Thursday, May 21, 2009

For the College Kid...(archives)

College is funny. Everyone tells you that you should have fun and enjoy yourself, study hard, and “find yourself” because you won’t have time to later. What they mean is…in four short years, you will be responsible for displaying some semblance of responsible behavior, will no longer be on the dole, and will be expected to support yourself, lead a family, and devote yourself to something or someone or both. Somehow between having Mama doing your laundry and catering to your every whim, and graduation, you have to decide on your vocation, possibly pick your future spouse, and figure out how you are going to repay your student loans.

You will be encouraged to dream big dreams for yourself. You will then spend a portion of your adult life chasing your dreams and achieving them, scaling them down to a manageable level, or punting them altogether. A part of you will wonder why you even had them in your heart, another part cannot recognize life without them, and yet another part may resent the fact that they were ever there at all. Fortunately, at least a few will be granted. These will quickly be relegated to the “less than what I really wanted” category over time because it is easy to forget when we have been blessed. It is the great irony of life.

You will make mistakes, and most people will forgive you for them because we have all been there. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to forgive ourselves. At random moments, our shortcomings seem to light up in neon in our minds, and those things we got away with haunt us. They invade our adult lives like unwelcome visitors and remind us of how much darkness we are capable of embracing and how easily we can fall. We try to compensate for the darkness by shining a dim light for others. Sometimes we save a few from walking the same path. Mostly we just wait for the signal to pick them up. They think that we won’t understand and certainly won’t forgive. What they don’t know is that we understand all too well. We simply lack the courage to tell our stories.

You will have to make choices. Hard choices. You will find that for every “yes” you choose as an adult, there’s one or more corresponding “no’s.” There are few compromises. In college, you can date as many people as you want. You can only marry one (at a time.) To accept a job you may have to live somewhere other than where you want. To buy a car means that you have monthly payments that will mean saying “no” to the trip to Scotland or the Bahamas. Even if you say “yes” to Mama and Daddy handing you the money, you say “no” to your independence or self-respect in some cases. There is always a trade-off.

You will have to give back at some point. In college, you can take freely, because it is an accepted fact that you are broke, have no time, and have too much to do. Everyone understands. As an adult, you will be forced to sit through the United Way presentation at work and will be pressured to give. You will be expected to call and visit your parents and grandparents. In fact, if you choose to say “no” to this, you will regret it later in life when they are gone. You will probably have a family that will cut into your golf time, nights out with the guys/girls, and clothing/toy budget. In fact, you will probably only at this point truly appreciate the sacrifices that were made on your behalf that you had the audacity to whine about in your teens and grumble about it not being enough in your college years.

You do have the option of remaining self-centered. There will always be people around to enable that behavior because they were raised serving selfish people or they think that their love can change you. Unfortunately, once you have drained them of their resources and dignity they will then be able to catch on to the fact that you have no intention of changing and will eventually leave you, or you will simply outlive them. It is a sad thing to see someone who only loves himself/herself. These people miss so much and they traumatize the people who love them.

Your faith has to be real. You cannot talk the talk and not walk the walk. You also will learn that walking the walk is nearly impossible without accountability, prayer, and frequent doses of humility.

Failure happens. Sometimes our failures end an association, a dream, or a path that we are not meant to travel. Sometimes is it our time in the desert. But, how we respond to our failures is really the important thing. Do we curl up in the fetal position on our couches? NO. We regroup, we get around the people who love us, and we forge ahead in another direction. It isn’t always pretty, but when we look back, we see that the failures in life are most often the turning points to a better place.

You don’t have to do everything. You are not called to do everything. But – whatever you are called to do…do those things well. Be the best. Celebrate others who are the best at what they do, and don’t resent their success. Accept the level of success that God has ordained for you. In college, you can do a lot of things fairly well, and a few things halfway and nobody will really criticize you (other than your professors who believe that you are an idiot anyway and your parents if you waste their money and flunk out of school). In life, you have to do what you choose to do really well or you will be unemployed.

You will have to find people who bring out the best in you and hold on to them for dear life. Actually, that is the best way to pick friends. People that make you better just by being in their presence. It is definitely the way to pick a spouse.

Friends who take exorbitant amounts of energy, time, and resources away have to be put on the back burner. High maintenance people are not funny in spite of the number of tee shirts that have been sold and the fact that I do laugh when I see that plastered across someone’s chest.

Sometimes people fall in love with their problems. You can easily spot these people because they are the ones who constantly complain about a problem that is easily solved if they would just change their juvenile behavior. If the answer is obvious to you and everyone else around them and they are not doing anything toward solving the problem…run when they begin their mantra. Even if they pulled you out of a frozen lake when you were eight or they happen to be a blood relative. The fastest course to getting them back on track is to get out of the way, because they are going down. Sometimes they need to.

You will find that people come and go, your favorite things are discontinued in the catalog, and that no matter how much money you make, you will find something to spend it on (in Economics this is called “the marginal propensity to consume.”)

Love your life, because to not love it is futile. There is always something grand about it if you look hard enough.

If you are being prompted to do something over and over and you are not responding to that prompt, then you must do one of two things. If it is a message telling you to do something that you know you should not do, then you must face it squarely and either deal with the situation, or get help. If it is a message telling you to do something positive for yourself or someone else, you definitely want to heed that call. You don’t know how long you will have to tell someone you love them, or how long the window of opportunity will stay open. (Case in point: I’ve been prompted for five years to visit New Orleans.)

Speak or write words of love to people. Serve others. Invest freely in people. Spend time with others…you’ll always learn something.

As it says in the Dale Carnegie course – “Expect ingratitude.” You will then not be disappointed when you get it. You can either choose to let this bother you, and hinder your future efforts at giving, or you can get over it and do what you would do for that person anyway. The choice is really yours. Whether the bride thanks you for the gift within the prescribed two week period or not no longer changes the fact that you chose to give the gift. You’ve already controlled the only behavior you can…your own. Be sure that when you thank someone that it is genuine. People can sense your distaste at the custom of written thank you notes. That’s worse than not sending one at all.

Your horizons are huge right now. At some point, you will have to rein that in. Sometimes people rein it in too much so that they can manage it. You will then have to expand your horizons and get outside your comfort zone. It is more like a teeter-totter than anything. Maintain balance.

If you fear something and it is not illegal or immoral, force yourself to work through the fear. If you let the fear win, you are limiting your possibilities, and that is probably why Satan is taunting you in this area – to hold you back.

The ability to write and speak in public are two of the three strongest indicators of future success and earning capacity. Get over your fear of speaking in public, and learn to be a better writer by reading more and having your work edited by someone who is a good writer, and then learn from your mistakes. Incidentally, the third indicator is to develop a skill that others can’t easily emulate or for some reason don’t want to. Doctors, nurses, artists, and undertakers fall in this category.

If it is handed to you, it won’t mean as much. Work diligently for everything you can. If you are blessed with an inheritance, a business to run, or even the family furniture, but have learned the value of work, then you will appreciate it all the more.

Love God, love people, and love yourself unconditionally and fully. Be extravagant in the agape (unconditional Christlike) love that you show to others. You cannot really worry about what other people think. What matters is that you love people with all that you have. But if you can only do one of these…love God fully. He will then open you up for service (to love others) and will show you how to love yourself over time.

Feeling follows action. If you wait until you “feel” like something is right that you know is right to do, then you may miss a blessing. Do the thing that you know that you should do. The feelings will follow.

Trust your gut. If every fiber of your being is screaming “Why are you here?” then you need to leave. No questions asked.

We are all interrelated. Every person that crosses your path is meant to. Everyone that you know is your mission field. What you do for one person impacts that person who impacts someone else. When you see that loop back to you through some unexpected twist, you will realize that your hesitation in reaching out due to what people will think, or with the knowledge that someone could do it better because you are inadequate only hurts the body of Christ. Of course, you are inadequate! But He is not. You are to do what God calls you to do. It may not be what you want Him to call you to do. What matters is whether or not you will obey. Obedience is the core thread of the Bible and of the Christian life. Just remember that every time you obey in the little things, God builds His trust with you to give you a bigger assignment. Discomfort is part of the equation. Will you worry or will you obey?

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