Today was the Fall Convocation chapel service at Grove City College where I sat as an audience member. Today I have my own convocation address on this blog. Who knows if anyone will read it, but that’s fine. Most of my comments come from a talk I got to give to freshman last Saturday at a Career Services orientation presentation for the freshman class about that special word: CALLING. Ah, what a topic. It’s a challenging one. Read on if you wish, I’d love you to.
My Convocation Address
Lists. I like em. Each day, I make a list of things I need to do to help keep me on track. I’m also an expert of making lists of snacks to buy at Walmart, or lists of what snacks to buy at Aldi. See I just made a list of about lists.
I’m obsessed with BuzzFeed lists like 47 of the Absolute Greatest Gog gifs or an especially helpful list that assisted me last May: 31 Things That Are Way More Important Than Studying For Finals Right Now.
As I begin my junior year at Grove City College, I’ve got a list.
Things I learned my freshman year at GCC:
- The majority of college students can exist solely off of peanut butter. College students everywhere have pioneered and put this trust condiment on virtually everything–bananas, apples, ice cream, cereal, or the classic BTLs (BTLPBs).
- Dogs are not man’s best friend. Coffee is. If you don’t like coffee at the beginning of college (like foolish me did), you will learn to trust and love this invigorating nectar.
- Naps can be taken virtually anywhere. Examples include: my desk, a couch in the Alumni Office, a linoleum floor, a bench, THE OPTIONS ARE ENDLESS!
- Getting a 1 out of 10 on a quiz, is not, in fact, the beginning of the apocalypse. I’m still here.
- College won’t turn out just like you imagined it would.
College won’t turn out just like you imagined it would.
Did I imagine 2 years ago, as a clueless and overwhelmed freshman, that I’d be running around campus in an Orientation Board t-shirt and speaking to the class of 2018 at a Career Services presentation about “My Career Journey?” No. No, I did not think that. I was just hoping I could make the journey from my dorm room to the cafeteria successfully and that I would somehow avoid any conversations with that remarkably sweaty engineer I had to square dance with at the OB Hoedown Throwdown…
All these new things are being thrown at you the first few weeks of college, and it all can be pretty darn confusing. Even as a junior. My freshman year, I didn’t know what I wanted my major to be, I didn’t know what extracurricular activities I wanted to do, I had never watched any of The Lord of Rings movies, and I sure didn’t know how to discern what my future might hold.
As a freshman, I thought, “I’m in college. Isn’t it all just supposed to fall in place now?!” God’s calling. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and realize: this is what I’m supposed to do. This is it. I have heard God’s voice and now I know my purpose in life!
Unfortunately, it didn’t go like that for me.
Fall semester of freshman year I took a mishmash of classes, most of which I disliked. I called home and told my parents I’d been researching other schools and was contemplating transferring. When they questioned me on why I was thinking of transferring, I shot right back with the idea that maybe I should just be quitting college all together. Before freshman year was said in done, I had changed my major 3 times.
College wasn’t turning out the way I imagined it would.
Then, spring semester, college began turning out way different than I imagined it would. On a whim, I got involved with theatre here. It was kind of by accident. I took a position as a publicity chief—I had no idea what that meant. Out of the blue, I discovered that I loved doing publicity and even more, I loved doing design. I stumbled into something that completely changed my life but seeming accident. I discovered that I loved planning things and I loved wearing different hats (not costume hats, silly–but those are cool too). I loved being creative but also being administrative. I didn’t realize what was happening until later, but I can say with full confidence that in those moments, God was helping me discover my calling. I was discovering my talents, what I loved, what I was good at, and what motivated me.
What makes you excited? What makes you happy? What makes you look forward to tomorrow? What doesn’t feel like work? What do you do in your free time? I guess something I learned that chances are, when we examine our answers to these questions, there’s a good chance those will be key things that will be very helpful as you try to figure out this whole calling thing.
So where am I now? Junior year. Equipped with another list:
Things I wish I had known as a freshman:
Talking about how confused you are about your personal life, or spiritual life, academics, or calling or career confusion is not a sign of weakness. For months I bottled my doubts up, thinking that I was the only one who didn’t have my stuff together. Newsflash—no one has their stuff all together. Not me, not you, not the college administration, not our parents, our friends. No one on this earth has it all together, folks, because we are imperfect people who all need help—some in big ways, some in smaller ways.
I finally began making headway and feeling less anxious about my career and calling and future and life when I actually talked with someone. Those someones were my parents, students that were older than me, my professors, the Career Services staff.
2. Listen and learn
College kids have a tendency to think we’re right about most things. Politics, relationships, theological views. WE GOT DAT KNOWLEDGE. Well–as college continues I only get more confused about what is actually right, but it’s kind of great. Why is confusion great? Because it gives me the freedom to just sit and listen.
Best thing I could have done as I freshman that I didn’t? Ask questions. Explore. Be curious. Read. Listen to the voice of a professor, a mentor, someone older and more wise than you. Sitting there in the depths of confusion doesn’t help. Seek. What’ve we got to lose? Our reputation? Tullian Tchividjian, author of Jesus+Nothing=Everything has something great to say about that: “Most of the time, approval and acceptance from others seems more tangible, more vivid, more affecting that the abstract notion of God’s approval.” But guess what? God loves us. It’s hard for us to accept that that is simply enough, but it is. When we rely less on being afraid to ask or tell and rely more on trusting God that we make progress.
It wasn’t really until my sophomore year that I began asking more questions. Saying, “I’m not following, can you explain that again?” Or “Hey, I’m interested in this, can you tell me what you know about this? Can you advise me on my interests? Can you help me figure out how to turn what I like and what I’m good at into a possible future career?” I continue to ask my design professor questions, because that’s the only way to get better and move forward.
Be it video games, math, cars, writing stories, designing posters: seek out people who know things about the things you like. Read articles online. Buy books. Talk to a professor and ask him questions.
So: talking, listening, and lastly:
3. Don’t bring a measuring tape to college.
A measuring tape? What the heck am I talking about? (if you want to know more in depth, read this blog I wrote here).
I mean this: one of the keys to being happy and successful here at Grove City or really anywhere is to stop measuring yourselves and comparing yourselves to others. Your bodies, your talents, your habits, your job, your activities, your grades, your spiritual life. All of it.
I’m really into graphic design, and I can get really jealous about other people’s design projects that turn out better than mine. I get jealous at people who have cool internships and I don’t. I get frustrated when it seems I’m not like that person who seems happy all the time and knows the Bible and gets 10/10 on all her quizzes. Who seems to effortlessly keep it together.
Freshman, Sophomore, Juniors, Seniors: If you treat college like a competition, you are going to be way less happy than you could be. It’s not about who got the best grade on the test, or who has the hottest boyfriend or girlfriend, or who got a really cool internship. If you treat college as a learning experience, a chance to learn from both successes AND failures, you will not only be happier here, but you will be on track to understanding that God has given you your own talents for a reason. It’s easy to get jealous about what talents we do not possess, but it was helpful for me to realize that God has given me my own talents for a reason, and I am not less valuable or less loved by God because I’m good at some things and bad at others.
Every experience you have can contribute to your future, whether it be working a grocery store or lifeguarding, or working at a museum or an office. You have the potential to take away something from everything you do. Learn patience. Learn humility. Learn how to interact with co-workers. You can learn from anything. From the bad, the good, the sad, the happy, the hard. All of it.
Ah, Junior Year. Still not used to calling myself a junior. What’s being a junior like? Well, for starters I like coffee, I major in Communication Studies, which I don’t always love. In fact, there’s many days I don’t really get super pumped to go to class. I don’t get excited about theory and vocabulary, but I get excited about thought-provoking material–about people and new ideas. There’s no such thing as a perfect major, and I can be content with that….And that whole “Oops I got involved with theatre thing?” The reason I got involved with theatre is because I spontaneously made a poster for a show for kicks and giggles. Well, to put things in perspective on how my interests have changed: This summer I spent hours in my bedroom working until past midnight on posters of Harry Potter quotes, or Art Festivals, or making vectors of a whiskey bottle. I bought a Mac computer and cried because of the beautiful retina display. I spent my last Friday night of summer watching tutorials on Adobe Illustrator. And I loved it. I talked to a group of 500 freshman a program on Careers. WHAT?! Can you say, “Unexpected?”
I still feel like a freshman most days. Like on Monday: syllabus day. I got all these dang syllabi and felt completely like I’d never been to college ever. I make stupid mistakes all the time. I say weird, awkward things. I talk too much. I send poor e-mails. I write blogs with typos.
Most all of us are like the freshman. Confused, not always sure what to expect, socially anxious, desiring to be liked, wanting to impress, wanting to make an impact, wanting to be accepted. These are things that never really disappear. At least that I’m older, I’ve become more conscious of these things that can plague life at college.
These have been the most challenging and best 2 years of my life. I may have spoken at the CSO “Calling Program,” but just as I told the freshman, I haven’t got my calling all nailed down yet. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I graduate. I’m not the best at what I do. I’m haven’t got all it all figured out. But that’s okay.
I am sure of a few things. That God loves me, that Christ has died for me, that I have hope and power in him. He’s taken care of my up to this point, and he’s not going to stop. And that’s all I need. As I ended my talk to the freshman, I closed with the words of my dad’s benediction:
“You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there, he has a purpose in your being there. Jesus Christ who lives inside of you has something he wants to do in you and through, right where you are. So believe this and go in the grace, peace, and power of our Lord, Jesus Christ, so that you might love and serve God and your fellowman, now and forevermore.”
Welcome back to GCC.
“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken… You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
–Psalm 16: 7-8, 11