My College Story

I am fixing to graduate college after this semester with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Writing. It looks highly possible that I am going to have a chance to do honors in 2014. In 2000, when I was fifteen years old, I got my Junior Certificate (meaning I had completed grade 10). I had been working since I was 14 and 9 months, the legal working age in Australia. So at fifteen, with my Junior Certificate, I was done with high school. I made an attempt to go into grade 11, but dropped out. In 2004, I decided that I wanted to go to college, after years of working full time. But I had not finished grade 12. Not to be deterred, I studied and sat a special exam that if I passed, I would be considered to have a grade 12 level of knowledge and therefore eligible to enter university. I sat the exam and did very well, which gained me entrance to Central Queensland University for the third term of 2004. 

By the time I started university, I had been through a few trying situations and found myself homeless, living in a homeless shelter with other homeless teenagers. We were not allowed to stay at the shelter during the day, we were supposed to be either looking for a job or studying. So when I wasn’t on campus, I would study in the park across the street from the homeless shelter. I started out majoring in Sociology and Literary Studies. The first paper I ever submitted was in my Sociology class, and it was a paper the professor failed me on because I could not see past my fundamentalist worldview. However, his comments planted seeds that germinated years later at the right time. I started a second semester of college, in 2005, but dropped out because the fundamentalist church I was at pressured me to because “women don’t need to go to college”. After dropping out that semester, I still re-enrolled the next semester and dropped out again for much the same reasons. That, and I was working 3 full time jobs. 
During this time, I met my husband and moved to the USA. We were still in a fundamentalist church, one that told me that I could not go to college or further my education because women were supposed to run a house and have lots of children, and that was all. That, and I was not to know more than my husband on any subject lest I not be in submission to him because I knew more than him. And yet I chafed constantly and desperately wanted to learn. When we eventually left fundamentalism, one of the first things I did was look into schooling options. We were in a new amazing church which encouraged me to pursue my talents. As I started sorting out how I felt about God and tried to figure out what I believed, after almost becoming agnostic, I felt God telling me to go back to school. I was still confused about what I believed about God, I was still hurting, but I felt the pull to go back to school and felt God telling me he wanted me to develop my skills and talents further, and to use them for him.
So in 2011, I contacted my school in Australia to see if I could finish my classes via distance education, and they allowed me to re-enroll. I wasn’t sure what to major in at first but ended up settling on Sociology and Writing, both of which have really suited me. For my electives I took all Communication subjects, and I am going to do postgraduate studies in Writing and Communication. My relationship with God has grown through being in college, I seem to find God in the intellectual. As I prepare to graduate after this semester and move on to honors hopefully, and then to Masters and then to my Ph.D, I will share a little more of things I have learned in college, but this is the main story with many substories, and it is the substories that I want to share. 

Back to the Garden

Back in April I wrote about how gardening had been a deeply spiritual exercise for me, even though I had never really gardened before. It’s time to give an update on what is definitely a failed garden. In the end I planted salad mix, spinach, tomatoes and strawberries. I had worked really hard to prepare the soil and spent a good deal of time and money preparing everything.

The spinach grew into small seedlings, and then promptly shriveled up and died. The salad mix grew big and beautiful, and got eaten by caterpillars. The tomato plants grew nice and tall, and got eaten by caterpillars. The strawberry plants are still trying to survive but have been eaten by caterpillars as well. And yet somehow, this is still somewhat of a spiritual exercise even though I am going to have to tear it all up and plant for a harvest in the fall.

See, it goes to show that little things that I can’t see can get in and totally destroy any growth if I am not careful. It could be caterpillars of bitterness, or gossip, or jealousy, or envy, or pride, or arrogance, or anger, or dishonesty, or gluttony or anything else. These caterpillars sneak up under the leaves, one by one, and eat all the growth. I didn’t realize the caterpillars were eating my plants and sometimes I don’t realize that certain sins are eating me. One that I struggle with a great deal is bitterness, that is something I have to keep giving to the Lord over and over again. I have to be intentional in battling bitterness.

Perhaps if I had sprayed my plants with something, they might have survived. God can spray me when I grow to keep the caterpillars away, too. I do not have to be consumed by anything, especially bitterness. I want to be like the burning bush that Moses saw…it was on fire but it was not consumed.

I think it’s time I get back to praying the Lord’s prayer every night. I find it hard to hold bitterness in my heart when I am praying “and forgive me for my sins as I forgive them who sin against me”. When I declare it often enough, it becomes reality. And really that was my friend Louis’ idea not mine, so it’s not original with me. I’m sure thankful he shared it though.

On Peace and Being Successful

I haven’t blogged in a long time, there have been many reasons for this. So many things have happened, and I was focused on getting through school semester. I’m excited because I now only have ONE class left in order to graduate, and from there I have applied for honors. After completing honors I want to continue through to getting a Master’s degree. I ultimately want a Ph.D and I am very settled on this, but it is the only thing that I am settled on. I know that I enjoy the intellectual and that I find God in the intellectual, and I know my relationship with God has been so much better since I have been in college and been learning. I thrive on learning new things, it is my passion to learn and my passion to help others learn. Which would usually make people recommend that I be a school teacher, but I don’t think that would suit me at all. I’d rather teach college. In fact, I’d really, really love to teach on a college level, which of course requires a Ph.D, which I want to obtain. Unfortunately for me, this is the only thing in my life right now that I have settled and have complete confidence that I am doing the right thing. I have had to overcome many obstacles just to get as far as I have, and I have a few more obstacles but I am determined to succeed. 

I have had some huge epiphanies in my blogging absence. In classic 12-step style I had some major things happen and I broke down and realized that this wasn’t the life I had envisioned, and that I was at a low point and that I had no idea what to do. I cried my eyes out, and I prayed differently than I had ever prayed before. I told God this wasn’t how I envisioned my life going, that I was frustrated and worried about so many things. At this point, God gave me peace because I handed the problems over to him. I had never in my life felt such peace, and even though some sucky things have happened to me lately, I still have that peace, which for me is amazing because peace is a fruit of the spirit and so it shows that Jesus has been doing some stuff in my heart. 
One of the sucky things that happened to me was that I lost a job that I enjoyed and that I was good at and competent doing, and I was crushed because I had felt somewhat valuable while doing that job. Right now I am evaluating a lot of things because obviously retail work is not what I want to spend my life doing and I am almost 30. I am reading some books about being successful, and some books about how to determine what I am good at, what makes me feel good, what my calling is. See I grew up with the idea that hard work, even hard work that I hated, would make me successful in life because I worked hard. I have since learned that that isn’t necessarily the way it goes. To be honest it feels really weird to think any other way, and it seems prideful to me to think that I should have a job that I love. The truth is that deep down, I don’t feel worthy of having a job that I love. This feeling of unworthiness permeates everything I do. I have been trying really hard to change my thinking, and I have had some victories there, but this one dies hard. The job I am working at now is a dead end job that really makes me feel bad about myself and depressed, which makes me wonder if it is even worth it. It makes me want to come up with more creative solutions for me. 
I guess one thing I question in this whole being successful ideal is that I wonder if being successful is a goal God has for me or just something I want. But then part of me knows that God gave me special skills and talents and that I feel some sense of calling. I doubt myself so much, I doubt  whether I heard God right. So really I am doing a lot of thinking and a lot of studying about success and I am also going to pour more time into things that will help me and things that make me feel valuable and things that make me thrive. Which is why I need to keep this blog updated, I thrive in writing. I also have gotten more serious about finishing my book that I am working on and it has jumped higher up the priority list for me. So join me on this journey, it’s probably going to be crazy like every other journey I’ve ever taken.