Summer, as always, has ended too quickly – how can it not? I’m now staring my senior year at Carolina straight in the face. The first of the lasts have began and nostalgia for the past has already started to creep its way in, bringing with it both good memories and sadness.
I have a year to go until the real goodbyes begin, but I do have to bid farewell to this summer as I head to class tomorrow morning. Unexpectedly, it was a great one. It’d be really easy to say what I did – I interned with the News & Observer in Raleigh and lived in the McMansion after spending about a month at home in Florida. However, that really tells you nothing about my summer.
I recently heard a friend say the best way to tell about a summer is to highlight your five best experiences and your three worst. I’ll try to do so as honestly as possible and, in doing so, might create some kind of closure as I move onto the next chapter of life.
- A story I did on abortion clinics for the N&O. Long story short, I used records requests to look into the politics behind abortion clinic suspensions in North Carolina. I had to deal with not-so-nice PIOs and a rushed deadline, but the story that came out, I believe, presented readers with more truth behind a heated political debate. It’s tough to say if this was my favorite story I did, but it was the toughest and probably the most memorable.
- One of my high school girls deciding to follow Christ. This girl was the definition of the farthest kid out. I’ll also write about her under my ‘worst’ section. She came to Young Life camp for the second time this summer, and I watched as she completely turned off to the gospel by the end of the week. However, two weeks later, I received a text message telling me she had decided to say yes, if I knew what she meant. The change I’ve seen in her since has been absolutely incredible and not only encourages me that what I do is worth it, but also that the Lord can work however and whenever He wants.
- Making new, unexpected friends. I lived in the McMansion (my new house) this summer with six subleasers and one other girl I’m living with during the school year. I went into the living arrangement not really knowing the subleasers and planning on merely co-existing with them over the summer; in my mind, I already had my friends and didn’t need any more. I was wrong. I quickly became good friends with two of the girls and then spent most of my free time with them. While I had a ton of fun with them, our friendships also developed depth as the summer went on, and I learned a lot from living with them – about myself but mostly about community. I learned what it looks like to come home, expecting people to be there waiting for you and what it looks like to be committed to a group without expressing that commitment. I can’t say that I’ve been that friend before or expressed those kinds of relationships. Although I’m confident in our friendships as we now live in separate places, saying goodbye to them as roommates was bittersweet.
- Following Christ alone. This one sounds strange at first, but as I reflect back on my summer, it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me. I’ve spent most of my time as a Christian void of a real community. This summer, some of my ‘Christian community’ friends were in and out and around, but really, none of them were a consistent part of my entire summer. It put me in a position where I chose Christ, not because it was what my peers were doing but because I wanted to. I went to church alone almost every Sunday and didn’t spend very much time talking about my relationship with Christ. However, I discovered that in the absence of all the bible studies, intentional conversations and Christian paraphernalia, my relationship with Christ didn’t falter; it thrived. I knew Christ intimately and desired him passionately – alone. While I know that following Christ without community is unsustainable, these past few months provided affirmation that I’m serious about my faith and that it’s still just as real as ever to me.
- Refinding freedom. Somewhere along the line, I had lost my sense of freedom. I became enslaved to the world, to the crowd, to success, to my friends, to conventional definitions of what it meant to be a Christian. I lived in a narrowly defined box and I followed an abstract set of guidelines regarding how I should live. And I was miserable. I felt torn in every which way and more than a little bit lost, although I didn’t know why. This summer changed that. I found the freedom to be myself, to doubt, to change my mind, to laugh, to do the things I wanted, to be alone, to say no, to say yes. In some ways, I’m less sure about a lot of things. In others, I feel much more confident. Either way, I feel like I’m much closer to the Lord, much happier and much healthier.
- Back to my Young Life girl. One of the most frustrating periods of the summer was the end of camp and the two weeks afterwards. This girl was rude to me, insulted me, and – probably what made things the worst – left camp for the second year in a row seemingly unchanged. She tried my patience and tried it again, and I was about to give up when I received a text telling me she had made the best decision of her life.
- A frustrating week at work. I was stuck in the office most of the week and was tired of making phone calls. It was that week that I realized I’m not sure what I’m doing with my life – and I don’t have to be. Again, it was a freeing realization to know that at 21 years old, I don’t have to have everything figured out. (Luckily, it was only one week and I loved most of my time during my internship!)
- Being afraid to come back to Chapel Hill. As I said earlier, I was home for the first month of summer. After laying at the beach and hanging out with my friends and family for a few weeks, I didn’t want to go back to Chapel Hill, which I associated with stress. I was dreading it. However, being here this summer – which definitely didn’t seem glamorous the night before I came back – was one of the most fun periods of my life and changed the way I feel about where I’m going to be at this one last (maybe – who knows?) year.