Friday, December 30, 2011

What Happens Next

As the year comes to a close, radio stations and TV talk shows only have one thing on their minds: reflection, resolutions, and rehashing.  The top 10 songs, the top 3 box office hits, and the best of the political dramas and comedies that seem to be the mainstay of the news nowadays. 

I, however, am tired of reflecting.  Even so, I was browsing back through old blog drafts that never fully came to be.  I came accross one that was titled "Fare Thee Well" and I was very curious as to what my internal musings on goodbyes were considering how many I've made in the last year.  Turns out, the post was blank.  Which is just as well.  Saying goodbye and hello means there are ends and beginnings. 
That wasn't the case for me.  Life was more of an ongoing transition from mountain-biking to nannying to scholarships to summer to college.  Not that these events are of equal significance but just that I can't say goodbye because even if they aren't in the present, my past accounts for a good portion of me. 

The hellos are rather hard to pinpoint as well.  Obviously, I said a lot of them as I started college and got acquainted with the 600 freshmen + upperclassmen.   Yet I can never remember the exact moment when we went from a familiar face to a friendly one to a best friend one.  Some people make me feel like we have been friends forever while others continue to surprise me with hidden pieces of themselves. 

I really don't have much else to say.  If you want to know what my year was like, look back through some old posts.  You might not get the details of what went on, but you'll see the reflection  of them in the ideas, thoughts, and emotions.  Life was beautiful and disastrous.  I had a stereotypically cliche senior year while internally fighting against man-made concepts of success.  Needlesstosay, 2011 was interesting.  Probably the best thing that happened though, is that I realized this year wasn't all that special.  Every year will have its excitements, dissapointments, and lessons learned.  Which is one of the reasons life is worth living.  You just never know what is going to happen next.

And I got my heart
Set on
What happens next
I got my eyes wide
It's not over yet
"This is Home" by Switchfoot

Friday, December 23, 2011

Timelines, learning curves, grace, and Christmas.

After months of trying to squeeze 70 productive minutes out of every hour, it feels very odd to be sitting here, at home, in front of my Christmas tree, with nothing to do.  Of course, I have a list of people to see, books to read, thoughts to think, and things to do.  All those things are on hold until after Christmas though.  Even all my wrapping is done.

So I will now take advantage of this time to reflect on the past semester.  I've been putting that off too, but I need to close the last chapter to start on the next one. 

I really enjoy it when facebook changes things up on people.  As soon as anything changed, my newsfeed becomes littered with angry statuses about hating change and progress.  The funny part, is they are still using Facebook to express their bitter little opinions.  I am personally very fond of the new timeline feature.

This is because I view the present in terms of the future.  I like picturing my life in timeline form and seeing how impactful this semester could be on the rest of my life while keeping it in perspective that it was only an eighth of my college experience and a minuscule fraction of my life as a whole.  If God can teach me so much in just a few months, I can't wait to see what the next semester has in store.

I have learned to depend fully on God this semester.  Correction:  I've learned that I have to depend fully on God if I ever hope to fulfill His plan for me or maintain sanity.  The actual practice of this is less than stellar. 

I've learned to accept being a work in progress and release perfection.  I've learned to let down mental barriers in order to appreciate others more fully.  I've learned the value of alone time for reflection and God but also that introspection can be selfish and I need a whole lot less of it than I once thought. 

I've learned that God is constant and while life is not, I don't have to force it to be.  If I let God be the source of my love, joy, and peace than I can let go of everything else.

Sometimes you read the textbook, pay attention in class, study like crazy, and still fail the test.  That's where I'm at right now (hopefully not in academics) but in life.  I am absorbing so many new experiences and knowledge but I know that I still won't pass the test of putting these things into practice.

Which is why there is grace from God, and a new covenant embodied in Jesus Christ, and this truly is the best thing ever.  It's also why Christmas (even minus the anticipation and coldness and snow) is so special. 

Yours truly,
Chloe

P.S. I just re-read my Christmas post from last year around this time.  The same tensions exist and probably always will.  Except this year, I'm not at the point of breaking.  Slowly but surely, God is working within me.  Even the littlest bit of progress means there is still hope.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Only Thing Constant in Life is Change

I wandered the slowly-vacated halls for the last hour until I realized it wasn't healthy.  I feel so incredibly conflicted.

I am excited to be going home and seeing family and friends.
I am so sad to not be able to see these dear people here for over a month.

I hate watching people leave.
Yet I want to be one of them.

One benefit of being a hall vagabond is that you pick up wisdom, along with free clothes and food, as you wander along.  One girl described this feeling as being so scary because not only are you leaving, you aren't sure what you are coming back to.

There will be a new roommate and new classes and a new schedule and new friends.
But I liked the old ones ever so much.

Change excites me, and it terrifies me.

Someone else described my inner turmoil to be a result of post-communal living disorder.  That's a big part of it.  Going from constant communication and interaction to a more minimal level of people is unsettling.

Unsettling.  That's what this is.

Yet there is always that lining in knowing that I have wonderful people to return to.  It wouldn't hurt this much to say goodbye if I didn't come to know and love these people so deeply.
It's worth it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Legos Life Lesson

I loved playing with legos as a small child.  Yet considering that I usually started my construction projects in the middle of the highest traffic area in my house, they inevitably got broken.  Have you ever stepped on a Lego?  Now you can understand my parents' pain.  This also might explain why I went to kindergarten so early. 

Anyways, the thing with broken legos is that once I came back to see my little house lying in little pieces and bricks, I didn't just pack them back in the box and move on to a new activity.  This was a chance at something new, something bigger, something better.  Soon, my dinky 10 by 15 Lego brick house became a towering hotel.  with attached parking garage.  and pet salon. and grocery store. 

Brokenness feels like, well, it feels like your soul has just been smashed to smithereens.  Everything constant about yourself that used to give you peace and security is laying in little pieces on the ground and everyone around you is complaining that they hurt their poor little feet while stepping on the sharp shards of soul that used to be you.  Brokenness might feel like the end of the world.

It might just be the beginning of an even better world.  Everyone thinks their little Lego house is pretty sweet until they see the 5 star Hilton made of primary colors in brick form.  Perspective is everything.

Personally, I believe that you cannot have deep joy until you've experienced deep sorrow.   You can be ecstatic, excited, happy, but without having known what it is like to be apathetic, discouraged, and dismal you don't know how beautiful joy truly is.  Joy must be appreciated in order for it to reach it's full potential.

Maybe you are the towering hotel right now.  Just don't forget that its the lows that got you this high.  If you are in shatters on the ground, feeling trampled and bruised, don't go running back to your box to hide.  Let your brokenness build you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Unspoken

What happens to all of our unspoken thoughts?  Whenever I'm in group conversations I watch people's faces.  Sometimes I see their eyes light up, their lips part involuntarily, an idea about to release......but the moment passes and the conversation dominator rushes along to their next story and there is one more thought never to be heard.  Do all these unheard wishes and opinions simply die?  Or do they stay inside us, begging to be released but never given the oppurutunity?

Personally, I write them down and feel like I'm being heard, that I am understood.  Yet I begin to doubt.  I feel like I am sending imaginary letters to people through the thoughts in my head but I rarely actually say the things I would like to.  Maybe I never told that friend how much I appreciated them.  I never shared that once, their words saved me.  What would my life look like if I didn't avoid confrontation or awkward situations? What friendships would have been deepened and which would have disappeared?

Sometimes we don't have the address to mail these thoughts to.  How can I thank the stranger whose smile and random compliment made my day?  How can I tell a friend that I'm glad they were in my life when we haven't talked in years? 

I can't ever make up for all the words I've left unspoken.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Things I Believe

Usually, I would write a wordy rambling on each one of these.  My new goal for writing: be concise.  Here's one of my first attempts to consolidate my thoughts.

Things I Believe
I am who I am, no matter who I'm with or where I am.

My peace is not grounded in knowing everything will work out in the end, but knowing that even if it doesn't, God is still perfect in love and faithful to the end.

I am shaped by my past but not defined by it.

Compared to eternity, this life is very insignificant.

This life is insignificant when it comes to the things that don't affect eternity.  Sharing God's love and salvation and living out His will affect eternity and more than deserve my attention and effort.


I will often be wrong. It's better to admit when you are wrong than try to defend a lost cause.

I am responsible to the people in my life, but not for them.

To live in blissful denial: don't count the hours of sleep you get, cups of coffee you drink, or amount of time spent studying.

Being quiet and listening is as satisfying as getting to express yourself.

Thinking can both save and destroy you: use your thoughts wisely.

Being busy isn't a sign of productivity, achievement, or success. Nor does God use it to determine our worth.

Balance is beautiful.

People are worth it, every time.  Love is always worth the pain of caring.

If I won't give up on the people in my life, I won't give up on myself either.

Basing your self-perception off of how you interact with others is only half of who you are, a little introspection goes a long way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tick Tock

This post is over a year in the making.  Having said that, don't expect it to be great.  I'm just done waiting for it be better before I write it. 
I've always wanted to write about time.  Time fascinates me.  It is cursed and blessed in the same breath.  It is the one constant in our life and instead of being thankful for this smigeon of stability we either want it to go faster or slow down.

This is what I love about time: it doesn't listen to our unfounded whims.  It continues to march on at the same pace no matter what our feelings are regarding it.  On some nights, when friends are happy, and I'm exhausted from dancing, and the world is full of rainbows and chocolate chip cookies, we beg for time to just pause.  Give us a breath to soak in life. 

Then there are the nights when the world is ending.  You have been smashed by life and being broken has become a way of existence.  All you want is to be able to catch a breath.  It is on nights like these that we are so grateful that the seconds keep ticking by because it means that at least something moves on and maybe we can too.

At this point of my life, the days are extremely long.  It might be a result of my tendency to be a night owl combined with 8 oclock classes so I really am awake for a good portion of the day or that there is so much to do and experience that it seems inconievable that everything fits into 24 hours.  Yet the weeks fly by.  I've finished the first three months of college but it feels like summer just ended yestersday.

Thankfuls:
The amazing people I have met. 
The oppurtunities that continue to amaze and excite me. 
Warm blankets and hot coffee. 
The friends and family that I have to come home to. 
Amazing roommates that make sure I don't accidently hurt myself beyond repair.
 A beautiful place to live and learn. 
A loving God who is constant and faithful. 
Peace from knowing I am His.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Enjoy every second of it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Feeble Attempt

I like quotes.  Mostly because they do what I never can.  They  take a thought, an idea, an emotion and turn it into a sentence or two.  It usually takes me more like a paragraph or two.  Sometimes I browse the web for quotes when its a rainy day out like today and nothing is really pressing on my shoulders right now and I need some new ideas to fill my brain with.  The one above is a good example of your typical internet quote.  It is decently nice.  It is also decently egotistical.  I browsed a bit down the comments about this one and one read:  "Don't you ever forget, You Are Perfect!" 

That's a really nice thought.  A really nice thought that's really false.  You aren't perfect.  I'm not perfect.  We never will be.  I don't even have a good proportion of doing things right to messing up.  In fact, I'd estimate that I mess up 8.48 times for every one time that I actually do something right.  But that's just a rough guess. 

I'm okay with that.  I want to do better in every area of my life but there is something to be said for imperfection.  It makes us vulnerable.  It tears down some of judgment walls if we would just realize that everyone is just as broken as we are and we are just a group of fallen people feebly trying to hold each other up while resting in the incredible grace of the God who created and saved us. 

It also makes the small perfections in life even more beautiful.  The innocence of children is even more precious, the sincere smile from a stranger even more encouraging. 

We are wonderfully made and known by name by an incredible God, yes.  Perfect we are not.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Deafening Flood

I ordinarily have to force myself to get my western civilization reading done.  Today was no exception.  History will never excite me as much as its art, or learning about how we think, or even how to account for depreciation of assets.  Yet while trudging through the text today, I was reading about the Islamic infantry troops called Janissaries which consisted mostly of Christian boys that were recruited and raised to be Muslim and a part of elite military troops.  Which probably has a lot to be said about it but that's not what caught my attention.

 It was this line instead, "It was thought these troops would be extremely loyal to the sultan and the state because they owed their life and status to the sultan." 

How did they know that this status was so valuable that they would sacrifice their life to it?  Exactly how are powerful are the cultural standards that flood our vision and deafen our ears? Can they really convince us that there is some level we need to achieve and that it is worth every fiber of our being?

Yes.  They can and they will because they are sneaky.  No one hands you a slip of paper with rules and regulations for fitting in with this world.  Its not just from the magazines and TV and billboards all though those are certainly deserving of the criticism they receive for creating impossible ideals.  The thing is, those wouldn't exist if we didn't want them to.  They only work because we respond to them.  We want something to affirm us or deny us but either way give some stability of what is right. 

It doesn't have to be a negative thing.  We simply intrinsically gather information from the people and things around us to help us know what is valuable and true in this world.  Look around yourself.  What are your surroundings?  Who is around you?  They might not define you but they will create the definitions that you use to label yourself with.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Observation

People-watching, the nice word for staring absently at everyone around you, is incredibly interesting and telling.  As much as I love to observe those who surround me, I also like to self-watch.  I try to separate the me that is aware of my surroundings and motivations and internal thoughts from my actual actions.  I pretend that I am someone else and observe what I do in given circumstances.  It's a bit bizare but rather revealing.

Major Observation #1:  My reactions to happinness and stress and sadness and anger in life are all exactly the same.  When my emotions go to any extremes I generally isolate myself through headphones or location and scribble madly on a notebook or type wildly into this blog.

Major Observation #2:  Even though I write just as much when I am experiencing negative emotions as the positive ones, I rarely share the more "downer" pieces.  Mostly becaue I feel that my other writings aren't as good and the world has enough hurt without me adding to it.  This being said, it isn't too hard to figure out when I'm having a splendid day (like today).  It's a bit more tricky the other way around unless you belong to the small group of people that can read me with scary accuracy.

Minor Observation #3:  I actually don't have a minor observation.  Or another major one.  I just felt that if I had major observations than I should have minor ones as well.  For balance's sake. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Living Life Differently

She never was content with doing the same thing the same way more than once.  After she mastered tying her shoes, she had to do it faster and then with her eyes closed.  If she could do a trick on her scooter using her right foot, then it must be completed with the left.  Anyone can walk through the house with in the daylight or with the lights on but not many people can master the steep stairs in pitch darkness.  But she could. 

The English language was far to straight-forward, she made up her own modes of communication.  The inanimate objects that surround us must serve some higher purpose, she assigned them personalities and goals and gave life to a weary world. 

This world could not contain her, logic and gravity had no claim on her soul.  There were infinite lands to be explored and infinite ideas to be born. 

This wasn't a hectic rush to break social norms but an intentional oblivion to society's restrictive ideas of how to live.  This wasn't being an individual just for the sake of standing out in the crowd but forgetting that the crowd existed.  This was forgetting that the wind tangled others' hair and that the sun warmed others' faces.  This was forgetting that the map of life already had boundaries etched into it and a compass pointing everyone in the same direction.  This was living life differently.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Cliches should be avoided like the plague.  If placed in a paper, they will be the death of said assignment.  Perhaps you are so unfortunate to have slipped one into conversation with a Cliche Catcher nearby.  You know these people.  As soon as you even start to say..."well, you know, the apple doesn't..."

BAM!! They'll interrupt you.  Every time.  With the one cliche that evidently is acceptable to use, because these Cliche Catchers will throw it in the middle of your sentence before that poor apple could even think about falling.

"That's so cliche!" the Cliche Catcher says (extra emphasis on the "so")  Using common phrases and idioms is evidently no longer allowed.  It's just so......so cliche.  Avoid at all costs.

If you haven't picked up on the sarcastic undertones yet, I personally find cliches to be useful at times.  An entire conversation of them might be annoying, but there is one that I find to be rather true.

"It's the small things in life that count"  (or some derivative thereof).  I'd like to take that one step further.  If you stop enjoying and finding joy in the small things, eventually you will stop finding happiness in the big excitements as well.  You keep looking for something bigger and bigger to satisfy this need for the interesting, the new, the exciting, the fun.  The problem occurs because eventually there won't be anything bigger and bigger.  What happens then?

Perhaps you stop the break-neck pace.  Perhaps you slow down and listen to frosty leaves flitting through the branches of the tree with speckled bark.  You begin to notice the adorable quirks of your best friends.  You rediscover the joy of an old song or book.  You enjoy life because you are living it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rising and Falling

I've been sitting in the Student Union for a while now.  When I got here it was perfectly empty at first.  It was perfect in quietness, perfect in solitude, perfect in loneliness to match my mood.  Now, there are a few dozen people here from some robotics convention.  It's still perfectly lonely but now that desolate feeling has been personified in the faces of people I don't recognize and never will. 

I wrote once on how hard it was for me to connect with music.  I'd like to retract that statement.  As I'm sitting here, reviewing my notes on the Greek influence on Renaissance art, a familiar melody started playing though my headphones.  Except it wasn't playing through my headphones, or in my ears, or even across my brain waves, but it started playing directly on my heart.  It isn't even that great of a song yet all of a sudden I felt like smiling or crying or both (you might be correct in attributing this conflict of feeling in the fact that I've spent the last two days on a relatively deserted campus).  Either way, I decided to write.

As soon as I felt the melody and notes on my heart, my brain turned into some sort of antiquated projector.  Fuzzy black and white images started to come into focus.  I'm sitting in my old bedroom before it was redone, staring at walls the color of a grape slushy and playing with little key chains and trinkets that unlocked my imagination to a world all my own.  I'm sitting in the old Lumina mini-van with the worn upholstery and fabric falling from the roof, on my way to Florida listening to this CD and halfway between the conscious and dreamworld.  Looking back, I think I spent most of my childhood in that transitory state where nothing was real enough to be boring and reality was augmented by an imagination that was always on in full force.

My heart is rising and falling to the beat of the violin and drum.  Finally, I am moved.

Until next time,
Chloe

P.S. Although this post may insinuate that I am in some way not enjoying this weekend, that is completely false.  If you didn't know this already, I don't consider lonliness and quiet and solitude to be negative things and my experiences with them these last few days have been minimal yet fulfilling.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sushi and Diamonds

I am the type of person who cannot be within eyesight of a sign, posting, notice, billboard, book, graphitti, pamphlet without reading it.  I will read the same sign over and over just because it is there.  So, when riding in the car, I pay attention to what's on the other side of the tinted glass. 

We were just outside of Pittsburg and I saw a billboard that had a picture of a diamond being held by a pair of tweezers.  I looked away for a second and on a closer look, I realized that I had mistaken what was truly a piece of round sushi and chopsticks for exquisite jewelry.  An honest and harmless mistake.

While misidentifying images may be relatively harmless (with the minor exception of street signs while driving), when we begin to categorize and identify people based on first impressions we run serious risks.

It might have been said that first impressions are important.  I'd like to add that they are wrong 95% of the time.  If I can't tell a roll of sushi apart from a diamond, then I surely can't accurately assess someone within five minutes of knowing them.  I shouldn't be assessing them at all.  Just enjoying getting to know another story and friend.   Yet it is far too easy to fall into a faulty first impression judgement.

I mislabeled the billboard advertisement because I looked at it too quickly.  You can't possibly expect to know someone after a brief meeting, especially depending on the circumstance and opportunity for true conversation.  I also got my diamonds and sushi confused because I had seen a billboard with tweezers and a diamond before.  I wasn't expecting to see sushi, so I fit it into a mold that I already knew. 

How many times do you meet someone and say, "You are just like my friend so and so!" Or at least think it.  Except they aren't.  Because they can't be.  We are who we are, nothing more and nothing less.  Squeezing people into cold metal molds is great if you want a bunch of friends that are exactly who you think they should be but nothing like who they really are.

I think it's time to get our eyes checked.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eighteen

Before I went to college, I always thought it was too bad that I was turning 18 when I would have just been at college for a month.  Surely, I thought, there was no way I would have a group of friends to celebrate with that fast.  I mean, I'm not the type of person that makes friends fast.  My best friends from high school I knew for many years before we made that final leap into "best friendhood". 

I couldn't have been more wrong.  Today was the best birthday I have ever had and that is including the two midterms I had to take today.  It's not just because I'm finally an adult (voting and infomercial shopping anyone?).  It's because today was a wonderful blend of realizing how much I belong here and what wonderful friends I still have from back home. I didn't even know that the two could coexist so nicely before today.

Making friends here was so much more beautiful than I thought it would be.  It wasn't just easier because everyone was freshmen and wanting to make friends, it was significant because it was still sincere even if it was fast.  So to all the wonderful people I have met, and the ones I have yet to meet: thank you.  As individuals, as a collective whole, we are a part of something very unique and special here.

Holding onto the friends from home was a great deal harder than I expected.  My tendancy is to live fully wherever I am and with whoever I am nearby.  Technology aids maintaining connections but I love real conversations with real people.  I'm fully aware of the wonderful things Skype can do but there is a drastic difference between a scheduled "skype date" and just sharing the little joys of life with people as they come up.  I believe I fall short in this area of long-distance friendships consistently and while my past history makes my upcoming statement less than trustworthy, I truly wish to improve upon this.  So to all the wonderful people that have been a part of my life, you aren't rid of me yet.

I believe I started off this post as something about my birthday yet I digress more than I ever stay on topic.  In short, my birthday was amazing because it contained wonderful people and friends and family and love and connections and for me, that is all I could ever wish for.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

We are our stories.

There are so many stories here.  I noticed this as I walked down the princess staircase this morning.  The stained glass streaming light onto this glamorous staircase was a small action shot of a knight riding his horse into battle.  If that isn't the epitome of a classic story.....well, no need for cliches.  Any story involving a knight must be a good one.  I've been walking down that staircase for a few weeks and never even saw the knight before.  There are so many stories here.

The best ones aren't even the ones captured in colored glass.  They are the ones in sweatshirts and jeans, hands in their pockets, shuffling past Rockwell. They are the ones that are chatting loudly outside of my window.  They are the ones down the hall, around the corner, and next to you in class.

These are stories that defy our English formula for literature.  They may have a beginning, but there is no end and while there is much rising action, the climax is yet to be written.  No one is really sure who the antagonist is here.  We can't figure out if this is man vs. nature, or nature vs. nature, or why we have to be versus anything at all.  Sometimes, we don't even know who the protagonist is but we hope they are a character that someone would like and want to cheer on.

There are so many unknowns and unwrittens to these stories that we tend to hide them.  The most we give out is a 300 word summary or back-of-the-book paragraph that is so vague it could be written about anyone. 

College is mostly about learning.  Most of my homework is reading.  I'm reading about creating good ideas, the fall of Rome, how to record an adjusting entry, and the historical background of the book of Judges.  I've learned a good deal in the last six weeks and will continue to do so.  Yet I want to read more than textbooks or fiction.  I want to know more than dates or philosophies.  I want to begin with the stories that surround me.  After all, we are our stories.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Logic-less

I really am spending more time writng than I ought.  I should be reading and memorizing and studying.  I feel that's a bit unfair though.  If I'm expected to keep soaking up information and knowledge, creating these giant stockpiles of thoughts in my brain than I think I should be allowed to turn the tables sometimes and release these ideas. 

Besides, my entrepreneurship classes and books are always encouraging us to write and be creative.  I like it when I can find other things to justify myself with rather than just my own logic. 

I realized lately that I do that a lot.  I create these little rules and mannerisms that help guide my life along.  No one else follows them but I don't expect them to.  I like the idea that I can create up my own words if the ones I've been given aren't working properly.  I like that I can create my own paths if the ones that are offered don't look like ones I want to sojourn down.

Today, I am in one of the best moods possible as a result of a severe lack of sleep and a good amount of coffee.  I am just tired enough where nothing bothers me and have enough caffiene in my system to make everything peaceful and happy.  It's one of those moods where I am almost impossible to knock down.  I don't have to look for the silver lining on days like today.  All I can see is the silver, the clouds aren't even existent.  I burned my tongue on my precious coffee today and instead of registering the pain, I smiled because my coffee was still hot.  Perhaps this foolish happinness is completely irrational, but I am determined to enjoy it today. 

One of those little rules that I have is that I have empowered myself to dictate what kind of day I am going to have.  I decide whether it will be a happy day, a tired day, a reflective day, a sad day, and whatnot.  The type of day I have is completely distinct from my circumstances.  Its some kind of buffer I give myself that is built on a solid foundation of dellusion and denial.  It's probably unhealthy, but it works quite well for me.

That's another rule: I can do things that don't make sense but if they work, I can continue doing them.  Today is a happy day.  As was yesterday.  Tomorrow is looking pretty good too.  Once I started deciding what kind of day I was going to have (I began this a few months ago) I have found that is very convenient to choose to have happy days the majority of time.  If you could pick what your day was going to be like, wouldn't you go for the best possible?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Step Back

There is something incredibly powerful about being in community.  Its encouraging, enlightening, and empowering.  If you are slightly introverted like myself, it is also exhausting.  Which is why I have learned the value of taking a step back.

Taking a step back from a stressful situation can reintroduce the big picture into your stream of consciousness.

Taking a step back from your inner turmoil can help you reprioritize.

Taking a step back from the constantly streaming to-do list, post-it notes, deadlines, and responsibilities can help you be human.

Tonight, taking a step back meant sitting in the chapel garden and gazing at underlit leaves that seemed to shine against the pitch black night.  Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder in a hot, packed, chapel, I sat alone on a bench and closed my eyes and felt the cool of stillness.  In no way am I insinuating that I felt ostracized from worship or this beneficial gathering.

Sometimes, there is greater beauty in the observance than the participation.  To be still for a few minutes and hear at least a hundred of my classmates sing that "naught be all else to me save what thou art"  was moving to say the least.  There is nothing wrong with group worship and it is an amazing thing.  Yet sometimes, it makes it too easy for me to focus on me.  My worship, my experience, my catharsis.  Taking a step back allows me to realign.

 I want to walk around seeing the value in everything: every person, experience, and situation instead of walking around only focusing on what will validate me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dusty Old Cabinets

setting:  on my friend's laptop in her room with the remnants of our post-homecoming dance snack (pretzels and peanut butter, goldfish, and the chips I snagged from the Gedunk)

My friend is asleep on the rug but I am most certainly awake.  More accurately, I am very full of life.  Full of the fullness of a life that is brimming with new people and ideas and memories.  I suppose every memory is a new one for a second before it gets filed in a dusty old cabinet in between my 10th birthday party and the conversation I had last week.  That's the odd thing about my memory.  It doesn't prioritize at all.  I can remember the large events with the same clarity as the obscure details. I can quote someone I was talking with a month ago word-for-word and recall the moment I learned to ride my bike as if both were synonymous in importance and both happened five minutes ago.

Yet I forget a lot.  Or I confuse a lot.  I mix up what one person has told me with someone else's story.  Faces can blur together sometimes.  I might get the main framework of something right but completely blank out on the details.  I'll remember that you had three tests and a quiz and a potentially awkward confrontation and I'll even remember to ask you about it afterwards but have no idea what the subjects were in or who the conversation was with. 

I did not intend to write upon memory tonight but since I seem to be making memories a mile a minute here, I suppose it was quite appropriate.  I will probably remember tonight, for instance.  My first homecoming at Grove City College which was quite fun and memorable.  I'm hoping I'll remember a lot of these first four weeks here which is why I need to keep blogging so I can keep an external mental hard drive of sorts.  More reflection on college later to come.

Until next time,
Chloe of life

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Church "Shopping"

I hate the term church shopping.  I absolutely hate it but that's exactly what I've done for the past three Sundays.  First off, it assumes that I am going to church to get something for myself, like you would go to Meijers to buy food or Target to buy, well, everything.  I'm not.  I'm going to church to worship God and serve him. 

Yet it's so hard to know what church would be best (see, even the word best assumes some qualifications a church must meet to "suit" me and again, that is not what I want to be doing).  So my subconscious starts to create a list of specifications and desires.  You don't want it to be all college students or all grandparents.  You don't want it to be all hymns or all Chris Tomlin.  The sermon should be scripture-based not just a self-help guide read out loud.  The list goes on and on and it makes me feel like a horrible person for even having it.

Second problem:  there is some unspoken rule that you only have about 5 or 6 Sundays to "shop" churches and then you are being too particular or not receptive to the Holy Spirit or whatnot.  I would absolutely love for the first church I walk into to be my home church and have a family there and feel like that this is where I need to serve God but it really doesn't work that way.  Considering there are 25+ churches in the area, this puts a lot of pressure on the preliminary church selections and really, there is only so much you can find out about a church from its website.  You can't get to know the people and see how authentic the worship is or if they will glare at you for not going to Sunday School (my experience this morning). 

Perhaps the largest problem is that I don't know where I should be.  I've grown up in the same church all my life and I'm just now realizing what a blessing and a curse that was.  I love that I know almost everyone and have a history there and that the worship is authentic and the preaching is sound but that's all I've ever known.  Do I limit myself and possibly God by choosing a church that is as North Oaksish as possible?  I don't think that is smart but I feel like I keep measuring up churches to my home church in the back of my mind.  I'm in a new place of life and what was right for me last year might not be the same this year.  Or it might be.  I honestly have no idea.  So I'm back to the drawing board, or more accurately, the praying board. 

This concludes my rant on churches and the "shopping experience".  Thank you for reading.

P.S.  Signs are really, really helpful and the lack of them is really, really frustrating.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Just a few disconnected thoughts

Nowadays, I have two motivations for blogging.  1)  I have studied in excess and am about to disconnect from this world, its lovely people, and sanity.  2)  I am waiting for my laundry to be done.  Tonight falls into the latter category.  I keep finding new ways to make the laundry process more efficient.  This is wonderful as it allows me to spend less money on laundry aka more money on coffee.  I don't have a great point to make or structure to follow tonight.  Just a few disconnected thoughts.

It's funny how you can be with people almost 24/7 and be social and all those good things yet still be completely alone.  Perhaps that sounds sad and lonely, but to me, its absolutely wonderful.  It's impossible to engage all the time; learning how to be in your own world while still functioning in the real one is a very valuable skill. 

Two things happened to me this week with counteracting effects.  First, my headphones completely died.  Later that day, my phone decided that it would no longer let me hear whoever I was talking to.  Once I realized this, I completely abused my advantage and delivered lovely long-winded monologues to the unfortunate person on the other "end of the line".    I'm sad to say, but my headphones dying was much more inconvenient than my phone.  I didn't realize how often I used them to block out the world. The music I didn't miss all that much and it wasn't that I couldn't find quiet places to study, its just that now I had no legitimate excuse to ignore people.  I don't like this about myself, that I have this intense need to only listen to my thoughts at times.  Its really quite selfish. 

I am content with a silent world where I can only see the lips moving and the trees swaying and never stop to hear what the people and the wind have to say.  Not all the time, mind you, this is only a temporary desire that passes once I find the opportunity to be an introvert.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that, by the end of the week, I genuinely missed hearing someone's voice on the other end of the phone.  It may have taken me a week, but at least I got there. 

And now, I believe/hope that my laundry is done so I can go to bed. 

Until next time,
Chloe of many worlds

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Essence of Me

I have a funny habit of running experiments on myself.  Before you jump to any conclusions,  I do not have little bubbling jars of neon liquids in my room (you're welcome roommates)  Its just that I like to gaze into the abyss that is the future, place myself there, observe how I think I'll react to a new situation, and then see if my hypothesis is correct in post-future retrospect.  That last sentence made absolutely no sense and I will now try to redeem it.  Here is a practical example:

When arriving at college, the expectations and reputation that I had gathered as the Chloe of Clarkston disappeared.  I knew this would be the case and so I was eagerly anticipating my actions, thoughts, friend choices, etc... to see who I would be.  Turns out, I'm quite like the Chloe of Clarkston. 

Instead of being disappointed that I didn't create some whole new personality, I'm quite relieved.  I am still spontaneously introverted, mysteriously happy in the morning no matter how much sleep I get, in love with my calender and post-its and color-coding, dedicated to studying to death, addicted to quality conversations, in awe of my amazing God, and loving the people around me.

Not much has changed, yet everything has changed.  Everything external is different, new, and changing at a mile a minute. The essence of me; however, has been delightfully consistent.  Of course, this means that I still am struggling through the same weaknesses but I have a new courage and drive to defeat them.  I am completely open to change (see last post) but do not see myself surrendering my color-coding pens anytime soon.  Speaking of, my calender is telling me that its time to continue my Genesis overload.

Until next time,
the Chloe of anywhere

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Life is wonderful.

I feel like I have lived a month in the past week and could probably write a good deal on first college experiences but I am currently enjoying just living life instead of dissecting it.  So for now, I am putting away the scapel.  This does not mean that I have nothing to say.  My mind is whirling faster than it did before, just more about the width of the Fertile Cresent, how to balance equities, liabilities, and assets, and business plans then my normal introspective thoughts. 

The one rather self-reflective thought that has been making its rounds however; is about the way I percieve myself and my surroundings now in contrast to what my viewpoint will be in two years, one month, five days.  I certainly know that I am an incredibly different person than when I was in 9th grade, or even the beginning of 12th grade.  It only makes sense then, that I will change within the next four years.  I will see myself and everything else in this wonderful world very differently.  I will probably look back at my state of mind right now and give myself one of those condescending little half-grins.  I will probably read this in a year and laugh out loud. 

I completely realize how ignorant I am about self-realization, even when I think that I have myself figured out.  I used to reassure myself that I least understood myself.  Now, I reassure myself that at least I know that I don't understand myself.  At least I am aware that I am unaware.

I am far too happy to end this post on that negative note.  I am good, life is wonderful, and God is great. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

"If Time is of the Essence Then it is the Essence of Time that Ought to Direct our Stumbling Steps"

Before my trusty thumb drive, I used to email myself assignments and essays from school so I could work on them at home. I have some friends who, when they e-mail themselves, they attach a little note so they feel like they are getting email from their past selves. I used to do this, but honestly, I got tired of cyber-talking to myself. I do that enough in real life. I couldn't bear to send a sad little blank email though. Instead, I started making up quotes and giving them fake authors. They were always delightfully ambiguous. The type of quotes that would be plastered on the wall in a high school English room. The type that people would read, shake their heads thoughtfully, comment on its profoundness, then walk away without any lasting impact made because they mean absolutely nothing.

"The road to success isn't complete without a few flares along the way"  Charles Willson

"The feeling of pain never comes into the station alone--this is what makes it so unbearable.  Its friends are some of my worst enemies"  George Oversteen

I wondered what it would take to have a quote credited to you. To say something so worthwhile that it ends up plastered all over google when people search for quotes for their essays and speeches. Then I realized, no one will ever quote you unless you have some sort of credentials. For a quote to be truly powerful, then your name has to be powerful first.
This striked me as rather sad. It doesn't matter so much how beautiful or meaningful the quote is. If the wrong person says the right thing, it means nothing. If the right person says anything, it means everything. Judging the quality of what someone has to say based on who they are instead of what they have to say seems unfair at best. I like to write meaningless quotes with meaningless people attached. Yet if I actually had something of value to say, it wouldn't matter. My fake quotes would probably be taken more seriously, as long as I used a fake name that looked legitimate.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happiness Revisited

It was rather cold this morning for August.  Driving with my back windshield fogged up because I'm too lazy to wipe it off and being awake and on the road before 8 in the morning made me feel like I was going to high school again.  However, instead of staying in the 50s all day like most school days, the sun came back and summer showed its face again. 

Today was probably just as nice as any other day this summer.  Playful sunshine and soft breezes, swaying trees and all that wonderful summer beauty.  Yet, because I woke up cold and had to put on jeans and a sweatshirt on this morning, changing into a skirt and sandals made the day seem so much more delightful. 

I find it sad that I can't appreciate how wonderful life is until I have something to contrast it with.  I don't see the sunshine until I've lived in the shadows.  I can't muster up any happiness if I never feel sad. 

Today was probably just as nice as any other day but today was more wonderful than any other day.  I have reflected back on my summer and realized it was even better than I thought.  Its been a fun experience and perhaps more importantly, a learning experience.  Even without test scores and grades to validate me, I am quite assured that I have learned just as much in the last two and a half months of living life than I did over the past year. 

I've learned how to balance my to do list and organization and obsession with getting things done with enjoying others around me and making the most of my limited time.  I've learned how to balance listening and talking, being home and being away, hiding in my writings and expressing myself out loud, staying aware of the world while staying delightfully oblivious. 

I've learned how to deem things irrelevant, such as having a balanced life, so I could live to extremes.  Quite obviously, I've also perfected the skill of contradicting myself.  At the beginning of the school year, I wrote this: http://86400seconds-smiles11.blogspot.com/2010/12/theory-3-happiness-is.html.  If you don't feel like taking the time to read it, I basically said that happiness was a worthless goal in life.  I still think joy is way more important yet hard to come by sometimes.  I have tested my theory and have lived an equally full life being indifferent to happiness as when I embraced it.  I'm not going to make happiness the main focus of my life by any means but there is more value in it than I originally supposed. 

Here is what I have found happiness to be good for:  Until I let myself feel happy, then I can't feel sad either.  Not feeling sad bothers me more than not feeling happy.  I suppose switching the order would make more sense, that it makes more sense to feel sad first so happiness means more when it comes.  Either way, a juxtaposition between the two emotions is needed, therefore happiness does have a valuable purpose.

Saying goodbye to family, friends, familiar places and memories in the next two weeks will be sad.  Yet it wouldn't be genuinely sad if those things didn't represent genuine happiness at one time or another.  This heartache is well worth years of happy memories. 

Side note:  This is my 50th post in the span of roughly a year.  Thank you all who make it to the end of these long-winded posts.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rephrase and Rethink

One of the most frustrating feelings in the world: having something to say that you can't express.  It feels like your entire existence depends on this one moment of self-expression.  The words bounce around in my mind until they are tangled, torn, and troubled.  I rephrase and rethink.  I try to sculpt this mess of thinking mass into something someone else might possibly understand.  I force myself to look at it from a different angle, flipping the idea over and over again until I can't remember which way is up anymore.

It's exhausting, all this fruitless thinking.  So I try to distract myself.  I surround myself with new ideas, new people, new music, new books.  Yet everything I read or listen to seems to march me right back to that holding cell with my original thought, now just with some extra perspectives picked up along the way.  My distractions might be completed unrelated to my thoughts, but I'm reading and listening only to hear what I want to think about so inevitably, it comes around.

This stifling feeling of not being able to express what I want to is equaled only by a paralyzing fear of being misunderstood.  It is this fear that makes me hesitate before speaking, that can halt me in the middle of a sentence or conversation and force me to change directions completely.  My unspoken words never even got the opportunity to escape.

Yet there is something far worse than this combination of not being able to express myself or be understood.

What terrifies me most of all is this:  I arrange my ideas meticulously, polish them for hours, overcome doubts and hesitations, say exactly what I want to, and am perfectly understood--only to realize that everything I want to say isn't even worth my breath, that this completely consuming idea is completely insignificant.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Soul in Shambles

I've had a fear of bridges for as long as I can remember.  It's an irrational fear but I can't go over a bridge without feeling like the car is going to plummet into a watery grave or I'll be completely impulse driven and walk off the edge.  Yet bridges can be beautiful.  We just drove over one that, while possibly fatal, overlooked a gorgeous valley with a peaceful river hemmed by trees that even the best Hudson River School landscape painter couldn't enhance.  I had this overwhelming sense of dread and fear yet a complete appreciation of the beauty around me.  That most aptly wraps up how I'm feeling right now.

My heart is heavy.  It's the type of heavy that makes it hard to sleep.  I usually sleep on my right side but with this lead-weighted heart, it feels like my heart will crush my lungs and I'm left gasping for breath.  I just mixed a physical and emotional description but its as close as I can get to depicting this feeling without actually giving you my heart.

This feeling of breathlessness and a heaviness of heart is because I am downright sad.  The wonderful people I've spent time with this week will never be in the same place with me ever again.  I'll come to visit of course, but things will never be the same (everything is forever changing, remember?)

I'm also downright terrified.  I've learned much about God and myself and life in a week (we will touch on this later) and as I approach home, I can already feel this slipping away.  The old frustrations and confusions and struggles are waiting to welcome me back.  Also waiting are my family, friends, to-do list, shower, and bed--all of which I'm eagerly anticipating. 

So here comes the beautiful river and trees and serenity part that lies beneath my deathtrap bridge of over thinking and fear and sadness.

This week was good for me.  Other than seeing everyone mesh and grow into a family and stronger children of God, I got to serve others in perhaps the simplest form of meeting needs.  The majority of my time was spent in soup kitchens ranging form a very high-tech program to churches with kitchens to a small facility in a shady section that ran like clockwork and seated 22 people yet fed 400 people in 3 hours.  I did some street ministry and prayer walks which were good but not life-changing, which was also perfectly fine.  Oh, and my partner and I dominated in euchre all week.  Good times were had by all (except possibly our euchre opponents).

So even though I'm going to miss my 3D Visioners like crazy, there is beauty in knowing they are on fire for God and will do amazing things for Him.  In an interesting stroke of timing, we just passed the exit of Grove City.  The idea of new friends and experiences and adventures is beautiful too--even if it is overshadowed by my fear of losing those I love so much now.

So even though I'm terrified of reverting back to my old self, with my soul in shambles, there is a new serenity in knowing that God can put it back together and I don't have to.  I'm a realist.  I know my struggles won't disappear in this life time.  I know my soul will be in shambles once again, and probably sooner than I'd like.  But I'm a realist.  I know that my God fixed the problem of an irredeemable human race and can surely fix me.

Since I abandoned my previous day by day structure (for an excellent play-by-play please visit: http://northoakschurch.org/?p=2339)  I'm sure I've missed some details and important revelations and good stories.  However, there is value to consistency so I'm going to relate in as concise of terms possible (a lost cause at this point, I know)  what I have learned during a week of serving God in NYC.

Lessons Learned:
  • Just because my comfort zone is getting larger and larger and proportionally harder and harder to break out of, it doesn't mean that the things I participated in didn't have impact
  • Serving others is ultimately about, well, serving others and about serving God.  Even if I didn't have a huge epiphany it doesn't mean that it wasn't significant.
  • I need to slow down myself and my thoughts.
  • When I pray for others, I become personally invested in their lives.  Therefore, I find it easier and easier to care about their well-being.  This gives new light to the idea of praying for one's enemies (or at least the people you'd rather avoid).  It's more than a test of forgiveness, it may just be the best way to eliminate having enemies.
  • Release
  • The thoughts that occupy our thoughts the most and dictate our actions are the things we "worship".  Yet these things do not love me in return.  They don't redeem me, tell me I'm beautiful or worthy, give me peace, protect me, save me, or offer eternal life.  But God does.  So why worship the things that enslave me and rob me of happiness instead of the God who will set me free and give me true joy?
  • The value in being real.
  • God puts me where I need to be for a reason.

Explanation

Hello all!  It was suggested to me that I explain the new name for my thought outlet.  The word penintime means "second from inmost" and the word latibule means "hiding place".  Since there is a hiding place for my thoughts that are about as close to me as I will allow anyone to know, it seemed right.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Writing a Better Story (Part 1)

Blogger graphs the page views from this blog, and I've found that it has a unnerving correlation to my personal up and downs.  The best parts of my year have huge peaks then there are massive valleys during the hard times, when I want to write, to express myself, to shout something, but nothing comes out.
Speaking of writing, I have been thinking a good deal lately about stories.  In particular, the story that is your life. 

Do you realize that?  That this life is a story, and we are in the process of shaping the rising action, anticipating the climax, and choosing the setting.  Arguably, it is God doing the writing but I will discuss this later. 

I have a friend who put it this way: "We define ourselves as characters with our actions, our inactions, so on, so forth.  And really morality is merely doing exactly what your protagonist would do."

I tend to agree.  I'm not promoting a frantic, Willy Loman, "I haven't got a thing in the ground" reaction to the story idea.  A life lived solely for the purpose of leaving a legacy will most likely look very impressive.  However, a character that has spent so much time focused on the appearance of their actions will miss the actual living part.  

I am promoting an intentional life.  What can you remember from your story so far?  Which moments stand out?  If you were weeding out all of the commonplace events and stringing together the significant ones would it make a good story?  Would you make a good protagonist, one that you would root for and relate to?  It doesn't matter if it would make the bestseller list or end up in the free box at garage sales.  What matters is if it is a story that you would like reading, and inevitably, one that you wouldn't mind reading to God.

At the end of any book, it usually isn't the success of the mission, the resolution of the inherent conflict, or whether the boy gets the girl that makes an impact on me.  If it is any sort of quality book, it is the personal success (that is, the development of their character towards a better end) that creates an enticing plot line, significant climax, and satisfying end to any book.  (Side note: I have a habit of aligning myself with the wrong character in any given book, which my English class was ever so kind to point out to me.) 

The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.  The point of a story is never about the ending, remember.  It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle. [Donald Miller]

So envision what you want life to be.  Decide to like the main character, which, by the way, is you. Take the opportunities to write a better story.  Don't shy away from confrontation and changes.  But be wise, be careful, and seek God's will continuously.  The only problem with writing a better story, is that it might just work.

Friday, July 1, 2011

This is living.

She shudders as the thunder blankets the sky.  Her reaction is to hide, to withdraw inside of the house, herself, a book, anything.  Sheets of rain driven by powerful winds rush by the window.  The movement of the individual rain drops down the glass and the immense force that they command together frightens her so much that rationality is abandoned.  Rubber boots are adorned instead of logic.  The umbrella is left lying under the tackle box in the closet, her mothers warnings are left unheeded by ears that need to hear the wind in its full force.

The wetness is trapped in her clothing.  It wraps around her tightly, clinging to her skin.
She runs.  The neighbors peer from behind their gingham curtains and wonder why she must run, never once thinking that they must run as well.  She doesn't notice. 

There is renewal in the rain and joy in the puddles.  The rain forms moving walls that travel down the road.  She laughs and runs after something that is impossible to catch.

Mud splashes with every step, barely noticeable on her legs and shorts that are saturated with water.  She does not stop running.

Until she does stop and opens her eyes and her arms because this is the time to create a photograph.  This is the time to be symbolic and embrace the rain.  The smile is small but it has started from the heart and it cannot be stopped.  Exhausted, she lets her hands fall, palm-down, over her head, onto the ground that is so wet that it accepts the hand prints willingly as they impress into the mud.  Her body forms an arc.  Slowly, she lowers the spine and lets it mold into the ground. 

Eyes closed she lays there, soaking in the water from the earth and from the clouds.  The thunder no longer blankets the sky.  Each peal moves through the clouds on a diagonal, followed by a slight turn of the head.  Sunshine replaces the darkness but the rain has a steady, lulling, consistency. 

Each drop feels like it will pierce her skin as it lands on her legs and arms but the way it kisses her lips balances the pain.  This is living.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I need a checkered bandanna.

I was driving to church the other day in my usual habit of thinking over all the things that must be thought over.  I was driving along when something caught my eye.  Turning onto the road was a person on a bike.  I couldn't tell their gender because they had a checkered bandanna pulled up over their mouth and a big floppy denim bucket hat on.  Their orange backpack clashed with the tomato red shirt.   As they turned the corner, they looked back behind themselves.  I knew that look.  They were watching to see if someone was following them.   I don't know if they just robbed a bank or were escaping a psychopath or just simply paranoid.  All I know is that in the five seconds it took for me to take in this oddity I had this crazy yearning inside of my heart. 

"I want to be that person!"  my soul was screaming at me.  They might have been in trouble or causing trouble but I didn't care.  They were having an adventure and they were living.  Not that going to church isn't living, this really has nothing to do with faith or religion.  It's just that my drive up this road is so incredibly routine.  Here are some things I want:

I want to hold a mug full of warm tea and drop it and watch it fall and hear the ceramic crash into a million pieces and possibly cut myself on the sharp edges.

I want to throw my gum out the car window when I am done using it and not worry about littering.

I want to refuse to show up where I'm supposed to.

I want to hop on my bike and pedal and not stop until I physically can't go any further and not bring a cell phone just to be safe and get lost and have to figure it out. 

I want to do all these completely unreasonable things.  Yet there is that annoying rational voice that keeps my mug securely in my hands and my gum in my mouth and my empty body at its appointments and my feet planted firmly on this mundane ground.  I know this all sounds rather out of character but I'm sure you've felt like this before.  Sadly, I am quite too sensible to show up somewhere late or not study for a test or stop being responsible and stop being me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Regret

In a retrospective and introspective mood lately, I decided to read through some of my personal rants, poems, narratives, and essays.  For the majority of them, I completely understand why the past me didn't share them.  However, a good deal of my wrirtings were direct letters and notes towards people and this makes me a bit sad.  I regret now that I did not share them sooner.  So to those people, I apologize.  I should have shared my thoughts.  It would have made us stronger. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Changed Forever

"And then my life was changed forever."

The words dangle in the air, ready to fall into anyone's mind that might be listening.  But no one really is because we've heard it all before.  We've heard the tragic childhood stories and inspirational climbs to success that inevitably climax at some event and causes one to utter that they were "changed forever". 

There is nothing wrong with this, I just feel like the forever part really isn't necessary.

What change isn't forever? 

How can anything return completely to its original state after it has been changed?  You can replicate the setting, circumstances--and if you are lucky--the people that surrounded you.  Yet as time moves on, life moves on, and you have been changed.  Permanently.  No matter what you do to return external circumstances, you can never fully revert your mind to where it has once been.  There are new ideas, thoughts, and experiences in your mind and your life will be inherently different because of that. 

The smallest event can completely change your perspective on life.  The life that I face right now is somehow different than the life I faced a week ago.  Not because I had a momentous epiphany or a soul-bending experience, but simply because a week has passed and I now have a week's worth of thoughts and experiences that have ingrained themselves into my brain and become a part of its permanent collection, whether I am aware of it or not.

This is not to say that we are simply helpless pawns in the face of destiny.  Every small detail of life changes you somehow, whether it is a glimpse of pure beauty or a snippet of a strangers conversation.  Yet we have some decisions to make.  We can allow a hurtful remark to embitter us or enjoy the freedom that giving the benefit of the doubt gives back to us.  We can listen to the wind rushing aimlessly or scowl as we pick up the papers it scattered. 

Don't wait for the events that society has labeled as milestones to realize that you have been changed forever. 

You are forever changing. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Self-Suffocation

Thinking can be dangerously self-absorbed.  Of course, this depends entirely on what you are thinking of.  This morning, I woke, moved around, then laid on my bed to think.  Sometimes thoughts are enlightening, wonderful, and inspirational.  Other times, they are simply self-suffocating.  I keep thinking the same things over and over and the monotony threatens to kill any creativity I have left but my brain is set on repeat and I can't stop.  I was in this stifling cycle this morning so I decided that going on a run would be helpful. 

I have an odd malady where occasionally I will have shooting pains in my lungs and won't be able to breathe.  If you know me personally, and I happen to freeze in the middle of a conversation or action, this is probably why.  It isn't that much of a problem, I can usually resume breathing after a few moments and keep going.  Sadly, this morning, when I most needed to run away from myself, my lungs would not cooperate and I was forced into a fast walk.

I had been doing this run for a little bit, stop running to start breathing again, start walking, forget why I couldn't run, start running, stop breathing, and so on for about an hour and had no less separated myself from my thoughts than when I was lying on my bed.  This made me very frustrated and I was on the verge of considering my run/walk a waste when a very well timed friend sent a text saying that they wanted to know the real me.

It then struck me.  God wants to know the real me too and is daunting as that may feel (the idea that the creator of the universe and savior of mankind cares at all about me), He already knows the real me.  All my efforts to sculpt my outward self into the person I wish I could be are pointless.  The fact that I was letting personal battles and distractions get in the way of being intimate with God who already knows all about my shortcomings and failures suddenly seemed quite foolish indeed.  If I must think myself in circles, then perhaps refocusing myself on living for God and Him alone could release me from this trap of thinking. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Right Now

Right now, its so quiet. The house is still and dark because no one else is stupid enough to be up right now. But I love the right now.  Its so peaceful. The lists and lists of things that must be done have been set aside because, really, 1:48 is not a time of night to be doing anything productive effectively. What I can do right now is write. Freed from pesty to-dos, freed from the pleasantries and the pains of the day, this is my time. 

Sometimes I have something I want to say but not enough courage to make it known. This particular post was originally titled "Vulnerable" and it was started on March 9th but never continued. There are some things which I write about with ease. This is not one of them.

I read somewhere that great epic poems do not start at the beginning or the end, but in the middle. So in the style of the classics, here we go.

I developed a very odd habit around the age of 8. Whenever there was a prevailing emotion, mood, or aura around me, I would immediately assume the opposite. If there was great pessimism, I would see the sun shining through. If there was great impatience and anxiety, all the peace and tranquility in the world would flow through me. If there was anger and hatred and misunderstanding, I would suddenly be filled with empathy and love. See, this only applied to the negative emotions around me. Thankfully, if there was happiness and kindness and puppies and rainbows, I wouldn't automatically turn into a rain cloud.

This habit is both helpful and destructive. It allows me to stay calm when others are panicking and it allows me to think rationally when logic is nowhere to be found. What it keeps me from doing is being vulnerable. There are those moments when everyone else is falling apart and yet I can't help but be stoic and strong. In those moments, there is nothing I want more than to join in and cry and show that I can fall apart too, but I can't. My eyes remain dry while my heart breaks on the inside. 

So its not that I can't be vulnerable because I am bent on maintaining an image of strength and resilience but that I've trained myself to balance out the sentiments in a given area. This also can make me infuriating to some when in argument and my calmness is be mistaken for arrogance.  I can drive people crazy when positivity is the last thing someone wants to hear. So I'm learning there are times to look on the bright side and to remain logical but there are also times when I need to simply agree with the person that yes, sometimes life sucks and when I need to skip the rationality and just admit I was wrong.

What I haven't yet mastered is how to be vulnerable, let go, and be human. It's a work in progress, just like this post, just like my life, and just like you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Standing on my Shallow Soapbox

Now is the time to write.  In the past, my creativity was being forcibly taken from me by a busy schedule and projects.  Conversations have also drained my ability to put coherent thoughts on a page, yet these I do not regret.  Typically, I have at least one nugget of an idea a day which I'd like to write about.  If I'm lucky, I write it down and don't lose the scrap of paper.  Lately, however, I have had some very decent talks with some very decent people which gave me another outlet for thinking.  Good for myself and my friendships, bad for a blog.  To be honest, though, I'm not writing for whoever is reading this. 

I can't talk.  I'm always talking.  But not today.  And it's killing me.  My soul is restless, I can feel the words, thoughts, phrases, and clauses, trying to come together.  They keep missing each other, like a failed high-five, an inch away from collision, a centimeter away from forceful contact.  This is my attempt to put them together so that I can feel the impact of words once again.

Today my blog is my soapbox.  I have completed high school which gives me a relatively shallow box to stand on and give advice, but it is my box and I am going to use it. 

As a result of scholarships, senior awards night, and making an obnoxious amount of display boards and scrapbooks, I have come to two conclusions:
1)  I find myself quite annoying at times.  I feel like the poster child for anything and everything and if I could be someone else and know me, I'm not sure I'd want to.  This is the last time I will spend a concentrated amount of time reading about myself.  I much prefer reading about others.
2) It is my sincerest wish that my time in private school, home school, and public school does not simply add up to a resume of accomplishments, awards, and certificates.  I was looking at a sheet with all of those listed and realized that those things did not embody the success of my schooling, not by a long shot. This led me to reflect on the things that I did in high school that actually did matter and this is where things get a little soapbox-y. 

I have met some of the most incredible people in high school, particularly in the last two years.  They aren't the people that I was supposed to be associated with.  They weren't friends because they boosted my outward reputation.  Sometimes we didn't have that much in common.  The majority of them started off with poor first impressions and misjudgements.  So my word to the wise:  never overlook anyone.  Never write someone off after the first conversation, first month, or even first year.  People continue to surprise me with how much they add to my life and much of their value you probably won't even realize until they are gone.  If you want to limit yourself to the people that approach you first, that are accepted by others, or don't require you to exit your comfort zone, feel free.  You'll miss out on knowing and learning from some of the most original and wonderful people you'll ever know, but hey, at least it won't be uncomfortable and you'll always have that little group of friends that are exactly. just. like. you. 

We are now drawing near to the end of my writing abilities.  Significant events generally spur on significant writing and while these past few weeks have certainly not been lacking in significance, I have only brushed the surface of their impact on me in this post.

 Until I have more time,
Chloe

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Linguistics

Just from reading the title, you are probably already bored.  Linguistics sounds like a required gen ed course at a liberal arts college.  I'm not talking about analyzing the Greek and Latin roots of the English language (been there, did that--trust me, its not fun).  So stick with me on this one.

Conversationalist
I feel like the ability to carry on a conversation is extremely limited nowadays.  In my opinion, a conversation is not: 

a contest to get in the most brag points as possible
an argument
a five part report
a string of questions
topping someone's stories with a better one of your own
constant connections to your own life, often unrelated to what the person was really trying to say
gossip
talking about the weather or teachers
inserting "lol" or "haha" at the beginning and end of each sentence

Conversations are precious and beautiful.  They are an effort on the part of two people to better understand each other, themselves, and the world around them.  They are about philosophies and ideas, hopes and dreams, silly thoughts and deep ones.  They aren't all intellectual exchanges, but with some inconsequential small talk mixed in.  They are a give and take.  They involve more listening than talking. 

 A true conversation is one where you are actually hearing and following up with the person you are talking to, not waiting impatiently until you get to have your say.  A true conversation can be both enlightening and confusing.  It is not limited to a list of topics.  It is not limited by social barriers that dictate what is appropriate for conversing.  It can make your heart soar with new ideas and freedom.  It can weigh your soul down with the burdens of another.  But its worth it. Every time.

Talking to someone else could be the key you were looking for that opens up their soul and saves their life.  And, at the same time, you are saving your own. 


The Best is Yet to Come

Many times during the day I begin to compose a post, journal entry, essay, random prose, if you will, in my head.  One of the recent ones was bemoaning the fact that my life was a series of to do lists and as soon as one major goal was finished (ie AP tests) another one quickly bopped its head up to request, no demand, my complete attention, time, and energy (ie getting a summer job).  It inspired a mental essay on the futility of life, and the continual tasks that will never cease to rob life of meaning and joy.  I'm so glad that idea never got onto paper.

Next mental musing: Something sweet and nostalgic about the future and the past and the present (those three always go nicely together)  After all, this is the time of last tests, last classes, last hugs, last friendships, last everything, right?  It is only appropiate that something sickingly sweet drip from this post.   Again, I'm so relieved that one never came to fruition.

So now I've got two ideas that I don't want to write about.  You might be wondering if this post is ever going to have any meaning.  Here it comes.  While I was wrestling with these very different ideas in my head (rat-race life vs. kind reflectings)  I had a new thought.  My mind was turning around questions like....

"Can I be happy just living off a to-do list and fleeting memories? Is this the best it is going to get?"  In the midst of this self-interrogation came a refreshingly clear and simple sentence. 

The best is yet to come.

Not tomorrow, or in 10 years, or when I am retired. As long as I am me, things will be quite the same.  No, the best will come after this life.  How could the best possibly be in this world that is filled with brokenness and pain?  If we continue to believe that the best is just another day away, we might just never get there.  There is a bigger picture than this life.  It's not only bigger, its better.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I am still here.

I've had a splendid childhood.  However, there are parts that I now have negative associations.  The odd thing is, whenever I think of those parts of my life, I tend to feel like I am thinking about someone else's memories.  It doesn't feel like it was me that couldn't talk properly until she was 12 or danced for 10 years of her life or used to make excellent pottery in her spare time.  This is possibly because I can currently talk coherently, can't dance to save my life, and my last pottery experiment looked like, well, an experiment.  I have changed yet that doesn't mean that who I was isn't part of who I am now. 

My eager anticipation for everything and anything.  I still get flutters every time I check the mail even if I am expecting absolutely nothing.  You just never know. 

My ability to talk to inanimate objects.  Most of the clocks, shower curtains, and lamps in my house have personalities.  They don't talk back anymore sadly but there is still an aura about them.  For example, the clock in the downstairs bathroom is incredibly lonely while the living room one is quite shy.

My desire to talk in general.  To be quite honest, my estimation of you will go up tenfold if we can hold a decent conversation that moves past weather and school.  I am not completely against small talk but I prefer discussing something that actually has value.  Personal preference.  I will overuse the word conversationalist when describing someone I respect and enjoy.

My inability to stop.  Stop thinking, stop wondering, stop working.  Productivity fuels me.  Complacency stifles me.

My insatiable desire for books.  I may have moved from historical fiction to biographies but I still sneak down to my basement and pick up a few Goldenbind books once in a while.  Nothing but the classics.

So, yes there are things that seem so un-Chloe that I cannot believe that I was the same girl as the one in the picture.  Yet if you look past the straight hair, I am still there.  I am still here.  And I always will be.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Peeling away the Saran-Wrap

Easter is less than a week away.  Yet I am confused.  Where are the Easter lights?  Where is the live crucifix scene?  (never mind on that one, I can already see how that might be a bad idea).   But still, something is severely missing.  Christmas time hub bub starts the day after Halloween with plastic Santas, plastic trees, and plastic smiles.  I have yet to hear an entire radio station dedicated to Easter music.  Or even a CD, for that matter.  This strikes me as very odd.  Don't get me wrong, Christmas is wonderful and the birth of our Savior is nothing to be taken lightly.  But to me, its His death that is really worth getting excited about.  We are celebrating the day where the stockpile of sins that were our fast-pass to eternal death were destroyed.  The overwhelming guilt and fatal consequences of our human imperfections were wiped cleaner than the whitest white board (excuse the poor analogy).  Not only that, the all-knowing, forever-existing, incredibly powerful God that formed our bodies and forms our future extended His hand in friendship.  He gave us life and also a relationship with God.  Obviously, all this couldn't have happened if Jesus wasn't born but this is the why behind His birth.  This is what it all comes down to.

 And we celebrate by eating ham and doing egg hunts?  Perhaps Christmas receives so much attention because we feel like there is more in it for us.  It means time off of school, an excuse to overindulge, and time with family.  Not too mention the presents.  I find it sad that we get more excited about what limited-warranty plastic gift might be in a shoebox wrapped in paper than the idea that we have been given access to God and to eternal life. 

Sure, there are Easter traditions.  Like the classic egg hunt.  Exactly what does this have to do with the gruesome death and glorious Resurrection of Jesus?  Oh, it's a symbol, you say?  Eggs mean rebirth.  Why didn't I think of that?  Probably because no one is thinking about how miraculous the Resurrection of Jesus was when they are shoving someone into the dirt so they can get to a plastic egg with last year's candy in it.

This culture is incredibly good at taking things and making them "Christian".  We can take our beloved traditions and Saran-Wrap them with the a plastic film of Christianity.  Here's the funny thing about Saran-Wrap: it's clear.  You can see right through it. The same goes for trying to make things that mean nothing mean something about God.  Its not only pointless, its completely unnecessary.  God shows Himself in so many ways, He really doesn't need our futile fumblings.  He is in the fact that you are about to take another breath.  He is seen in the breath-taking beauty of both the world He created and the people that inhabit it.  His love is immense and overwhelming and Easter is an incredible time to reflect on how incredible God is.......while munching away on that 12 pound chocolate bunny, of course.


Extra side note:  Some try to devalue Easter since the actual date of the holiday is not historically accurate.  I would agree, I don't believe we can know the exact date of the Crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This does not make His death and Resurrection or the celebration of it any less legitimate.