It started out as my new driving motto. I had a scare while driving my mom’s car and my parents told me “You’d always rather wait. If you can’t make a turn safely, stay straight and go around the block. Go around five blocks if you need. If it’s raining, slow down. Whoever you’re meeting would rather wait the extra time. We love an intact car and we require an intact person”. I agreed, and now I repeat to myself constantly as I drive “I’d rather wait”.
Slowly but surely, that motto has leaked into other areas of my life. It did not come easy: I am not naturally a wait-er. I like for things to happen fast, I think instant gratification was a fantastic invention. When I ask for something and the answer is no, my instinct is to ask for that same thing again or scheme to make it happen, rather than look for that better yes around the corner. If it were up to me, traffic would constantly flow, all meals would be cooked at microwave-speed, I’d have started dating someone six months ago, and I’d have a fabulous fascinating & creatively stimulating job lined up for when my current job ends in two weeks.
C.S. Lewis* once said “I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been born in God’s thought, and then made by God is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.”
Hoo boy, isn’t that the truth. Right now I’m in a season of forced waiting and let me tell you, it’s occasionally been the worst. Waiting is painful, it’s scary, and it’s awkward to talk about with your co-workers and relatives. But asmuch as I want God to speed His processes up to match my pace, I will never willingly run ahead of Him. Though I can think of many glorious variations of myself that would be so glamorous to be, they aren’t the person God is choosing me to be.
God chose to make me a person who needs to wait.
So, I’d rather wait.
*Some websites attribute this quote to George MacDonald.
An unexpected thing happened to me recently: I started running.
Not anything completely crazy, like a marathon. Let’s be real, I don’t even want to DRIVE twenty-six miles most days. I’ve been doing 5ks, which are 3.1 miles each.
Running, so far, is different from anything else I’ve tried because it takes effort that no one is forcing me to exude. I’ve always been an active person- cheerleading and dance until the end of high school, and then more dance in college. Things that take effort, for sure, but effort that was scheduled and directed for me. Ballet/jazz/lyrical/modern class from this time to this time-we start off at the barre, then move to the center, do some combinations across the floor, work on the dance for recital/competition, end with stretching. Cheerleading, too: after school, change & go to the upstairs gym. Stretch first, practice competition routine, work on jumps, work on stunts, and figure out what to do at the next game’s quarter & halftime break. These things benefitted me, health-wise and personality-wise, but they weren’t really for me. If I wasn’t there, it wasn’t just me who missed out, it was an inconvenience to everyone-the dance teacher who had to repeat herself later, or the girls in my stunt group who then couldn’t practice.
Back in March, I signed up for a series of 5ks at this place called Charlestowne Landing. The route takes you around a plantation house, under live oaks, down to the river, and past this boat that looks like it could be a pirate ship but is actually just old. It’s a gorgeous route. After you run, they serve dinner and have an awards ceremony. There are 5 races in total, and the proceeds go towards the animals that live there (river otters!!!). The first one was in April, and before it happened, my friend Mary Elizabeth and I were diligent about preparing. We did better than we thought we would. The second race, a couple other friends joined us. Friends who were faster than us. Friends I tried to keep up with but couldn’t. I went too fast at the beginning, and we had to stop for a minute halfway through. We had a better time, because we went quicker at the start, but to us, we did worse.
And to my surprise, I was disappointed.
I’ve never been great at doing things just for the benefit of myself. When I was four, I wanted to learn how to cartwheel. So I taught myself how, practicing and practicing until my hands bled. That was the height of my self-discipline. For example, when I write, I can feel my internal infrastructure going from crumbling ruins to soaring tower. I feel my absolute best in front of a word document filled with my thoughts. And yet, most of the word documents I open never get more than a sentence or two.
It never seemed like a big deal to me. I would feel better if I was diligent about writing, sure, but I don’t NEED to be.
But then I came across this verse:
“Make careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your life.” – Galatians 6:4-5
For the third race, I had practiced and was prepared. I didn’t try to prove myself to the other runners; I didn’t try to keep up. Let’s be honest-the chances of others noticing how I was doing are slim to none, anyways. I just went with how I had practiced, with what felt good to me. I did have one brief moment of pause at the end, but then a friend shouted “GO!” and startled me back into my groove. I ended up getting the best time yet, and I felt so proud of myself.
I tend to do my creative best like a cheerleading routine, in short spurts of high energy. A one-and-done situation. My creative best should be managed like the third race, able to be sustained over a period of time/distance, something I have to work at to maintain. Something that makes me FEEL like my best.
I know I’ve said before that I’m going to write regularly, and then not done it, but I have a new motivation for my creative best. I know how good it feels to do things for my benefit, and I want to continue. Please help-ask me about my blank word documents, send me thought-provoking articles, tweets, or Instagram posts.
In the meantime, the fourth race is coming up. I’m going to go practice.
EULOGY FOR A CAR
A couple days ago, my car reached the end of its road. Nothing dramatic happened; it just decided that it was done.
So far, I miss it.
I’m not a super sentimental person, nor am I particularly materialistic (lol, I hope), so the missing was a bit of a surprise. See, this car was a far cry from a flawless car. The automatic locks didn’t work; it wasn’t great in snow, it was too small to transport my bike, and putting people in the backseat was kind of a pain because it only had two doors. One time the key broke in half in the ignition, and I’m pretty sure it spent a couple months last year inhabited by a demon (ask me about this, I dare you).
But for all its flaws, it had one perfect positive-it was mine. It was the car that transformed me from “person with a license” to “person who can confidently conquer multi-hour road trips”. I crisscrossed North Carolina a countless number of times in that car, spending an even bigger countless number of hours performing car concerts and having important life discussions with my friends.
Yesterday I realized it’s not the car itself that I miss; but the life that happened in it. That car witnessed every emotion on the spectrum, many times over. I laughed in it; I cried in it, I laughed while I cried in it. My most prevalent college memory is gathering up all the friends who love me enough to climb into the backseat and going for drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway. One time two of my pseudo-brothers hid in the backseat for hours just to hear me scream in terror when I got in. Sophomore year of college, the parking lot I used was a long downhill slope named Greenwood. I don’t know which one of my friends started the Greenwood Game, but it was my car that it worked best on. We would inch into the parking lot as slow as our cars would let us, and then let gravity do its thing (y’all, I would get up to 47 mph) before slamming to a roller-coaster stop at the end.
The last road trip I had in my car was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I left the North Carolina mountains at about 4:30 AM, needing to be somewhere in Charleston at 11. I have crystal-clear memories of many of my trips, like the time I nearly froze driving from the mountains to the coast because I had a snowball in my possession that I needed to throw at my unsuspecting sister. But this last trip, I can’t remember who I talked to, what songs I listened to, or what dancing I did. It’s a blur in my brain, just like those last few delight-filled seconds before everything screeched to a halt in the Greenwood parking lot.
I’m driving my sister’s car right now (thank you, Abbey Rogers), but eventually I’ll get a replacement. It’ll be nicer than my car was, with less dents and more conveniences. Hopefully there will be room to transport my bike, and hopefully all ghosts stay far away from it. And though I will be grateful for those things, hopefully I never forget the things I loved about the first car, the car that took me so far.
My sister’s senior night for swim team was tonight. Thought I always cheer her on in spirit, I could not be there in person, and instead sat on my couch and pondered my own experiences of senior year.
Senior year of high school was full of celebrations-the first day of school assembly, homecoming, senior nights, yearbook day, every Friday out to eat while the younger students looked on longingly.
Senior year of college is also full of celebrations, though also the responsibility of staging them. The first day of class. The last day of a friend’s required internship. The passing of a hard test. Any time someone crosses an item off the list separating them and graduation. Honestly, we should be spending every night congratulating each other for just getting by.
Senior year of high school was piling friends in a car and driving to the beach for the weekend after prom, our first real sip of adulthood.
Senior year of college is scouring the web for the cheapest plane tickets to anywhere warm. I have one trip planned for March and am contemplating if I can afford another, to visit friends in California who were kind enough to offer up the couch.
Senior year of high school was a loss of freedom, when I crashed my car on the way to dance rehearsal and relied on my mom for transportation the rest of the year.
Senior year of college is criss-crossing North Carolina like it ain’t no thing, usually alone. I have learned to love solo car rides, as I spend the time catching up with long-distance friends via phone, or asking God to give me hints about my future (so far, none, but it’s always worth a shot).
Senior year of high school was simple decisions. App State was the only place I applied to and after I got accepted in December, the only other thought I had about the future was decorations for my dorm room.
Senior year of college is not-so-simple decisions. What do I want to do, where do I want to go? 21 years old and I have yet to come up with a dream job, though real life is rushing at me awfully and thrillingly fast.
The Bible says that to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. This senior year, I am in a strange season of juxtaposition, being totally confident in the grand future God has for me and yet having no idea what it could hold. Of scrolling through LinkedIn like it’s my job and then getting discouraged and retreating into a book. Of never wanting things to change and wanting absolutely everything to. Of wishing it was graduation day already and then praying please please, help me savor my senior year.
Last Friday night, I went to a high school football game.
It was maybe the fourth high school football game I’d been to in my life. Not because I lacked spirit for the school I went to, but because the school I went to was too small for football. Four years ago, when my sister moved from eighth grade to ninth grade, she decided she was done with the smallness. She moved to the public school and I moved to college and Friday night football games became my family’s new normal.
At this football game, I sat on the sidelines with my parents. I took pictures of the two players I knew, and the five hundred that I didn’t. I talked with my mom’s friends and I waved to my sister in the stadium and I clapped and booed with the crowd. But mostly I watched the cheerleaders.
My ideal world would be one in which every girl has another girl she can look up to. I don’t mean anyone fictional or famous, though those are important also. I mean a real person in her life. Maybe an older sister, babysitter, maybe a neighbor. Just someone slightly older who the girl can look at and think “I’m going to be just like her.”
I’m lucky enough to have many such girls. The first were two sisters named Katie & Michelle. At a young age, God planted two things in my life: the desire to cheer people on, and these two sisters. Katie & Michelle were babysitters for my siblings and I, and were both cheerleaders at the high school where we lived. I was a cheerleader for a rec football team, and once a year, the rec cheerleaders got to cheer with the high school cheerleaders.
Katie & Michelle endlessly practiced jumps and cheers with me in preparation. It was one of the best nights of my elementary school life-standing under the big lights in the big stadium, looking up at those big girls and being 100% sure that this was the life I was born to have.
(Like I said, my high school was too small for football, but I cheered for basketball with the best of them. We also became North Carolina State Champions).
Some of that confidence I was born with, but I think most of it comes from the fact that I could see myself in every single high school girl there. Tallish, blondeish, thin, white-Andover, KS is not a town known for its diversity. In fact, until I moved to North Carolina in fifth grade, I did not know a single person of a different race.
Now, last Friday night, the same setting in a different place. There were football players, there were cheering crowds, and to my delight, there were elementary school girls standing among the cheerleaders. It’s all the same-but one thing is different. The high school we were at, the high school my sister attends, is about 50% African American, and the attendance at the game reflected that. There were cheerleaders that were thin, blonde, and white, but many of the girls were not. The little girl I was watching was not. She was standing next to a high schooler that was not. I don’t know either of those girls, I don’t know if they know each other. But I saw that little girl look up at that big girl under the big lights in the big stadium and I know that she KNEW that’s where she’d be.
Beyonce said that girls run the world-well hey, let’s prove her right. No matter how old a girl you are, I bet you can find someone younger than you that shares your interests. Find her, get her number, invite her out to lunch, build her up. Encourage her to do the same with someone else she knows. The cycle will go on, and maybe one day, my ideal world will be the one that actually exists.
We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity, and ourselves do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I spent a couple weeks in Asia this summer. While I was there, I was proud to represent America. I was proud to ask people around me about their culture, and to share mine to them.
When I got back, the protests in Charlottesville happened and I wasn’t so proud anymore. I had been welcomed with open arms to a place I had never been and I cried over the knowledge that some people do not have that experience in a place they consider to be home. I kept thinking about the phrases written above, the phrases in the Preamble. Those people in Charlottesville claimed to be proud Americans, yet they were not establishing justice. They were doing the opposite of domestic tranquility, and they sure as heck weren’t promoting the general welfare. They were securing the blessings of liberty for themselves, but for no one else. They were not “We the people”, they were “Us the people and They the people”.
A couple days after Charlottesville, I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to watch the eclipse. This was an interesting place for two reasons. One, it was in the path of the full eclipse, and two, it is the location of the first battle of the Civil War. Everyone and their mother were coming to watch the moon overtake the sun, and I feared that would include the tiki torch-wielding haters. But we hung up hammocks underneath the pier and chatted to people passing by with no drama. We helped people set up tents and we watched people help people. We lay on the sand and watched the sun shrink through our eclipse glasses. We clapped with the crowd as the moon overtook the sun and the color drained out of the world.
That stretch of sand in South Carolina was the most diverse setting I had ever been in, and yet, it was the most peaceful. There were Hispanics, African-Americans, whites, wealthy people, poor people, young people and old people, all happily scrambled together. There was no way to tell who was Republican and Democrat, there was only bathing suits and eclipse glasses. People were cheering the moon on and people were cheering each other on. There was no room for hate.
A couple days after the eclipse, a hurricane hit the gulf coast of Texas. Just as the moon shone equally to everyone in Charleston, the storm hit everyone in its path with an equal amount of force. I had been in the Houston airport a few weeks before, on my way back from Beijing. I had a window seat, and I was looking out at Texas as we flew in. The neighborhoods were all neatly arranged, and the homes in them looked shiny and new. The schoolswere big and the football stadiums bigger. Those shiny homes I flew over are all flooded, the people that live in them stranded. Those big schools are ready for students that won’t be able to come for another week. The airport that was bustling with activity is now dark and empty.
The highlight of the eclipse was the moon directly blocking the sun. The temperature dropped and it was too dark to move around. I imagine Texas feels somewhat like that moment right now. They can’t see any sunlight, they don’t know what step to take next.But the thing about that dark moment, the one everyone had traveled to see: it only lasted about two minutes. Before we knew it, the smallest sliver of sun broke through, the temperature rose back up, and we knew where we were again. If Texas is the moon right now, the rest of America is the sun beaming out behind it, ready to bring everything back to normal. I have seen companies announcing proceeds going to Houston shelters. I have received e-mails from Samaritan’s Purse urging available people to join the relief effort. Brewing companies are exchanging beer for canned water to ship to victims. I’ve read story after story of neighbors helping each other, neighbors that may live on opposite sides of the city.
We the people, the people of Texas and the people of America, are promoting the general welfare. We’re establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility. The city of Houston established a curfew so that homes would not be looted-providing for the common defense.
Today is my last first day of school.
It’s my last first day and I’m thinking about the excitement of the other first days. First days meant (and still mean) a shiny bookbag, new clothes, and meticulously selected pencil cases, notebooks, and folders. First days meant showing off a tan and swapping stories of the summer’s adventures.
It’s my last first day and I’m thinking about the long line of people that got me here. The physical therapists that didn’t give up on teaching me to speak and walk. The kindergarten teacher that assigned someone to walk to the library with me because I was too small to open the door by myself. The first grade teacher that got me my own chair because I couldn’t stay seated on the floor during story time. The eight grade teacher that came to my house and helped me study the night before the final. The dance teacher that made every girl in the studio believe she was the favorite. The college professors who have handed out cell phone numbers and kept faithful office hours, always willing to help a student in need. The parents who made each first day a special day.
It’s my last first day of college and I’m thinking about the last first day of high school. There was an assembly for the whole school, the same one held every year. Kindergarteners through 11th graders would be shuffling impatiently on the bleachers, until the headmaster came to the microphone and the room stilled. We heard the words we’d been thinking of all summer, “Please rise for the seniors to enter”. It was like a wedding, everyone stood as we walked in, and then applauded as we found our seats on the front row.
Today there is no such fanfare, there is no class picture or matching t-shirts. There is just me leaving my apartment and walking with a friend to class, us both with the bittersweet knowledge that today is our last first day.
It rolled into my sight a while ago, though I just now realized how dense and all-encompassing it is. It extends from tomorrow, to the internship I have to get this summer, to the life I’ll have upon graduating college. The friends I have now are wrapped in it (though some of them are crystal-clear beside me) as well as any future relationships.
I’m willing to bet you have some fog in your life as well. Maybe you are starting a new job and are unsure of how to fit in at the office. Maybe you are ending a relationship and don’t remember what it is like to be single. Maybe you are moving cross-country knowing no one in your new town. Maybe it’s something else entirely. Either way, I have never met a person with a constant panoramic view and so the comforting news is, you’re not alone.
This hill that I’m standing on in this picture, I’d been to before. I know what the view looks like (it’s a good one!) and I know you can go a long way before it drops off. The friend I was with had never been there, and was more hesitant. But here’s the thing about fog: it’s only messy at a distance. The closer you get, the further ahead you can see. So my friend ended up walking down the hill and as she walked I wondered if that was how God feels watching us get nervous about our futures. I can picture Him watching me squirm and stress, shaking his head at me saying “I don’t know why you’re afraid-I know what’s beyond the fog! I picked it just for you and man, will you enjoy it.”
Nothing under God’s control is ever out of control. You’ll keep marching towards your future and I’ll keep marching towards mine and one day we’ll both look up and exclaim in wonder at the sight before us. The fog will be gone and we’ll see our big, bright, special futures stretched out before us.
We’d better savor the view while it’s here, though. There might be another fog rolling in soon.
It was Laura Ingalls Wilder, boldly blazing her way across the prairie. It was Ramona Quimby, always coloring outside the lines. It was Nancy Drew, outwitting criminal after criminal. It was Samantha standing against child labor. It was Kit reporting on the Great Depression. It was Molly putting on a USO show to benefit the troops in World War II. It is me voting in my first presidential election. It is generation after generation of women deciding to get off their couches and do something that defines the term American Girl.
Fourth of July has become my favorite holiday. There’s no controversy, no pressure of gift giving, and everyone is celebrating. It’s one giant glorified pep rally, and as a former cheerleader I’m all about a pep rally. Last summer, I painted my face, I listened to “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” on repeat, and I waved my flag like there was no tomorrow. I assured everyone I saw that there ain’t no doubt I love this land. But until the moment I put pen to paper and checked off a candidate, I was speaking empty words. How could I be proud to be an American when I had not done anything to BE an American? I admit to you, with some shame: I was not planning on voting. I read the news articles, watched the debates and generally kept myself updated. But when it came to forming and acting on an opinion, I was basically an ostrich burying its head in the sand. I avoided the people posted on campus asking me to register and I stopped talking when my friends brought it up. It wasn’t that I did not want to vote, I was just indifferent, which is the worst thing an American can be.
I live about a fifteen-minute walk from my campus, a walk that I truly cherish each day. It’s my guaranteed me-time. I call my mom, I talk to God, or I give myself pep talks. I live in a safe place, but I’m not stupid. If I’m on campus at night, I try to make sure I’m with someone who can give me a ride back, or I walk with friends that live near me. But last Tuesday, I lost track of time and found myself walking back at night, alone. I was thinking about the election and the candidates and my body got shivers when my brain got to Trump. Most of what the candidates talked about were just words to me, never issues that intersected with my life. But there is one topic that grabbed my attention that night and took it for a ride. I am a small girl in a big world, and the horrifying truth is that if a man decided to rape me, there is little I could do about it, and there’s no guarantee he’ll get in trouble for it. This is not just a me-problem. This is every woman who has learned to hold her car keys pointed stabby-side out. This is every can of pepper spray ever bought. I realized that any president that is okay with this is not okay with me. And I realized that if I don’t do anything about what I’m not okay with, I’m letting down the American Girls I mentioned earlier. I’m letting down future American Girls. Most important, I’m stripping away my right to call myself an American Girl.
Two days later, I voted.
Being an American Girl is not wearing red, white, and blue. It’s not being able to make the perfect apple pie. The quality of our citizenship is not determined by whether we sit or stand or where we put our hats during the National Anthem. It is not determined by wearing a sticker that says “I Voted!” but instead, it is determined by the action behind the sticker. The test to being an American girl is simple: all you have to do is do.