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.