Welcome back to my merry journey! In a previous post, I recapped graduation and began to share my thoughts on the primary lessons I learned in college. These lessons were: (1)Living with People is hard, (2) My faith is deeply part of my identity, (3) Split second decisions aren't always bad, (4) Extracurriculars aren't bad, and (5) Planning helps. I focused on lessons (1) and (2) in the first part of this 2 part series. These lessons gave me a new perspective on life and how to move forward inti adulthood chapter 2, which is the fresh out of college to an uncertain break (entrance to my vocation? Guess that's up to God). While I do not live with a roommate anymore, lesson (1) gave me the skills to live with a roommate and a better understanding of how to communicate with others. Though I do see some older patterns coming up, I know that sometimes a lesson must be learned again or in a different way. Lesson (2) revealed just how much my identity is tied to my faith even if it gets lost in other things sometimes (school, for example). With this "last time on" recap complete, time to get to Lesson (3) in its own right.
Lesson #3: Split Second Decisions Aren't Always Bad
As a general rule, I find that prudence necessitates that one not make a decision en media res. Exceptions obviously vary and also prudence means not going over a decision and second guessing it 1001 times (which I definitely have done). I realized this truth in my first few months of college. I was in the Ball State Honors college at the time which is also what gave the occasion for me to make a spit second decision. There is a short preamble before I actually reveal the exact occasion. I am the person who dreams a lot and sometimes dwells on lost dreams. I am also someone who does always know exactly what I would like to be. The Lord has given me certain gifts but I often then wonder how exactly to use them; I sometimes have neglected them or didn't know exactly how to hone them. I was in a time of uncertainty and was so desiring certainty that perhaps I let my will give me it instead of waiting on God. God gave the gift to write which first began to overflow in the sixth grade when I decided, after an experience of unexpected praise, to write a novel. In high school I was on the newspaper. These two things likely explain why I didn't know whether to major in journalism or English.
But here enters the Ball State Honors program. In addition to the regular advisor each Honors student had an honors advisor. I have to be honest five years has given me much time to forget the name of mine. Part of freshman advising for honors students was to make a four year plan. It was a way to see how your honors courses and other courses would balance out. Now, I decided to do a four year plan for English with dual concentrations in creative writing and literature. This caused me so much stress that to avoid the stress of making another one I declared English as my major with these dual concentrations. I struggled with this decision throughout college as I knew it was a knee-jerk reaction and not properly considered. However, I think in the end English was where God wanted me.
An English major made me realize so much about my call in life. In many ways choosing creative writing as one of my concentrations, at the start, was God's way of asking me to hone my craft and cultivate the natural gift he'd given me in writing. It was through some of my struggles inside the English department at Ball State,I was led me to Franciscan. Those struggles also gave me a passion to write books for those like me that see that much of the stories out there today have content which it hard to read. Now, I'm not saying to avoid controversial topics in fiction, stories need to address life, but I am saying that certain content which may offend readers, most often those who have more conservative views politically and religiously, should be reexamined to see if it is really necessary. Beyond this, I also realize, in hindsight, that I did not take certain classes at Ball State because I have this feeling God knew the perspective may be agitating to me. Also certain classes did not even exist at Ball State, but at Franciscan they did.
The most clear example of how God, particularly the Holy Spirit, worked in my class schedule was Shakespeare. I was drawn to taking the class on Shakespeare at Ball State, but it never ended up in my class schedule. Of course, I chose that, but I probably would have said it was because it was a higher level class which I would not have considered taking until at least junior year. However, I see now that the Holy Spirit knew two things I did not: (1) I would transfer to Franciscan, and (2) Shakespeare would be required coursework when I was there, so having advance credit would have disappointed me (it certainly did for courses such as creative non-fiction writing). The class I did end up taking on Shakespeare explored his plays (and a few other wrItings) through the lens of religious faith. I learned that Shakespeare is related to a Jesuit priest, Robert Southwell. Also that this priest's poetry influenced Shakespeare in his writing. Shakespeare also had a daughter who was in a register for not attending Anglican services. While no definitive statement can be made on Shakespeare's religion, he certainly wrote with some sympathy for Catholics. He shows great understanding of Catholicism, even when he is using typical tropes at the time such as the nosy friar which Friar Lawrence from Romeo and Juliet depicts. What I learned in this course made me more fascinated with Shakespeare and I would love to explore more Shakespeare plays.
While the split second decision of my major worked out in the end, I often second guessed it and thought maybe I made the wrong decision; The wrong decision in theory was the right one in reality as much as I love journalism and thrived inside student journalism, English suited me better. Whether it be religious or secular, the news can often become a trap of gluttony for me where I do not temper how much I look at. It drags me down. God knew journalism as a career may only make this more difficult and it may not aid me in my sanctification. Before I go on a tangent about how this lesson spills over into my post-graduate life, I want to close to this lesson with a piece of advice for soon-to-be or current college students, if you are unsure of major don't be afraid of being undeclared, but carefully consider what major may lead you to the job, which can be the same or separate from career, in which you may most glorify God. If God leads you in your choice of major, your joy will overflow (it did for me even if God used my impulsiveness to do so). Another area where I often lacked temperance was extracurriculars, especially in the area of signing up for them.
Lesson #4: Extracurriculars Aren't Bad
Extracurriculars aren't bad as title says. So what's with the captain obvious title for this lesson? Well I want to highlight that extracurriculars should be a part of the college experience, but advise caution not with the general category of activity but the way this part of college is approached.
I admit I did not approach this part of college correctly. I signed up for anything that remotely interested me. However, there will never be enough time in a day, a week, a month, or even a year to do all one wants (even I'm sure for those who are time management pros). Therefore, I ended up with an email inbox full of emails from and in GroupMes for groups I never went to. Even if I did have some activity in a group I still overextended myself. How you may ask did I overextend myself?
It's good here to explain how I lookd at a "yes". I saw "yes" as signing up for every meeting with no way out. But this did not make these activities enjoyable. It took a counselor to make me realize it was ok to have boundaries with extracurriculars. I saw I could limit myself to a few I would do weekly and then some I could go to others when I could. Of course as you have seen in part one the extracurriculars I did changed as I spent time at Franciscan (though also it was the same at Ball State).
Here I want to say a word about an extracurricular which I enjoyed much. One of the extracurriculars which I did at both Ball State and Franciscan was swing dance. I first learned about swing was from my older brother, Daniel, who began doing swing in his college years. He taught me the basic step in high school. When I got to college, I would occasionally attend meetings for the Ball State Swing Society. However, I drifted for a while, but I did find my way back; however, I went to my first meeting in a while just before the world shut itself down (thanks Covid-19). While I never swung again at Ball State, I did find my way to the Social Dance Club at Franciscan. They did mostly swing, however, line dancing would also occur during the meetings.I learned so much in these clubs, and am still trying to find a way to continue dancing swing in my post-college life. I guess I just need a plan to do so. Certainly college taught me the value of a plan even it took a few years for the message to be received.
Lesson #5: Planning Helps
One of the many aspects of school I loved was the structure. Yet, you wouldn't have guessed it from the way I resisted making plans in college. I would often hear my mom tell me that I should make a plan. This often happened when I was overwhelmed. Here's the truth much of my resistance wasn't that I did not like structure (I already mentioned I do). I resisted schedules becuase I had faulty views about how strictly I had to keep it. If I fell of track (so to speak), I would often abandon the schedule all together. Yet, one particular experience would change my whole perspective.
In Spring 2022, I took a course called Advanced Composition II. I made an assumption about the readings I shouldn't have. I assumed that only what wad talked about in class would on the midterm. So I fell behind in the reading and failed that exam. This was a problem because now I had to do well, really well on the rest of the assignments to pass the class. I came into another issue with the final (a reflection on my writing strengths and weaknesses). I was having trouble finding strengths and weaknesses to talk about. So the writing wasn't going smoothly. But what does all this have to do with planning? Well at the same time I had two other papers to do: one for a philosophy class and one for a theology class.
I don't remember exactly what the schedule looked like. I do remember setting time goals for each paper per day. I remember I completed all three papers on time. I will admit this lesson may need a refresher.
Well that was the finale. I learned many other lessons in college. But I definitely see how I grew by learning these lessons. I would hesitate to say split second decisions are always the way to go. Howevet, I do believe in choosing English I made the right decision as my utlimate dream is to be an author. I see now that overcommitment is detrimental and it's ok to have boundaries (though I am still a work in progress when it comes to boundaries as a whole). The value of planning was instilled in me even if it is still a skill I need to improve upon. Overall college was a wild adventure, a chapter in the story of my life where even in my attempts to control every situation God guided me unbenonced to me. I thank God for the lessons I learned in college and know there is still much to learn with each passing moment. I just need to be open to the graces which God offers, even if they come in the form of suffering. Whatever may be next I hope you continue with me on this merry journey.