my first week in Waco

Pat Neff Hall, Baylor University, Texas, USA
Pat Neff Hall, Baylor University, Texas, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over a week.  We have been in Texas for over a week, and it still hardly seems real.
On Thursday afternoon, my parents and I began the 13-hour drive to Waco around 1pm.  We arrived around 1:30am and headed straight to bed.  Friday morning we were up and at ’em.  We got the key to my beautiful house and started moving things in right away.  That afternoon we made our first trip in Texas to the nearest IKEA, and when we returned Dad and I put together my new bed.  We spent the rest of the weekend getting me settled in, buying groceries and the like.

Tuesday night, the ladies from my cohort enjoyed an evening getting to know each other.  We would have invited the guys, but they hadn’t joined our Facebook group at that point.  We met and spent time chatting about ourselves, where we’re from, and what we’re doing here now.  Spending some time together helped us to feel comfortable as we navigated the orientations that followed.

First we experienced the Graduate School orientation together, followed by Baylor’s Educational Psychology department orientation.  There we met several of the faculty and most of the first year students in the Ed. Psych department.  On Thursday, all 7 of us introduced ourselves to one another and to our professors at our School Psychology orientation.  We learned more about the program before heading off to a local eatery for lunch.  There, we shared some good ole Texas barbecue.  After lunch we learned more about Baylor’s Autism Resource Center, known to us now as the BARC.

When we were done navigating orientations as a group, we split up on Friday as my roommate and I headed to our graduate assistantship orientations.  There we learned about Baylor’s Academic Success Center, where I will spend 20 hours a week working with students to provide them with resources for success here at Baylor.  (Meanwhile, I will need your prayers for this part of my endeavor.)

In other news, I can find the following locations without my GPS:
My house
Baylor
Cason’s house
HEB (the grocery store)
Walmart
The mall
& various restaurants
Needless to say, I’ve got the necessities down.

We’ve been in Texas over a week and I’ve already met over 20 new people and visited about 6 local eateries, and this is just the beginning.  Next up: a recap of my first week in grad school!

and the countdown continues

THREE WEEKS…and the excitement is currently overwhelming.  I get excited/overwhelmed and cry at everything.  I don’t sleep.  It’s going to feel like the night before Christmas for the next few weeks, and honestly it may get a little ridiculous.  I feel like a hormonal teenager, but I’m honestly just super excited.

This week everyone in my cohort found out their graduate assistantship positions.  By the grace of God and extreme devotion and hard work from our program director (and potentially others, behind the scenes), everyone in our cohort has 100% tuition remission for the fall and spring!  That means we pay nothing but fees for our first year in grad school!  If you don’t believe me, here’s the email:
TR

In other exciting news, I got my first book for grad school today!  Along with my professor, this book will teach me all about the DAS-II…don’t ask me what that is.  Just kidding…it’s a “psychological assessment instrument” (aka, a test) that measures certain cognitive abilities for children from the ages of about 2-17 years; at least, that’s what I gather from the first page. 😉 Here’s a photo of me with my happy face and my new book:
DASbook

I think I’ve really found where I’m supposed to be.  I’m ready to get to Texas.  I’m ready to start learning.  I’m ready for the next chapter.  I don’t doubt that it will be difficult.  I don’t doubt that it will take work.  I do hope, though, that for the most part it ends up being fun work, and I do believe that it will all be worth it.  I forgot how much I love to learn, and I’m just ready to get back in the groove.  I’m ready to have more of a schedule.  I’m ready for everything…except the rest of the packing that I still have to do.  Oh, and the drive.  I’m not ready for the 13-hour drive.  Other than that, let’s get this show on the road!

 

a big “to-do” for baylor

Back when I thought I was going to China, I had a to-do list that I was updating fairly regularly here on athousandnewpaths.  (Sidenote: If you haven’t read about where the title for my blog originated, check it out here.)  Well I thought that I created a Baylor to-do list to replace the list for China, but I can’t seem to find it.  So, here it is:

Finalize my sell, donate, & keep piles for my room at home
Extensive cleaning and organizing of room at home
Sell items
Donate items

Pack winter clothes
Sell/donate clothes & shoes I no longer wear
Organize summer clothes
Pack dishes

Pack books
Pack mementos, crafts, & miscellaneous
Sew a canopy for my new bed/room

Register for classes
Order books
Pay bill online
Email mentor
Add class schedule to new Lilly planner

Add GA schedule to new Lilly planner (after receiving GA schedule)
Create a budget

Take my dog, Georgia, to get her yearly vaccinations
Take Georgia to the groomer
Find/purchase a small dog crate

Visit dentist
Check all refills for prescriptions

Buy more contacts

Change addresses
Bank accounts
Get car oil changed and tires rotated and balanced

Compile a list of freezer and crock pot meals
Purchase another crock pot

This seems like a long list of things left to do in less than four weeks, but I’m pretty confident that I can manage it!  Cason and I are getting very excited about moving to Texas.  It gets more and more real every day!  I will keep you updated!

Updated: 8/5/13–Only a few things left to do and just a few for days left to do it!
Updated: 8/13/13–I can’t believe the big move is almost here! I finally compiled a list of crockpot meals, which will help tremendously when I do my first round of grocery shopping at the end of this week. I’ve also succumb to the fact that some things on this list will need to be completed IN TEXAS. That’s actually rather exciting!

How I decided on a graduate school

  1. I decided on a program.
    I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, but I decided to pursue another passion in college, psychology.  Along the way I realized that I still wanted to be in a school setting and make a difference in the lives of children.  Then I discovered the field of school psychology and I realized that I was made for it.  So I looked for graduate programs in that field and to my excitement found a 3-year Specialist program.  This would give me a year of full instruction, a year of instruction and work in the schools, and finally an internship year.  When I first realized I would have to go to grad school, I honestly was not thrilled about more school.  However, this program seemed to be tailored to my needs in that it would allow me to actually start doing what school psychologists do under the supervision of professors and other school psychologists.  Plus, more education in a field that I am thrilled about is actually appealing to me now.
  2. I decided on a region.
    When I was young, I was a homebody.  I never ventured far from my parents.  As I’ve gotten older, my comfort zone has expanded somewhat, and I knew that I still wanted to be in the south for graduate schools.  I looked at schools in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.
  3. I applied to most of the schools with my program in the region.
    I applied to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, University of Alabama,  and Baylor University.  School psychology is growing but still relatively new, so it’s not a program that everyone has.  I know it looks like I was pretty selective in where I applied, but I honestly had pretty slim pickings.  The good thing though is that these are all incredibly amazing programs.
  4. I interviewed with schools via Skype and in person.
    Georgia Southern accepted me without an interview, but I Skyped with three of the faculty from Baylor, and then I did an all day interview with the five faculty at Appalachian State.
  5. I made a pros and cons list.
    This is somewhat of an inside joke for anyone who saw the pros and cons list.  One school had all the pros.  We will just leave it at that
  6. I picked the program that was the best fit for me…
    …and that program is BAYLOR UNIVERSITY!  I am so pleased to announce that I have been accepted to their school psychology program for this fall, and I have accepted their offer.  (Many of you know this already, but it feels more official now that it is on the blog!)  I will actually be visiting next week, and I am thrilled!

JWalkerBaylorChevron

I was so excited once I finally accepted their offer that I could not sleep.  I stayed up making poster prints like the one above to hang in my apartment in TEXAS.  This feels like an absolute dream come true, but looking back I realize that I worked my whole life (up until this point) for this.  The goal has always been to do well in school, find a job that I am passionate about, and do what it takes to get there.  This is just another stepping stone along that path, and I am so blessed by and thankful for everyone who has helped and supported me along the way.  I recognize that this achievement cannot be credited to my work alone.  I needed the help and support of my parents, family, friends, and teachers.  Who I am and what I have achieved is a combination of my experiences and interactions with others, and I don’t take that for granted for one second.  Finally, I must acknowledge that my Creator and God had his hand over all of this.  I can look back and say that there were definitely times along the way when I wanted to give up, and I would not have made it through without my relationship with Christ as the foundation of my life.  All the glory goes to Him and the way He has placed people and experiences in my life to form me into the woman I am today.

graduation announcement

This graduation announcement is one of the many drafts I went through before I finally created one that I absolutely loved.  (The final draft is going out in the mail this week!)  I have used most of my free time the past couple of days playing around with graduation announcements in Photoshop, and now that I am done I am realizing that creating and mailing graduation announcements means that graduation is SO SOON.  It seems strange that there are only 10 class days left and a week of finals.  I’m not so sure that I really understand what it will mean to be a college graduate, yet.  I don’t think it will feel real until January rolls around and everyone is moving back in without me.  I already have days where I get pretty emotional, so I cannot imagine what move-in day is going to feel like when I’m packing for China instead.  Don’t get me wrong–I am stoked about China.  To actually print, “Jessica plans to teach English in Beijing, China…” is thrilling and terrifying all at once.  It makes this a reality.  I am starting down a new path, and I can barely see the road ahead.

For the longest time, I was afraid that not being able to see down the path in front of me was a bad thing.  I have wrongly assumed that having uncertainties in my future meant that I had chosen the wrong path. I know that I’m going to China, but I have no idea what to expect.  I know that I’m applying to grad school, but I have no clue what will happen after that.  Surely that’s a sign that these are the wrong choices for my life, a lack of confirmation from God.  Well, I don’t believe that one bit.  In the past several months, I have learned a lot about Christian liberty, and that has been, well, liberating.  I have come to realize that I have the liberty to make choices in life that lead me down paths that I believe to be beneficial and enjoyable, as long as I seek to glorify the One who has made these paths for me.  When morality and the law do not prohibit an action, God grants us liberty to make life decisions using the wisdom that He has given us.  Even if I chose the RUF Internship or Teach for America, God would still use me.  Knowing that makes it less tempting to question my decisions and ask, ‘what if?’

homecoming no. 8

Do you ever have one of those days that takes you back several years and at the same time makes you wonder how the future will turn out?

My best friend from high school was nominated for homecoming court for her university.  When I found out about this a couple of weeks ago, I was not surprised at all.  Carmen is the kind of person who seems to instantly click with anyone she meets.  Carmen genuinely cares about people, and that really inspires the way she interacts with others.  It’s no surprise to me that everyone sees the best in her because that’s exactly what she does–she sees the best in everyone.  I am very proud of her for staying true to herself throughout college and for loving and inspiring others around her.

This is a photo of Mary Kathryn, myself, Carmen, and Carmen’s sister, Joy Beth, from the homecoming game today:

Honestly, the fact that Carmen was on the court was not what took me back to the days of high school.  It was more of the fact that this was one of the few times Carmen, Mary Kathryn, and I have been together since high school.  The summer right before my freshman year in high school, Mary Kathryn and I met when we were trying out for cheerleading and volleyball.  Carmen and I met the week before school started when we were both shopping for school supplies in Office Max with our moms.  I remember her mom picking up a rolling backpack with light up wheels, and we all laughed about how much we would get made fun of if we had those for the first day of high school.  In those moments, I had no idea just how much these two would mean to me over the course of high school.

This photo is from the first day of my junior year of high school.

Looking back on how far we have come together, and sometimes apart got me to thinking about where we will end up in five, ten, fifteen plus years.  We all seem to be going our separate ways: getting married, applying to Teach for America, living abroad in China.  Our lives really couldn’t be taking us in more different directions, but there is something in me that really wants to believe that the past we have all shared together is stronger than anything in the future that will threaten to pull us apart.  Perhaps that is wishful thinking, or perhaps that is exactly the kind of thinking that keeps good friends together–probably the former.  And even if we do not remain close (because let’s face it, we don’t always talk or hang out like we used to), we still have our memories that we have shared together.  I know that sounds trite, but there really is something powerful about a memory, don’t you think?

To close, here is one of my more recent favorite songs about high school memories:

When I think about you, I think about seventeen;
I think about my old jeep.  I think about the stars in the sky.
Funny how a melody sounds like a memory, like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night.

the path i’m on

It doesn’t seem like it has been four years since this photo was taken.  I honestly remember it like it was yesterday.  I had just completed what I still believe to be the best year of my educational experiences–junior year.  While taking my senior photos I remember thinking about how fast time flies; I couldn’t believe I only had one year of high school left.  Now I am at the point where I have two months left of college, and some days I honestly do not know how I got here.  The path has been mostly rocky these past few years.  It has been overgrown with weeds and thorns that I have cleared.  Countless obstacles to surmount have popped up along the way.  I have come to many a crossroad.  At times I took the fork to the left and kept on walking, and at other times I would turn around to go back and take the path to the right instead.

Out of all of this, I have learned two key things about the paths I have taken in the first quarter of my life.  First, the path has never run out; I have not reached the end yet.  Sure, sometimes it was hard to see the path in front of me, but God has always had a clear direction for my life.  Perhaps that direction has not always been clear to me, but it could not be more perfectly mapped out by my Father.  Second, there is one major obstacle that has always been present on my path.  We all have our own struggles and burdens to bear.  (Thankfully, we have someone who has taken those burdens upon himself.  See Matthew 11:28-30.)  Mine started out small, like when you have a rock in your shoe that you can’t seem to shake out.  Then the obstacle grew larger and larger as I continued down this path of mine.  There have been times where it seemed like a mountain stood before me, and I couldn’t figure out how to go around or up and over it.

Early in life I thought this obstacle sprung from my own personality.  I’m the perfectionist type who likes to get things done as efficiently as possible.  I’m pretty no nonsense about most things, and I say what I need to say, often bluntly.  I would stress and obsess over practically everything that I did, and for the longest time I thought that was normal.  It was normal for me, anyway.  The older I got, however, the harder it was to do everything right and please everyone and still be happy with the path I was walking down.  This obstacle grew out of all of this–self doubt, inadequacy, sadness, anxiety.  The list goes on and on.  We are all very familiar with the label that has become associated with these things: depression.  I hated the idea of ‘being depressed’ because that is not WHO I am; it is just what I am, which in my mind is a very important distinction.  Saying that someone is depressed always sounded so all-encompassing and permanent to me, as if that was all they were and all they would ever be.  I didn’t want that to be me.

The truth of the matter, though, is that I could not run away from it.  I couldn’t just decide to be happy or simply change my attitude.  That’s when I decided at the beginning of this year that I finally had to face it, head on.  The path I’m on now is no longer one where I hide or run from the things I fear.  This new path is one in which I have determined to face these fears and examine myself closely in light of them.  I have decided, on this path, that even though depression doesn’t have to define me, it does have to be dealt with.  Thankfully, I have crossed paths with many people who understand and have helped me through what I believe was the worst of it.  I have had people walk beside me, hold my hand, guide me, and even carry me through this obstacle of depression.  One of the most important things I learned out of all of this is that whatever path we are on, we are never on it alone.

Looking back on the last four years and seeing how far I have come gives me hope for the next four years and beyond that.  I know that no matter where this path of life takes me, I can rest assured that God has prepared the way and made my path straight.

The purpose behind writing this blog is to document the things that happen on the path I’m on now and to see where this path takes me in the future.  I took my blogs name from a Chinese proverb, which seemed appropriate since I will be spending five months in China next year.  It says, “I dreamed a thousand new paths.  I woke and walked my old one.”  That simple proverb seems to sum up the path I have been on lately.  It certainly describes a path overshadowed by depression.  However, from this point forward, I am determined to make my life about exploring ‘a thousand new paths’ instead of walking down this same road I have been on.  I want to live out a life of purpose, which God has called me to.  A few months ago, I was reading a book called Just Do Something, and the author said that we are free to take great risks because God doesn’t.  He knows everything and is in complete control.  With that in mind, I pray that the future presents many opportunities to take risks and explore the paths of my dreams.