college

This is what I know for sure

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-7-02-33-pm In my semester of learning, I'm unlearning a lot. I keep realizing I don't know many things at all.

When they said college would go fast, I didn't believe them. But tomorrow I have my final exam, and then my first semester is over.

Because this is the way my mind works, I keep thinking: did I learn enough? did I pay attention? am I going to be ready to launch into the world when classes are over in a year and a half?

The truth is, I don't know. This seems to be my answer more than anything these days. Who has concrete answers, anyway? Certainly not me.

"What are you going to do after school?"

I smile. "I don't know."

Or, "What do you hope to accomplish with your choice of major?"

I smile. "I don't know."

And, "What's the endgame, Aliza? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?"

I smile. "I really, really don't know."

That's the truth, and I'm beginning to settle into that now. I don't know much. Four years ago I had a detailed plan of what 22 was supposed to look like, mostly beginning and ending with a published book. But life looks different than what I thought it would, and that's not unsatisfying. I'm in the midst of good, stretching, lovely things. And most of them I have no clue about.

So I focus on the facts I do know: my nephew Noah turning one soon, the Christmas lights keeping me warm, reading books on love and spiritual discipline, painting on ornaments and bread boards, and remembering that Jesus is coming soon.

It's around this time of the year -- just a handful of days before Christmas -- when I normally begin to feel as though I've missed him. I begin to feel guilty and ashamed, thinking that I should have done more, or proven my love to Jesus somehow more tangibly.

I never thought being still could usher him in. I thought I had to prove it.

But this year, I can feel my insides shifting and changing, and that scares me and excites me simultaneously. There is no guilt or shame within me this year. No thing I have to prove. I've been reading a lot about Jesus, and listening to podcasts that have begun to change the way I view both him and me. Someday I'll share more with you, after I figure out how to articulate the feelings swirling within me.

But for now, I'll say this: I don't know a lot. I don't know about my life, or about college, or about writing, or art. But I know that I have people in my world who love me, and who I love in return. And I know I am getting to know Jesus in ways I haven't fathomed before.

He's coming soon, that empty manger waiting for his entrance. I look at Noah and think, "This was Jesus at one point. An almost one year old with bright eyes and a soul I feel as though I can see through." Soon we'll celebrate that Jesus is born, one of the most fantastical and revolutionary stories we'll ever hear.

But he is here, too. Beside me. Within me. Around me. Tomorrow in my exam, and on Christmas day, and on Noah's birthday, and when next semester starts, and all the days after that -- even when I keep thinking I don't know. 

He is here.

I sit still and breathe quietly for seven minutes.

He is here. I am more fully at peace than I can last remember.

In all of my uncertainty, this is what I know for sure.

Here's to being a work in progress

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-10-09-04-am I am making progress.

Yesterday, I had lunch for the first time with people from my program. It is halfway through the semester. There are two reasons for this. 1) Thursdays are the only day of the week where I have more than one class, therefore needing to eat lunch instead of heading home, and 2) I have found it far more comforting to stay by myself than to wander outside of my own protection and make friends.

The second statement is a lie.

Comforting is certainly the wrong term. I hate being alone. Being alone, in my head, is life-sucking. I mean, I can do it. I can walk through the hallways alone, my head held high. But I can feel the life seeping out of me. And yet, for some reason I convince myself to protect my heart.

Let them think you're tough, not alone. That you're smart, not afraid. 

There are a thousand things I convince myself of, and most of the time I never understand why all of these things are hurting me.

College is far different than high school. To me, it's not about friends. I drive to school, attend my classes, complete my assignments, sometimes study for midterms, go to work, go to church, make art for my art show, hold my nephew, and invest in the people who have been in my life for awhile. School and my real, actual life felt like two separate entities.

"I'm not there to make friends," I jokingly told people. "I'm such a keener. I only care about the school work."

Liar, liar. No one can actually only care about writing papers. There has to be some part, even if it's barely noticeable, that cares about human connection. This is who we are as humans. We are meant to be connected, meant to share our joys and our losses, perhaps sometimes deeper with others, but we are meant to connect nonetheless.

So when a few of the people from my program suggested I eat lunch with them yesterday, I almost said no. I had been alone for a long time; I thought that's what college was to me. I thought college was merely academic, with human interaction staying fairly minimal.

Instead, I looked at them. I said yes.

This, of course, was not a big deal to them. But as we walked, I realized I was no longer walking alone. I became my own inner cheerleader: you are doing this! You are eating with people! You are making progress! Look at you go, you progressive girl. 

I called Sarah last night and said, "I had lunch with people today. This is tangible progress. I honestly didn't think I wanted to be around people, but I had lunch with real humans today and I am making such progress."

She said, "Yes you are. And I am so proud of you."

This is forward movement, this is courage, this is me leaping off cliffs --

I am deeply, and intimately, a work in progress.

My identity isn't what I thought it was

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I am one month into college.

Currently I should be: writing two papers, creating a film, studying for a test, researching a prominent Canadian figure, reading my textbooks, and making a hefty amount of artwork so I actually have something to sell at my second art show this December.

Instead, I am writing to me and you.

Sometimes I think, "I used to be good at articulating. I used to be able to think about how I was feeling and immediately put those thoughts onto paper."

Now it seems as though I hardly ever write what I think. These days it feels as though I'm writing so much and simultaneously writing nothing at all.

Identity is a funny thing. People ask us, "What do you do?" Before school, I felt as though I had nothing to say. But now I have something. Now I can tell them, "I'm a journalism student. I go to school. I study. I write papers. I research. I procrastinate. I am learning to be a truth-teller in all I do. Also, I am very tired."

I can easily wrap myself around the idea that being a journalism student is who I am because it's currently what I do.

The other day I received a mark on an assignment I had finished. It was a terrible grade. And get this -- it was for a writing class. I saw the mark and instantly wilted.

I am supposed to be good at this. I am supposed to be a writer. People have told me I'm a good writer, and if people tell you that, it has to be true, doesn't it? If I get a bad mark in a writing class, does that prove I'm a bad writer? Am I in the wrong program? Why am I taking journalism if I can't actually write? And why is everyone else in my program approximately seventeen and a half years old? Why did I think it was a good idea to wait four years to go to school? 

It's astonishing what can happen when you make what you do into who you are. It's staggering how quickly you can crumble. When your identity is something shakeable, a feather can touch you and still you'll fall apart.

I am a writer, even after that bad mark. But it's what I do, not who I am. I am a journalism student, but it's what I do, not who I am. I am an artist, but it's what I do, not who I am.

Instead, who I am is this:

Deeply, immeasurably loved.

I think this on my commute, while I watch the sun rise. I am loved, I breathe in. Deeply loved, I breathe out. Immeasurably loved.

I like school. I like how my brain hurts from listening and thinking and digesting and wondering. I like digging deep into the lives of fascinating people, and being able to tell someone's story who may not be able to tell it on their own.

But it's not who I am. It's just what I do right now.

My identity is entirely different than that.