Reflecting on Sophomore Year

The beginning of this year was so rough. With my world as I’d known it turned upside down by an embarrassingly messy break-up and all the pressure I put on myself to keep the momentum from freshman year going with Mosaic and the work I’d done to earn the Freshman Leadership Award, self-conscious that everyone was scrutinizing and passing as much judgment on me as I was on myself, I was in positively terrible shape at the start of the school year.

But if God is an archer, I was His arrow.

The lowest point of my year (and maybe even of my life thus far) had set me up for all the success I enjoyed after it — and because of it. It was like I was completely launched out of the pit I was in as if from a cannon positioned at the very bottom of a valley, and somehow the fact that I’d hit rock bottom only served as momentum as I accelerated upwards. It was as though God had taken me out of His quiver, anchored me on His bow, aimed directly upwards, drew me back as far as He could (much to my own dismay at first), and let loose.

The days when I would sit in my car or room blasting “Hello” by Adele and sobbing over the phone to my best friend about my heartbreak, terrified I would never get out of the slump I was in, desperately clinging on to any way I could move on, feel like they were a millenia ago. If you were to tell me in October that I would be where I am today, physically and emotionally and mentally, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’d have thought it would take me years to get to where I am today in terms of my mental health, my faith life, and my achievements. I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this year. Not in the slightest. My priorities are different. My resolve to follow them is stronger. My integrity according to the standards I set for myself as a friend, daughter, and Christian is finally where I want it to be, and it feels amazing.

My friends and I were having a girls’ night out last week when this question was brought to the table: “What was the highlight of your year?” When it got to my turn, it was like opening the floodgates. I couldn’t limit it to just one thing.

Sophomore year was a whirlwind of events, of personal growth, and of success stories and learning moments. There was everything from working Welcome Week as an Orientation Leader to leading a team of friends from our on-campus Christian community in a homecoming week full of competitive games, scavenger hunts, and trivia rounds, from dancing with friends and cute boys at homecoming to organizing a campus-wide march against racism, and getting to witness the effects at an administrative level by sitting in on meetings with my college’s president and deans of faculty and students… and that was only fall term. Winter term brought with it a week of Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration events, growing more in my faith and learning to lean on God more and more as I continued to desperately try and get back onto my feet, the official word that I would be living and studying in Glasgow, Scotland for an entire semester next academic year, going to a presidential candidate’s rally, a week-long journey through the South learning about civil rights… and with spring term came things like being part of the speaker lineup for my college’s TEDx event, all the hard work I’d put into Mosaic throughout the school year epitomized by being awarded Student Organization of the Year, and landing a paid summer internship, just to name a few. 

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My friend Katie snapped this photo of me when we took our new cameras for a spin in the city. It’s definitely true — I really do finally feel like the main character in my story thanks to the tremendous personal growth I experienced this year.

That list isn’t extensive by any means. It doesn’t include the music I’ve learned and performed, nor does it describe the many important friendships I’ve created or strengthened. It doesn’t talk about the classes I took or the honors societies into which I was inducted. It doesn’t include the exciting facts that I met Sara Bareilles and Nick Offerman, or that I saw Parachute and Jon McLaughlin live. It doesn’t describe every Tuesday evening I spent in the coffeehouse basement with my diversity club or every Wednesday night I spent in the chapel worshiping God with a hundred other classmates and friends in Christ, and the many days and nights out of the rest of the week I spent planning and preparing for those Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And it doesn’t come close to including every single moment which has inspired me to reflect, learn more about myself, and grow. There have been so many of them. The things I’ve just listed were only some of the bigger ones.

But actually, it’s probably the even smaller moments which filled the interim between those “bigger” events that were the real catalysts for all the personal growth I experienced this year. The nights I stayed up past my usual bedtime of 11pm were few and far between but extraordinary each time, occurring never because of schoolwork, but because of time spent with friends filled with conversations about each other and our joys and struggles. There have been so many positive exchanges shared with professors and staff members — my role models and mentors — which lifted me higher and excited me further for the direction I’m headed. And there have been countless moments daily where I’ve felt God present or working in my life, answering my prayers in the beautiful and unexpected ways that He does, and it is that more than anything that has fueled me further.

Admittedly, this post has been unexpectedly really unsatisfying to write. I thought and hoped that I’d be able to capture everything that happened this year in one blog post so I could successfully share and describe just how great of a year I’ve had, but I’m having a hard time doing so. The way I see it, this can mean one or both of two things: 1) my journey this year was significant, meaningful, and exceptional beyond a simple blog post or 2) I am just not skilled enough with words to be able to accurately express myself.

Now, whether either or both of those sentiments are true, there’s part of me that’s really concerned. I don’t want to forget how incredible this year was. I’m scared that, because I for whatever reason am unable to write about everything in detail the way I’d like to, I’ll forget everything that happened. And of course, that’s probably exactly what will happen. I’ll forget the events, big and small, that happened this year that launched me to where I am now. But, I hope I never forget how it felt, how thrilling and exhilarating it is has been to look back on the past year and be able to smile at all the memories I’ve made with my incredible friends old and new, pat myself on the back for all the effort I put forward into staying true to my values and priorities, and have that all be rewarded by the peace and joy I feel today.

It’s astounding to think that everything that’s happened to me and everything I got to be a part of in the last nine months filled only one school year. It’s even more baffling to think I’m halfway done with college. If the first half of college was this successful, meaningful, and significant, I’m so, so eager — and nervous, if I’m perfectly honest, because it can only get much better (is that even possible when it’s been so incredible so far?!) or turn south from here — to know what the second half has in store for me.

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