I Volunteered As Tribute – And I’m Still Fighting for the Victory I Deserve

I am exhausted. I am worn out. But I am not finished; I have a dream to chase.

Why am I wearing myself out to pursue a fairly vague dream? It’s a loaded question, but certainly not a load of B. S. (not the way you’re thinking, anyway).

If you don’t know my story, you’re not alone. Not many do; I don’t talk about it much. And why should I need to, now that I’ve graduated from college with a degree in English? The possibilities are endless – right? I can do whatever I want, now that I can wave that diploma around. Right? As long as I change the name of my blog (again) and apply for every editing job I can find on LinkedIn – RIGHT?

Sorry – wrong. I’m not quite finished yet. With college, I mean.

Have I confused you yet? Good. That was my intention. It’s called a lead. And now I expand on the vagueness of my previous statements. That might just leave you more confused, but that births the opportunity for you to start a conversation with me about it. If you want to. But you probably won’t.

Let me start by admitting something to whoever happens to stumble upon this post: it has taken me a very, very long time to put it together and adequately prepare it for your eyes. And I don’t use adjectives like ‘very’ too often anymore. That’s why I haven’t posted since January (you’re heartbroken, I know). It takes time to process truth before you can write about it. And what I’m about to ‘talk’ about, it isn’t even the whole story. The world isn’t quite ready for that nonsense (and, as long as we’re being honest, neither am I).

Notice my use of the universal ‘we.’ I’m inviting you into my circle, temporarily. Sit around this figurative campfire with me while I tell you at least a fraction of my story. It’s not that interesting, but even though I don’t have a nice plot twist or a tear-jerking ending for you yet, every story does start with a beginning, and I at least know that well enough to tweak it, type it up and share it with you.

Whether you read it or not, that’s up to you. I’ll never know. That’s the beauty behind the Internet: if you know me, and read about my life, and want to judge me for what I say, you never have to do it to my face. If you don’t know me, and still want to judge me, and choose to comment and let me know so, I can just ignore you.

My story starts with a friend I met online.

Calm down, it’s not what you’re thinking. After finishing high school a semester early and sitting through half a semester of community college gen eds (snore), I realized (or at that point my mom reminded me) I still needed to find a roommate to live with once I left for ‘real’ college in the fall. I (naturally) hopped onto my university’s Class of 2014 Facebook group and hovered over the discussion boards, zeroing in on the one created for other girls to post about searching for roommates. So I posted, too – and a few people messaged me to start conversations, hoping we’d be compatible. Only one conversation lasted more than a few days, and that fellow novel-writing, Gilmore Girls-loving future Olivetian would become and remain my roommate for the next three years of my life.

Living with her was life-changing, and even after deciding to ‘separate’ and live apart for a year, I still consider her a friend I would not still be here without. It was hard living with her at first, though, watching her fall in love with her core education courses, hearing the plans she had for her life, knowing she was going to be a great teacher and realizing I didn’t know if I could be a great writer, or a great anything. I loved her; I still do. But then, I hated that she had such a vibrant, solid dream.

For years I wanted to study nutrition, but the excuses always outweighed the reasons. I didn’t want to be my mother’s shadow. I didn’t want people telling me I couldn’t do it because I’m terrible at math and science. Most of all, I didn’t want anyone to look at me and wonder why ‘such a good writer’ was giving up her dream of becoming a novelist to study dietetics.

First of all, who says I’ve given up on that dream? Of course I haven’t. I still work on my current book as often as I can, when all the priorities that fall before that one have been crossed off the list. Second of all, stop saying I’m a good writer. Either you’re a writer or you’re not, and it’s no secret that I’m a writer (honestly, just Google me. I’m not being vain; I’m being honest). The problem with my author’s ambition is that, for years, that’s all I thought I could do. The only thing anyone ever said was, “I can’t wait until you publish your first book.” Really, I could. Wait, I mean. Publishing a novel seemed too easy to me, too probable. Most significantly, the idea of publishing my work didn’t scare me. It excited me, but it didn’t frighten me. And that’s why I found myself so restless, so hungry for something more.

A dream isn’t worth fighting for if it doesn’t absolutely terrify you. I figured that out the moment I walked into the registrar’s office and declared a second major. It was a big deal then, because even doing that threw me so far outside my comfort zone it made me dizzy. While I shivered out there in the unfamiliar air of the unknown, though, I decided I didn’t want to stay curled up in the boundaries the world had set for me so long ago. I wanted to stay in the unfamiliar darkness and breathe in that air until it became part of my new safe haven. I didn’t want to crawl back into boredom; not yet.

I stood up and decided to face what scared me – then, and many, many times after that. That didn’t mean my dream was any less frightening. If anything, the deeper I ventured into the unknown, the more often I found myself afraid. But it became something more than that; in a way, it gave me a sense of thrill I’d never known I’d deprived myself of for so long.

In becoming a dietetics major, I established a dangerous – and exhilarating – relationship with fear. I had to, or I knew I would never make it over the hurdles of the undergraduate dietetics program that appeared one by one before my watering eyes.

If you’re going to judge me, now might be when you’d start.

Declaring a major in dietetics at a four-year university is exactly like the meme that appropriately follows this sentence.

I Volunteer2

 

I realized very quickly (there goes my uncharacteristic use of ‘very’ again) that declaring a major in dietetics was quite literally like changing my name to Katniss. CALM DOWN, I am not comparing my former dietetics program to surviving the Hunger Games or any affiliated persons to President Snow. They are not trying to kill off their tributes (I mean students). In fact, they want as many majors to make it out alive as possible – and for good reasons. Kudos to them for that.

But in all seriousness (okay, I can’t actually ever be serious for more than a paragraph, I’m sorry), I had to fight battle after battle if I had any hope of making it to graduation having earned two degrees. Scroll back up to the first few paragraphs of this post. Are you with me now? The ugly truth is, I fought for my dream, I became a tribute in a sea of dreamers just as capable (or incapable) of reaching for similar goals as I was, and I did not succeed. In all essence, I, at least temporarily, failed.

Now you understand why I can’t compare declaring a dietetics major to the Hunger Games, because if they were synonymous, I’d be – you guessed it – dead.

The difference between the Hunger Games and the standard four years it takes to earn a Bachelor of Science in dietetics is that you don’t have to quit once your time is up. And you certainly don’t have to wait for everyone else to drop out (a.k.a., die) before you can call yourself a victor. I did not walk across that stage this past weekend to receive a degree in dietetics, but by no means have I given up on that dream. Instead, I’m choosing to spend thousands of extra dollars to finish the 14 credit hours that now stand between me and a B. S. degree.

But why? WHY spend so much extra time, energy, money – all things I do not possess in excess – on finishing a second degree when I already have one?

That’s why they call it a dream. Not only is it potentially mortifying, almost like a nightmare in disguise; it doesn’t always align with the most basic logical thought processes. In retrospect, it makes absolutely no sense for me to do what I’m doing over the next six months: finishing the degree I started two and a half years ago. After all I’ve been through, the only thing that would make sense would be to quit.

However, you have to know this: I do not quit. Ever.

It took me three tries to pass general chemistry; I did not quit.

I barely knew how to boil water my first semester in a foods class; it was embarrassing, but I did not quit.

Standing in front of a room full of people I knew hated me, presenting a semester’s worth of research I did not choose to conduct, telling as much of my story as I knew and remembered myself, I struggled. I had just found out a significant influential figure in my life had died and I had to somehow pretend it was okay so I could carry out the task I said I’d do.

I wanted to, but I did not quit.

When things fell apart, I did not quit.

And I won’t quit now, even though textbooks are expensive and math is hard and I’ll probably break a hundred test tubes in the next month.

It’s my dream. If my dream hasn’t given up on me, why should I give up on it?

There is a crowd of people out there shaking their heads, saying I’m out of my mind for thinking I can still stride down the same path as before my life turned into a hurricane. Yes, the Internet is a beautiful thing. Anyone who thinks I’m going to quit, I can just ignore.

For all those out there who think I’m not going to keep chasing after what I hunger for, there are a thousand more who know I will. For all those out there who think I’m going to fail, I know how you feel. There have been times I regretted making the decision to pursue dietetics as a career. There have been times I was deathly afraid to fail. But I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve proven myself wrong. With every failure comes another chance to succeed.

In December, I’ll have my degree. And that will be enough for me to consider myself a victor in this real-life Hunger Games.

I changed my mind: I like this metaphor. I think I’ll stick with it, or die trying.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Olivetian Denial

I’m pretty sure it happens to all of us high school seniors out there (I still sort of am one of them, in a way). We’re filling out all these applications, writing all these essays, and making all these choices. But all of it still seems unreal. What goal are we working toward? What’s with all thse Class of 2014 sweatshirts and $200 deposits? Well, the answer is simple: college. And the problem? We’re all in denial.

I’ve wanted to go to Olivet since I was about four, and could understand the general idea of what college was. My mom had been a professor there for a long time—a few years before I was born, maybe even before she married my dad. (I’m not completely sure of the whole timeline. Point: she’d been there for awhile. Not to say she’s old. I’m just going to move on now.) She used to bring me along to her classes when I wasn’t at my babysitter. I remember several times in particular when she brought me along with her to her office and let me play with the fake model food she used for classes and demonstrations, etc. That was my favorite part.

I don’t remember when exactly I decided that’s where I wanted to go. She quit working there shortly after my brother was born and never went back. I always thought it would be cool if she did (and it would sure cost a lot less to send me there), but she’s got too many other things to occupy her time (i.e., this, and being a mom, and the usual). But somehow, I never lost the connection I’d developed to the school itself, or the idea that I could go there someday, too.

My cousins were the first to follow the tradition our family has sort of developed (since plenty of them went to and graduated from there long before our time) and started there when I was about nine. We went to Homecoming every year to watch Brad and Brandon play basketball. We got to see virtually EVERYONE from my mom’s side of the family at those games. I loved going back to Olivet every year. All the purple and gold excited me in a way that I could never explain. I wanted that school to be mine.

After my cousins graduated, we went to Olivet a lot less. After the last Homecoming basketball game we ever went to, maybe in the seventh or eighth grade, I didn’t go back for a very long time, though the idea was planted in my mind for a long time afterward.

And then, my junior year, our youth worship band planned a trip to go down to Olivet to play a two-hour set at a 24-hour prayer vigil they were having in one of the chapels. It was the most fun I’d had in a long time. I ate dinner/breakfast at three o’clock in the morning, sang my heart out to Jesus, and made a decision that set my heart in a place of peace for a very long time.

I’d been tossing around the idea of going someplace other than Olivet—nowhere specific, really; just somewhere else. I’d had the idea of Olivet in my head for so long that it was starting to seem old and repeatative to me. I never felt as if it was being forced on me—my parents would never make me go to a college I didn’t want to go to. At the same time, I knew they wanted me to. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted.

I remember walking through the ice and snow at nine o’clock at night, heading for the chapel we’d be playing in. Jackson and I had been talking about college on the way there (he was still deciding between ONU and Loyola—he chose where God led him to go, as he should have), and my mind had been on the subject ever since. But as we were walking, I looked around. And I realized that, despite the darkness and cold and my lack of mittens, I felt safe and warm somehow; I felt right.

Olivet is sure to remind you on a regular basis these five glorious words: “We believe. You belong here.” At that moment, walking through campus, I heard God whispering to me, “You belong here.” And the whole night that I was there, I kept praying, silently and in whispers. Was this where I was meant to be when the time came? Was I wrong to think I would fit in anywhere else?

I chose Olivet. I filled out an application in September and got my acceptance letter two months following. But I kind of just set it aside and said, “Cool. I’m going to Olivet.” The idea of me going there had been embedded in my brain so long ago that I didn’t even know I was in denial. I’m filling out scholarships now, because I was in denial about my future through every report card I received in high school. I have a sweatshirt, gloves, mugs, pens; everything. I just got my letter about first Orientation on the eleventh of June.

I’m still in denial. When I come out of it, I’ll let you know.

Love&hugs, Meg♥