These Nights Never Go As Planned

vie immobile | via Tumblr

vie immobile | via Tumblr

The night starts in a burst of excitement. Your heart beats in a way it hasn’t in so so long, reminding you that all these years spent on a dream refuse to slip into the past in vain. What about all those nights, you wonder, when it seemed like things were going to go differently, like you weren’t just trying to convince yourself that it would play out in one way, but that another wanted it that way, too.

But still, you know you’ve nearly reached the point where you’ve  grown tired of wishing and hoping and just want something new to come along and excite you. The narrative of several years has exhausted you, the characters familiar, comfortable, and seemingly easy to understand, yet nearly worn out. Haven’t we been here? You wonder. Didn’t I let this other one go? Another part of you churns with anxiety to move on and forget.  It can hurt to hope, and you’ve been hurt before. Telltale signs turned into misconceptions. Encouragement from others into comfort that they were wrong. Are you willing to go there again? Are you wiling to risk so much pain?

And so, it begins to dawn on you, in a place where the lights are soft and the music is low, that this one thing you once thought you wanted so much is just not meant to be. Finally, it seems, you are coming to terms with months and months of evidence that the past is the past. Signs rush all around you, but another part of your soul desperately tries to ignore them, believing that your desire is enough, your wish is enough.

So the night continues. Stories are told, eyes locked, whispers exchanged. Your mind sways between the one side to which your instinct directs you and the other side to which your desire pulls you.

And with such questions swimming in your head, the night ends in a blur with an impenetrable confusion come morning. What you thought would solve it all has only confused you more. You wonder if it was worth it, or if your blind, impulsive wish can ever be anything more.

Maybe the confusion is clarity. Maybe the tension between instinct and desire can be reconciled.
Or maybe it is time to let it all go.

Oh, how these nights never go as planned.

What I Wish I Could Tell “My Girls”

If it’s one emotion I continuously feel while teaching, it’s that I do not miss high school. Not. One. Bit.

Why would I ever want to return to a time when I was painfully self-conscious, quiet, dependent, and stressed about the future?  I look back at pictures and scoff at how atrocious my fashion sense was, how my naturally curly hair was just a total frizz ball, and how strained my smile tended to be. I had a lot going on in high school, and where school was ultimately the place where I discovered my true passion, uncovered my talents, and made irreplaceable friends, it was nevertheless a place where I wasn’t really comfortable to just be myself.

Lately, I’ve had a few conversations with students that remind me just how difficult point in life can be. Students stressed over completing schoolwork and holding down a part-time job mix in with girls who fear what boys will think of their eating habits during a recent “Mix-it-Up” day where they were told to sit with new people during lunch in an effort to increase diversity awareness.  It’s moments like these when I wish that I could sit all my girls down and have a heart-to-heart about the bright light on the horizon where it is so much easier to be yourself, but that lesson is one that will surely come with maturity and experience.  For now, I’ll have to try to integrate the following points into my everyday interactions with them.

1) There will be a day when you aren’t self-conscious (or at least THAT self-conscious) around guys.

You’ll let them see you without makeup and tell them your darkest secrets.  They will be your best friends, and they will break your heart, but eating in front of them, my dears, will no longer be a concern.

2) Do not define yourselves through the perceptions of others

People are cruel.  They may talk behind your back or forget to call you or text you and not even realize what that does to your bruised and broken heart. But those actions are in no way a reflection of you – they are merely a reflection of another.  Yes, they can be an indication of what you may want to work on in the future, but no one is defined by their flaws.  Work on them, but cultivate your strengths as well – those are your gifts and it is an injustice not to use them.

3) Pursue your passions

Parents put unbelievable amounts of pressure on their children.  I’m sure many of them feel it is for the child’s benefit, but when that comes at the expense of them not exploring their interests, it does a huge disservice to them and their personal growth.  Find a way to explore something new – if nothing else, you will learn more about yourself in the process.  You being  a woman does not mean you can’t enter a field that tends to be more male-dominated.  You may have to work harder to make your mark, but the important thing is that whatever you do with your life makes you happy.

4) Find a mentor or two…or twenty

The opportunity for mentors can be difficult to find when you are younger.  But the more you have, the more you will learn what to do and what not to do.  I have so many teaching mentors, mentors for student leadership, and mentors in my major, as well as for everything in between.  Each has given me an example to follow as I become who I want to be.

5) Everything works out in the end

Fact: Life is one giant unknown.  You’ll sit and watch the successes of your friends and wonder why that can’t happen the same way for you.  But everything, EVERYTHING, works out in the end.  What seems like a perfect fit may pass you over, and you settle for what you believe is second-rate, but as the days, months, and years pass by, it becomes ever clearer to see that you are right where you belong.

 

Someone Else

You saw him today. 

Yes, no matter how much time passes by, he is the one who makes a smile spread across your face the second you are reunited.  The one who still makes your heart skip a beat when his name flashes on your phone. The one who gives you butterflies when he compliments you. The one that, no matter how many years pass or how much you grow, will always have a little piece of your heart.

Yes, you thought you were better, thought you had finally put this all behind you.  You’ve grown and changed, but those feelings rushed in the second you thought it was safe to open the door to peek at them.  So that feeling returned and brought you back to when anything was possible. 

But for one reason or another, it is not meant to be, at least not now, but maybe not ever.  As perfect as it may seem in the moment, it isn’t.  Maybe you aren’t laughing as hard as you could, maybe there is a false sense of trust, or maybe, just maybe, you were meant for someone else.

Yes, someone, maybe far away or maybe close by, but not him.  No, not him. You must let go and move on and give him to someone else.  Someone who needs him more than you. 

And you need someone else more, too. You may not see it now, but honey, it is God’s honest truth.  The two of you will fit perfectly, one piece to join the other, and you’ll forget what happened in the days before you fit together.  

But for now, you’ll let the beats skip and the butterflies fly. Smiles brighten and fade, but somehow, as you drive away, it all makes you feel empty. Cold, and empty, and wanting more while wanting less.

Yet one day you will feel full. Yes, I promise, one day you will be full.

Your Friends Make Your World

Join me for a frappucino at Starbucks sometime; you’ll notice I do something strange with my straw wrappers.  After unwrapping the straw, I tie the crinkly paper wrapper into a knot and pull it until it breaks. Two of my dear friends from home taught me years ago that if the paper breaks perfectly so that the knot comes undone, then someone is thinking about you. If there is a knot in either side, well, then you are out of luck.

One of our yearly summer adventures

Now, I am not a particularly superstitious person, but I always follow this one little gesture through, although its not about whether or not someone is thinking of me (however, I will confess that I sometimes giggle at the broken knot if I’ve been thinking of someone, hoping that they are thinking of me too).  Each time the paper breaks, I feel like I am back with the three friends who always follow this trick, no matter where we are at the present moment.  In pulling that straw wrapper tight, I am transported back to when we were 16 and 17, meeting at Friendly’s for ice cream dates to stress over finals and AP exams, prom dresses and college applications. I can picture Jen’s scrunched up face as she concentrates on thinking of one of us in order to make the knot break (with minimal effectiveness), or remember the random restaurants from our yearly beach trips where all four of us have tied our straw wrappers at the same time to see who the lucky lady would be.

As the years have passed and life has grown all the more complicated,  reunions with these girls become tougher and more difficult to plan, so this single, mechanical action is like a reunion in memory, lasting just a few seconds, but bringing a small smile nonetheless.  One is currently completing an internship hundreds of miles away in Washington DC, another is seriously contemplating a move to New York City to pursue her dream writing career, and the last returned from Alabama last month from Basic Training in the Air Force and will be leaving to begin her study at medical school in less than a week, a step she has been planning go take since the days of those Friendly’s ice cream dates.

At Maura’s graduation from BU this past May.

I miss them all terribly but no matter where life takes us, I know we will always be there for each other to share joy and sorrow. I recently got a job as a teacher, a dream I have consistently pursued since I was about 15 years old.  I wanted nothing more than to call a customary Panera date with these three to tell them all in person. These inspiring and talented young women have encouraged me every step of the way, and emit sincere “awwws” when I tell them a teaching story. I can always count on them to show true interest in my passions, just as I do for them. But we couldn’t all be together to share the big news, so I settled on a phone call ( as this was too big for a simple text!).  Tiff squealed with delight when I called her as she was making her way along the 9 hour trip back home from DC, while I received an ecstatic voicemail from Jen that night after a day of training in return for the one I left her about how I couldn’t wait to tell her the news until we were able to catch each other on the phone.  I’ve known all three of these women since we were in elementary school and after these years of our friendship, I recognized this moment as the step into adulthood.  We’re all college grads now, pursuing our dreams and passions, but I know that no matter where life takes us, we will always have each other.

The next few years are sure to be a bit tumultuous as all of my friends and I settle into careers and post-grad education, but I’ve accepted it. Distance doesn’t mean the friendships are any different, even if we are unable to be there in the way we previously have been for each other through literal physical presence.  But we’re still there.

In the days since graduation, I put a magnet on the large mirror in my bedroom that once found its place on the refrigerator of my senior year apartment.  It reads as follows: “Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world (William James).”  So whether they are interning in DC, teaching in Kansas City or Connecticut, still living life as an undergrad in Worcester, completing a year of service in New Orleans, starting grad school in Providence or Pittsburgh, laying the foundations of their careers in the Boston area, or following a dream in New York, my world will always consist of my beautiful, supportive, one-of a-kind, gift-from-God friends.

I Am Who I Am Because I Was Here

In one week, I will be headed back to the happiest place on earth.  No, not Disney World.  No, this place is less magical, though the way the Chapel looks on a snowy night seems like it’s right out of a picture book.  The magic is instead in how this place has helped me to grow and helped me to become the person I am today.  In reality, this is one place that at times hasn’t really been all that happy for me, but at the end of the day, when its name crosses my lips, an instant smile spreads across my face, and if you don’t cut me off right away, I will begin rambling about this place before you know what hit you.

Assumption College.

Most people outside of Massachusetts have  not heard of this small, Catholic school, located in New England’s second largest city of Worcester, MA.  ImageNestled in a picturesque neighborhood that would never give you the impression that you were indeed in a city, Assumption is a hidden gem and often overlooked for just how strong the education one receives from this place can be, as long as one is willing to make it so.  Growing up just 20 minutes away from the campus in a small, suburban town, I never imagined that I would end up somewhere so close, yet so different from what I was used to for what many people describe as the best four years of their lives.  But as I embarked on my college search, I was surprised to find how perfect it seemed to be for me.  It had everything I was looking for.

Over the years, it has captured every part of my heart.  It has given me dreams and helped me to achieve.  It has granted me irreplaceable friends, bestowed unforgettable memories, and taught me so much more than what is contained in the overpriced textbooks I buy from its bookstore.  I am who I am because of each experience I have had within the bounds of its campus.  From the Duck Pond to the dangerous shortcut trails, my residence halls to the classrooms I’ve spent hours in, every single part of the campus has made me who I am today.

Next Tuesday will be different.  Next Tuesday I will be going back after break for the last time.

I will have student leader training for the last time.  I am heading back for second semester of my senior year, and that scares me.  What’s more, I will be student teaching, a.k.a. working full time for free and not taking classes.  I will be thrust into the real world, while still living with the best roommmates in the world in a gorgeous on-campus apartment that would cost

Image

a fortune if located anywhere else.

I always marvel at how much each semester at this place changes me.  The nervous but excited 18-year-old freshman who first set foot in a small, secluded freshman dorm would not recognize the well-rounded and empowered 22-year-old senior who is about to start her life’s goal of teaching.  Heck, nevermind the 18-year-old version of me, the 21-year-old junior from last spring would not recognize the 22-year-old senior I am now.  It is truly amazing. An old friend who graduated from this same wonderful place two years ago called me today and asked, “Can you believe you’re a second semester senior now?”  I laughed and told him that I can’t even handle it, half-joking but half-serious as well.  I can’t believe that this journey will soon be over and that I will be moving on to the next chapter.

But when I pack up my bags and empty my room at home for the last time next week, I will do so with so much hope and a determination to make this last one count.  Graduating will be scary, but I know that I will be ready for it, personally, professionally, and spiritually.  No matter where the next chapter takes me, I know I will always carry Assumption in my heart.