So I ran a marathon

Did I really just type those words?  It’s been almost a week, and it still hasn’t actually set in.

I mean, I know that I ran for a really long time.  I know I passed signs with numbers on them reading “23… 24… 25… 26…”  I know that my whole body hurt.  I know that I stopped running when I went under a sign that said “Finish” where someone put a medal around my neck with a ribbon in my favorite color, red.

But marathon?

That word has so many implications.  In my mind it has an almost mythical status.  Like people who summit Everest.  Or win a Nobel.  Marathons are hard!  Even though there are more people that do them than those that summit Everest or get a Nobel, they’re still hard.  I remember once writing a bucket list that included “be in shape to run a marathon” — just be in shape but not actually run one because, seriously, me?  Like I could run a marathon.  Me.  Ha.  Don’t be absurd.

Yet somehow I ran a marathon.  Did I really just type that again?  Not only do I have a medal and finisher’s shirt to prove it, my time is on the internet.  Pain is temporary, but your finishing time is on the internet forever.

My friend and I argued all weekend about whose fault it was that we were doing this marathon.  Was it hers — for applying for and being accepted by this program for people benefiting from medical technology to run this marathon — or was it mine — for alerting her to the program’s existence and writing a nomination letter to accompany her application?  She told me if she got accepted that she’d bring me along to fill her complimentary guest entry.  I guess that means I should have written a lower-quality nomination letter.

But actually if I’m honest, I think it is my fault.  Because I think I was up for the challenge.

A marathon.

An actual marathon.

Twenty-six point two miles.  Plus all that walking in the starting corrals and after the finish line to pick up my stuff — I really think that should count for something.

I hate anticipation.  Hate hate hate it.  I get super nervous.  I had panic attacks before going to London.  I had panic attacks before going to Uganda.  Before doing the Pikes Peak Ascent I sat on a curb with my head between my knees gasping.  If there is enough time for me to overthink and get stressed about something, I will.  I’d rather just be surprised by big things than know they are coming.  Unfortunately there’s no way around that when it comes to a marathon, because you need to train for months beforehand.  You can’t just wake up and decided to do one.  (I mean, maybe if you’re superhuman like Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher…)

So it was kind of surprising that Saturday night I was fairly calm as I laid out everything I’d need the next day.  And that night I slept soundly.  When I woke up at 5:30 I dressed as though this was just another day.

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And then we got on the school bus to head for the start line.

And I lost it.

It probably didn’t help that the heat was cranked up to 120 since heat makes me light-headed.  Or that we sat in the last row where every irregularity in the road surface was magnified, jostling the breakfast in my stomach.  I leaned my head against the back of the seat in front of us, pressed my hand to the icy window to ground myself, and focused on breathing.  My friend — who has seen me freak out about pretty much everything possible — silently rubbed my back.

I just need to start running.  Once I start running I’ll be fine.  This anticipation is killing me.   I just need to start.  

Finally we got off that stifling bus.  Finally we found the bag check truck.  Finally we found a spot in the corral.  Finally we started moving in the mass of people toward the start line.  And then finally we crossed the timing mat that signaled the end of months of preparation and anticipation, and the beginning of a big day.

And then I was fine.  It was just another long run.  A long one in a city I’d never been to before surrounded by 12,000 other people — but just a long run.

People say there comes a time in a marathon where you freak out and panic.  “I still have 23 miles to go?”  “I’m just halfway?”  “I’m only at mile 20?”  That moment happened for me… never.  I know, I’m surprised too.  I thought I’d wish I was bad at math every time I passed another mile marker flag and mentally subtracted it from 26.  But instead with each one that came into sight I thought, Another mile down!  I’m getting there!

Despite this being six miles further than I had ever run in my life, as soon as I started running there was not a doubt in my mind that I would make it to that finish line.  The only question was how long it would take me to get there.  And how much pain I would be in by the time I got there.

Yes, I was in pain.  A lot.  I went out too fast (yay, low altitude = more oxygen!) and started hurting at mile three.  Each time I passed an EMS station I considered asking for ibuprofen, but I was too afraid they’d DQ me after all I’d been through to get here.  My plan had been to run-walk the whole race.  By around mile 17 it took just as much effort (and pain) to walk as to run, so I wanted to keep running.  I had to force myself to drop to a walk knowing I still had many miles left.

Predictably, I eventually slipped into that zombie-like just-keep-moving-forward state.  I had podcasts playing on my phone, but I only passively listened; hearing someone else’s voice kept my mind from thinking too much.  Even though we had driven the course two days earlier and seen how beautiful it was, I couldn’t focus enough to appreciate it.  There were a fair number of people on the route for such a long course, and my brain was functioning just enough to read the signs that they held.  “Hot dog, you’re all weeeners!”  “Worst parade ever!”  “Motivational sign!”  “You think running is tough, my arms are getting tired from holding this sign!”  (Been there, and yes, it IS hard — you guys are awesome.)

At one point I ran past two little girls holding a plate of fruit, and it wasn’t until I was five steps past that my brain registered, “Eat that!” — best bite of watermelon I’ve ever tasted.  Just as tasty was the orange slice a lady had handed me few miles earlier.  I have to say, formal course support was lacking.  There was plenty of liquids, but only ONE food station with ONLY Clif Shots, which I already had in my pocket anyway.  God bless the spectators with their offerings of random food!  Like the mile 15 banana people.  There was a mimosa station that I considered just for the OJ — but I knew that champagne would hit my legs like a sledgehammer.  Around mile 22 I saw a man on the side of the road opening a box for his wife and she pulled out a glazed doughnut; I considered veering over there and snatching it out of her hand.  (I didn’t want the whole thing, but one sticky bite would have been awesome.)

Finally between the trees I could see the dome of the capital building, where I knew the finish line awaited.  Then we came out on the top of a hill next to a beautiful cathedral where below me I could see the mile 26 banner and the finish line.  Yes, “below me”; the last 0.3 miles was downhill.  Praise God, praise God so much!

And then I crossed the finish line.  And was given a medal.  And my first marathon blanket.  I was a little delirious.  After running for over five and a half hours, it felt weird to stop.  I heard someone yell, “Hey!” and saw a man leaning over a fence holding my bag check; in my stupor I hadn’t seen the signs and nearly walked right past.  Someone put a bag of potato chips in my hand.  Another person gave me a black shirt and I smiled at a tiny little word on it: FINISHER.

I shuffled toward a striped tent, looking for one person: the person who was the reason I was here.  I glimpsed her there in her blue jacket with a medal around her neck identical to mine.  She turned and saw me and cried out, “YAY!!!!!” running to embrace me in a hug.

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Silently smiling I put my head on her shoulder and I cried.  Tears of relief.  Tears of pain.  Tears of triumph.  Tears of joy.  Tears of overcoming.  Tears of everything.  Tears of a marathoner.

We sat down and I pulled out my phone to scroll through the dozens of text messages of encouragement I’d received from loved ones during the previous six hours.  Overwhelmed and not sure how to put into words everything that I was thinking and feeling, I just started sending them a picture:

IMG_20141005_140950nopmUpon further reflection while typing this and thinking about all of those text messages, I renege my previous statement.  It’s not my fault that I ended up in Minnesota at a marathon.  It’s hers.  And it’s yours, too.  You heard me; you’re at fault.  All you people who texted me.  Everyone who said, “Wow,” upon learning what I was doing, followed by, “Oh, you’ve got this.”  All you people who cheered for me via Facebook and prayed for me at kids ministry and Bible study.  All the coworkers and colleagues who excitedly asked about my race leading up to it and descended on my office upon my return wanting to know how it went.  Everyone who said they’re proud of me.  It’s completely and totally your fault.  Because you believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  How could I have done something like this without all that love and support?

About one mile from the finish line, there was a spectator holding a sign.  It said, “You’re no longer a runner.  You’re a marathoner.”

I guess now and forevermore that’s me.  Alissa: marathoner.

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Secretary Tales, issue #13

My coworkers are weird.

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#thatswhyifitinsowell

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Another love language

In several conversations lately we’ve gotten on the topic of love languages. If you need a refresher, the “five love languages” are:

  • gifts
  • acts of service
  • quality time
  • physical touch
  • words of affirmation

I’m a fan of the concept of love languages – that is, that people both express love and feel cared for in non-universal ways. And that sometimes we think we are showing love for someone, but they have a hard time seeing it. Likewise that sometimes we may not feel that someone cares when really they’re just speaking to us in a different language.

While these five may be the primary or most well-known love languages, people have written about many other of their own love languages – silence, food, sarcasm, etc.  I feel like there’s an additional one – and I’m not sure if it’s actually it’s own separate love language or an underlying component of love languages in general. Maybe it’s both. I’m talking about knowledge.

I know, it’s kind of weird, so let me explain.  By knowledge I mean knowing someone well enough that you know their needs or likes or quirks and can respond to them.  It means that you’ve paid attention to someone and taken the time to learn about them.

I went to a friend’s recently for dinner and – after greeting me with a big hug – she pointed at some of the food on the counter and said, “That has onions in it, but this doesn’t.”  It’s a little thing, but she remembered my allergies and took them into account when planning the meal.  If she had forgotten I wouldn’t have thought less of her, but the fact that she remembered made me feel loved.

In college when I would visit my family, my mom would occasionally hand me some Jelly Bellies or Lemonheads or Dots or some other candy she knew I liked.  Often times she had seen it weeks beforehand in a store, thought of me, and bought it to give it to me the next time she saw me.  Knowing specific things that I liked and wanting to make me happy with those made me feel loved.

I was at a restaurant eating a sandwich but all of the contents were falling out.  So I had to switch my grip to cup the sandwich in my hands to keep it together.  My friend watched at me with a mischievous smirk on her face.  I stared back at her and her smile kept getting bigger and bigger.  Finally I said, “You know I’m REALLY uncomfortable right now because my hands are getting dirty.”  Unable to hold it in any longer she burst out, “Yes!” with a huge peal of laughter.  Even though she was laughing at me, I felt loved because she knew me well enough to recognize and poke fun at one of my quirks.

Last weekend a kid came running up to me in Sunday school wearing his Minecraft t-shirt and creeper hoodie.  On a scale of 1-10 my Minecraft knowledge is about a 3, but in previous weeks I’d asked him about it and each week since asked about his progress. So on Sunday this kid ran PAST the scooters and bouncing balls and zipline (yes, we have a zipline) straight to me because he knew that I knew he loved Minecraft and would ask him how his progress was going on building an animal hotel.

So yeah. I think knowledge is related to love languages. And regardless of whether or not we claim it as one of our top love languages, I think it’s one we all need to work on in the way we express love to each other. Because we all have a desire to be known to some extent – whether that means “knowing” that someone’s primary love language is words or “knowing” to not bring up someone’s father because of a history of abuse or “knowing” that someone is stressed based upon signs you’ve learned to recognize.

In college I did a Bible study with some women on a book called “Do You Think I’m Beautiful?” Whenever the leader announced the study in large group and said the title of the book, the guys in the room would automatically say “Yes” before she could finish the sentence. They were trying to be funny, but I wanted them to know that this book wasn’t actually about physical appearance.

Because even though every woman wants to be known as and told that she’s beautiful (it’s true), the book was about more than that. It was about how that question is rooted in the desire to be known. “Do you think I’m beautiful?” could also be translated, “Do you see me, actually see the REAL me with all my features and faults, and STILL accept me and love me?”

Because God does. In fact he’s the only one that really can. He knows the hairs on our head and which breath will be our last and how much that person’s innocent comment actually hurt you. Psalm 139 days that he knew us before we were born. He is the fullest embodiment of knowledge and love. He knows us better than we know ourselves and yet loves us completely.

I struggle with speaking the love language of knowledge. Because it requires listening and paying attention, and then remembering instead of letting myself be distracted and making excuses. Which is hard. But I think it’s important. And it’s something I want to work on.

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Step one: Jesus

Recently I’ve often caught myself wishing I was better in the roles I hold.  A better Sunday school teacher.  A better employee.  A better friend.  You get the idea.  Not that what I am or do right now is necessarily bad, just that I feel– no, I know that I could be better.  There’s always room to grow, and though I can never do any of my roles perfectly I don’t want to become complacent.

With each of these aspects of my life – and more – I’m reminded that they all start at the same place: drawing near to God.  Because everything in my life is an overflow or outpouring that starts with my relationship with God.

To become a better teacher, I need to know God better to understand what I’m teaching.  To become a better employee, I need to know that everything I do is an act of worship to my Creator.  To become a better friend, I need to know selflessness and patience that I can only learn by letting God become bigger while I become smaller.

Through all of these and more, I need to understand more about God’s love for me and for people.  ALL people.  My kiddos.  My coworkers and customers.  My friends.  Only by discovering how much value they have in his eyes can I start to see them and love them they way that he does.

There are of course other steps after step one – like making time to study the lesson plan, working to eliminate distractions at work, and deliberately making plans to connect with people I care about.

But whenever I feel overwhelmed and hopeless I go back to step one.  Prayer, time in the Bible, worship.  Step one is always the biggest and most difficult and most crucial – as well as the easiest to forget.  But afterwards steps two, three, and beyond seem much more achievable.

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Running with mashed potatoes

Time for a short and silly post.

One of my favorite foods is mashed potatoes.  I mean, I love ALL potatoes, but the mashed kind are particularly awesome.  At Thanksgiving, at least one third of my plate will be a pile of mashed potatoes.  And I save them to eat last because I want my last taste memory of the meal to be my favorite.

So a month ago I did the Pikes Peak Ascent.  (Maybe I should write a blog post about that or something…)  It was really hard not because of the distance or the altitude or inadequate training but because of my stomach.  I had soooo many nerves before the race that I didn’t eat enough breakfast.  And then during the race I was trying to eat but it was too late.  My stomach wouldn’t accept the calories it so desperately needed.  So I was weak, in pain, and delirious by the time I reached the summit – and got my seriously awesome medal.

After the race, I was reviewing the race with my friends (as always happens after races) and we got to talking about nutrition – not just during races but also during things like long hikes.  Energy gels are okay and have their place I guess, except that the texture is like having a mouth full of glue and they’re disgustingly sickeningly sweet.  But, they ARE designed to be able to be easy to digest in the midst of strenuous exercise and you don’t have to try to chew, so we suffer through them.

And then a light bulb came on.  Mashed potatoes.  I mean, I’m no nutrition expert, but  they’re full of carbs and calories.  Add a bit of salt to replace electrolytes.  A little bit of milk makes them tasty and provides a small amount of protein.  Fairly bland so easy on the stomach.  No chewing.  Jam them in one of those squeezable food pouches, and presto: on the go fuel for a long run.  (Did you know potatoes are also a great source of vitamin C and have more potassium than bananas?)

I have a running shirt with HUGE pockets in the back – it’s sooo fantastic!!!  So as part of my marathon training, I conducted an experiment and stuffed some potatoes in the back when I had to do my 16-mile run.  And the potatoes worked AMAZINGLY for me, guys.  Easy to eat, my stomach accepted them with no problem, and they’re delicious.  :)  I took them on the 18-mile run and again on the 20-mile run.

But now I face a dilemma.  My marathon is out of state.  I’m staying in a hotel with no access to a kitchen and who knows where the nearest grocery store will be.  So.  Think I can boil potatoes in a hot pot and mash them in a blender?  Think I can put a hot pot and a blender and potatoes in my checked luggage?  That should confuse the security screeners…

#youknowyourearunnerwhen you think about these things…

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How a piece of gingerbread changed my life

Unlike a number of college sophomores, I wanted to live in the dorms.  I had such a fantastic experience in the residence halls my freshman year.  It was like living with all of your friends.  And there were so many fun and silly antics we got up to, as well as the reassurance that there was just someone nearby staved off any loneliness.

Sadly, as a sophomore transfer student coming to a college where the residence halls were barely able to hold all the freshmen, I was left out in the cold.  I moved into an apartment with a girl I didn’t know, and we barely talked to each other all year.

I needed community.  I needed friends.  I knew this.  It would be crucial to surviving college – and just surviving life.  So I did what seemed to be the most reasonable thing to me at the time: at an information fair I went straight to the Religious Campus Organizations table and grabbed one of [almost] every brochure.

I went to several of the larger gatherings first, the popular ones.  I sat in huge lecture halls with a hundred other students while we sang praise songs and listened a speaker.  But no one talked to me – beyond the mandatory, “Turn and say hi to someone around you.”

And then one Thursday night I went to a smaller group.  I barely found it because the room where they met in was in a stairwell – no joke.  Instead of hundreds of people, there were a dozen.  So it was obvious I was new.  I talked politely with a few people, trying to put my introvertedness aside, before we got to the programming of the evening.

Afterwards, before people dispersed, one of the girls I had talked to came back us to me to continue our conversation.  And she asked me a question that changed my life.

“Would you like to go to the tea house with me to get some gingerbread?” 

It was such an absurdly specific request.  Not, “want to get coffee?” or “we should hang out sometime.”  I didn’t know this girl at all beyond her name.  I didn’t know anything about this group I had wandered into.  I didn’t know where this tea house was.  And I didn’t even like gingerbread.  But it was such an absurdly specific request that I found myself responding with an answer that changed my life.

“Okay.”  

So a few days later I found myself at the Dushanbe Tea House ordering tea and gingerbread with this girl I didn’t know.  I found out she was named by her hippie parents after the mountains where she was born.  She wanted to be a midwife.  She had a big smile with crooked teeth and a soft, gentle voice.  Also, thank goodness, the gingerbread turned out to be more like ginger cake rather than the cookies that you break your teeth on at Christmas.

And because she had invited me for gingerbread, I came back the next Thursday night to that little room in the stairwell.  And the next.  The girl left at the end of that year and we didn’t stay in touch (pre-Facebook days…).  But I stayed with that little group of people who over time became friends.  We went to church together and out for lunch afterwards.  We’d get together for movie nights.  We went sledding and ice blocking.  We had Super Bowl parties.  We went to Denny’s all. the. time. and not for the cuisine.  Even after I graduated college I stayed on as a volunteer with that campus ministry, putting in seven years total in those small classrooms.

I had found a community.  And here’s the more amazing thing: it’s still alive and vibrant.

Two of the people I met 14 years ago are still my closest friends.  Over the years we grew as more trickled in.  Things have gotten more complicated as we’re no longer all living in the same college town and people have gotten married and started having kids, but we still get together.  One person holds a standing movie night once per week for anyone to drop in, and there are usually at minimum six people there.  Sometimes I’ll go a few months without seeing some of them, but when we get back together we just click.  One couple moved out of state for several years, and when they came back they fit right in like they had never left.

I’ve seen many news articles saying that most adults have only two or three close friends.  If you define a close friend as a person that you could call at two in the morning if you are having a crisis, I have over a dozen (and that’s just in this group – not even counting friends from my current church or Bible study or work).

Throughout the years, these people have shaped who I am.  They have accepted me with my flaws and forgiven me time and again when I say or do stupid things.  They have selflessly shared their time, money, and possessions with me and not expected anything in return.  They have stood by me and supported me when I went through dark days of depression.  They have prayed for me and challenged me to grow in my faith.  And if I were in a car accident tonight I have no doubt that I would open my eyes in the hospital to see them gathered around my bed, probably cracking jokes and playing Munchkin or Cards Against Humanity.

We’re not perfect, of course.  We get on each other’s nerves from time to time.  But I know that they’ve got my back, that they’ll always accept me and stand by me.

At our Fourth of July party this year, as I ate my brat I looked around at all of these people on the porch trying to trace back how I knew them all.  A few had married into the community, but all of the rest of us could be traced back to that tiny campus ministry that used to meet in a stairwell.

One that I may not have given a second thought to if it hadn’t been for an invitation for ginger bread from a person I haven’t spoken with in 13 years.

There’s a quote that’s attributed to Helen Keller:

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

I doubt that when the girl invited me to tea that she had any idea she would put me on a course that would introduce me to some of the people who would shape my life so profoundly.  She didn’t set out to do something grand and noble.  She just shared a moment of her life with someone who was lonely.

We all have the incredible power to makes someone’s day or to ruin it through our interactions.  If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know that to be true.  But more than that, our words and actions have the power to redirect someone’s life.

What are some small things that you can do today to reach out to someone?

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Nine pieces of advice for college freshmen

CU Boulder students attending new student convocation.

CU Boulder students attending new student convocation.

Recently a woman who is entering my alma mater this fall asked what advice I would give to a college freshman.  After over a decade in higher education, I’ve got some.  I’ve got a lot, actually.  But I’ll boil things down to nine overarching principles.  Some have to do with school, some have to do with the general transition to adulthood and life on your own.

1. Get involved.  Ninety five percent of the time, community will not find you; you have to go out looking for community.  Go to events.  Introduce yourself to people.  Even just talk to that person sitting next to you in class – “Need a study buddy?”  And watch the sidewalks for chalkings about events.  Really, sidewalk chalk is how I learned about the majority of things happening on campus.

2. Try something new.  This goes with the point above.  College is an awesome time because there are sooooo many options laid out neatly in front of you – whether student groups, university clubs, or free events.  Someone gave me a free ticket to one of our college football games, and there I saw the marching band.  They looked like they were having more fun than anyone else in the stadium.  So despite never having tried it before, the next year I signed up.  And made a lot of friends and had a lot of adventures.

3a. Go. to. class.  At my freshman convocation, the president of the college gave these three words of advice.  When I was a high school senior I asked some of my friends who were college freshmen what the biggest difference was between high school and college.  Their answer: “You don’t have to do anything.”  That is, you are being treated as an adult and no one is checking up on you.  Professors usually don’t take attendance.  Parents won’t nag you to work on a project.  You will need to find the self-discipline to get things done yourself – because you’ll need them in post-college life, too.  You can start building good habits immediately by going to class.  Every class.  Even if you can only manage passively paying attention.

3b. Go. to. office. hours.  This falls right on the heels of the one above and I quickly discovered as a gold mine to academic success in college.  Nearly every professor holds office hours (and posts those in the syllabus).  So if you’re confused about anything, go to office hours.  It’s like getting free tutoring from the person who’s writing your test!  Go to TA office hours, too; they’ve taken this class and know this professor.  And don’t wait until the last minute before a test or project to do it – it could be so crowded you can’t get in, or the office hours may have unexpectedly been canceled due to someone going home early with a cold.

4. Get your money’s worth.  Most students are paying for part if not all of their college expenses.  In addition to going to class because you’re paying for it, take a look at all the other stuff that your school offers for FREE!!!  (Well, not “free”, but that’s covered by tuition and fees so you’re paying for it whether you use it or not.)  Recreation center?  Flu shot?  Career counseling?  Bus pass?  Student legal services?  Off-campus housing services?  Events?  There’s so. much. stuff. and I didn’t take advantage of half of it when I was a student.

5. Don’t neglect your school email address or your literal mailbox.  Yes, I know you don’t care about that email about a scholarship you’re not eligible for and that flier for the concert you’re not interested in, but in between all those emails and fliers are notices your school (and landlords, utilities holders, etc) will send out about important things involving deadlines and fees.  Pay attention so you don’t miss them.  Speaking of which…

6. You’ll mess something up eventually.  Accept responsibility, learn from it, and move on.  Like parking tickets.  Or overdue books.  Or late fees.  Or missed deadlines.  Once when I moved from one apartment to another I forgot to cancel our electricity and didn’t forward the mail and since no one moved into that apartment for four months I was billed for four months of electricity that then was turned over to a collection agency.  Oops.  I paid the bill (which was not fun) and started over.  It sucked, but I chalked it up as a learning opportunity.  (I still wish it hadn’t happened, but it did.  So time to move on.)

7. Ask for help.  Even though most students are 18 so legally considered responsible adults, colleges know that most students are living on their own for the first time and could use some guidance.  And unlike many agencies you’ll encounter out in the real world (DMV, landlords, insurers, creditors, power companies…), part of the official or unofficial job description of staff at universities is to help teach students how to navigate the unfamiliar waters of adulthood – like managing all of these new responsibilities.  So seek people out and ask questions.  Ask them to define terms or outline processes.  If you’re in a sticky situation ask about how you can keep from getting into it again.

8. Never forget long-term goals for the sake of short-term gratification.  College is a blast.  Really.  Go out and enjoy it and have fun.  But stay smart.  It’s very easy for the newfound freedom of college to cause people to push boundaries much further than they should have.  Small failures (and you will have some) can be great learning opportunities; large failures can drastically alter your future – especially if they have legal, health, or financial consequences.  You can absolutely still have fun while staying smart.

9. Be authentic, and stop trying to be what you think other people want you to be.  Okay, so this is actually advice for everyone regardless of age.  I had a bit of a breakdown my freshman year when I thought that even though I was a nerd in high school that no one in college would like me as a nerd.  I was too worried about what others thought of me and less willing to stand up for myself and say, “This is who I am, and I’m okay with it.”  Silly me, I found out that not only do I like being a nerd but that there were plenty of nerds in college that I could be friends with – and am still friends with!  The same thing goes for your faith (thankfully, that’s something I chose to hang onto).  You will meet a lot of different people in college with a lot of different viewpoints.  You can learn something from all of them, but you don’t have to make all of them happy.  You don’t even have to make all of them like you.  Some people won’t like you, and that’s okay because there’s seven billion other people on this planet.  Don’t change who you are in an attempt to fit in.  You will find your niche – maybe not the first week, maybe not the first month, but there are people who will accept you for being you.  Accept nothing less.

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