Art by Peau Porotesano
As I sat down to write this, I was momentarily confronted with the fear of being authentic and vulnerable. Then I realized that these fears plague most people, and how much that bothers me. So now, instead of perpetuating the submission to these fears, I only wish to share my most sincere and honest reflections for whatever they are worth.
If I could go back and give myself advice on the first day of college, the first thing I would remind myself of is one simple phrase: “It’s not all about me.”
My own self-consumption prevented me from serving others in numerous capacities first semester. My world was me-focused instead of being others-focused.
As human beings, when we are thrown into a new environment, our internal social survival mechanism is on high alert. We’re uncomfortable, and, logically, we strive to reverse that. We innately attempt to establish a comfort level with our new surroundings and the people we’re with. For me, this led to being far more concerned with my personal well-being than the well-being of others. I regret this. I missed out on opportunities to help a hurting friend, or to be there for someone struggling with the adjustment to college. My self-absorption blinded me to the needs of others.
Secondly, I would tell myself how important it is to journal consistently. I’ve only started doing this recently, and it has proven to be crucial to fruitful reflection and spiritual growth. To be clear, the journaling I’m talking about doesn’t have to be the classic “Dear Diary.” I think the last interaction I had with an actual “diary” was when I stole my sister’s pink and purple floral notebook when I was eight in an attempt to figure out what boy she had a crush on. As you can imagine, I thought diaries were dumb and girly for a while.
I’d like to think that I’ve matured a little bit since then (I certainly hope so), and now I keep a small black journal that I write in almost every night. Sometimes I just write down one thought, quote or verse per day. Sometimes I write a letter to God. Sometimes I write down questions I have. And sometimes I simply record what transpired in my day.
Regardless of what I write, learning to carve out time for reflection and making those reflections permanent by putting pen to paper has been tremendously valuable. However, it’s not easy to do. It requires taking a moment of pause, a moment of stillness. Undoubtedly, there are few things more difficult to do than to be still in a world that never stops moving.
In brainstorming for this article, I thought it might be wise to look back through my journal for inspiration. As I began flipping through the pages, I came across countless lessons I’ve learned and prayers that have been answered. Had I not written these things down, valuable opportunities to learn and grow would have floated out of reach. Documenting how God continually blesses me has reminded me of His unending faithfulness.
Now when I look through my journal in times of struggle or doubt, God’s relentless pursuit of me is revealed.
The final piece of advice I would give myself is the most important, and it needs little explanation. It reiterates the idea that everything is not all about me, and it highlights God’s strength instead of my own. While I don’t always do a great job of this, never once have I regretted putting my pride aside to follow this divine counsel: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
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