I am Jack

I knew this would happen some day. I’ve spent the last twelve years thinking about it, preparing for it, and imagining what it would be like. Applications are in. Acceptance letters are being received.

I’m going to college.

As someone who was dual-enrolled all throughout my high school years, college classes aren’t much of a worry for me. After completing over sixty credit hours at my local community college, post-secondary courses are nothing to be afraid of. What intimidates me is…well…everything else.

I’m moving out of my childhood home. I’m leaving my town, my community, my church, my family; all the familiarity will be a thing of the past. I’m going to a strange city, living on a strange campus, surrounded by strange people. Change is necessary for life, but it’s a difficult adjustment.

As odd as it is, I keep comparing myself to Jack and the Beanstalk. I’ll bet Jack was scared to scale the beanstalk, but the adventure was something worthwhile. (Unless we’re talking about Into the Woods. Then the adventure was not worthwhile, it was deadly…spoiler alert.) Well, going away to a university feels like the equivalent to scaling a beanstalk. It’s big, scary, and there might be a giant or two to conquer, but it’s an adventure.

I am Jack. College is my beanstalk.

Bring on the giants.

Motivation

There are times in this life when I feel like I’m charging full speed ahead. There are times when I feel as though I’m an arrow, completely unstoppable, shooting towards my target. There are times when I feel like I can conquer the world.

This is not one of those times.

When I was in high school, I laughed at the idea of “senioritis.” I rolled my eyes and called it “laziness.” I didn’t understand how people who are so close to the end of their high school careers could simply stop caring. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was more determined than ever. I was dual-enrolled in several college classes; I was the lead in one of my favorite classic musicals, The Wizard of Oz; I was in a ridiculously fun and educational Western Literature class with the coolest teacher I’ve ever had; my life, to put it simply, was awesome.

Of course I had my moments when all I wanted to do was curl up in the fetal position and cry. Who doesn’t? Senior year can be seriously hectic. I certainly felt the mounds of stress between production week, final exams, term papers, and my nearing graduation, but I somehow had the motivation to power through all the stress. I knew that if I did, I would be done. I would have conquered something. Sure enough, I set my mind to it and by the grace of God I finished up an amazing and wildly fun high school career. Did I mention I got straight A’s, had a terrific run as Dorothy, and made friendships that will transcend this lifetime? Well, I did. It’s pretty awesome.

I thought that by powering through my last few months as a high school teenager I would be released into the world as a mature, motivated college student.

I now laugh at my own ignorance.

You see, just because I graduated high school does not mean I suddenly have my life figured out. I’m currently enrolled in college and I’m still not sure what I want to study. To make matters worse, I don’t care. I finally understand the concept of “senioritis.” It is the cruel period of time (usually occurring during senior year) in which one does not give a rat’s…well, you know.

It’s not that I don’t care about my grades, my life, or my future. I do. I just don’t currently have the motivation to do anything about any of it. I’m aware that my grades are slowly slipping, but I’m not putting my best effort in my assignments or exams. I’m aware that I’m almost finished with my A.A. degree and that I need to figure out my major, but I’m not doing any soul-searching to discern what I should study. I’m aware that I should be writing my sociology term paper instead of this blog post, yet here I am, over 480 words later, not caring.

When did I get so lazy?

I know for certain that I’m not the only human being who deals with these issues. Self-motivation is a difficult virtue for anyone to master on their own. Usually, people get a little nudge of inspiration from someone else first. If anybody out there is reading this, I could use some help. I could really use a little nudge.

A Virtuous Life

Kindness. 

Compassion. 

Humility. 

Patience. 

Unconditional love. 

 

These are the virtues which I want to exercise fully, every day of my life. 

 

People often remark about my kindness towards others, but here’s the thing. I do not want to simply act kindly towards others or merely do kind things for others. I want honest, genuine kindness to be intermingled with every fiber of my being. I want to be kind. I do not want to consciously think about doing a good deed for another. I want it to be in my nature. 

God, please grant me the grace to be kind. 

 

It is all too easy for me to scowl at the man who cuts me off in traffic, or to roll my eyes at my mother when she makes a lame joke, or to blow of my fellow Christian brothers’ and sisters’ outlooks on things. I do not want to be that way. I do not want those reactions to be first nature. I want it to pain me when I am being anything less than understanding.

Maybe that man in traffic had a horrible day at work and just wanted to get home to see his family. Maybe my mother just wants to make me laugh as hard as I did when I was a child, when she’d make a silly face or use a goofy voice. Maybe my Protestant brothers and sisters are as in love with their faith as I am with mine, and they just want me to understand their beliefs. I want to understand everyone. I do not want to be quick to judge. Understanding does not necessarily mean agreeing with or commending one’s actions nor insights, but it does warrant compassion. 

God, please grant me the grace to be compassionate. 

 

The world does not revolve around me. I know that, but human nature makes it all too easy to forget. When things do not go my way, I often wallow in the misery of my misfortune and harden my heart. When I spend all my time focusing on myself, I have no room to focus on Christ.

I want to make room for Christ. 

Better yet, I want to give Christ all the room! Every place in my mind, each spot in my heart, every ounce of my whole being–I want it to be Yours, Lord. After all, it is not about me. It is all about Jesus! 

God, please grant me the grace to be humble. 

 

Tick tock. 

Tick tock. 

Tick tock. 

Time. Hours. Minutes. 

Seconds. 

Moments. 

Tick tock. 

I have very little patience. Time is something which can set me over the edge. Things which cannot or will not be accomplished in a short amount of time make me frustrated. I’m getting impatient with myself right now as I struggle to find something to say. 

Tick tock. 

Enough. 

I am not the master of time, nor is time the master of me. The Lord is master of all, and His timing is perfect. I want to trust in Him more. 

God, please grant me the grace to be patient. 

 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16 

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. 

We are sinners. We fall down. We make mistakes. We fail to be the perfect people God created us to be. What causes this? I think it’s fear. 

And inconsiderateness. 

And close-mindedness. 

And pride. 

And impatience. 

And “loving” with a personal agenda. 

These thoughts used to depress me, but now I feel inspired. I want to be the person God created me to be. I want to strive to be perfect, just as my Heavenly Father is perfect. I will continue to fall down. I will continue to make mistakes. However, I know that God’s everlasting and unconditional love will lift me up. God will offer me His guiding hand, and I will gladly embrace it. 

I want to love others the way the Lord loves us. 

God, grant me the grace to love unconditionally, just as you love us unconditionally. 

 

Please grant me the grace to live a life which honors and glorifies You. 

Amen. 

Einstein Says Everybody Is a Genius

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein

I first enrolled in classes at my local community college when I was only a sophomore in high school and fifteen years old. Since then, I have completed a total of twelve courses, averaging a grade of an A or B in each. I am currently enrolled in three more courses–one math and two sciences–currently holding high B’s and an A. I am an excellent student, as my transcripts and past grades have shown.

Yet to the leaders of our modern-day education system, all I’ve accomplished still is not enough.

You see, I am an extremely visual, hands-on, active learner. I cannot simply read something and retain it, or hear something and understand it. I have to have it thoroughly shown, clearly drawn-out, and explained before I finally grasp it; but once I do grasp it, it stays with me and I become a walking encyclopedia about that particular topic. For example, ethics was a difficult class for me to get into because the material itself was–to be blunt–extremely boring. However, my teacher was exceptional and had a massive amount of talent. She was able to utilize interactive learning and exercises so I was able to truly grasp each ethical approach we studied. Now I can tell you all about the details of egoism or about the philosopher Immanual Kant or about what it means to be a sentient being, and that is all thanks to a brilliant teacher who actually CARED ABOUT LEARNING.

Oddly enough, that is a trait which most leaders in the educational system lack today: the care for actual learning. Everything now is SAT this and ACT that. I often hear the usual “you won’t get into a good college if your SAT scores don’t improve,” as well as “you will never get accepted for that hefty scholarship if your ACT scores don’t at least reach this specific minimum.”

SAT this. ACT that.

You know what I have to say? ENOUGH.

Enough of this conformity and confinement. Everyone is a genius in their own way. Everyone can learn in their own way. Everyone can succeed in their own way. Stop trying to make us all prove our worth in the same way.

^This is what it looks like to set the majority up for failure. It’s time that we overthrow this vicious dictatorship of standardized test scores. I demand more than what I am being offered in terms of education. I deserve more than what my standardized test scores are allowing, because–in spite of what they convey to society–I am a smart person.

Let me show it in the ways I can best.

Lenten Reflections

What are you giving up for Lent? 

Those seven words have brought me many mixed emotions growing up. Being raised Catholic, Lent has been a regularly celebrated season in my household. I always thought I understood exactly what it was. We pick something to give up for the 40 week days in between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday and we suffer through it. Right?

WRONG. So wrong.

What Lent is NOT About

Lent is not about cutting things out of our lives completely for five and a half weeks and feeling miserable about it the entire time. It’s not about trying to prove to ourselves that we have self-control. It’s not about trying to impress God with our awesome ability to sacrifice material things.

It’s not about us. 

Lent is about Him.

The reason we give things up for Lent is to humble ourselves before Christ. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us–He died on the cross for our sins so that we could be redeemed. Nothing can ever exceed that.

We make sacrifices each Lent to honor Him and glorify His most perfect, sacrificial love for us. Our small sacrifices–whether it be giving up our smart phones, cutting sweets out of our diets, unplugging our televisions, etc–are all ways in which we can draw closer to Christ.

Lent is a time of preparation. It is a solemn season, yes, but it is by no means depressing. Our sacrifices should be made with joyful hearts because they are our stepping stones toward Christ.

“If Lent was just about giving up stuff then I wouldn’t find any grace. . .

But because Lent is about life with Jesus Christ, these crosses, these small inconveniences or struggles help me grow in virtue and holiness. They help me become a whole person. They make me come alive.”

Ryan Miller, LifeTeen author

Are you ready to come alive with Christ this Lent?