In Memory Of “New”

This May, I attended my sister’s high school graduation. It was very much like my own grad, two years ago. Most of the girls wore long, sparkling dresses, and struggled to fit dark blue caps and gowns over their beauteous hair and attire. The banquet spread was delicious, the speeches went on forever, and the dancing lively. It was all very familiar, though as different and new as the group of graduates were from me and my cohorts, two years ago.

As I listened to the 50 or so graduate speeches, amidst picture snapping of the familiar grads, I was reminded of my former self. The young girl who thought she was so very mature and grown up. The seventeen-year-old whose blue gown barely fit over the hoop skirt of her handmade, shiny purple dress. The young woman who gave a speech, which everyone praised, but that she herself did not even fully understand the meaning of then.

Oh, that girl. That dear little girl in the purple dress, clutching a red bible, and smiling haply. Where did she go?

Down the path of the hopeful to the little university she felt was so beloved. Through various first and second year university classes, where everything began so crisp and new that September and ended in bitter exhaustion come December. She began so gladly that first day, with hopes higher than the university bell-tower, for everything that had been, and mostly, all that was to come.

As grads recited speeches, I remembered her, in that eager anticipation, light of heart, and faithful spirit. Grads talked about their college, university, and job plans so solidly, as if knowing exactly what the road of post-secondary would bring. I remember talking like that, too. But really, everything was just a cloud of new, unknown, unrealized hopes and dreams back then.

I remember making my first schedule, utterly overwhelmed by course IDs, and fitting times and days together. I pronounced the professors names–Dr. Such-and-Such and Mr. So-And-So–imagining how good my first impression would be in their eyes. I bought books early, of course, planning to do pre-reading to make the course load lighter; all the while, I wondered what the classes would actually be like.

Eventually, it all set in. The schedule was up and down at first, but with a few weeks, I relaxed into it. Surprisingly, I found myself on a first name basis with most professors, though not all of my first impressions went as smoothly as I had dreamed. Not so surprisingly, I laboured over reading right till the bitter end of that first cold semester.

I shudder to think of some of the miserable days of my first semester. Cold nights traveling home, the staggering exhaustion, and the fear over getting things right. The deep and utter loneliness I felt. These were the not so good days I never bargained for, but surely received. 

Yet  now as I look ahead to my third year, I wonder where those first weeks and months went. Part of me believes I’m still that anxious freshman for the time has gone so quickly.

But the other part knows it can’t be true for the knowledge I have now. I look ahead dismally to the September leaves, knowing exactly what next year will be like. There’s nothing new or exciting about being an upperclassmen–you’ve already done the semester thing four times and the pattern gets old fast.

I’ve learned the rhythm of classes. In two years, I’ve mastered the beats, the rests, melodies, and crescendos of student hood.

Now, as I think on it all, I realize that I long for the new, in all it’s misery and brightness, once more. There are things I wish I could do over either for regret or just the pure joy they brought because there is something beautiful about the new. There is something lovely about having to get to know something, to learn about it, and come to cherish it. I guess that’s why we buy new clothes and trinkets, make new friends, and enjoy the passage of milestones like graduations, university, new jobs, marriage, and children. 

The new of university, I realize, is mostly gone now. Things may still change a bit as each year is a slightly altered song yet the newness I long for is that of freshman hood, when everything is kindly new for a few days of bliss. I know I won’t get that back.

Yet in my almost-upperclassmen-wisdom, I’m certain there will be other shades of new. Newness comes in seasons and I’m sure to experience a thousand more.

I appreciate the beginning of a journey, in all it’s excitement and uncertainty, much more now as I long again for that season of spring, knowing it was good to me. But I suppose there is beauty in the summer, the fall, and the winter as well. The middle and the end are just as important as the beginning for without them we could not see the results of our journey.

 

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Write Something

Write something. 

I see the faithful instruction written in the chalkboard of my head throughout the day. On the to-do list of my brain when I wake up, the sharp music of my phone alarm decorating the air, piercing the assignment into me melodiously. As people pass me books, hardcovers and soft covers, written, finished, published, and bound, I punch in one dollar books & CDS and wonder when my name will ever be in print.

Write something. 

It plays in my head like a melody. Over morning bible readings and breakfast and as I check through Facebook and email before work. It’s the song only I can hear when the radio plays praise music at the till, while I make change from tens and twenties and stuff shirts and socks, books and blenders into plastic bags.

Write something. 

Says the Voice in My Head. He calls again and again,but I travel far away.

 

I watch a movie, stuffing butter dripping popcorn into my face. Log-in to Facebook 21 times a day, surf through the statuses and links, all full of words, and pictures, which they say can tell a thousand. A friend texts me and I text back, amassing countless paragraphs back and forth across the kilometres. I even open the red book with the gold letters, dearly treasured and desperately falling apart as it is, and read that word.

Anything to avoid, sometimes. Anything to get away from what I really love best.

 

Write something. 

The wall clock in the store clicks. The time on my phone has changed. The digital stove clock shows 5:17 PM, instead of 8:36 AM, when I arrive home, exhausted, drained from three hundred conversations, too many transactions, a multitude of messes to clean, and a few f-words thrown in my direction.

Write something? How could I? Can’t you see I don’t have any room right now?

 

I slide into the car once more, reminding myself to drive safely, as per my usual driving ritual. A few intersections and left turns and right turns later and I’m at my friend’s. We have a meeting and fondue and games, sprinkled with laughter, joy, and discussion.

Write something, I hear it again.

Well, I’m kind of busy right now, in case you didn’t notice. And I don’t have my laptop and it would be socially inappropriate, even if I did, I counter briskly in my head, while laying down a card for Apples to Apples.

Write something, the Voice persists, knowing fully that I know full well that He meant later when I’m at home.

But I’m even more exhausted when my hands hit the computer keys at 10:47 PM, and my warm bed is a better welcome to me than an empty computer screen.

 

Write something. I read the to-do list once more as my alarm sounds even on my day off, Friday.

Yeah, well, it is my day off so I probably should, I think as I lazily pull my hair up out of its curled mess and wander into the kitchen for my morning ritual of tea.

 

Write something. 

We sit across from each other, sipping drinks–he has an iced coffee and I’ve ordered a London Fog–and talking, laughing even, about this craft we call writing.

“I think you have to discipline yourself to do it,” he says eventually, after we’ve nearly exhausted the subject, just as I’ve felt exhausted by it in the past.

And he’s right, I know. Oh, I know.

Write something. I hear it again as we talk about other things and again on my ride home and then again when I think on my afternoon over another cup of tea at home.

 

So now I’m writing something. Finally stepping up and listening to the music. Letting it flow out from within me and become my own.

I hope to become the discipline we spoke of today, though I know it will be hard. I hope to write many more things in the coming weeks and months and years. I hope I can learn to always get back up even after I’ve given up.

Write something. 

I know the journey is not over.

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On Growing Up

Today marks a year since something big changed for me.

Actually, a lot of days are like that, really. So much has changed since I graduated, now almost 2 years ago. Even in the last year, there’s been so much change. So much growth.

I used to dread change. When I was twelve, I recall journaling about how much I hated it when things and people changed. But how little I knew then.

One of the characters in the play I’m writing tells the protagonist that he plants new flowers every year. The flowers change every spring. They both grumble and gripe about changes throughout the play, but by the end they concur that change is good, otherwise there’d be no variety and possibly no flowers.

That’s how I see it now. Change leads to beauty. Greater beauty. Greater life, even.

But growing up is so weird. Because you can’t see it coming, no matter how hard you look or how big your imagination might be. The days ahead in my mind are still blank calendar squares with only words, at the very most, of what that day might ensue. I find that I can often imagine what I might do on a day, but when I think of what I might learn, it is impossible. I suppose that’s why I have to learn it.

And growing up is weird because there’s just some ways in which I stay young forever. There are some ways in which we never really grow up because we never stop learning.

And the feeling of growing up is strangest when I look back on all the things I’ve done and seen and changed from and wonder where the time has gone.

Two years ago, I was completely unaware of who I was and what I wanted. I lacked in specificity and I believed lies. One year ago, I saw that lack of awareness and specificity and all of those lies and wanted to change. Today, I’m different–not perfect–but I’ve grown to embrace more of those traits that I wanted so desperately last year.

Why am I writing these words? Perhaps you think that this post seems to have no flow or point or purpose.

Perhaps I’m writing it for me more than for you. Perhaps I’m writing just because it’s good to write and it’s beautiful to recall.

Perhaps because I have to write.

I’ve always had to write, it would seem. One of my first ambitions was to be a writer. As a little girl, hearing The Little House on The Prairie novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I dreamed of having thick books with glossy covers that held my name at the bottom. I used to cherish my time in bed before falling into slumber. I’d write stories in my head except I’d say them aloud in silent whispers to account for my lack of paper.

And now I’m writing a play. I think I told you that a few paragraphs back. I never thought I’d be a playwright back then as a six-year-old and maybe I’ll never be a very good one — the writing and revising process isn’t easy.

And there’s so many things I never thought I’d do or be or see or realize. So many things I said I wouldn’t. So many things I said I couldn’t. So many things I just never had the imagination to think of.

And I’ve been learning that what you say you won’t do, you likely will do anyway; the things you say you can’t, you actually can do, if you take the ‘not’ out of the phrase, and your imagination will never hold the beauty that in reality, God’s plans hold for you.

Because God has a sense of humour, He is persistent, and He knows how to create beauty that is beyond beauty itself.

So Friends, I’m embracing change, at 10 PM on a Sunday night, a week and a half away from the end of my semester, when I should really be getting ready for bed.

But I can’t go to bed. Not yet. Because there’s so much to write and read and think about. (And also cinnamon buns to eat momentarily… )

These are my ramblings of today. You never can tell what tomorrow will hold though.

This is what growing up looks like for me.

How have you experienced change lately?

On Choosing Theatre

“So are you glad that you became a theatre artist?” he asked me, settling down in the seat which happened to be next to mine.

His question took me by surprise. He was my professor in first year and he’d learned many of my struggles and problems with choosing theatre. But I was still taken off guard. I just hadn’t thought about the choice in so long; it had become so routine, so mundane, so natural to me.

Yet I’d been mulling my choice, whether I realized it or not, over in my head this past Christmas and in the weeks since the break, too. My holidays were wonderful, but I was very much out of the “theatre loop” and I began to wonder what the heck I was doing all over again. Most of my “back home” friends are working and others are studying to be engineers and nurses or planning to go to law school post-degree. Where does theatre fit into all that? I wondered. I know that I love it, I know that I can do it, and I even know that God loves it, but is it really valuable to others? What’s the point?

It was hard to wake myself up that first Tuesday morning of school. Besides feeling burnt out from the last three semesters and the recent summer, the question of why we do theatre still rumbled in my head till it was sore.  Really, I was asking: Am I valuable? Is what I do needed? And if it’s not, why do it?

I resisted, at first. I refused to be excited. Every semester, especially the last, has left me strongly disappointed. I refused to feel that disappointment again.

But that first week took me by surprise. And so did the next. I was filled with absolute joy in the presence of what I loved. My classes were amazing and inspiring and much more than I could have asked for.

The truth is, in my state of resistance and bitterness, I began to love acting like never before. It became exhilarating once again, in more ways than ever. My play. My acting class and the scenes I’m involved in. Voice & Movement. They brought me the excitement I’d lost hope in.

This all came back to me as I answered my prof. “Yes. I mean sometimes I’m not; sometimes I’m just tired and worn out, I guess. It’s work. But we’ve been doing Meisner and these Lindy Davis exercises and I’m playing Sister Aloysius in Doubt and Much Ado is a challenge but it’s fun and well, I’ve never loved acting more.”

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But is love enough? That’s the question I pondered next.

Does loving something make it valuable, useful, or right?

I’m definitely an advocate for doing what you love with your life. I believe in following your own dreams and not the ones someone else’s. But still. It can all be a little disheartening when other people’s dreams seem to be so useful and important and you’re left feeling like a joke. What then?

I’m not trying to play the martyr here. Theatre is hard, but I realize I won’t get burned at the stake for it. This isn’t Shakespeare’s time when actors were below slaves in status, or something like that. Yes, theatre and art are socially acceptable vocations, but sometimes I feel a little lost in the dust, as others, I’d assume feel, too.

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“We’re the messiest of them all,” the aforementioned prof has said before. Often times, he’s right. We get dressed up and walk around campus doing photo shoots. We take classrooms apart so we can rehearse or fill them with camera gear for a promo video and clean up just in time for the next class to start. We make people sweat and quicken heart beats when we swear and kiss people we’re not married to and portray lots of conflict on stage. We put humanity, in all it’s flaws and horrors, on display for the world to see. And it isn’t always pretty.

Plain and simply, I find theatre valuable because I love it. I do it because I love it. Frankly, I don’t have to justify that.

I believe in its value for a lot of reasons. It teaches us to have empathy, both as actors and audience members. It is art and it allows for creation, which I believe is very biblical. Last but not least, people love entertainment and people like me who study BFAs in Acting provide that. And really, this list could go on but it won’t for now.

~~~

I get a lot of reactions on the answer that slips out of my mouth after the infamous student question, “What is your major?” That sounds fun! and Cool! or I could never do that! and What’s that like? are among the top. One person laughed out loud when I told him, but that’s a story for another time. Lots of people ask me what I intend to do with it, too. I tell them I want to be an actor.

This isn’t a pity party. As another professor says, we all have choices; it’s just silly to say we don’t. Thus, we honestly can’t complain about a lot of stuff because 95% of it likely stems out of the choices we’ve made. I made the choice to study theatre a year and a half ago. I continue to make that choice day after day. And I can make the choice to quit at any point.

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I suppose what I’d like for you to know is that choosing theatre can be great. It is for me, at least. Choosing what you love, I think, is best. Do it, if you can. No matter what it is. What you do, whatever it is, has value because of Christ. He created everything good in this world and has an intention for it. So go out and do it. Choose what you love.

So yes, I’m glad I chose to be a theatre artist.

What about you?

Cultivate 2014

My New Year’s resolutions. 14 aims for living wholly in 2014:

1. Love people well and be intentional in friendship.

2. Work hard, but rest harder.

3. Write something everyday. Doesn’t matter what. Just has to be something.

4. Dialogue with my Father and listen to Him more.

5. Learn to let go and relax.

6. Continue to get to know myself better.

7. Develop patience.

8. Take care of myself, body and soul.

9. Invest myself freely in my art, whatever it happens to be.

10. Remember joy and find it in life’s blessings, both big and small.

11. Make specific goals for acting, follow them and fly with others, and most of all: just dive right in.

12. Cultivate my own character.

13. Drink more tea, read more books, bake more cookies.

14. Live missionally, wherever I am. Seek justice. Be merciful and humble.

These 14 goals are brief and somewhat vague. They may change and I’m not holding myself to the originals, if they do. I’m also not giving up on them, even if I find myself letting go. In a nutshell, I’m an imperfect person learning to be whole. Every step, every day, every year in my life is part of my journey to that wholeness. And this list is made up of things that I believe make a person whole.

2014 will not be a perfect year. It may not even be the best year yet, either. But I’m going to do everything I can to make it a year in which I stepped a little closer that wholeness I seek.

This is a new year. This is 2014 and my theme word is cultivate. Cultivate joy, hope, love. Freedom. Passion. Salvation. Forgiveness. Productivity. Rest. Healing, justice, and beauty. Everything good. Cultivate Life.

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Here’s to 2014!

What are your resolutions and hopes for the new year?

PS If you haven’t done so yet, please take my short survey here and help me improve The Journey Home in the new year!

Recap & Dreams

2013 was a roller-coaster.

First year second semester didn’t pull me by the ear lobes like my first had done. It was stagnant at first; difficult, strange. I had to grab it by the neck and make it what I wanted and needed. I did just that. In the words of my professors and friends, I transformed in my art and I think also, in myself.

Summer came much too quickly. I put acting aside for a while, on a shelf though, to be found again, come September, no doubt. Core requirement books piled on my desk and for six weeks I devoted my time to completing courses in Old Testament, Self-Defense, and Human Kinetics.

June brought my first article to publication. One I’d worked at since January. It began as a tiny proposal forced from my hands. I never thought my first attempt at a magazine submission would lead to publication, but it did, somehow, beautifully.

My first real job, as a cashier at a Thrift Store, came and went. July and August were filled with long days and hard work, dust, unfriendly voices, interesting objects, and weird comments. But there was love and joy and peace and satisfaction there, too. And for those things and the lessons learned, I miss it every day.

Last semester boomed along. I played a small role in my first university play. I took hard classes. My professors pushed me and I pushed myself. And I forged friendships like never before. There was beauty and life, but at the end, I was burnt to the core.

More. There was always more. More to do, more to be, more to learn. It was exhausting.

My holidays have been quite the reverse. School flew away and I nearly forgot the little homework I did have.

I spent a lovely four days with a friend and her family, relaxing and celebrating the new year. I had a beautiful Christmas, filled with Christ, family, and sweet things. I’ve had a wonderful holiday, seeing fabulous people and creating to my heart’s desire. In everything, I’ve learned more about myself and the person I want to become.

And now, as I sit and think on January 3rd, I am hopeful. All of what happened, both the good and the bad, makes 2014, a new year, brighter to my eyes. Because we learned and we finished and came to believe in 2013, through every blot and beauty.

And this — why this is only the beginning. We’ve barely breathed on the new year yet. Hardly made mistakes. The days ahead are still coming and we don’t know what will fill them. And while unknowns can be scary, adventure lies in what we do not know or even understand.

It snowed this December. It rained a lot, too. And in it all, it “sunned” as well.

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2014 should bring similar weather, I believe. But who knows what the colour of the rain will be?

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Here // This is Beauty

I often find myself longing for the exquisite. I dream of adventure, beauty, and joy. Slowly, I pass through life, wondering if there’s more and when happiness will ever abound.

Every person has a dream. I have several. They say every girl longs for a prince and a castle and I’ve spent life looking for mine.

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But then sometimes I find myself, caught gently in snow-globe moments, within the passage of everyday life.

The sun rises, glorious, majestic, golden pink and sets in the same beauty and colour. A winter wonderland in the morrow. White magic glistens from the tree tops and everywhere, promising a white Christmas after all.

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Later, we bundle up, gloves on hands and boots on feet, ear muffs, toques, scarves and all. Giddy, we venture outside, dashing through fluffy snow, we prance and play. Two forts, we build. A snowball fight ensues.

Well after midnight, we sit around the instruments, playing and singing. One groggy body after another curls up in some sanctuary corner and falls to slumber. But soon enough, we’re laughing again, running through hallways, playing, and telling stories.

The table is set early, the smell of pancakes and sausage drifts through the space, and sleepy limbs settle on chairs. Christmas carols stream from the iPod in the kitchen. We say a prayer before eating, and the light from the wonderland shines in on us. Silence ensues as we gobble. Hot chocolate for still sleeping souls and scrambled eggs fill our tummies.

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And as I look upon the exhausted faces, smiling in spite of their sleepless night, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve found what I set out to. Its a snow-globe moment. Adventure, beauty, and joy are all in this room. The secret, daily longings I’ve struggled so long for have reached my soul at last.

~~~

Today, we skated round and round. Half the church came out. We drank hot chocolate and smiled in each other’s presence. The exercise and cold air and companionship filled my lungs and gave me strength.

And I realized, the answer of these longings is never far away.

What I’ve been looking for has been here the whole time. Perhaps it was hiding just beyond reach or maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. But it was here.

Perhaps the exquisite is simple and beauty looks like the smile in your eyes when we talk.

Maybe adventure can be found in building a snow fort in the church parking lot.

Perchance joy is grasped in simply being. Yes, I think joy comes from realizing each daily adventure and seeing the beauty for what it is.

Fulfillment is right now. Today. This moment. I’ve found it.

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Is there more to life than this? You’d better believe it.

But it is here, found among the ordinary, dancing in our souls. This God-given, blessed life is the more that we crave.

Here. This is beauty.

Be Still

I wanted to stay home last Friday. I’ve been at school nearly every day except Sunday for the past month. I decided I’d take the day off, since I don’t have classes — well, sort of. I’d sleep in, do home work in the comfort of my own home, drink tea, and maybe even visit the store.

But then I got an email. I had to go for a costume fitting in the middle of the afternoon. I grumbled and griped and wondered why a 20 minute costume fitting an hour away had to ruin my Friday.

Yet from some place inside of me, I heard the words: Be still.

I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. I put the costume on hastily, passed people with a warm smile to avoid small talk, and walked as fast as I could. But then I remembered: be still. And I tried to breathe and remember that this day might be good in other ways I’d never expected.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at Starbucks. A Pumpkin Spice Latte, courtesy of a coupon, and my History home work in hand. And in the buzz of the afternoon coffee shop rush and my growing to-do list, I heard the voice again. And it told me to be still.

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Be still. Be still. Be still.

As you practice the songs for your voice mid-term and try to reach the high notes and act and sing from your core at the same time. While rehearsing the scene that scares you and makes you better at the same time. When you’re in rehearsal all Saturday, but painting sets instead because they’re behind on the show. In all the chaos of school, and the mess of life. As you try to live, love, and breathe. I told myself this paragraph again and again and again this week.

But its hard. Impossible, almost. To quiet yourself in the midst of the pain, angst, busyness, and pressures of life. To be still when you have to run everywhere just to keep up. To trust in the God who holds you in His hand and know that He is with you. Yet, all He asks is that we just be still in His presence.

For a second. Try it. For a minute. Not too long. Just be still.

That’s been my motto this week. In the tough times, the weak times. In the rush and the hub and the worry and fear. Be still. Be still. Be still.

I had the voice midterm on Tuesday. I got a B. My teacher says she rarely gives A’s on midterms. But I’m still not happy with how I sang and I know I could have done better and–be still, the Voice says.

We presented our scene — my scene partner and I. We did our very best, after weeks of working, trying, risking, failing. And at the end, I remembered to be still.

I’m dead tired tonight. I spent the evening, unmotivated, trying in vain to find sources for my History project. I should do some more homework and my room’s a mess and I should pack lunch for tomorrow, but all I want to do is curl up in bed. Be still.

This post was supposed to be published a week ago, but it just wasn’t. Be still.

There is so much I want to write and share and communicate. But the clock is ticking and I have homework to do and a bus to catch. Be still.

He says, ”Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46: 10