Finals No More

Life has shifted for me a lot in the past few months as I’ve returned to my hometown and tried to restart my life here. Many of the things that I’ve spent the past few years investing my time in –writing essays, developing my cooking skills, discovering the fascinating world of non-fiction– have fallen to the back burner as I have instead focused on writing relevant information, developing relationships, and discovering the fascinating world of part-time employment.

Days go by when I wish I could go back to college, to change my major to something like computer science, media studies, or graphic design. I miss the days when my biggest worries were finishing an essay or figuring out whether I’d make it to a social event that week or not. It’s been 2 1/2 years since I received my BA in English, and now I’m asking all of these questions about the world and my place in it.

This past week I actually got the opportunity to revisit the dream of college, and I was surprised with how I felt when it was over. Within the past month I have settled at a new church. Rented space, an emphasis on relationships, and a diverse body held me there after an initial invitation from my brother. I found amazing warmth and a strong focus on teaching along with a unique service opportunity.

food's onEach semester all of the college kids get the opportunity to have “Study Hall” at Pastor Raf’s house. They are welcomed in 24 hours a day for two weeks and fed both lunch and dinner by kindhearted church goers. When I first heard about this, I thought back to my college years and how much it has meant to me each quarter when our church blessed us with bags that held snacks and encouraging notes for each of us as we set in to studying for our finals. Two conversations later, my friend Natalie and I were signed up to provide 3-4 dozens college students with dinner.

Somehow thinking “feed 3-4 dozen people” is easy to do. When you pull that apart and actually try to figure out what that looks like…you run into a different situation. Natalie and I sat down to plan our meal on Wednesday, the day before we were set to cook. We selected three soup recipes, three dessert recipes, and thought that adding grilled cheese sandwiches to the soups would round out the meal nicely. We spent Thursday afternoon in our respective kitchens, and joined together with soups ready at 5:45.

About a dozen students spread themselves out near tables, whiteboards, and couches, many with notebooks and laptops in front of them. We decided that broiling our grilled cheese would be the most efficient way to cook for the students who were set to come later in the evening, so we layered up provolone, cheddar, mozzarella, and pepperjack cheese sandwiches in a large foil pan, and let the students feast. I added some Peppermint Fudge to the dessert buffet leftover from previous meals, and joined the students for their dinner. Peppermint fudge

Everything tasted wonderful and the students expressed appreciation for our work. Natalie and I each chatted with the students on their study breaks over dinner, and I was reminded about how many challenging aspects college actually holds. There’s the uncertainty of the future, balancing a schedule of academics, extracurriculars, work, and a social life, and the whole “adjusting to life away from home” bit. I laughed in my head as I chatted with three second years who asked questions about life after college.

I feel like I hardly have much advice to give, and yet, I realized that I have learned so much about myself and life in the past few years since I was in their position. At that point, I’d never made a soup before, I had worked my first job for less than a year, and I was struggling with the decision about whether or not I should add a second major. I didn’t have any idea of how to cook for a group of people, and I was too shy to have a lot of the conversations I’m having now. I’m looking forward to getting to know these students more, and watching life unfold before us all.

Questions for reflection:

Do you ever wish you could go back to college? If you could, what do you think you would do differently?

Alternately, what do you appreciate most about not being in college, and how have you changed since you finished college?