I got lost my first day.
I shouldn’t have. A friend had given me the grand tour of the campus. After I received my schedule, my daddy and I mapped out my day, from class to class, building to building. I should have known where I was going.
But after I grinned at Mom for the first day picture and ventured onto the sidewalk, I lost my way. I panicked, of course, and circled half the campus before finding myself back where I started, with my intended destination a simple step past the clock tower.
I thought I knew what I was getting into when I registered to attend that large secular college after I graduated homeschool high school, but I had no idea what the next two years would hold.
That first night I was up until midnight, stressing, sitting in bed, course schedules strewn all around me. I stared at test dates and assignments lists and readings-to-be-completed and cried until my daddy came home to hold me and tell me everything was going to be all right.
“There’s too much to do! I’ll never get all this done!”
“Pace yourself,” were his words of advice.
It got easier as day melted into day, month into month, semester into semester. Mom drove me for the first year. Then I got my license and discovered singing along to the radio was a great way to fortify myself during that long drive.
I grew stronger from hefting heavy tomes supposedly teeming with knowledge, but more so I developed some street smarts (literally). I learned that my petite self stood no chance in the hallway right after classes let out, so a minute of dawdling at my desk gathering my binder and books was a must. I learned turning a megawatt smile on a professor was a great way to become a focal point in future classes (something that could be a good or bad thing). I learned how to make good grades, but never compromise my integrity or my faith. I learned how to speak up for what I believed.
Some things I learned the right way (when your lab partner is loony, don’t try to argue, just smile, nod, and control the Bunsen burner). Some things I learned the hard way (always pack more pencils than you think you’ll need). I developed a sense for a strong thesis statement, realized that I was never going to find the definitive answer to what x equals, and reinforced a proven fact: I am an optimist.
My skill for recognizing clarity in my writing is greater now. I’m a tighter writer because of all those research papers. Though I still detest math, there’s one lesson that subject taught me: even if you dislike something, hard work does pay off. Finally, searching for the bright side enables me to work through the not-so-fun.
I got lost on my first day and I got lost along the way. I’m not sure if I have even yet learned how to pace myself, because I still stress and worry and repent and repeat. But what’s the most important thing I learned from two years of community college? That question bounced around my brain for days before I tossed my cap in the air and waved goodbye to that college forever, Associates degree and acceptance letter to a small Christian school in my hand. No matter where I am, God is with me. Countless reams of paper later, that lesson is just as timeless every time I re-learn it.