THROW. BACK. Let’s talk about where I was five years ago (Timehop is good for a little reminder and a big dose of humility). I had just graduated from SUNY Cortland in New York not knowing what I would do with my life. I went into college with aspirations of following in my mom’s footsteps to become a teacher, but she’s one of the greats and a little while into my program, I just wasn’t feeling it.
I did get to take Teaching Elementary Math to fill my requirement, though, so I call that a win.
Most of my days in those four years were spent with these weirdos (plus, a few more) – learning how to be a good friend, learning how to lead well, learning how to let go of fear, learning how to follow your passion, and learning to loosen up and enjoy life a little more (my introvertedness and tendency to keep my door closed wasn’t the best temperature to make friends).
I saw a few old photos pop up this week and so much gratitude flooded into my head. Whether you are heading to college, out in the world where friend-making is the worst, or have been married for a bit but feel stuck, here are five lessons from five years ago I mustered up scrolling through those old photos –
01. LEAVE YOUR DOOR OPEN (BUT NOT AT NIGHT, DON’T DO THAT)
There was a day that two of my loudest friends were in my dorm (I was a quiet gem of a human at that point, barely out of my shell as a young freshman). Noting my door was usually closed, they took matters into their own hands and pinned my door open screaming up and down the hallway “Ariel needs a friend! Come be her friend! She’s nice, we promise! The girl NEEDS a friend!”
As you can imagine, I wanted to murder them. But leaving my door open or taking myself out of the preference of alone yielded growth. It doesn’t have to be your dorm room, but change your usual spot, make eye contact when you’re busy, or smile at a stranger and see if breaking out of your world for a moment doesn’t feel like a breath of fresh air.
02. TAKE LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
I learned some tough lessons about leadership and boundaries as a Resident Assistant – that training helped me learn to deal with difficult people (thank you, Chauncy), mediate conflict (smelly roommate situation was a thing), and play my part on a staff. I was learning the balance of living and leading when I started up BASIC trying to avoid the burnout of ministry at a young age devoting so much time both at school and at home. I worked a summer in a near-empty Residential Life and Housing office organizing sweatshirts, printing forms, and forming initiatives to learn the value of using my time for what can support others.
03. THROW FEAR TO THE WIND
Not like normal fear, but fear of the unknown, of judgment, of failure, and of change. I remember the day I found out I hadn’t gotten into the School of Education – I felt like a failure, a fraud, and most of all – lost. There was a mini breakdown in our friends’ apartment as my only plan for life was shattered, but as she talked me down, it was the first time I had considered I might be called to do something else.
“May your chioces reflect your hopes, not your fears”
I was terrified to change my major from teaching, I didn’t want to come out of my shell, I didn’t know what would come next, I analyzed every decision to the point of exhaustion because I was afraid. There had to come a point I had to let the Titan grip on my picture of the future go and trust God had a better plan.
04. TRY THE THING YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT
I didn’t have a film camera, hadn’t taken a photography class, had never heard of f-stop, and I could throw up looking at how crooked EVERY photo was…but, ever since borrowing that tiny digital camera in 9th grade, I was hooked. Funny faces, MySpace moody faces, smiles, action, silence, moments – I could snap away forever. When I got to college, I would steal my sister or roommate away for the amateur-est of photoshoots and organize girls’ days to snap and snap – anything to get my hands on a camera. One friend helped me learn the skills on a nature walk, one let me take engagement photos, one let me practice on their baby, and another has sat through like 10 shoots with the worst direction. I wasn’t thinking about building a business, I just wanted to try it.
If you’re thinking about it, just try it. The worst that can happen is you say that you gave it a shot. Literally, that’s it.
05. KICK BACK EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE
We threw surprise parties, took road trips, danced in the parking lot, played hide-and-go-seek in the grocery store at midnight, skipped class for breakfast, played Ultimate Frisbee on the old football field, won volleyball tournaments, stayed up way too late, rode a bus just because, and knew the “Don’t Be Lame” speech like the back of our hands.
You don’t have to be of age, in college, over 21, outgoing.. .smarter, braver, prettier, friendlier, more creative, or more ready. Take a break – find a moment to do something out of the norm and ask a friend (or ten) to come along – maybe don’t even Instagram it.