Last year at College Conference, I had the opportunity to be a small group leader. When I asked my group what they wanted most out of the conference, my group members all told me a similar story: they felt lonely and disconnected at their respective schools and wanted a couple days to feel in communion with other Orthodox Christians their age that also regard their faith as the most important aspect of their existence.
I was surprised by this “wish”. It was a relatively quaint request, to feel like you belong somewhere. Yet, it was also a vital need for not only young people, but humans in general. Even though I barely knew my group members, I was immensely proud of them. I was proud that they turned to the Orthodox community to fill this void. I also became excited because I knew I would be learning a lot from these individuals over the course of the conference.
Last March, my boyfriend passed away. I stared at the wall for months. I avoided friends. I avoided activities I normally loved. I avoided sleep. The only time I would leave the house would be to go to church with my mother. But at church, I never talked with anyone, I never engaged with the community till months later. I came to escape from the wretched loneliness and from the irrational guilt by being in the presence of the Lord; I did not see any gain by building relationships with the young people of my church in Castro Valley.
I am so thankful now that I turned my heart to God while entrenched with grief. These young people in my group were doing the same thing: they were trusting in God to provide for all their needs. But my group members had realized something that I had failed to, that engaging with other young adults had value and was an essential part of our faith.
I am so thankful now that I turned to my heart to God while entrenched with grief.
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All these years I never fully believed that I needed the community of the church for personal issues, triumphs, and failures. Thankfully, College Conference showed me a different reality: my student brothers and sisters in Christ are essential for my healing, whether it be mental, spiritual, emotional, or physical. How else would one be able to experience and appreciate all the beautiful layers of our services, biblical material, and hymns without discussion with other perceptive and hungry-for-spiritual-fruit young people? I made so many wonderful friends that quickly proved to be some of the most reliable, sweet and wholesome people in my life.
Go to College Conference, because like me, I am sure you do not realize how much you need it.
Andriana Malhi is a Senior at UC Davis and is majoring in Psychology and Religious studies. She hopes to get her Psy.D in Clinical Psychology after Davis. Fun Facts: Andriana is also is a bonafide cat lady and her favorite saint is Ayia Thekla.