What is it like? Hanging up a suitcase-full of clothes in the closet? Saying hello to a person who might possibly become my newest best friend? Making those big decisions alone?
It annoys me that the simple act of going to college, a decision so anti-climactic in America, should be such a cause for overthought. It isn't that I regret or am afraid; there is nothing like that. It's change -- things will change. I will change. There is no reset button when I come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and spring break. I will have made decisions. I will have learned new things. I will have built relationships. I will drag home the consequences: my actions and thoughts and friends will have shaped me into someone different than I was.
That doesn't frighten me. It only spurs me on to make sure that change is good change. I want to plot a course -- a God-approved, God-glorifying course -- so that I'm not caught cold in the culture shock. If I'm going to pour money, time and my former self into something that's going to bring so much change, I want to make sure I'm going somewhere. Somewhere I don't regret.
Lately I've been thinking about being intentional -- with my relationships, with my time, with my life. I really don't have a lot of me to go around, not enough to waste staying up late and reading unimportance and floating around and talking about the weather. It's especially coming into focus when I realize how much work college is and how many distractions there are and how I desperately want to keep some things just the way they are.
So I've been making a list of goals and warnings -- stuff to prod me back onto the narrow way. And I've been practicing for a while, training myself to be disciplined in things like daily prayer and Bible memorization, reading good books, staying awake during studies.
Here I have the chance to ask hard questions, be challenged and love well. I don't have time for insecurity, moping or drama: I need to focus on giving instead of taking. This isn't the time to get caught up in what so-and-so thinks of me or bemoan my single state. I'm here to be a shoulder to lean on, an example, a leader and a beacon of Christ's love. I want to befriend a great many people and learn how they think and why. I want to challenge them to go deeper into Christ or maybe meet Him for the first time. I want to love and live in a way that people say, "If you want to know about Jesus, go talk to Bailey."
But I realize that finals and drama and problems will come -- I won't be strong and I probably will fall in love and I'll mess up things and I'll cry one too many nights. So I want to make sure that I seek out mentors -- student and adult alike -- who are willing to know me and my situations firsthand. I'm praying for friends who will extend grace and a firm hand, who are there only to build up and not tear down. I'm looking for older brothers and sisters in Christ who have walked this road before and know the pitfalls of immaturity and inexperience. I especially want to plug into a local church so I can be exhorted, encouraged and held accountable.
And the people back home -- my beautiful family, my best friends? I don't want to shut them out, not the ones I truly care about and want to keep for a lifetime, not the ones who God has placed in my life for a reason. I'll have to be careful about how I spend my time on campus and online -- who I write and how often -- who I tell my problems to -- who I open up my heart to. So I'm going to guard those relationships, especially with my family, and watch how I speak about them, eight hours away with no one listening. I want to share with them my joys and struggles, my newfound learning and my goofy college stories. My parents will still be my parents, who I respect and solicit advice from; my siblings will still be my siblings, who need a responsible, caring big sister, who are my forever best friends.
I want to change in a way that makes them proud.
Speaking of change, there are so many opportunities on campus for spiritual growth -- in any direction. I'm not ignorant of how negative influences and bad ideologies work. I've already marked some things that I won't do and situations I won't put myself in, because I'd rather be pure than cool. I want to be careful of who I befriend and listen to. I want to learn with a sharp eye and a discerning spirit. If I come across something antithetical to Christianity -- evolution or whatever -- I hope to engage it from all sides and not take it lying down.
I also need to remember the foundation I had -- the lessons I've learned, the advice I've been given, the verses I've memorized and the things I held dear. The college years can't be a parenthesis or a backpedaling (I don't know which is worse): they've got to be a moving forward, years of definite spiritual progress, years where I challenge myself to go outside my comfort zone and peer approval to love and honor God. I don't have any fears of swinging the pendulum from conservative to crazy or coming home hardcore atheist; that's too obvious a change, and Satan knows I wouldn't fall for that headlong. But I am cautious of becoming lukewarm -- putting sleep and friends and fun ahead of the hard stuff -- or even just sacrificing opportunity because it's easy.
No easy roads.
And God -- I still want to love Him. I still want to be obsessed with Him. I still want Him to live within me, to define me, to use me. I want to serve wherever I can and give Him the glory wherever I can. I want to make Him first priority -- to be willing to sacrifice so I can pray and worship and study His Word.
I could talk about how I wish I had the fortitude to stick to a set schedule and go to bed on time and eat breakfast every morning and not cram for tests, but I think it best to focus on these two areas -- relationships and God. They're my two biggest influences and trickle down to the nitty-gritty decision of ignoring or obeying the alarm clock. They set my course. My course for change.
Bring it on.