The last year for me has basically been the following: cramming everything I can — 16 credit hours worth of schoolwork, late nights in the newsroom, scheduling interviews with potential sources, writing articles, running to class, while keeping in touch with my family, friends and boyfriend — all into a matter of three days. Being in a long-distance relationship has been wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but also proven how many tasks I can complete in just a few short days. This last year, Thursday through Sunday’s have been dedicated to traveling to-and-fro Manhattan, Kansas, and Norman, Oklahoma. I thought I loved traveling, being alone and escaping from the norm, until I drove and drove and drove with a sense that not a moment had stopped since Monday. I went hard Monday-Wednesday with not a seconds rest. Long story short: Senior year is hard and interlaced with many mental breakdowns. I believe in the power of being vulnerable, yet also am a hypocrite to the idea. When jam-packed with activities and places to be your senior year, who has time to address their innermost fears and emotions? I’m a fairly emotional person but in a different way: an unorganized, sporadic way. Throughout my fast-paced week I would consistently “feel” many emotions yet choose to look at them, scratch my head at what I should do with them, then kick them to the curb — “I’ll save you for later.” I became a pro at this — shoving all my emotions under the rug until a collection of them gathered in my heart, resulting in a mental breakdown. My emotions had become a snowball effect that had beaten me down. My loving boyfriend was SO supportive of it all, caring for me and encouraging me in every moment, which I am so thankful for. I couldn’t have done it without him. But after a year of busyness, packing, unpacking, studying and maintaining a long-distance relationship amidst my senior year — I’ve learned tons about myself and a different perspective on some things that may seem like common sense, but are real things that many college students and relationships deal with too.
What I’ve learned in 2016:
Long distance sucks. About two years ago I met Tanner — who is seriously the most incredible person I know. I love him a lot, but had NO idea just how challenging a long-distance relationship would be. Our times together were always great, but never lasted long enough. Just when we were used to being being together again, another goodbye was soon to come. FaceTime and texting became my best friend, but it’s just not the same. However, in the end, I came to appreciate every adventure we took together and all the moments spent together. I learned it’s not the end of another crappy day without your significant other, but merely another day closer to being together for good. And eventually, all those days added up and became a day where we no longer have to do long distance. Tanner has moved to Manhattan, Kansas, and I am TOO excited to finally be living in the same town as him!
I should not look to a person to fulfill me with what only God can. At the beginning of our relationship, I was so excited to have someone who shared the same faith as me. We were going to grow so much together, have quiet time with Jesus together, read lots of books together, do all those great things. I set the expectation that from afar, Tanner was going to provide an extensive amount of spiritual support for me. Let me tell you — Tanner has an incredibly big heart for God and encourages me so much in my walk with the Lord. Yet, I took that for granted and became dependent on him to be my spiritual rock, while I wasn’t investing in my own relationship with God like I should have been. You see, knowing Jesus isn’t about finding people to lead you to Him. I think it’s great to surround yourself with believers, yet when your only time talking about God is with others, praying with your significant other or studying the Bible so you can talk to your boyfriend about it; even though it may be a great encouragement for your relationship, in the end, Jesus wants YOU to talk and walk with HIM. Not just talking about Him with others, praying with others, studying with others (which are great things!), but sitting down with Him yourself and asking God to strengthen your desire to be in touch with Him one-on-one. It’s easy to get that satisfaction from others, especially others you love dearly, but they can’t give you the deep satisfaction that God can. Humans are humans, imperfect and shouldn’t be the rock that we turn to for our deepest yearnings — that person, our rock, should be Jesus.
Take every opportunity that you can in college. Senior year is hard, like I said, but it’s also SO fun! I’ve never been more busy with schoolwork and extracurricular activities so when you get to your senior year, you sure as heck better be giving your all to what you love. Freshman and sophomore year are usually a ton of general courses, junior year you’re usually just setting foot into your actual major and senior year is all about diving right in. I never thought it would take this long to get here, but after switching my major four times (marketing to public relations to family studies to public relations to journalism & digital media) I now absolutely love going to all of my classes and have found my niche. My major is journalism & digital media with an emphasis in public relations, which took me a long time to arrive at but I am so confident that I love this field. It’s been amazing the amount of opportunities that I have been blessed with — from writing for the Collegian newspaper to becoming a copy editor and interning with Focus on the Family in the breathtaking mountains of Colorado Springs (which was amazing and my favorite summer ever. If interested, you can apply here!). I’ve expanded my knowledge in journalism, marketing, editing and am so excited to see where God will take me upon graduation in May. The Colorado mountains are my ultimate destination, but wherever I go, I cannot thank Kansas State University enough for providing me with the tools, skills and experiences to take my abilities and apply them in my life beyond college!
Self-care is a must. When senior year feels like you’re stuck on a train going 1,000 miles per hour, it’s hard to slow down and breathe. Because of my numerous mental breakdowns, I learned that this is something more important than your career or schoolwork. It may be hard to accept, but you’ve got to acknowledge it in order to function properly. One thing that may seem obvious but is so necessary to mental health is getting proper daily nutrition. Yes, this means eating fruits and vegetables, but also protein and other sources of vitamins and minerals as well. Being so busy with class allowed me to forget sometimes that I hadn’t ate a full meal that day, which was not healthy. To solve this problem, I invested in several miraculous vitamins! Every day, I take really yummy gummy bear vitamins (I could eat like 20 at a time, seriously), along with B6, B12 and folic acid. This not only helps my energy level but also my focus. Another thing I’ve fallen in love with is green tea. Coffee used to be my thing, but I’ve discovered green tea frees me from that shaky caffeine feeling and gives me more natural energy. Lastly, self-care isn’t just what you consume, but also about finding healthy calming mechanisms to do when you’re stressed. It’s different for everyone, but what I absolutely need when I feel overwhelmed is a good book, some dark chocolate and some alone time to get away from all the hustle and bustle of being a college student. Chocolate > mental breakdowns.
Alone time in nature is a beautiful way to connect with the Creator. I thrive on alone time. As in, I absolutely need it at least once a week to stay sane. I said above that I love being cuddled up with a good book and dark chocolate — but sometimes what I really need is a little less of me and a little more of the outdoors. I think it’s so important to be an explorer of the world not only through learning about different cultures, events and perspectives, but also to experience the joy of looking out at the mountains, the lakes, the rivers and pine trees, to see a creation that is so much bigger and detailed than the stresses of life. When I really need to get away, my greatest escape is to drive with no destination to a place my eyes and prayers are drawn to. To be in touch with the Creator is a beautiful thing. It’s so peaceful and quaint. It reminds us how big our God is and that His wondrous and profound creativity is not just the world itself — but in the creation of us as well. Last summer I hiked Pikes Peak, which I never thought I would be able to accomplish, but I did it. There is a sense not just of peace in the open outdoors, but a challenge — a challenge from God saying, “You know what, my daughter? Keep pushing. Keep fighting. Whatever you’re going through, I’m right here for you.”
Meaningful productivity doesn’t necessarily mean taking on an infinite amount of tasks. At the end of this year, I look around at myself and others, scurrying about to the next meeting, class, group project or job interview and I ask myself if I really want to be on the train of busyness. But the question usually is: am I already on it? I believe we should be proactive in our education so we can provide for the future, but I’ve come to realize that I’ve been trying to accomplish a significant amount of tasks not to help out anyone else, or sadly not even to glorify God, but all to place different identities on myself that I can look at and be proud of. I’ve discovered that being the busiest person alive with an impressive amount of stuff to show for it is not satisfaction. I could be involved in 1,000 things, post 1,000 times to my Instagram and travel 1,000 different places in 2017 and still not be satisfied. I think job fulfillment is something that people strive for and I certainly would love that for my future, but I truly believe that stressing about the moments we are in now so that we receive that fulfillment later is not a healthy mindset. If we catch ourselves on the train of busyness, let’s take some time and look at what we are striving for — and I’m talking to myself here. Am I striving to be known by the amount of tasks I complete today or am I investing in the Creator, His world and the people around me? It’s cliche, I know, but I think everyone around this time of year asks themselves the same thing. It’s different for everyone, but as I look back on 2016, my year in review, I know I can say I’ve learned a lot about myself and boy howdy, I still have a lot to learn.