Allora…

Time has absolutely flown by since leaving Europe. As of tomorrow, it will have been 4 weeks since I flew back home to Arkansas from Madrid and the greatest trip of my life (so far) came to an end. It barely feels like the trip happened at all. I feel like my time there was all a dream and now I’m waking up.

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Friends in Rome on our last night

I could ramble on and on about how much I miss the streets of Rome, the people, the language, the food, the art, the constant promise of something new waiting right around the corner. But instead, I’ll move on to thinking about my next trip overseas and trying to survive my senior year of college. The only word I can think of to describe my mood for the rest of this summer is “allora”, a word Italians use (a lot) with several meanings including “then”, “well then”, “therefore”. It may not entirely make sense but somehow it describes perfectly how I feel. Well then…

I’m moving into a new house with new roommates and couldn’t be more excited to start my senior year. It is strange to think this is the last year I have at the University of Arkansas. When you’re a freshman, you never see this year coming. But it is here and, strangely, I feel ready yet not ready. Not ready to leave Fayetteville. But ready to get some experience and figure out what exactly I’m going to do after college. Not ready to say goodbye to my friends and my sorority. But ready to see whose wedding I’ll be going to first. I’m never going to be totally ready to not be in college but at least I have the next year to deal with that – or just push it aside and pretend it’s not happening.

To get ready for my new house, I had a crafting day with some friends and made this cute arrangement of cork boards for my wall. I’m a little crazy about the color blue, if you couldn’t tell.

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I realized it made more sense to craft and be somewhat productive with the rest of my summer than to sit and watch TV all day. I also found a big painting on canvas for somewhere in my new place – and for a great price! I’m getting really excited to decorate a new room and start a new year.

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Me with my sister, Lyndsey and my brother, Patrick on Grayton Beach.
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My boyfriend, Charles, and me on the beach

     I went to Grayton Beach in Florida for a week with my family right after getting back from Europe and that helped with the Rome-sickness a lot. It was great to see my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews for the first time in months and get to spend some quality time on a beautiful beach. I also just got back from visiting Fayetteville for a week and it got me so excited about moving back up to my home away from home. I got to have my favorite Mexican meal (FINALLY!) after waiting all summer and I swear it never tasted better. Mexican food is one major thing Europe needs to look into. Now I’m back in Little Rock for another week then back to Fayetteville for my senior year!

Until then, ciao!

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Long Live College: How Growing Up Gets (Somewhat) Easier

One thing I’ve learned the past three years in college is that it gets easier each year to leave.

The past few days, as summer began for the University of Arkansas (sorry to those of you still taking finals), I’ve seen an endless number of Facebook statuses and tweets about how depressed people are to be done with their current year in college. How sad they are to move on. “Where did this year/this semester/college go?” seems to be a common thought.

That’s because Fayetteville is a town that draws you in. The University of Arkansas campus makes you feel at home, safe, secure, and happy. You have all your friends, clubs, sororities, parties, teachers you love, volunteer opportunities, dining halls piled high with cookies…all right there within reach. I’m sure this is true about most college campuses and college towns. But Fayetteville has a charm unlike any other.

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Freshman year, leaving is like prying you away from something you’ve glued yourself to. At least at the end of the year. When the homesickness has faded and all that is left is a deep love for your freshman year. You find yourself in May all of the sudden, realizing after your finals, your freshman year of college (by far the best year) has come to an end. And you refuse to believe it. You deny it, telling yourself you’re just going home for summer for a couple months, so things will be exactly the same when you return in the fall and there is nothing to worry about. It’s okay to admit it because I guarantee we all told ourselves that at some point.
Then you go home and all the sudden you’re back on campus as a sophomore. This is one of the hardest changes to deal with. You are still young enough to see all the new freshmen coming on board and living it up just like you had a few freaking months ago, but you’re not one of them. You’re older. And even though you’re actually only a few months older, you feel ancient. You almost resent the people younger than you for having what you want…freshman year all over again. And you also try to relive freshman year. This is by far the biggest mistake.
My advice is to just accept the fact that each year in college absolutely flies by. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be college. It would high school, or middle school – it would not be the amazing, best years of your life that we call college. Accept that you’re not a freshman anymore, and stop trying to relive it, before you miss out on everything about being a sophomore or junior. Each year has something special about it (especially junior year, when you and your friends turn 21) so find that special something and embrace it.

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Once sophomore year ends, it’s a little bit easier for you to pack up and head home or to an internship you scored for the summer, with one last, sad look back at the campus you love.
Junior year is similar, just feeling further away from younger people and living further away from campus. Not having a dining hall to make you food and cookies everyday is quite an awakening. You learn to actually buy your own groceries, find a way to get your own lawn mowed, and fix problems around your own house. Little by little, you grow in your independence and in your self image.

See, that’s the bittersweet beauty of how college works (and I guess life in general). It seems so harsh and just plain mean that we are put into this perfect little world that is campus and Fayetteville, and we get so comfortable and happy and then are forced to move on. But if we weren’t forced to take these little steps to move on and grow up each year, we would never be ready for life on our own.We would always expect a washer and dryer provided. We would never learn how to cook and clean and iron clothes and make our own doctors appointments and live by ourselves, without someone in the twin bed next to you. It is scary and frustrating but also invigorating and exciting to see the world laid out before you, just requiring you to find the independence and discipline needed to take advantage of it.

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Next fall, I am going to be returning as a senior. This concept is so strange to me. I would always look up to the seniors in my sorority freshman year and felt like they were so old. I do not feel like I am that old, I just can’t wrap my mind around it. And definitely can’t wrap my mind around the fact that freshmen will see me like that next year. I will come back and be in harder classes, will be working on my honors thesis I have to defend next spring before graduation. My biggest problem will change from buying outfits for pep rallies and functions to working on my resume and finding a real-world job. And I’m sure before I know it, graduation will be here and I’ll be tossing my hat up in the air with thousands of others wondering how they got there and where exactly college went.
But I know that it will be easier than ever to look at Old Main and Mullins and the Union and the Kappa Delta house with love and vow to never forget my memories here…but then to turn around, hop in my car and move on, to the next part of my life. Without even looking back. Because that is what leaving and moving on so many times has prepared me for. Not that it will not make me sad, because it will. Not that it will be a total breeze, because it will have its difficulties. But at least when that day comes, I won’t be in denial anymore about growing up.

Until that day, long live dining halls, long live carnivals at the Union, long live Razorback games in the student section, long live Fayettechill, hammocking at the Greek Theater, pulling all-nighters in the library, crazy Moses, Jimmy Johns til 3 a.m., Row Week…long live college.

 

 

Only Love Can Do That

There has been a lot of sadness, evil, grief and confusion in our country and in my community in particular recently. A few days ago, a fellow University of Arkansas student and a very close friend to several of my sorority sisters committed suicide. Before that, an explosion in Texas affected a lot of families and people in Texas and, as a result, in the U of A community. Before that, several people were killed and many injured in a senseless bombing at the Boston marathon, of all places. We see so many acts of violence toward innocent people and hear of so many lives taken far too early every day. Our world is filled with darkness and sadness, and we are reminded of this every time we turn on the TV or read the news of another tragedy on Facebook.

I have always found confusion in events like these, no matter how strong my faith in God and His plan and His eternal strength and comfort in our lives. I can know that those people are in a better place and I can know that those things happen for a reason – I can know these things deep in my heart, but I cannot escape a feeling of shock, sadness and, ultimately, confusion.

At times like these, I turn to God. I pray for those affected, that they may find strength in these trying times and, eventually, peace and happiness once again. I am confident that God will provide these things to those in need. But I also look to His word for wisdom on how to deal with such horrible, confusing, awful events. Tonight, I found a story that spoke to me emotionally.

Matthew 14:1-12 describes the death of John the Baptist. However, John the Baptist did not die peacefully or naturally – he was beheaded by Herod. The disciples take his body and bury it and then go to tell Jesus. What caught my eye was what happened next.

Matthew 14:13-14 “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

Jesus had just learned that his friend, his kinsman and the one who had proclaimed him as the Messiah had not just died but had been gruesomely murdered. He withdraws from the crowds temporarily, as most of us would if we learned of something like that. But then, the crowds followed him. Instead of further isolating himself, leaving the crowds again who had desperately sought him, or being frustrated or angry because he had been followed when trying to withdraw/grieve…Jesus has compassion for them. He feels for them. He heals those in need. He shows them love. Shows them love in a time that is dark and full of sorrow in his own life. In Mark 6:34, it is added that “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

These people hadn’t just lost a friend like Jesus had, at least not as far as we are told. These people were struggling with different things, however. And Jesus knew that. He knew they were lost and he put aside his own problems and put this entire, huge group of people above himself. The story goes on that he gave them each enough to eat, although they began with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He feeds all 5,000 people.

In times like these, I now have a goal to strive to not focus on myself and my confusion but to focus on all those around me. I strive to show love and compassion to those lost without a shepherd, those grieving, to everyone I encounter – in the hopes that I can, through God’s glory, instill in others the strength, hope and love to keep going, to not give up, to love life, and to, most importantly, see God’s love and plan in everything. Perhaps we can save a life. Perhaps we cannot. But this is what Jesus did. He was full of sorrow, I am sure, but he did not get angry at the world and the injustice and pain and horrible things that had happened – he tried to further the love and goodness in the world. Instead of becoming pessimistic or angered at the world and the evil and sadness that surrounds us, we need to, more than ever, stick together and try to increase the good in the world. Life is clearly short and precious. If we all said a kind or encouraging word to someone today, it could make more of a positive difference than we know. I know that darkness and sadness exist prominently in our world but I believe with all of my heart that there is more goodness in the hearts of people and more goodness to be shown to one another than there is evil.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

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