On Thursday I took my last test while in nursing school; a Kaplan predictor with 150 rather difficult questions. It was an early morning, an eight o’clock test. While driving to SAU, the misty fog rose heavily from the asphalt as the morning sun met the remnants from last night’s storm. Not an unusual sight but breathtaking every time I see it. I pulled into the parking lot and walked into the LRC. The testing center. The room where my fate has been decided for the past 4 years. A wave of nostalgia washed over me as I looked around at the Adult Health 2 class taking their final in the same room. I remembered the first time I took that test; it was the first and only time I’ve had a legitimate panic attack. Mid test I realized I didn’t know the content well enough and my heart began to race, my head felt light and nauseous, and I needed out. Somewhere. Anywhere. I got a drink from the fountain and sat down again. I prayed. The questions began to swirl on the computer screen and my mind raced, bringing back loads of useless information to my recollection. I didn’t pass that test. Consequently I didn’t pass that class. But it wasn’t my first disappointment with having to repeat classes, nor would it be my last. I’ve somehow managed to squeeze two years of nursing school into four. The number 78 will forever be etched into my brain as the magical number which decides whether I pass or fail. 76-77.3% final test grades don’t make the cut. Trust me, I’ve tried.
So here I am, a 23 year old super senior who’s a junior by credits, who just graduated with my associates degree in nursing. Do I feel behind, like I’ve been held back from starting life? Ha, far from it!! I view these extra two years in school as a gift from God that has changed my life forever. In fact, looking back over the past 4-1/2 years I can’t help but see how God has divinely led my experience. I decided to pen a letter with advice to my younger freshman self, a timid 19 year-old with so much to learn. If you don’t mind, I thought I’d share it with you.
Yeah, I know that’s your current nickname given to you after you were made to believe a three-stroke engine actually exists. I also know you don’t spread that name around much because it’s kind of embarrassing. But it’s ok, we all make mistakes at times. You just have to laugh at your blunders and move on and become a stronger man for them. Trust me, that’s a skill you’ll need to develop rather quickly. You’re so insecure with yourself but that will change. You don’t know what you believe, whether you think jewelry is alright or not, whether theaters are evil or tolerable, to name a couple. But it’s ok, you have the next few years to figure out what you believe and to begin living your life based on personal convictions rather than family traditions.
You’re literally going to know no one when you first arrive. But here’s a little secret, Southern Adventist University is full of amazing, incredible, top-notch, godly people who are just waiting to be your friends. When you (ahem, your grandparents) pay that depressingly large amount of money each semester, you’re not paying for a degree. You can get that at a community college for 1/1000000th of the cost (roughly). No, you’re paying for an education. An education on life. Friends. Your walk with Christ. Service. How to be a missionary today. You’re paying for the opportunity to interact with people who will lead you to the foot of the cross on a daily basis! You’re paying for the opportunity to join those people on trips to Guyana, Brazil, and Haiti. Never, ever, underestimate the worth of godly friends. Their value is beyond compare. Join SA, get involved in the events, be random, wear that alien costume so when you meet your friends later you can look back at your first picture together and laugh. Breathe some helium and sing One Direction on the promenade with your best guy friend. Film an SA promo with horses galloping across the campus. Dress up as a scarecrow and let people take pictures of you on the promenade. Get out there and make new friends! Never let a person pass you without attempting to make eye contact and brighten their day with a word of encouragement or a smile. You’ll find a lot of bee-liners on the promenade; you can recognize them by the earbuds they wear. Accept that challenge!
Then there are girls. Let me just stop here and say hey, they’re people too! Stop being so nervous and go talk to them. Ask that one girl to banquet! You’ll end up going as friends in a group but hey, the goal was to be there with her and that happened. You’ll borrow a friend’s van and be the gentleman while driving her and her friends all the way from Thatcher South to the gym, complete with an umbrella due to the rain. Oh and never miss an opportunity for a vespers date! They’re probably the cheesiest things you’ll ever do, but they’re memory makers and keep Southern’s nostalgic tradition alive. Even that super awkward one will earn you another priceless friend in the end. You’ll have a lot of girls who become close friends and people will tease you about having a “harem”, but don’t let it go to your head. Your duty as a man is to protect and guard those girls’ hearts. Don’t play with their emotions! I know you will make mistakes but in the end, just try and make things right. Don’t get physical with them; the sooner physical intimacy starts, the sooner emotional intimacy stops. Don’t regret anything. This only holds you back from truly living and loving. If you did something wrong, make it right and learn from the experience. Making things right might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it’s worth it. Oh, you’ll also meet a really sweet and beautiful girl that you’ll really really like. So ask her to be your girlfriend! Just do it, in a romantic way of course. Life may take you both down different paths in the end, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that you opened yourself up to another person, became vulnerable, loved deeply and shared moments which will stay with you through the rest of your life. You will learn what it truly means to love. Any boy can say “I love you” when the lights are low, the flowers smell sweet, and the music is softly playing on the radio. It takes a man to show “I love you” when you separate and you’re both reeling from the pain. In the end you’ll be alright, you both will stay friends, and life will move on.
Because life really isn’t about you, kid. At the end of the day your heart will only be at peace if you have made a difference in someone else’s life. Sure it’ll take you a few extra minutes to give your friend a ride to class, but do it. Yes you may have ten assignments waiting back in your room, but go talk to that student about to cry in the library. You’ll find out they hate themselves for things they did the night before and before the end of your talk, you’ll be crying and praying together. Each time you have to repeat a class, don’t ever complain that you’re falling behind. No, God has now placed you into a new group of people and there is at least one or two that He has called you to reach. Don’t be disappointed by failure, be humbled by the calling. Don’t waste your time trying to make a perfect grade. Ten years from now nobody will even care what score you got on that quiz. They will only care whether you know how to heal them and if you care enough to make them feel loved.
Because everyone needs love. Of all the lessons you’ll learn during college, the most important is the fact that everyone is searching for love. Some in all the wrong places. God has given you an immense capacity to love and it is your privilege to channel His love to all those around you. Show them that you care because they’re worth it.
And hey, while you’re there, you might as well learn a thing or two so you can pass your classes. The nursing program is great and all but they’re so friendly that they’ll keep you in there unless you keep your grades up. So keep that in mind.
There’s really so much about college you’ll experience that I have no room to write it down. It will change your life. You think you’re cool because you’ve taught public school and saved people’s lives in the ambulance and lived all sorts of cool places and experienced more than the average kid your age. But don’t let that fool you. A life of past glory is a life of current decline. Live in the moment, take that new trail, leap into that waterfall, take her to that concert, jump onto passing freight trains with him, teach them how to insert an IV, film the work down in the Amazon, laugh until you cry, cry until the tears heal the heartache, embrace the pain and savor the pleasure. Live. Really truly live. College will be some of the best years of your life.
But hey, even as I complete my college life I know that I have incredible years ahead of me! God is faithful and His calling is sure. Until I die, my best years are yet to be lived. And as always kid, live your motto: Follow the anecdotal path.
Good luck! Graduation will be here sooner than you realize but don’t focus on that, enjoy the moment.”