Monday, May 28, 2007

Light Up Ahead

Eventually, I want a summer where I can sit and read every single day. I say this; I think about it all the time, but I never follow through with it. Instead I putter through a few days of nothing to do, and then I propel myself into weeks packed with working as a camp counselor and then traveling to a foreign country for weeks as an English teacher. There is no real time for rest. There is no way of slowing myself down. There is only fast and faster in my life.

Being busy is a good thing. It keeps the mind from going idle. It focuses my attention on what I need to get done, and I seem to find more time to relax and write because I know I have to fit it into my schedule. I can't just channel surf my way through relaxation; instead, I have to be proactive about it.

The past week was one of the hardest of my life, so this week I am being proactive about writing and about reading. I'm going to enjoy this week I have for rest. I'm going to take advantage of it and enjoy it so that when I make the two-hour back to camp I am ready to pour out everything I have (and more) into the three sets of campers I will have.

And I'm not exactly sure how this summer will work. There are so many little things I'm worried over, little things I never thought through before signing up for the summer job or before applying for the teaching position. But I won't second-guess myself, at least not too much. Life is all about trusting your first instinct and trusting that everything will follow in a way that takes care of the small, daunting details. It's not about picking through all the options and having an anxiety attack over whether or not the correct option was selected.

Right now, it's pouring outside. The rain is falling down in a slant that almost makes the rain look as though it is falling sideways. The palm trees in my parent's backyard are moving about wildly, and watching the canal water blur as the rain hits it sends a calm through me. It's beautiful out here when it's sunny and when it's rainy. There aren't many places like that in the world, at least not like this, and being able to enjoy this moment, since I don't yet have to venture out in it, tells me I made the right choice. If I had stayed at school to work until leaving to teach, I would've missed this.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Reasons I Dislike Driving In Cities I Am Unfamiliar With

1) I have no idea what radio stations are "good".
2) I'm never sure exactly how many miles over the speed limit I can get away with.
3) I lose track of all the different highways.
4) Really, how many streets can you name 21st or 11th?
5) I might have gotten about 5 tickets for accidentally running red lights.
6) I'm told 1/4 mile before the exit that I need to be in the right lane. And I'm in the farthest left lane possible.
7) I have to use my own money to pay the tolls instead of running through with the Texas Tag my parents pay for.
8) I'm not sure whether or not the camers above the lights work.
9) Again. A possibility of 5 tickets for accidentally running red lights.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Much Farther To Go

I thought that saying goodbye would become easier as I grew older, but if anything, it has become harder.

Commencement and graduation are this weekend. I know so many people who are throwing their caps in the air and bidding farewell to OU. There are people moving to Connecticut, people moving to Virginia, people going home, and people who aren't sure yet. Their lives will continue without OU, and OU will continue without them. But for me, it won't be the same.

Friendships are difficult, no matter your age, but there's a sort of serenity with friendships in college. It's so easy to go weeks and sometimes months without seeing or talking to friends, and then one night you meet up for dinner at The Mont or you run into people on campus. And it's like nothing has changed. There's an ease in conversation and a familiarity to the humor you share. There's always something to talk about and people who connect you. Bringing new people into the friendships is effortless. There's so much room for freedom. No one has to worry about jumping through popularity hoops as was the case in high school and as will possibly be the case in the real world.

And then graduation happens and changes everything. Paths will cross again, but I won't see these people at 10 year reunions. I'm supposed to graduate with them. I'm supposed to be done with school according to the college plan that college is a 4-year institution. I have another year left here, and they're done. How does this work? How is it so easy to realize that I don't want to graduate and yet wish I could walk with these friends of mine? How is it that I can't quite figure out if I'm really not ready to join the real world?

And how will I ever replace some of these people? It's not that I am extremely close to these girls, but they've touched my life in a way that will never again be recreated. The pictures we have, the memories we share will always be special. But we're all in different places now. That's what is so hard about college, I think. Everything changes every year in a way bigger than the world of gossip and drunken hook-ups and revolving relationships that constitute some of high school. And I'm thankful for the changes. I'm just not quite sure how to respond to the changes.

And this summer will change even more. Separated by so many friends but with others for five straight weeks, I'll grow and adapt and maybe figure out who God is calling me to be in this big, wide world. Everyone I know will grow and adapt as well, and when we all come back into this world of OU and Norman and trips to Oklahoma City and getting through finals with wonderments of "Is it worth it? Should I just drop out?", we'll be different and yet the same.

And, because Carrie Bradshaw always says it best...
Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course, we wouldn't fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are. After all, seasons change. So do cities. People come into your life and people go. But it's comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart. And if you're very lucky, a plane ride away.

Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Looking Forward to Looking Back

When I look in the mirror, it takes me a moment to realize that I am actually looking at the reflection of myself. I went blonde on Saturday, and I love the change. It just takes some getting used to. Now, if only I can lose some weight and have a television camera trail my every move, I will be complete. Because just like friendships aren't real until you are "friends" on facebook, life isn't real until you have a reality televsion show on MTV.

This summer will take care of that, I think. We'll be in China for a month, teaching English and American culture in Cangzhou, and one of the girls is bringing along her video camera. There will be confessionals along with all the live footage of us at work teaching. It might be hard to market to MTV, what with the lack of hook-ups, but it will be fun to shop around to friends and family. My own personal 15-minutes of fame.

Before China, I have a few days left in my apartment and then a weekend of Tulsa followed by a ropes course, and then it's homeward bound to Seabrook for a few days of relaxing. And then it's the return to camp; it will be just like summer 2005 but better!

There's something about being at camp and serving the kids that just excites the deepest part of my heart. I feel the same thing when I'm at the daycare. When 2-year-olds play hide-and-seek around you and rest their weight on you as you read to them, your heart sort of clenches (in a good way), and it makes me think that if I can do this, if I can help these kids, and turn it into a real-life job one day, I'll have done enough with my life.

When I said goodbye to my 2-year-olds on Tuesday, it was hard to keep from crying. Those kids changed my life. I learned patience. I realized what love was. I learned about God and how He wants me to run so hard after Him, just as those kids run hard after everything because everything excites them so much. Those lessons can never be taken from me or replaced just as those kids can never be replaced. I'll carry everything around with me wherever I go.

And as I hold your dirty hand all that I can say to you
Is in the awkward smile I make
I can’t explain why I came to this distant land
Your simple smiles refresh my soul and
I can’t help but love you and know
That you have all you need

As I look into your face I see hope and not disgrace
And strength that carries you along the rugged road you travel on
And as we go our separate ways you can be sure that I have changed
Because I’ve seen the way you live

Sunday, May 06, 2007

These Are The Days

When I was younger, I thought life changed at a snail's pace. I was always counting down until birthdays. I was always waiting for something more. I wanted to grow up. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to live my dreams, and I thought I could only do that when I was 18 or 21 or out of college.

I feel like I wasted those days. I feel like the time I spent wanting something more should have been spent enjoying what I had. If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to slow down and to enjoy. I would also tell her not to date the boys she was attracted to but to listen to the boys her father approved of because, well, he was always right.

But I can't tell my younger self those things. Instead, I can tell the self I am today to slow down, to enjoy, to build relationships and to be content with what is right there in front of you (me) for the taking. That's what I've learned more than anything this year. That's what I want to continue to know through the summer and on into the years that lie ahead.

There's so much good in the world. But there's a lot of bad in the world too. They have to balance each other out. Which is a lot like planning out one's life. You have to mix the plans with the spontaneous. Without the mix, you'll always be searching for something more when what you want might be right in front of you.