Three things {college} has taught me

College makes a person think, but more than book knowledge is learned.

Three things {college} has taught me

College is an amazing place. It is a place of discovery. Discovery of new and interesting topics of intellect. Discovery of a diverse group of people mass-labeled as classmates, peers, staff, and instructors. Discovery of your career and your skill set. Discovery of a level of independence and maturity you did not know you had inside you. Yet beyond this, college also facilitates another type of discovery: one of self.

Almost by necessity, college forces you to perform introspection, but it’s not solely related to your career. This one is personal. College is where you find out who you are, what you are good at, how you want to act, and the kind of person you want to be. College brings a change in social habits, ideas, language, and actions. A change in your interaction with adults (instructors and staff), adults (peers), and not-yet-adults (peers and staff), a change born through this introspection.

It was the first semester at my second college. I had been out of the college setting for nearly a year, and now I was at a new college with new professors and classmates. Nobody knew who I was. I had the opportunity to start fresh and be whoever I wanted to be as I continued my education. Throughout the year, even in that first semester, I began to perform this intensely personal introspection. Three years later at my third college, I am taking the opportunity to share three lessons three colleges have taught me. These are certainly not new lessons nor all the lessons I learned. In life I believe we learn certain lessons multiple times, each time at a different and hopefully higher level than before. Each of these lessons I have long known and learned, but this time they were different. Yet these lessons are not just for me. These are universal. That is why I am writing about them, in hopes that through my retelling you will benefit from my battles.

Live {Considerately}

You have no idea what people are going through on a given day. They may be suffering from depression, loss in the family, heartbreak, self-image issues, mental health, something. In the span of a single year, I saw more people than I ever thought I'd see go through a lot of issues. Some were relatively minor in the grand scheme, while others were threats to academic progress. A girl came into the tutoring center one evening in tears because she made a 68, which would ruin her plans to graduate the next semester. A guy lost his grandfather then had his dad walk out two weeks later. A girl had to break up with her boyfriend, both who were in my friend group. A guy received a medical diagnosis that will greatly effect him for life. The point is the people you encounter every day face things every day, of scale large, small, and in-between, of which you may never be aware exist. Therefore, always be considerate in your actions and words. If they want to talk about it to you, consider it a privilege and actually listen. If you can't listen right then, make the time to lend your ear (or phone, in the case of texts or phone calls). If someone wants to talk to you about an issue in their life, they trust and believe you will listen to their story and not spread it as gossip. I consider it a humbling privilege and treat each opportunity with respect and consideration. Before attending my second college, I was not very aware of the breadth of concerns that weigh people down and learned to be considerate at all times because I never know what someone is facing.

Express {Positive} Confidence

It is vitally important to be confident, as much as possible, in as many things that you can be. A voice of self-destruction is real and will tear you down faster than NF can spit bars. One way to combat these lies of failure (beyond knowing what you're capable of achieving) is to be confident. The old adage "fake it until you make it" holds some truth. While you should live life real, sometimes you will lack genuine confidence that you actually need to achieve a goal. In that case, you fake it. Stand up straight, hold your head up, speak clearly, and portray the confidence you wish you had. Nobody may be able to tell that you're faking, and as you project confidence, you'll eventually gain it yourself. What you're doing is reorienting your focus and energy from the negative thoughts towards positivity. You're not so concerned in how you feel now but in how you want to feel, and eventually you stop pretending and start living  in confidence.

Additionally, you don't know how many people are watching you. It is said that as a Christian, you constantly have 5-7 people watching your actions, words, and life, seeing if you actually live out what you profess. Just as you don't know what people are facing and should be considerate in your ways, you don't know who is watching your moves and is looking towards you to project a positive, confident light that they currently need themselves and believe you can help them find. I've lost track of the times I've had people tell me "thank you" for simply portraying confidence and positivity, even if I was faking it at that moment and they didn't know it. Once, while in a somewhat serious conversation with a friend in a campus parking lot, a car drove past on the road and I unexpectedly waved and smiled at the driver that I could not see. When I got home, I had a message waiting for me from a person I didn't know (but she knew who I was, in a non-creepy way). It was the girl in that car. She had been having a horrible day and was just starting to cry as she left campus when she saw me wave and smile at her. Upon seeing that, she stopped crying and realized that everything was going to be OK. It was my smile and confident positivity that changed her perspective. The smile I gave was enough to bring a spark to her day. I say all this to say that there really are people watching you and counting on your light to help them. Be confident in your doings and watch how you can help encourage others even when you don't realize you are.

{Always} Be Praying

This is the most important lesson I've learned across all colleges. I've seemed to repeatedly learn this one at every college, each time at a different depth with a different meaning and a different effect on my life.

At college #1, the primary lesson was to trust God in my grades, knowing that if I put Him first, then my education will follow suit.

At college #2, the primary lesson was learning that my identity is found in Him, not in others and how they define me (that topic is a whole other blog post).

At college #3, the current primary lesson is trusting God in my finances and future, believing that if He really owns the cattle on a thousand hills, then I have no need to worry about what is to come, but be a good steward of what exists in the now.

Each one of these major lessons and more have been learned though great people pouring wisdom and guidance into me, studying the Bible, and in prayer. Truthfully, while all of these things of equally of value and have a place, prayer has been the key to my entire college "career." Am I perfect? Absolutely not! Do I pray every day, all the time, about everything? Nope. I publicly confess that when it's hard, I don't always pray. I actually have a tendency to not pray in those times, times when I should be praying more. I am human and thus fail, but I always strive to do better. The power of power is ever increasingly important to me. Its importance is something I could write an entire post on, so I'll summarize here.

Prayer, in combination with worship, is the most powerful tool we as Christians have. Through prayer, we grow closer in our relationship with God. Through prayer, we can be the reason a miracle happens before our very eyes or the in eyes of people half-way across the world. Through prayer, we can hear the voice of God and learn what He has to say to us. Through prayer, we can overcome the darkest trials and temptations. Through prayer, we increase our faith and trust in the One who cannot fail. Through prayer, we can intercede for others on their behalf and be their strength when they lack it. Everything we do should be surrounded with prayer. Before, during, and after everything, we should be in prayer. We should pray even when we don't want to pray. Prayer is a verbal, physical, tangible action that expresses our reliance on God. You see, God always already knows our needs before we know that need will arise. Even now, He is preparing a way for that need to be met. Yet when we become aware of the need, we ought to pray about it. Do we have faith that it'll be met? Absolutely, yes! But by praying and surrendering the need to God, we express our trust in Him, admitting that we can't take care of it on our own. Prayer has significance. Prayer has meaning. Prayer has power. More than any lesson in college, I've learned that I need to be praying, not sometimes, but always.

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
(James 5:16, NKJV)

This post came out much longer than I expected, but that's OK. After sitting in draft for two years, the length is fine. It just means much more has been learned in the last 5 years than first thought.

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