without the presence of a familiar face before going to college, it hurt.  I missed dinner with my family, doing homework and hearing my parents talk as they were preparing dinner, sharing a room with my sister, good morning hugs from my mom, I missed all of home.  I missed the community of my small group, as I doubted that there was actually a single other Christian on the entire campus. I craved having someone with whom a look could be interpreted to speak 1000 words.

In the midst of this pain though, God always appeared. When I needed to meet another Christian on campus just to be reassured that they actually existed, in a totally random moment, I sat down next to one in a lecture. When it turned out that my dad had to fight a fire and couldn’t come to visit, two of my church friends from home to plan a trip to come visit. When I missed the companionship of my home friends, there was a friend waiting for me – I just needed to open my eyes and look around. God was always there in the pain of growing, and with his help I have grown with leaps and bounds.

I was also vastly unprepared for just exactly how long it would take to feel like I had really good friends. Even though I knew I was going somewhere where I wouldn’t know a soul, I thought, “It’s okay. I have already done this once before in high school when I went back to public school after homeschooling” what I failed to realize is that in high school I already knew some people. And they knew some people. So their friends became mutual friends and my friend circle expanded. In college it’s different. There is only one of me. I can only meet so many people and I can only spend quality getting to know you time with an even smaller number of people. I constantly have to remind myself to have grace with myself. Making friends takes a long time. Making best friends, let alone bridesmaid worthy friends, takes even longer. And in that long time, sometimes it gets a little lonely. But it’s okay. Everyone feels like that.

Give yourself grace, is what I have to keep reminding myself. Do you even remember how you made your last best friend? I know I can’t. Actually other than being nice, how does one make friends? I feel like it just happens naturally. Is there a point in time that marks the transition from friends to good friends to best friends? I think it all just takes time. It takes time to create the shared memories and inside jokes that come with a great friendship. It’s okay, friends will come with time. Hang in there.

I wrote this after first semester, and hesitated to put it up because it seemed really pessimistic, and that wasn’t what I wanted to portray-I knew it would get better, it was just slow going. Looking back on what I wrote after a full year under my belt, I still agree with what I was feeling, but I know it also gets better.  Second semester I found my people-friends I knew were friends.  I joined a sorority (though I never dreamed that I would), track season started, I found a home church, a bible study, and I became better friends with the people whom I had met during first semester.  I knew how to juggle school, laundry, feeding myself, and having a social life way better.  After two months of summer, though I am loving home, I miss my friends at school so much I almost wish school would start already just so I could see all my friends again.  Wholeheartedly, I can say that school is great and I am really enjoying it.

Jumping for joy because life is good, school is over, and its finally summer.
Jumping for joy because life is good, school is over, and its finally summer.

In conclusion, a note to all the incoming college freshman-have grace with yourself.  Realize its a big adjustment, and set your expectations accordingly. Have fun, and know that everything gets better after first semester.  And a note to everyone who says, “College is the best time of your life!”-be careful, you might be creating false expectations in a nervous freshman’s mind.  You might not remember the trials of the first couple weeks, because the good times have washed out all of those memories, but more than likely they were there.

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Beauty in the Midst of Struggle

Seeing as finals are in full swing, I figured what was a better use of my time than to post a reflection blog on my most thought-provoking class this semester.  (Mom and Dad, I had it written way earlier, I’m just posting it now. Pinky promise.)

My life this past week preparing for finals and writing final papers.  P.S. I love that my Bible is required to do some of my homework.
My life this past week preparing for finals and writing final papers. P.S. I love that my Bible is required to do some of my homework.

History and Literature of the New Testament is one of my most challenging classes this semester.  Not because I don’t understand the material and do poorly on the tests, on the contrary I understand the material quite well and have done very well on the papers and exams.  The struggle I have is that being the naïve freshman who I am, when I was searching for classes in August, I saw this class about the New Testament and thought, “How cool is that? We will read the entire New Testament and it will be a great way to encourage me to be diligent about spending time in the word daily!”  Without hesitation, I signed up.

On the first day, the professor asked us, “What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments?” I thought, “Oh goodie, I know the answer to this question.”  I waited for other people to respond for a little and then raised my hand and said something to the effect of, “The Old Testament is the time leading up to Jesus’ birth, in which many prophecies and promises were made, and the New Testament is after Jesus’ birth, and it documents his ministry and the effects of it, as well as the promises and prophecies made in the Old Testament coming true in the New Testament.”  My professor responded and said, “Well some people believe that, but it is a very theological view of it…When answering in this class it is important to avoid speaking with theologically based answers”  She went on to tell us the right answer, which was pretty darn close to what I had said.  After that class, I was in a quandary. How was I going to answer questions with the answer she was looking for, when I only knew one answer, which apparently was too steeped in Christian theology?  How could I disassociate what I had learned and believe to be true from how I answer questions on the New Testament?  Was I going to be graded down if I accidentally said something that was too theological?

She assigned a twelve page self inventory on the first day of class due in a week; by next class four people had dropped, leaving twelve students in the class. I seriously debated dropping it as well.  Subsequently I talked to some of the people who dropped, and they said it was just going to be too hard for them to not speak theologically, plus the twelve page paper did not motivate them to stay in the class either. So one week in, I wasn’t alone in my doubt.

While I was completing the paper, I happened to google my professor, as I wanted to see if she was a contributor to the textbook we were using.  What I found was overwhelming at first.  My professor had been an Episcopalian priest who was defrocked in 2009, for becoming a Muslim in 2006.  Reading on, I found an interview in which she stated, “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.”  I was so surprised.  My first thought was, “How does that even work? The two religions are fundamentally different.”  My thoughts then progressed to “Oh my goodness, I’m taking a New Testament class from someone who is both Muslim and Christian.  We are very possibly going to have differing opinions on many topics. Should I drop it?”  Farther down in the article it mentions that, “She calls Christianity the ‘world religion of privilege.’”  After reading that, I was so bummed.  Here I am, a white, female, Christian, from Southern California, going to a prestigious private school in Washington, with a professor who believes that Christianity is the religion of privilege.  Based off of my appearance and my much too theologically based answer on the first day, I was sure she had a great opinion of me.

I debated about dropping the class for two weeks.  I dreaded going to class and having to monitor how I participated in class for theological biases, when all I know is theologically based.  I felt that it was slightly ironic, being at a liberal arts college that strives to be inclusive of all people and beliefs, that I had to make sure to not over share what I knew and believed to be true about the New Testament.  The only nice thing was that I knew to take whatever she said, and for that matter, whatever was in the textbook, with a grain of salt, because the class wasn’t taught from a theological background, as I had naïvely expected it to be.

In the end, I decided to not drop the class.  I felt like God led me to be in that class for some reason, whether to strengthen my own faith, or be a witness to others, or something completely different, I felt called to stay.  I have no idea whether I will get graded down for my Christian upbringing coming out in my opinions in my papers, since we haven’t gotten any back yet.  Who knows?  All I know is that it will all work out somehow.

It has taken me almost an entire semester to realize the beauty of this class being taught on my campus.  I don’t go to a Christian school, in fact, 4 years ago, it was almost the opposite.  Four years ago, there was a group of about ten believers that met on campus for fellowship.  There might have been more who didn’t show up, but then in a student body of 2,500 is a small minority.  Now there are about 200 believers that meet regularly between the three Christian clubs on campus.  God is moving on this campus, and I’m so glad to be up here and be a part of it.

Anyway, when talking with my mom about this class, she said, “Linds, this might be a challenging class for you, but think about it. There are people in your class that are reading the New Testament for the first time.  God’s word is present in your class and you have no idea how He will use this opportunity to impact lives.”  She helped me see the beauty in the class, even though it might be a trial for me.  There are twelve people who meet twice a week for an hour and a half to discuss the history of the New Testament, all while reading the entire New Testament as required reading.  We all come different faiths and walks of life, but each of us is reading the Bible.  Going to class is so much more joyful and exciting once I put my perspective in line with God’s greater plan.

Lost: The Simple Joy of Reading

Guess what happened last night?
I read a book. For fun.  Not a fun school related book, but a plain, unassigned, free reading book. For some reason, I had this urge to read a nice carefree book in bed.  As I was walking to the library to obtain said books, I couldn’t even recall the last time I had read a book for pleasure.  Where had my love of reading gone?

As a child, I was the kid at the library with a stack of books two feet tall, counting them to see if I had reached the checkout limit.  I was addicted to reading.  In the summer, my parents would have to limit the amount of time I spent reading so that I would go outside to play and be social.  I loved that i could be transported to a whole new world and take on a whole new persona with the turn of a page, wherever I was.

My mom read to me almost every night until I was in high school and had to do homework  until bedtime.  Together we ventured to Narnia, became family to Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy, roamed the apple orchards with Anne, and lived on the prairie with Laura, Ma, and Pa, just to name a few of our endeavors. She would read from eight to eight thirty every night; we took turns on who would occasionally fall asleep halfway through; that’s when we knew it had been a long day.  I loved that time. It was mommy and me time, our own special treat at the end of the day after my younger sister went to bed.  Promptly at 8:30 she would stop reading and say, “Alright time for bed Linds.” And I would beg for just one more chapter, just one teeny, tiny chapter.  She would look how long it was, and if it was short enough she would say, “If we read this, you will have to have no troubles getting up on time in the morning.” Of course I would readily agree; I would do anything for just one more chapter.  Together we read over seven thousand pages, and I am eternally grateful to my mom for investing that time in me and helping me cultivate my love of reading.

Between reading at night with my mom, and reading by myself, I logged many hours as a bookworm during my childhood. Like I said I was addicted. But once I got into high school, assigned reading came like a thief in the night and stole my free reading time.  Even on breaks, I either had assigned reading to do, or I was so burnt out from doing the readings before the break, I didn’t even want to think about reading more.  And it got worse and worse every year.  As more and more reading was forced upon me, the passion I had for reading faded dimmer and dimmer.

Not to say there wasn’t ever light in the dark tunnel of assigned reading.  My initial love of reading helped keep a light burning, even when the material was thick and I didn’t understand it all.  I still remember sophomore year reading A Tale of Two Cities, and learning about diction, syntax, tone, and all the usually boring parts of literary analysis.  It clicked for me, and my inner book-lover and nerd came out.  I loved thinking about why Dickens wrote the way he did, because as anyone who has ever read Dickens’ work knows; he has a very distinct voice.  To this day, that is one of my favorite books.  It was a light in my tunnel of literary analysis of assigned reading, a reminder of what I used to love.  But alas, all good things must come to an end, and assigned reading became like a chore again.

Just like reading Tale of Two Cities reignited my love for the written word, summertime also was a time of relaxing with good books.  Granted, most of the time I still had assigned reading to do, but at least for a couple of weeks I got to experience reading for the sheer fact of wanting to read once more.  In the years before my grandma died, she began a quest to read the entire classics section. It was awesome when she was reading a book that I was reading for school, because we could discuss it and read it together.  She made it through the entire classics section at the library, and inspired me to read more classics.  Thus every summer, before our annual long camping trip I would go to the library, and pick up a stack of around seven classics to read that trip.  During the course of these trips, I noticed that I always gravitated towards the classics that were not commonly read in school.  I couldn’t bring myself to read a book leisurely that was a “school book” no matter how great it was. I wanted to read a book that was clearly distinct from any book that had been or would eventually be a graded assignment.

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Assigned reading didn’t make me stop reading forever. It also didn’t make me hate reading.  But even for an avid reader, assigned reading slowly tortured my inner book-worm.  I don’t know how it got that way.  How did reading go from something I loved to a chore, as soon as it became associated with a grade or a homework assignment? Where was the point when reading became a monster?
I see it happening in my sister, as she is reading To Kill A Mockingbird, which if I might add, is an exceptional book, that I would read over and over, but she isn’t reading it because she wants to, she is reading it to answer questions to get a grade.  Naturally when reading something to answer questions, regardless the subject, one will skim to find the information that pertains to the question and then move on.  By doing so, one usually misses key information that makes the story enjoyable to read and less like homework. My sister likes to read, but not nearly as much as I did my freshman year, and I can see the enjoyment fading away as the books take on more weight than they were meant to hold.

I can’t imagine how it is for students who don’t like to read in the first place.  Actually I can; those are the students that don’t even bother opening the book and if the teacher is lucky the student will Sparknote it to at least make it appear like they are reading.  In doing so, they miss out on finding a favorite book or author, which might have led them to find a type of writing they enjoy reading.

It is not to say that assigned reading should be abolished.  What I am trying to suggest is actually very far from that.  Assigned reading exposes students to many different time periods, ways of life, styles of writing, etc. and provides great examples of how to write.  But we aren’t all going to be novelists. Maybe we should add a little more article and essay reading into the curriculum, because in this digital age, isn’t that what the majority of what our students will be dealing with in their workplace, or even in their daily lives?

Will adding articles help students enjoy assigned reading more? Possibly, maybe it will help the slower readers have confidence, because it is a shorter piece of work. Will letting students read what they want to read help them like assigned reading better? Maybe.  It might make it less of a drag and give each student the freedom to read material on what they are passionate about, or even find something they are passionate about.  But then what does one do about grading? How does one grade an enthusiastic student who only likes to read, say cookbooks and travel guides?  How does one encourage, if not require, the reading level to be grade appropriate?  How can one tell if students are actually reading the books?

I don’t have a solution, I really don’t even have suggestions on how to attempt to fix this issue, but I do know that somewhere between freshman year of high school and freshman year of college, my love of reading was vastly diminished as a result of reading wonderful novels knowing that my future would be partially determined on how well I understood and could analyze the book.  My understanding of the book led contributed to my grade in the class, which then played a huge factor in what colleges I got in to.  Reading somehow got reduced to a means to an end, and because of this many have lost sight, at least temporarily, of what the simple joy of reading is, myself included.

To conclude, I have one question that must be addressed; how do we reclaim reading from being a means to the end, and return it to the simple joy that it brings?

Summer Homework: Had Me a Blast

One of my favorite teachers of all time wrote a blog post this weekend questioning the effectiveness of assigning summer homework and it was amazing.  I suggest you all read it on his blog, The Readiness is All.  At the end, he asks readers to share their thoughts in a comment or blog post response.  In the beginning I was going to just leave a short comment and be on my way, but then I realized I had a lot more to say on the subject then would be courteous to leave in a comment.  So here I am, blogging about summer homework, two-week into school.  You would think my opinions would have died down after being in school for two weeks, but nope, I’m still really passionate in my displeasure about summer homework.

To start off, I have had summer homework in at least one class for the past three years.  This past summer was amazing because college doesn’t have required summer homework(that I know of.  Oh gosh, what if they do? Oh no.) and it was amazing.  It was sharply contrasted by my sister’s summer in which she had three books to read for freshman honors english.  Some might argue that the books weren’t super long or hard to read, but that isn’t the point.

The point is that she read all three books diligently and did not wait until the last-minute, but as the first day of school crept closer and closer, she got more and more stressed out.  Talk about nerve-racking! Imagine starting a new school for the first time, one where everyone is bigger than you and there are a bazillion people everywhere.  The stress of six new teachers, finding your classes, having somewhere to eat lunch, being able to find one’s friends in the sea of people, opening one’s locker…the list of stressors goes on and on. Then add the stress of an impending test and multiple essays to be done in class within the first week of school. Poor freshman, I did not want to be in her shoes.

The day before school started for her, I received probably 15 texts, 3 phone calls, and one long FaceTime call in which she was in tears, stressed about the test and essays.  She was so nervous that she would fail and her teacher would think she was stupid and a failure, and even worse, have him think she didn’t even read the book.  She had no idea what to expect except the teachers had given a list of nine essay prompts and said, “Be prepared to answer three of these in class on the first day of school.”  I counseled her and told her that it would be extremely rare for a teacher(especially of freshman) to give a test on the first day because people are getting lost, coming in late, finding their assigned seat, etc.  It just doesn’t work to give a test within those first fifty-six minutes.  She still wanted to be prepared, so she set to writing an essay answering each of the prompts.  She wrote three essays before I was able to convince her that if she felt that she needed to write the essays, to just write bullet points.  She was so stressed.

I know teachers don’t sit around all summer thinking up new ways to torture their students(if they do, that’s a bigger problem than one of summer homework).  So I would like to think that if they knew what summer homework put their students through, they might think twice about assigning it.  Now I know, the reason summer homework is assigned is so that the class can hit the ground running and cover more material in the course of the year.  There has only been ONE class that I have found this statement even partially true and the summer homework necessary.  That class was AP Biology.

In AP Bio, we had four chapters to go over and do activities for on our own over the summer.  It was all review from regular biology, which was a prerequisite so everyone completing the summer homework had taken it, AND we went over it all in class, so if anyone had questions they could get them answered.  The only reason summer homework was assigned in the first place was that the AP test requires so much material to be covered, that one must start in the summer, just to have the time to cover all the required material adequately.  Which is a whole other problem in itself. Why design a test in which all material cannot be covered within the school year?  Oh well, that will have to be a completely separate blog post. The summer homework is justified in the extremely high pass rate that our school has on the AP Biology test.

What I don’t understand is assigned reading for English classes.  And not to bash on the English department at my school; I enjoyed every English class I was in, but I still don’t understand the purpose of the summer reading homework they assign.  I can only come up with two plausible reasons as to why summer reading homework would be assigned.

Reason One: The teachers want to scare of the faint of heart(in an academic sense).  They don’t want to deal with students who don’t want to do the level of work required of a higher level English course. I don’t blame them.  There have been many a time when I have been in class frustrated because some of my classmates did not want to put in the effort and work required of the class, thus unfortunately sometimes bringing the entire class down. I love being in a class with all academic thinking students just as much as a teacher like teaching one.  When everyone is participating and putting something into the class, it transforms the class; discussions flow freely, group projects are no longer a pain, and the positives can go on forever.  But I’m not so sure that assigned summer reading is going to solve that problem.

In fact, in assigning summer reading, one is more likely to scare away those students who are on the fence between excelling in a regular level English class and being challenged in an honors or AP class.  You won’t scare away the students who are forced by their parents to take the upper level course, just to get into a “good college”.  They will just read Sparknotes and take whatever grade they get on the first tests, because they don’t really care.  You won’t scare away those kids that are naturally smart, but have no desire to put any effort into the course. All who get scared away are the timid ones, those unsure about their academic strength, but willing to put in the effort to get to that next level if needed.

Reason Two: Summer reading is important because it helps classes to cover more books in a year, which ultimately helps students on the AP Literature test as they will have more books to choose from when they are writing their free response essays.  I’m pretty sure no teacher can wholeheartedly say this and believe it one hundred percent.  No student in May of their senior year is going to recall a book they read over the summer before freshman year enough to write a fully developed essay on it.  For one, it is highly likely that after reading that book over the summer, they took a test on it and never discussed it again.  Which ultimately won’t help them on the AP test, because on the test one is required to examine the book on a deeper level than just knowing what the book was about.  Class discussion of a book help set those themes in stone in a student’s mind, so that they can, hopefully, recall them when necessary.  Also, speaking solely from my personal experience taking the AP Literature test; you read enough of a variety of books senior year that you can answer just about any prompt and relate it to one of the books read that year quite easily.

There are some many things students can do during the summer that would be way more worthwhile and thought-provoking than summer homework.  I could list them out, but I think you get the picture.  (If you need an idea of what I’m talking about, check out my previous blog post about what I did this summer!)

Just an example of one of the great things students could be doing instead of summer homework-enjoying the sunset!
Just an example of one of the great things students could be doing instead of summer homework-enjoying the sunset!

In conclusion, I am going to echo the wise question of Mr. Theriault; why is summer homework still being assigned?  If you have an answer, or see a reason for keeping it that I haven’t thought of, feel free to comment below!

Endless Summer Photos

As I was procrastinating on sleep on Wednesday night and mindlessly spending time on my phone, I happened to start scrolling through the all the pictures I had taken this summer.  And I thought to myself, “Wow, I had such a great summer and took some awesome photos too!”   I had what I believe to be a great idea and decided to write  summer highlight review blog with all the cool pictures I took!  Without further adieu, here it is. Summer 2014.

Well, this is embarrassing. I didn't take this photo. It is way better than the selfies I took at graduation and I figured since I technically left off blogging at the beginning of summer with graduation, I should pick up where I left off. Graduation was great, it was a little long and hot, and I was just getting over being sick, but it was nice for it finally to happen!
Well, this is embarrassing. I didn’t take this photo. It is way better than the selfies I took at graduation(look you can see my phone in my hand, proof that I was taking selfies) and I figured since I technically left off blogging at the beginning of summer with graduation, I should pick up where I left off. Graduation was great, it was a little long and hot, and I was just getting over being sick, but it was nice for it finally to happen!
A week after graduation and a few days after my sister got out of school, my family and I embarked on a three week long camping trip.  This photo was taken in Bozeman, Montana, after two very long days of driving.
A week after graduation and a few days after my sister got out of school, my family and I embarked on a three-week long camping trip. This photo was taken in Bozeman, Montana, after two very long days of driving.
My dad and I went fly fishing one evening, just outside of Bozeman, didn't catch anything but spent sometime along a river that was bordered by beautiful farmhouses and pastureland!  This was one of the farms that we passed by and to me it looked like something out of a fairy tale.
My dad and I went fly fishing one evening, just outside of Bozeman, didn’t catch anything but spent sometime along a river that bordered beautiful farmhouses and pastureland! This was one of the farms that we passed by and to me it looked like something out of a fairy tale.

 

From Bozeman we went onto camp in Glacier National Park.  We were joined by our good family friends and they continued on the rest of the trip with us.  We went on a hike to Avalanche Lake on the only sunny day we experienced, and it was gorgeous. The lake is Glacier fed, surrounded by mountains, and so serene. My sister and I loved the numerous photo opportunities that the hike presented; around every bend was a new view to be captured!
From Bozeman we went on to camp in Glacier National Park. We were joined by our good family friends and they continued on the rest of the trip with us. We went on a hike to Avalanche Lake on the only sunny day we experienced, and it was gorgeous. The lake is Glacier fed, surrounded by mountains, and so serene. My sister and I loved the numerous photo opportunities that the hike presented; around every bend was a new view to be captured!
This is one of my favorite moments of our entire trip.  We found some old man's beard, and all decided to have beards.  A family that beards together, stays together.  :)  I couldn't help but make a collage with the best of all the funny pictures we took.  Old man's beard for the win.
This is one of my favorite moments of our entire trip. We found some old man’s beard, and all decided to have beards. A family that beards together, stays together. :) I couldn’t help but make a collage with the best of all the funny pictures we took. Old man’s beard for the win.
The best part about this picture is that when we were driving into the national park, the ranger asked my dad, "So you're bringing your dogs to the park?" totally not knowing that what he had mistaken for dogs in the backseat was really my sister and I.  In his defense, the windows were super muddy so I'm sure he couldn't see much.  But you know you are having a great hair day when the park ranger mistakes you for a dog. :)
The best part about this picture is that when we were driving into the national park, the ranger asked my dad, “So you’re bringing your dogs to the park?” totally not knowing that what he had mistaken for dogs in the backseat was really my sister and I. In his defense, the windows were super muddy so I’m sure he couldn’t see much. But you know you are having a great hair day when the park ranger mistakes you for a dog. :)

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This is my favorite place in Yellowstone. It is called Grand Prismatic Springs and it is amazing. The colors in this picture are 100% real, I have not altered it at all. If you go to Yellowstone, you must see this.

 

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We got home, after what seemed like a joyous eternity, and I spent many a morning running on the beach, soaking up the sand and sun before I moved up to college!

 

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Sunset on the Puget Sound, on Labor Day evening and my last day of summer.
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Point Defiance deserves way more pictures than just this one of the dahlia garden, but this post is already way to long, and I will post more about adventures at Point Defiance later.
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As part of orientation, we got to go camping for three days about two hours away from the school! I was in the overnight canoeing group, and except for the fact that it was super cold and rainy most of the time, it was a really cool experience! Unfortunately, it also deserves a whole other post devoted to it, so I will leave my description at that.
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Since day one of Kindergarten, I have taken a First Day of School picture on every first day of school. So of course I had to follow tradition and take one on my first day of college! :)

Sorry for the terribly long post! I hope you enjoyed the photographic recap of where I have been all summer and can see why my blog has been neglected! Since the first day of school, I have done homework, been sick, studied, bought my own groceries, made some friends, baked and cooked a little, and done laundry; all super normal everyday life things. But now, you are officially caught up on the major highlights of my life since I last blogged about it in June.

Reflections on the Past Four Years

Robert Fulghum wrote a poem back in 1990 titled All I Ever Needed to know I Learned in Kindergarten.  In it he writes,

“These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some

and draw and paint and sing and dance and play

and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,

hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:

The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody

really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even

the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.

So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books

and the first word you learned – the biggest

word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.

The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.

Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into

sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your

family life or your work or your government or

your world and it holds true and clear and firm.

Think what a better world it would be if

all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about

three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with

our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments

had a basic policy to always put thing back where

they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you

are – when you go out into the world, it is best

to hold hands and stick together.”

 

As I was pondering what to do for my senior project and reflecting on the abundance of lessons I learned in high school; I realized I really wanted to write a letter similar to Fulghum’s poem to both freshman me looking back, and my sister as she is going to be a freshman next year.  Here is what I came up with.

Dear Freshman me,

All you really will ever need to know, you’ll know.

and even on the perchance that you don’t know,

being the resourceful girl you are, obviously you’ll Google it.

Knowledge will not be found in the $100,000 of college tuition debt, but rather in the classroom, on the playing field, and in everyday life.  These are the things you will learn by graduation day:

Everything is better with food.

Attitude is everything.

Find a couple of things you love and apply yourself to them.

YOLO is not the best way to make major life decisions.

Stress doesn’t get you anywhere in life.

A smile and a greeting can make a persons day.

Don’t give up; on people, on life, or in class.

Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Dream big, because  if you reach for the moon and miss you’ll land on a star.

Take risks.

Waiting until the night before to start anything is a bad idea.

Don’t be afraid of change, change is healthy.

Make friends, and “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together”.

Family is everything.  They have been yours from day one, and they will always love you.  Appreciate them.  Spend time with them.  Savor those dinnertime moments, those times where you are laughing so hard it hurts.  Soon you will be moving over 1000 miles away, eating dinner without your family; your presence at the dinner table thoroughly missed.

Dad and i edited

But take heart everything will be okay.  You will still be able to Facetime, go home on the holidays, go on family camping trips, stay home for summer, and sleep in your own bed in your own house.  You can still go home and eat home food; you don’t have to be a vegetarian forever.

Cherish those times with your sister.  Those she may sometimes feel like an annoyance, imitation is the highest form of flattery.  Go easy on her and make memories; she is only going to be an innocent middle schooler for so long.  Have fun.  Take adventures together. Be spontaneous.

rachel and i

When you start following these tips, there is one very important thing that you must do.  Can you guess what it is?

Have fun. Though that’s a good one; it’s not the most important piece of advice I have for you, because you will have fun anywhere and with anything.  The biggest regret you will have is not taking enough pictures. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so take pictures on top of pictures on top of pictures.  There is no such thing as too many pictures, so snap away.  Capture the memories, you are only in high school once.

With love,

Senior you

senior Lindsey

Making an Impact

This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and in honor of it, I am posting something I wrote about my current English teacher, Mr. Theriault.  He is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for forcing me to do so.

“Young lady, do you need to change seats?” It was the first day of school my sophomore year, and I had completely forgotten to bring lined paper.  I had quietly turned around to my friend sitting behind me to ask for a spare sheet so I could write our essay on the assigned reading we had over the summer.  I was in shock and intimidated that I was scolded for asking for a piece of paper, especially on the first day of school.  I was so scared of my new English teacher that I left class that day thinking, “Okay, breathe and relax, if it doesn’t get better, you can always switch to another class.”

Switching to another class would have been one of the biggest mistakes in my academic career, if not my life.  I know it seems cliché, but it is true. I would have missed out on having an extraordinary teacher who does not just teach English, but teaches life.   Shortly into the school year, amidst his ridiculously hard bi-weekly quizzes, he told us, “I am going to grade you on your effort in this class.  The standard measures of competence and effort [by tests and quizzes] will have less value in my class; not so you can slack off, but so you can stretch yourselves to new levels without fear of damaging your grade because of it.”  Though his class is one of the most challenging classes I have had, it is addicting; there are too many days in which I walk out of his classroom, wishing I could stay in English all day, thinking “This is way more worthwhile and meaningful than any of my other classes.”

It was in his class that I first learned how to properly read and annotate a book and was able to enjoy analyzing the syntax of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.  It was in his class, that student presentations became something to look forward to, instead of a waste of a class period, as more often than not, they came with goodies and plenty of audience interaction which kept it interesting.  It is in his class, and really only in his class, that I feel completely at home.

The wheels are always turning in Mr. Theriault’s head, thinking of how to make himself a better teacher, his lessons more fruitful, keep students more engaged, and how to make education less daunting.  He is never afraid to share what he is working on with his students as well as the rest of the world through his blog and Twitter.  Mr. Theriault has taught his students to share their work and thoughts, by assigning weekly blogging and a twenty percent project every year.  Through blogging, I have written more this past year than ever before in the entirety of my high school career altogether.  He has given us the freedom to develop our own voice, something that is so hard to teach, yet so critical for higher level writing.

Mr. Theriault is one of the only teachers I have encountered that will take time out of his class period, his precious fifty-four minutes of teaching time, to ask how students are doing.  He will ask about the sports events that he couldn’t make it to and other school related topics, but he will also ask students how they are doing personally.  If he sees that someone seems down, sick, or just exhausted, the first thing he says is, “Is there anything I can do to make your day better?”.  From chocolate and hot tea to sharing half of his lunch, he is always there for his students.  He realizes that sometimes his class isn’t the most important thing in our lives, and that our overall well-being is much more important than anything he could teach in an hour. He genuinely cares for his students.

I have been blessed to have Mr. Theriault as my English teacher both sophomore and senior year.  As the number of days left until graduation dwindles down, it is a bittersweet feeling; the excitement of graduation and college combined with the sad realization that my time in Mr. Theriault’s class is coming to an end.  I can see why he always has college students coming back to visit him; days in his class are treasured memories and visiting him brings them all back.  Mr. Theriault makes a huge impact on student’s lives every year, and I can only dream of a world in which all teachers were as committed, caring, and compassionate as he is.

"Mr. Theriault, can we take a picture?" "Sure, how do you want to do this? Selfie style?" "Okay" He laughs. "I never take selfies" Personally, I think this one turned out great.
“Mr. Theriault, can we take a picture?”
“Sure, how do you want to do this? Selfie style?”
“Okay”
He laughs. “I never take selfies”
Personally, I think this one turned out great.

 

36.4 Pounds of Mail, One Important Decision

In the past one and a half years, I have received right around 36.4 pounds of college mail.  36.4 pounds!!!! Makes me wonder how many trees were murdered in the hopeful, but probably highly unsuccessful, quest to find applicants.

November came and the first round of applications were due.  I had been writing essays all summer, but the date still crept up on me a little.  Never the less, I got them all in on time, and began waiting.  I have never been so excited to receive mail in my life.  Eagerly, after about two weeks, every day, after practice,  before setting foot inside, I would peer nervously into the mailbox, hoping that there was a big fat letter in there for me.  Then one day, two big, fat, official looking acceptance letters came.  It was like Christmas had come a couple of weeks early. I was beyond excited! I knew for sure that I had somewhere to go next year. What a relief.

December and January were filled with round two of applications, the holidays, and family.  A couple more acceptance letters came in, and I was excited to see how my hard work was paying off. In late January, my family took a trip to visit Baylor and Vanderbilt.  We all fell in love with Vanderbilt.  My sister said,” Might as well buy my sweatshirt now, cause this is where you are going.”  She made a bet with me before the trip, that for some reason I don’t recall making, but the bet said that if she called the school I ended up attending, I would have to buy her a sweatshirt. The school and the trip were perfect.  Well, except for the fact that it was 17 degrees the entire time we were there. (Side note: I have never been so thankful for the humidity and 60 degree weather that we had when we got back home). I was so excited to have found my number one school.

February brought more waiting, scholarship essays, more thinking, and a trip to University of Denver with my dad.  Denver was amazing.  My dad and I had a great time touring the campus and exploring the area around Denver.  It was such a nice opportunity to be able to go on a daddy daughter trip.  We were both impressed with the program that DU had, and especially a selective leadership program in which, if admitted, you live and take classes on leadership with a group of 65 other students, and in the end graduate with a minor in Leadership Studies.

 

April has been an interesting month.  I didn’t get into Vanderbilt and Brown, both of which I  was surprisingly okay with.  All throughout my college search and application process, both my parents and my prayer has been that God would guide me to where He wanted me.  Though it stung a little to get those first rejection letters, I decided to not look at them as rejection letters, but as God closing doors, so He can lead me to the right ones.  In the end of April, my mom, sister and I took a girls trip to tour my final two schools: Lewis and Clark College and University of Puget Sound.  We saw the schools, explored some state parks, and took in the sights of Washington and Oregon.

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I got to meet up with the track coach at Puget Sound to talk about the possibilities of running on his track team.  I went into the meeting expecting to be rejected politely because I am a JV level athlete.  Not exactly the kind of caliber that I assumed all college coaches would be looking for.  I was taken aback when he said that he doesn’t look at times for incoming freshman, all he requires is a good attitude and a willingness to put the effort into getting better.  He never asked for my marks and PRs.  And the team was so welcoming and just plain awesome.

By the end of the trip, I had narrowed my choices down to Denver and Puget Sound.  When I got home, I found out that I was wait listed for the leadership program at Denver and there was a technical difficulty with my application for the Honors program at Denver as well, so I wouldn’t know until after Commitment Day (May 1st) if I would be able to participate in those programs.

After some more research, prayer, deliberation, and lengthy conversations I decided last night on University of Puget Sound.  The funny thing about it is that, I applied to UPS last-minute because I thought the campus was pretty, had heard great things about it at a college fair for it and its sister schools, and they offered me a free application.  When I applied, I had no intention of actually attending.  I guess the pounds of mail, billions of emails, and the numerous phone calls each year are successful; they helped put Puget Sound on the radar for me, and I couldn’t be happier about my decision.

 

The Countdown Begins

It just hit me.  At of the start of writing this post, I have 74 days, 1 hour, and 10 minutes until graduation. As I get super excited and nervous for the future; I can’t help but wonder where did the time go?  It sure doesn’t feel like I have lived for almost eighteen years.  Or that I am prepared to move to a WHOLE NEW STATE only a minimum of 800 miles away and exist on my own!

I joke with my mom that she is going to have to send me away with a three-inch binder with an instruction manual complete with pictures for how to take care of myself.  The sad part is that I like to think I am pretty capable of being self-sufficient too; i mean I can cook, wash dishes, do a mediocre job of the laundry, clean, vacuum, and stay organized, but the thought of actually having to transport myself to the store and buy q-tips and toothpaste is daunting.  Okay, that is an exaggeration, but it already takes me FOREVER at the store when I decide to cook and need to get the ingredients.

I am beginning to realize the many things of my childhood I have taken for granted at some point or another in my life; fresh sheets on my bed, homemade and just out of the oven cookies, dinner on the table every night when I get home, the list really doesn’t end. Everyone reading this needs to go home and thank your mommy.  Or at least give her a call.

While pondering how I will exist on my own, I can’t help but wonder what my family will do with me gone.  Yes, I know my family, and the entire world as a matter of fact, doesn’t revolve around me, but there is a serious question that need to be answered.

Who will help eat all the leftovers?  I have eaten leftovers for lunch (and sometimes dinner) regularly since sixth grade.  Yes, I do eat them willingly, they are usually really good.  I say this jokingly, but in all seriousness, it will be an adjustment for all of us, not just me as is often assumed.

I just asked my sister what three things i did at home were and she replied quickly, “You eat, sleep, and do homework.”  Ladies and Gents, my sister tells it as it is.  I think the geniuses who set up the school system made high school and getting into college so demanding so that the transition from high school to college would be easier on families.  On school days, I am pretty much gone from 7:30 to 5:30, home for dinner and then either alone doing homework, or at another event, and then hiding upstairs doing homework.  Like I have said before, that is why dinner time is so precious to me; it really is one of the few times I see my family during the week.  On weekends, I’m home a little more, but homework, track meets, soccer games, and friends are still ever-present as well.

I guess I am in that stage where I can’t wait to graduate, but yet I can.  Senioritis is waging a hard battle, as seen in the fact that at the end of this post I now have 71 days 20 hours and 12 minutes until graduation.  Thank goodness that only adds up to 43 more school days. At the same time, I’m rather fond of the regular schedule that I have right now, even if it is fraught with homework and studying for AP tests; I’m still not completely for it to change just yet.  But then again, I guess they call it change for a reason; no one is every completely ready for it or else they would call it Normal(version 2.0).

 

 

Over-Involved and Under-Committed: The New Generation

When I was growing up, my parents had a rule for my sister and I (well they had many) but the particular one had to do with commitment.  They told us that we could only choose one sport/ extracurricular activity at a time. We were not the over committed family that always had 3 soccer games, a softball game, church, and a girl scout meeting all in a weekend. The most I got away with doing was soccer and girl scouts at the same time.  And this was permitted only because Girl Scouts met once a week for maybe two hours at a time.  It wasn’t a huge time commitment, my parents believed it was important, and I liked it.  They wanted to preserve family time and their sanity.  I am so grateful that they did.

But I am noticing a growing trend that concerns me.  First in society as a whole; that we are way to busy.  I am totally guilty of this, so I am not preaching from any pulpit, that’s for sure.  Secondly, many people, especially high schoolers, are over-involved and under-committed.  Now, hear me when I say that.  Over-involved and under-committed; how is that even possible?

To answer that question, I ask you to reflect upon what most colleges are looking for in a competitive applicant.  They want a well-rounded individual, who has played a varsity sport, been the president of a club, while being involved in two other clubs, been involved in the community, and on top of all that maintained stellar grades and achieved great test scores. I feel like they are asking for their applicants to dabble and under commit to everything, just so they can attain that “over-committed” level that colleges look for.  If there was a common mantra among current high school students, I’m pretty sure it could be, “Just do it for the app.”

The frustrating thing about this over-involvement is that instead of picking a couple of things that they love and committing to them and being super involved with them, students are doing things for the label, just so they can say they are “involved” on their college application.  AND COLLEGES SEEM TO ENCOURAGE THIS!  Though I’m sure every admissions counselor would say, “We would much rather you be deeply involved in a few things that you are passionate about, instead of a bazillion different things”; the activities section on the common app begs to differ. There are ten different sections to fill out describing your different activities and involvements in high school.  And if you only fill out four of them, that’s leaving a lot of blank space on the application that decides your scholastic fate.  Thus, students are driven to over involve themselves and under commit.  It is impossible to be completely committed to ten different activities, maintain good grades, have some semblance of a social life, and still sleep for the 8-9 hours recommended for teenagers.

What is created is a “Do it for the college application” attitude. And one can assume how frustrating and annoying this attitude can be. Try taking already slightly noncommittal teenagers, throwing them into ten different activities, and telling them to be committed to every one.  What you get is the bare minimum, a warm body in meetings, brain only half there, constantly thinking of all the other things that have to be done.  The expectation is that we are able to do it all, while in reality we have no chance.