when the unfamiliar becomes familiar.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Something about familiarity is so present here, at Westmont.

It comes in waves to me.

Most of the time, it's from familiar sights. Like the bridge leading up to the DC from Armington. The mailstop. Kerrwood lawn. The prayer chapel. The residence halls. All of those begin to trigger memories that flood back into my mind times of late night section meetings, laughter, deep conversations, failed attempts, and joy over my two years at Westmont.

Some of the time it comes in smells. The scent of DC pizza flowing from the right hand corner of our dining commons. Incense cedars. The beach. Westmont soap. Those smells bring a flood of various memories to mind as well, from DC double tap dares, moments of weakness, and a wish to fast forward to another season.

Tonight, it came in the form of cherrios.

There is a box of Great Value Toasted Whole Grain Oats on my desk, one I opened just prior to starting this post. As I teared open the cardboard box, opened the bag within them and reached in to grab a handful of those delicious little o's, a slew of memories came into my head.

The first were from my last semester on campus, exactly a year ago. I would do this exact same thing, eat from my cereal box and watch marathons of Bones, The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Rec., and The Office while I tried to figure out what happened to all of my friendships. Then I went farther back to high school, where I would sit at my kitchen table with my Dad with a bowl of cherrios in hand, watching Sunday night football or simply talking with him about my future. That goes even farther back to elementary school days when I would pour a bowl of cherrios and use flavored yogurt instead of milk in the morning, copying my brother whom I wanted to be like so badly.

Cherrios have been a constant in my life for quite a while.

Westmont is becoming one of those "familiar" things, like cherrios, to me now.

I have memories, friends, and fond moments on this campus. The two years that I spent here have woven their way into my brain, so that when I think of Westmont, I think of two years of growth. Two years of struggles and triumphs, and those ever beautiful "college" years. I knew coming back this year, I would find that familiarity once more. I found it so extremely present when I arrived back to Santa Barbara after freshman year, and it was literally the comfort that surrounded me when everything else familiar in my life began to rip apart at the seams.

But things haven't been familiar since I've been back.

Things have been completely different that anything I've experienced here at Westmont. Did I ever thing when I arrived as a freshman, that come my junior year I would spend three weeks in intensive training to become a Resident Assistant? Did I see myself literally climbing mountains in the wilderness, sitting in lectures about conduct and policies, bonding with 46 other people in my same boat, and preparing a section for 25 residents who would become my family over this year?

No. I didn't.

I guess in a nutshell I'm saying that Westmont has not felt familiar over the past few weeks, because I have been neck deep in something completely unfamiliar to me - being an RA. I still cock my head a little when I call myself that, as if the title hasn't found it's niche within me yet. And maybe that's going to take some time, but I feel as though it's begun to find it's place on the shelf within my heart - at least more than it was at the beginning of this summer.

RA training has been...draining.

The past few weeks have taught me so much about life within this community. About what it means to discipline with love. To be a role model for the rest of the campus. To experience living in a "fishbowl," where people know who you are and quite possibly could be watching you throughout your year. I have learned about Westmont policies and procedures I had no idea about. I have felt overwhelmed, exhausted, and extremely nervous. But at the same time, I feel at peace, capable, excited and prepared to take on this next year.

From the four days I spent in the wilderness on Imprint, up to tonight at our Residence Life commissioning service, I have found on common thread. That I was called to this, and that I am capable of doing this. I'm not here just because. I'm not in this position because I applied on a gut instinct and forgot about it. I'm here because the Lord has called me to this responsibility, and He is equipping me everyday to handle whatever being a Resident Assistant will bring me. And sometimes it takes something like an overnight solo overlooking the beautiful Franklin Lake where I heard the quiet yet confident voice of God tell me "You are going to be beyond amazing this year" to really reassure me that I was called to do this.

That's not to say I'm not extremely nervous.
That stems from the lack of familiarity within this whole situation.

But I think this is going to be a year of unfamiliarity. And I'm going to be okay with it. There's a sense of freedom and risk that comes with letting go of what you know and embracing the great unknown. Trusting in something greater than you, and understanding that things will be okay. They might suck at times. They might be extremely difficult at times. But that something greater will bring you through it. And before you know it, things will become familiar.

It takes time, sometimes it takes years, but I think one of the greatest joys in our journeys through life is making the unfamiliar familiar.

Because only then, when what was once the unknown and the scary, the edge of the cliff that you stared over, when what was once the thing you feared most becomes something comfortable, something worn-in, something that brings back a flood of memories and becomes a constant, can you see how far you have come.

Experiencing that is one of the most powerful things I think I have ever encountered in my life.

Tonight, as all of the Resident Assistants for the various halls were being commissioned to go and serve our campus, we gathered at the prayer chapel lawn to pray over each staff. As the students moved to the middle, we laid hands on them and their RD, prayed for them, their residents, and the year ahead. Armington, my staff, my already tight-knit family moved to the center, wrapped our arms around each other and bowed our heads as Joshua began our blessing. I remember hearing the voices of those around me pray for our staff, and tears began to fill my eyes. This is where it all begins.

This is where I take the leap of faith into the great unknown, with no goal in mind but with complete and total trust in something greater.

The year will be filled with unfamiliarity, but at the end, when I reach the finish line on May 5th, I will be able to say, look how far I have come.

And may I also be able to say confidently and humbly, look how far I have yet to go.

There will always be another great unknown.

But thank you Lord, that you are my something greater, and you will walk with me through each and every unfamiliar season I will encounter.

May You be glorified in this year, Father.
Not to us, but to your name be the glory.

Respectfully submitted,
Leah

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