It is already that time again- that time where Lauren sums up her college experience because another benchmark has come and gone, this time the most important benchmark of all- the tipping of the scale between semesters- final exam week and all that comes with it.

I am going home. In two and a half days I will see my beloved Arizona for the first time since I left on August 21st. It has been four months, but in some ways it has felt like four year, four decades, even four centuries. I am so ready for Christmas. I switched the music in my dorm room over from Passenger’s new album to my favorite Christmas CD, a compilation of songs sung by a local church choir and given to my mom and me by a family friend. I have placed sugar cookie scented wax in my scent warmer and hot chocolate is never too far from my hands. My favorite time of year is October through February and all of the wonderful winter things that come with that time, and this year the most wonderful of those winter things is that I am finally able to go HOME.

Well, I usually post based on quotes, and this time it’s the wonderful Neil Gaiman who will be lending the words by which I will organize my thoughts.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” Neil Gaiman’s New Year Wish for 2012

So here’s to my mistakes and what I have learned from them.

Art:

I have been blessed. I attend Furman University, and my only responsibility is to be an artist. At the close of the semester, I have had the opportunity to originate a role in a world priemere play, I have been published on my writing professor’s education blog as a guest writer, as a peer with a fresh perspective, I have rehearsed original, unarranged music with the most fantastic symphonic band I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of, I have made solid copper from Aluminum filings and a strange blue liquid. I have created change, I have created images, I have created every day I have been here. And I have done so much of it wrong. I haven’t practiced enough, I haven’t delved deep enough into my characters, I haven’t revised as many times as I should have, and my measurements could be more precise. But I have learned from what I have created and I have been given the singular opportunity to continue to creating. I urge every one of you to experience the joy and passion that comes from creating your own art. It is truly the most beautiful thing.

Love:

I have loved, let us see if that is all. I am quick to love. I was not taught in my youth how to guard myself against my own affections. I have fallen quickly in love and I have lost that love- I have battled for the ability to hold and kiss and pour myself into another human being, to feel the warmth of someone else beside me, literally and figuratively. I have entered battlegrounds unexpectedly and without preparation, and I have failed so many people so many times over. But I have had someone look at me from across a room like I am worth crossing that room for. I have spent hours talking about so many things that it felt as though between me and the other person we must have solved world hunger. I have been given the compliment of attention where I sought none as a reminder that often love finds us when we stop looking. I have been brave and passionate and impulsive and stupid and I have had my heart broken but I have learned how to dust myself off with grace and dignity and make friendships from romances when the sparks fanned out. When I forget, as I often do, and look at the lack of romantic love as a cold and broken thing in my life, I seek to find those moments that prove love’s existence, that even in all the mistakes I have made, love has grown in spite of itself, and will continue to grow, even if it is not in the way I want or expect.

Work:

I have pushed myself. I have promised myself to two jobs, one as a freshman blogger and the other as a notetaker in my Theatre 101 class. I have pursued a double major in two disparate fields. I have sought to keep music in my life. Balancing my schedule has been a challenge, and I have failed often. I missed my first interview for a May X program, I skipped Mass because I was too tired or had too much homework, I was not able to perform with the symphonic band due to a conflict with a theatre performance. I am in a constant state of learning to balance my academic life with my social life, to get enough sleep, to see other human beings, and to maintain a steady GPA I can be proud of. I always laugh when people ask me if I am feeling the stress yet. I am a double major active in the music department who wants to study abroad as much as possible and learn an all new language rather than taking a one semester intermediate course in one of the two other languages she already knows, and is entirely convinced that she can maintain friendships and even a relationship while doing all of those things. My life is stress. I don’t even feel it anymore because it is a constant state of being (I write as I am muttering Chemistry equations for my last final Monday morning under my breath). But I am happy. I would not be content if I gave up anything I am currently seeking to achieve. So instead of letting go of some part of my ideal college experience, I find myself constantly tuning and refining the way that I work, and I am hopeful to learn from the mistakes I make and move forward, rather than holding myself back or sacrificing a part of the person that I want to be.

Family:

I have a big family, but I also have an expanded definition. Yes, my blood related family is exclusively my mother, and I like to think I have done right by her this semester, keeping in touch, keeping her in the loop, and still bring almost every problem, big or small, to someone far more wise and intuitive than I am. But I feel that I am a part of other families too. My GCA (high school) family is small, but it is mighty. I have lost connection with someone that I cared very deeply for, but I have also managed to maintain contact with the three young women and the teachers who helped fill even the darkest moments of high school with hope. I have strengthened the ties that bind us rather than weakening them. I have been blessed with frequent Skype calls and even a very intrepid visitor. We continue to exist together, despite spatial separation, and as I prepare to go home, I cannot help but think how wonderful it will be to see all of them. And then there is my Paladin family, which is new and bright and not yet settled into the comfort that the others have taken on. But I have met a young woman who inspires me to improve my faith and my French, who is my closest friend on campus and someone that I can turn to with anything, despite the short amount of time we have known one another. There is a young woman whose bright smile and never-ending kindness make my day, right along with her Christmas themed ukulele strumming, a young man who is quick to give me a starburst or a Reese’s whenever his mother sends a care package, a young man who makes lunch time a ritual and a vacation from the stress of the day, and a young woman whose chemistry studying prowess and argyle sweaters make even the days before exams sweeter. There’s the flute studio, filled to the brim with amazing and talented individuals, the sisters of SAI and the brothers of PMA who have made me feel so welcome, my hallmates who fill the evenings with laughter, the entire theatre department with its plethora of opportunities, connections, faculty, alumnae, and peers who make college life spectacular in every way. These are my families here. These are the people that make the mistakes I make easier to learn from, easier to appreciate for what they are, because they remind me that I am never alone.

So there it is, Furman in a nutshell, the whole semester summed up. It’s been a great one, surprising, sometimes frustrating, but always worthwhile. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and have a wonderful holiday filled with the people you love. Until the next!

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