Yesterday I came home for break after completing my fifth semester of college. The first emotion I had was relief. I was done with schoolwork, exams, and stress for the next three weeks. I could kick off my shoes, sleep in my own bed, throw the past semester far behind me, and figure out where to go and how to improve from here. It was beautiful!
I was also coming home after attending graduation at my university. After seeing some of my good friends turn their tassels and head into the “real world,” I realized that I, too am just a short year and a half away from becoming a graduate. Judging by the last two and half years it will certainly go by very quickly. In the near future I will also be forced to find the courage that commencement speaker Kevin Guskiewicz mentioned on Sunday — the ability to leave behind the familiar. In essence, to leave Chapel Hill, leave Carolina, and move on to the next stage of life, knowing these people and places will forever be a part of you. *Cue tears and sniffles*
The business of leaving got me thinking about my own work here. In high school, I didn’t consider myself an overachiever, I don’t even believe in the idea of overachieving. I believe you can exceed expectations, but I don’t think you can over achieve anything, because I believe we should seek to be the best at whatever we do (Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men) The success I had academically I worked hard for, but it wasn’t that I was trying to prove something or even make it to a particular school. It was just something I was kind of good at, and I wanted to keep being good at it, every year, every test, every assignment.
Since I’ve been in school there have been more euphoric moments than I can count and almost as many low moments to balance it. As I discovered what I really want to do in life and was blessed with some amazing friends, my relationships and becoming a professional began to mean more to me than being an excellent student. And while I’ve found success here and accomplished things that once seemed impossible, I also learned that we cannot sweep the hard things under the rug in favor of the things we are good at. I’ve never once thought about quitting, but I have certainly accepted underachieving at times, and that is just as wrong.
This semester I had some time to myself – a lot. Some of the most helpful moments came in the morning while walking to my 8am class. I would stop by the water fountain and think about the day ahead of me and pray about things. I prayed about other people mostly, my family, my friends, people I heard about or issues I saw. I prayed for guidance in my thoughts, my career choices, my choices of people, my emotions, that my unwavering faith in myself and God would stay strong. But the thing I thought about the most during those quiet walks or early morning workout sessions was God’s love and grace.
College has been a wonderful opportunity for me to gain a personal appreciation for how awesome God is and why we serve Him. This year I’ve started to see how everything that has happened in my life over time has taught me something about Him, or life, or myself. Everything has made me better or lead to something greater, even–especially–the things that didn’t make sense at the time. This year I’ve seen prayers answered, doors opened and closed. I’ve started to see other people’s behavior not as a reason to judge, but a reason to pray that God’s grace would be extended to them. I saw through my classes the enormity and complexity of the world and everything in it and often found myself breathless and humbled beyond comprehension that God would even care to guide me, love me, teach me, scold me, be merciful to me despite all my mistakes and selfishness and lack of effort.
Strong people give it their all even when they are faced with difficult tasks. I didn’t come to school expecting to be perfect, but I didn’t come here to settle either. Last year, I made a plan for how I was going to live and it worked. This past finals period I decided it was time to do it again. Once you’ve overcome one obstacle it doesn’t mean you’re through–there are always harder mountains to climb ahead. I’m determined to fight my temptations and give it my all. Greatness isn’t just about doing what you love, it’s about doing what you’re capable of. I believe these last three semesters I will do just that. The question is not how far I can get with how little, but how far I can go with my best effort. I don’t just owe it to myself, my family, my friends, or this university. I owe it to my Father, the only one who truly matters at the end.
I’m blessed beyond measure to even be here, to have my dream in my hands and over halfway complete. I don’t take that lightly and I know it’s for a reason that I have yet to glimpse. I am praying for the strength to make the most of the rest of this journey and to never take it for granted.
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing. Proverbs 20:4