I Survived Awkward Day

My first day of classes!
My first day of classes!

Mama came in and gently woke me up.

I was awakened by sunlight streaming in through the blinds above my dorm bed.

I brushed my teeth. Mama pulled my fair hair back from my face.

I spread a towel on my bed and applied my make-up. Yawning, I strolled into the bathroom I share with my roommate and straightened my hair.

Mama made me a filling breakfast.

I poured myself cereal, too lazy to walk over to the cafeteria.

Mama smiled as she gave me my lunch box and had me pose while she took a picture to commemorate my first day of school.

After putting my student ID in my backpack, I took a selfie and sent it to Mom, so she could see her girl on her first day of college. Which I shall henceforth refer to as “Awkward Day.”

My first class as a college freshman, the professor strode to the front of the room. He placed his notes on the podium and peered at us through wire-rimmed glasses.

“Welcome to your first day of classes, or, as I like to call it, Awkward Day,” he greeted us. “Here, all of you are, sitting with pens and pencils in hand, waiting for me to say something profound or sagacious so that you can write it down. (Yes, I can see you.) And here I am, standing here, with nothing profound or sagacious to say.” A soft clattering and nervous chuckles swept the room as we put down our pens. “All of you are looking at me, sizing me up.” He lifted his tie. “Do you like my tie?” I had already approved.

He paused. “And you think you’re the only one making judgments?”

Starting college feels like being locked outside in your pajamas. And not cute little shorts and a tank top, more like footie pajamas with Dora the Explorer on them. Holding a sign that says, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!”

You get lost (a lot). You sit in on the wrong class. You walk into the cafeteria and discover that it closed 30 minutes ago. You forget your keys, your RA is gone, and your roommate doesn’t have her cell phone (sorry, Hannah!). You question what you’re doing, who you are, why you’re here, and what the heck is coming out of your mouth. My first few days on campus, I felt like the clumsiest, most tongue-tied person on the planet.

The good news is that, eventually, it does get better. (Now I only feel like the clumsiest, most tongue-tied person on campus!) Gradually, you learn the names of the buildings and how to get around. Crowds become people and people become friends. You figure out how to do things for yourself. One day, you calm down and realize you’re home.

Or so I hear.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s Awkward Day Part II – my first laundry day. I have to text my mom and figure out if I’ve sorted these clothes correctly.

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Drop Anchor or Set Sail?

mugrimWhen I think of my childhood, I think of the beach. I think of hours tramping in the ocean; wandering along the shore, collecting shells and driftwood with a childish eye for beauty and perfection; being flung around like a ragdoll in the washer after slipping off my boogie board; sundry family vacations; and constructing castles out of sand, shells, sticks, seaweed, and any other simple treasures I could find.

I remember standing on the seashore, watching sailboats skim across the rollicking waves, squinting against the sun as I tried to make out the figures on the ship. But no matter how hard I looked, they always remained elusive silhouettes gliding onto an unknown destination.

As a final “hurrah” before I laborday3left for college, my 21-year-old cousin Brittney and I visited a favorite old spot of ours – a pottery painting studio. (Admittedly, we are not the wild ones in the family.) This was a chance for us to talk and have fun, but it also served a practical purpose – I needed a mug.

For weeks, the thought of college hasn’t left my mind. Over and over, I imagined transforming my dorm room into a comfy living space, sitting in my first class, poring over books and notes at the coffee shop, confidently walking around campus with an armful of books…I spent hours lying on my bed, propped up on my elbows, browsing Pinterest for tips for college freshmen and researching the different organizations on campus. I have been wildly anticipating this and can’t wait strike out on my own, try new things, and meet new people.

laborday1However, there is a “sweet sorrow” in parting (to quote Mr. Shakespeare). I wanted my mug to remind me of home, too, and bring me back to this very moment, sitting with my cousin, two young adults looking hopefully into the future.

It’s no surprise that I immediately thought of the beach. What did surprise me was the phrase that popped into my head: Drop Anchor or Set Sail?

There is a point in our lives where we all need to ask ourselves that. Do I stay where I’m comfortable and content? Or do I lift the anchor and sail off to a new adventure? That was what I constantly asked myself during senior year. It was never a serious question, though. I knew that I wanted something different. I wanted to go where I didn’t know anybody and would be forced out of my comfort zone, where I could learn about myself and plan for my future without anybody expecting anything of me.

I also painted a quote inside the rim from one of my favorite authors, Louisa May Alcott: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail…” (emphasis added).

I’m so wrapped up in fantasies, it’s hard to remember that I will inevitably make laborday4mistakes. Once, I saw a boat catch on fire. I watched people leap from the vessel as it belched black smoke into the serene June sky. Those people might not have made it to their intended destination, but they were safe. And that boat definitely never sailed again, but I still remember it, years later, when countless other ships have sailed (pun intended) out of my mind. Mistakes (obviously) are unpleasant and unwanted. But I’m learning. I’m learning about journalism and science and math, obviously, but, more importantly, I’m learning about myself. I’m learning how to live on my own. (Financially supported by my parents, that is.)

I have no idea what the next four years hold for me, let alone what I’ll do after I get my diploma. Statistics imply that I will change my major (perhaps multiple times) and end up in a job that has nothing to do with my degree anyway.

Maybe I’ll sink in a dazzling bonfire. Maybe I’ll find refuge on an exotic shore, unscathed and fabulously tan (hey, a girl can dream!). Whatever happens, I know that it will be an adventure.

Lift the anchor! I’m ready to set sail.

setsail

Answering the Question

Questions can be good things. They tickle our minds, inspire us to find answers. But they can also be frightening.

During senior year, you are asked a lot of questions. Innocent questions. “Where do you want to go to college?” Some of them you’ve been asked almost as long as you could speak. “What do you want to do when you graduate?”

They become frightening when you realize you don’t know the answers.

Those are questions I started seriously asking myself since freshman year. Fast forward four years and I want to have an answer.

I started visiting colleges freshman year. Senior year, I looked at almost every available college, categorized them, and, with some difficulty, picked my top schools from each category. But still, nothing seemed quite right. I panicked. I sent applications to every college I could think of (or, at least, every college that sent me a free application).

A few weeks ago (maybe a bit over a month), my pastor recommended a school to my dad. A little research showed that there was a contest for various levels of scholarships, but the deadline was only a few days away.

Half-crazed with desperation, I sent my application in.

I couldn’t attend the weekend at the college that applicants were encouraged to attend because I had a government conference that week. My interview (via Skype, which never works properly on my laptop) was set up a few days after I was scheduled to return from my sleep-deprived week. And, somehow, I had to find time to read a book entitled Serious Times. (An interesting book, but “reductive naturalism” and “syncretism” don’t make for a gripping read.)

I felt like I bombed my interview (especially when, as predicted, Skype failed me), but the stars aligned. I received full tuition, making this school even with my other top choices. And (coincidently?) my spring break was clear, so I could visit campus before my other scholarships expired.

After initial disappointment at the campus exterior (a recent ice storm had killed everything that’s supposed to be green), I discovered engaging professors, friendly students, exciting opportunities, and challenging curriculum. By the time I left, I was sure that Union University was the college God reserved for me.

Questions are good, but answers feel safe. And I’m glad that my biggest question will be “How should I decorate my dorm room?”

Bug-Eyed

Bug-eyed (adj.) wide-eyed with amazement or fear

How appropriate. I hate bugs. Anything with 6 or more legs makes my skin crawl. When my 10th grade biology teacher announced we had to turn in an insect collection, I was horrified. My aversion to bugs is exceeded only by my disgust at killing them; I cannot bring myself to even swat mosquitos. I just leave them alone and hope that they extend me the same courtesy.

Fortunately and unfortunately, bugs were drawn to my house like a modern, entomology adaptation of Noah and the Ark. One night, I heard my sister screeching at Mom about a cockroach on the wall of her room. Roaches are Mom’s kryptonite; I don’t know why she expected help from that quarter. Heroically, I grabbed a container and rushed to my sister’s room, a band playing in my head. Triumphantly, I clapped the container over the roach…and froze. I felt like Superman, defeating a villain, only to discover he had never taken off his glasses or put on his cape! I was a mild-mannered, slightly-geeky news reporter (or freelance blogger). I had no idea what to do now that I had actually captured the beastie. The slightest move and the roach could start flying toward me.

Mom tossed painters tape from the doorway. I taped the container over the roach, hoping that it would suffocate. My sister refused to even enter the room. Finding the idea of sleeping beneath the live cockroach display unappealing, she moved to the guest room for the night. In the morning, we called our cousins to transfer the roach to a Ziploc bag.

Feeling like a murderess, guilt and horror ruined my sleep from my first kill until I speared the corpses with pins and presented them to my teacher. Lying in my bed, I imagined insects crawling up my legs, on my wall, in my wall…one night I dreamed that a praying mantis kept following me around. I can’t remember much of the nightmare, just desperately trying to get away from this green insect in a pious position. At the end, I was screaming, kicking, crying, pleading with it to leave me alone. It looked at me with an expression in its buggy eyes that seemed to say, “Dude. I’m a praying mantis. I don’t know what you’re saying.”

That day, I was trying to classify my insects when I stumbled across pictures of a praying mantis attacking and eating a hummingbird. I thought, “I am so glad I have never seen one of those before!” (I had never seen a praying mantis, not a hummingbird.)

The next day, Mom called me out from my room to tell me that there was a collectable bug on the screen. I grabbed a container (the same container used in the cockroach episode. In retrospect, I don’t know why I thought that would work this time) and sped out to capture my insect. Because it was high up, I had to stand on a chair, clap the container over the bug, and drag it down. When I saw it, I froze. A praying mantis.

Thank goodness for painters tape and cousins.

After drafting this post, I went to put a load of clothes in the dryer. As I cleaned the lint screen, I noticed a roach about 3 inches from my hand.

The screen clattered to the floor and the roach scurried under the washer.

Looks like another sleepless night. And…it may be time to do another load of laundry.