Step by Step

5:15 PM

I've missed you all! I literally literally literally have no time to blog anymore. This post is squeezed between reading a bajillion pages of The Iliad and a Charger tailgate party. I'm sacrificing my Intro to Western Religion homework for you guys. That's how much I love you.

You'd think when you step onto campus, the world would immediately tilt in your favor --  you all grown up and smart, taking on this college thing, bravely kissing your mother goodbye. You'll conquer this campus. You'll make friends. You'll change their lives. They'll change yours. You'll write a profound paper on Grecian tragedy that makes the toughest English professor's jaw go slack.

Right.

Not.

Yes, things change. The first thing that changes is that you're stripped of everything -- everything. You stand in the middle of campus totally lost (figuratively and literally -- by the way, don't try reading maps in the rain).

Where am I? Why? Who am I? What do I do?

Everything changes. You bawl when you have to say goodbye -- something you never, ever do. You walk into a room and realize the only familiar face is from Facebook. Discussions center on majors and hometowns. You learn somebody else is the popular one, the best singer, the amazing actress, the -- big breath -- better writer. And you? It's too frightening to focus on that subject.

You come to two realizations: I'm a Nothing and there's no way I can do this.

The first days you ride the freshman wave. It's surreal: College. Whoa. No way. Yes way. Whoa. College.

Classes start. You still have hope. It's like a week away at camp -- a fancy, collegiate camp, where you get up at the crack of dawn to dress up and skitter in heels from dorm to classroom to student union.

Then the second week. Reality slams in. You don't wake up from this. You don't come home on the weekend with a suitcase full of dirty laundry and a bag of funny memories. These people you don't know are your links to friendship, encouragement and love. This system you're not familiar with is your ticket to success. Everything hangs on the unknown.

It's like dangling upside down in thin air.

It's hard to breathe.

You make the mistake of calling your mom -- a mistake, because you realize the person you want most is the person farthest away from you. So you curl up in the middle of the student union five minutes before class. You cry. It's the Wednesday of week two. You shouldn't be crying. You should be friends with the entire student population like every other laughing, smiling freshman. You should be acing the first English quiz like everybody else in your English class. You should be singing opera-style like all the other girls in the alto section.

Instead helplessness has stung you, and you cry -- a position, a place, a person you never saw yourself two weeks before.

And while you're crying, and swallowing homesickness, and praying that God would come down and wipe away your tears without smearing your mascara, He does.

Step by step, Bailey. 

Day by day. Moment by moment. Crisis by crisis. Breathe. Fifty pages of Homer? Read it a word at a time. The essay due in four days? Just start at the beginning. Best friends? Conversation by conversation, interaction by interaction.

I've forgotten that lesson, having accumulated so much -- the love of family for eighteen years, amazing friends in six years, faith in a few years. I forgot the pining beforehand, the pain, the loneliness, the daily struggle to change. So excited to finally be on the top of the world, I forgot the trail behind me.

Now I'm at the bottom of another big, hunkin' mountain -- and boy, is it a long way up.

I hate walking, hate putting one foot in front of the other, hate trudging, trudging, trudging with hope and faith (or is it naivete?) as the only light. But that's how everyone starts out -- naked, screaming. That's how everyone learns -- wobbly handwriting, failed math tests, pathetic rough drafts. Nobody stays there, no matter how naked, screaming, wobbly, failed or pathetic she is.

I won't stay here. I will change. Little by little. Grace by grace. Step by step.

Raptors by Ronald Reagan (a.k.a. my hallmates on our first night of supervised craziness)

You Might Also Like

13 impressions

  1. It will all be okay! You will adjust. I hope you find some encouragement in the coming weeks. Making friends takes time, but being involved right away is the best way to meet people. No one is more eager to meet new people than you--and every other freshman! Also...The Iliad is interesting and exciting, but for some of the more boring required reading I highly recommend SparkNotes. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd say, "Welcome to the club," except that at this point in the semester my freshman year of college (yeep! seven years ago) I still had the time to write a somewhat-lengthy email home every day (though that practice only managed to last, I think, into October at the latest), so you're more entitled to "membership" than I. (I commiserate anyway.) And the freshman support structure at my alma mater (Calvin) prevented the most preventable of your woes (two orientation sessions, one for a week a month or so earlier, one in a group---which then turns into your classmates for your section of the First Year Prelude course---over the weekend before classes start, make getting lost somewhat difficult and ensure some familiar faces).

    (Personally, I wouldn't recommend skimping on religion homework; I failed my introductory religion course the first time around---though that was due more to utterly blanking out on the final than to anything else---and but for the grace of God and Professor Pomykala would have failed a more advanced course my senior year. But your mileage may vary.)

    I pray that you will, as I did, find a "family" of dear strong friends---in my case, some people saw me sitting by myself at meals my sophomore year and dragged me into fellowship. (And no, not every freshman is smiling and happy; those are just the most obvious.)

    In a way, I think you're fortunate---blessed---to have realization of self-inadequacy and helplessness hit this early. Utter dependence on God is a lesson I'm still not sure I've learned properly, and the need for it didn't really obtrude until my senior year.

    A movement from Mendelssohn's Elijah that I know as a hymn seems apropos at the moment:
    "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he never will suffer the righteous to fall; he is at thy right hand.
    Thy mercy, Lord is great, and far above the heavens; let none be made ashamed that wait upon thee."

    ReplyDelete
  3. I wish I could hug you right now. I wish I could grab you around the neck and choke you as I yodel hello. I wish I could make you laugh.

    Exit sentimentality. Sort of.

    So. First: this was a hard post for a sister to read. I frowned and I smiled and then I felt horrible too. I got my own one-day feeling of being the nobody in the midst of people you don't know.

    We went to the coolest woman's retreat and I was with the teen girls. The teen girls who all had amazing testimonies and Biblical answers. The teen girls who all had friends. It was really...awkwardly lonely. Yup. I feel your pain.

    Thirdly (did I say secondly? This is thirdly anyway): taking the small steps are the hardest. They're the most exhausting. But you'll get better at it. It'll get easily-harder - if you get what I mean.

    Lastly: what a horrible way to disgrace Ronald Reagan.

    Loveth you so much! You're my favorite and most missed big sister ever.

    *hugs*

    Bethany

    ReplyDelete
  4. Praying for you, Bailey. Keep taking those little steps. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. don't worry, I'm sure college will become easier in time. you'll get through it, and you'll love it, and sometime squished between your essays and pep rallies and whatnot, we'll have a nice phone chat and you can catch me up on everything. :]

    LOVE YOU. *SQUISHES*

    xx.
    Alexxus

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh Bailey, sending a cyberhug your way! ((hugs)) These first few weeks are so overwhelming, and I think you sound pretty sane for a first-year freshman in her third week of classes!! :-D :-D :-D

    I know it sounds trite, but things will get better. Even I, a (*ahem*) seasoned college student, feel adrift in a sea of strange faces when I first start back each fall. But by the midway point of the semester, you will start getting a hold on your routine and making connections with friends. Next semester will be easier, too.

    Also, I found that the best thing I did in my first semester was to get a job and to attend church. Working and going to church brought me around older adults and younger kids, which was much more similar to what I was used to as a homeschooler. It was comforting and gave me a mental break ... I don't mean to poke my nose in or anything, that's just my snippet of advice that I hope might be helpful. :-)

    But above all, know that we all support you 100%. I will pray for you as I keep adjusting to my semester, too! :-) Keep your chin up and stay strong! You're doing great!!

    Love,
    Vicki

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you so much for posting despite your super-busy schedule, Bailey! It sounds like you're having a tough adjustment, but I can guarantee you are not the only one who cried the second week. Just do like you said: take it one step at a time. I'll be praying for you. :)
    <><

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hang in there! Before you know it you will be an old hand at all the college "stuff" and will be as comfortable there as in your old bedroom at home. Maybe more!

    Thanks for squeezing in a post to update all of here in the virtual world cheering you on.

    Adele

    ReplyDelete
  9. Praying for you Bailey...enjoy this new season of your life!

    Keep your eyes on Jesus!!

    Alisha

    ReplyDelete
  10. Praying for you, Bailey girl! I agree with Bethany, it was hard at times to read, I want to just transport you home for a weekend and have all your profs give you some time off! But I guess I can't. I can't say I've been exactly where you are, but I'm in a time of Step by Step like you. Trust God and just keep placing one foot in front of the other. I know you'll get into the routine, and I pray God will send you some special friends. But don't feel friendless in the world. You still have all of us! Thanks for taking the time to share what's been on your heart.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh, Bailey, this stuff is so hard- I know the crazy, lost and unstable feelings that go along with lots of unfamiliarities, but when everything is unfamiliar... And I know what it's like having bigillions of challenges, but bigillions of challenges where everything is unfamiliar...
    God has given you so much grace, Bailey Beans, I'm just so thankful for our comforter :). Don't forget that you're His Bailey, His dear Bailey. Don't be afraid to be broken; His strength is attracted to weakness.

    Love you and miss you so much! Praying for you every day :)

    ~Miss Lindsey

    p.s. You make the most adorable raptor ;)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey Bailey, I just started following you! I love this blog. really neat

    I awarded you the fantastic blog award, check it out!
    ksjournal1.blogspot.com

    -Kristin

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey there, would you mind if I snagged this for YLCF? Probably won't go "live" for a good while yet, but would LOVE to publish it on there.

    Email me (alaskawildrose at gmail dot com) if that's okay? :)

    Thanks ever so much! <3

    ReplyDelete

Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)