I went to the Midwest Regional Retreat this weekend, and before it was even halfway over, I couldn’t wait to tell you about it. Here goes.
Let’s start with where I was, where my mindset was, before the retreat.
I went in knowing just one person, and I expected to leave only knowing a few more. I’m definitely not the most social person on the face of the planet–I like to stick to myself. I didn’t have a cadre of compatriots from my local OCF chapter in tow with me. I hadn’t been a two- or three- or four-year attendee of this retreat. I was new, and being new is scary, and being new and not the most social person on the face of the planet is even scarier.
That’s where I was, this past Friday, the day before the retreat–but more importantly, that’s where I was, three weeks ago, when I registered for the retreat. Even in all of that scariness, I still registered.
Now, you probably won’t be exactly where I was, but you might be close to where I was. And despite where I was–unsure, hesitant, afraid–I still registered. That, my friends, is my first recommendation to you: register.
This is us. We’re pretty cool.
Most Regional Retreats are free. There’s neither harm nor foul in registering and being unable to attend. There is, however, both harm and foul in failing to register, then being able and willing and wishing to attend. The harm and foul being, of course, you miss out on the fantastic retreat.
Register. Register and get the drum-roll updates, register and get added to the Facebook group to start meeting your fellow retreat-mates. Register, and if you can’t make it, that’s okay. But don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity by failing to register. Don’t find yourself wishing you made a different decision three weeks ago.
Register, so that you can get to where I am now.
I feel so blessed. I only knew one guy headed to the retreat, and he had a spot in his car for me. The retreat was scheduled for my first weekend at college! One weekend earlier, and I wouldn’t have been able to make it. The schoolwork of the first week was not-so-overwhelming–not enough to prevent my attendance, at least. I’d even been to the retreat center before, which made me all the more comfortable.
Thank God that all of these factors came together as they did. I told you I expected to leave only knowing a few more people–I stand before you, proudly proclaiming that I know and love several. I laughed, almost to the point of tears, with a day-old friend over a poorly drawn picture of invisible guitars; I listened, awestruck, as yesterday’s strangers spoke about their pilgrimages to Greece and their life-long dream to live in the mountains; I sung, rather poorly, the Paraklesis service with twenty other Orthodox Christian college students, and our off-key stumblings were some of the most beautiful notes I have ever heard.
This serves my second point. If the first was register, the second is this: then go.
Yes, it is laughably simple, for my two recommendations for Regional Retreats to be register, then go. However, I cannot honestly give you more earnest advice. I cannot tell you how to handle your shaky expectations, your nervousness, for I had no solution myself! I simply registered nonetheless. Nor can I tell you how to handle yourself while you are there, for that belongs to you and to God, not to me. I simply arrived and was myself.
And it could not have possibly gone better.
How could you say no to free bagels? I certainly didn’t.
Last week, I encouraged you to check yourself: to look at who you were, who you wanted to become, and if you were trending in that direction. This was an examination of your growth, but on a macroscopic scale. I find myself taking the same check-in, but on a microscopic scale: comparing the individual I was before this weekend to the individual I am afterward.
The difference is both striking in magnitude and encouraging in effect. I am better than I was, trending upward, growing stronger. And all I did was register, then go.
So, the only advice I can give you is simply as such: register, then go.
If you want to learn more about your Regional Retreat, click here!
It’s been about a month. For some of you, the move was cross-country, to a towering building full of other bright-eyed, slightly-quivering first-years. For others, the move was as simple as picking up your boxes from the storage room and lugging them up to the new apartment. Either way, there was a move, a transition–a replacement of the norm. Things shifted, and until the dust settles, it’s impossible to get an accurate layout of the new land.
But it’s been about a month. The dust has settled. So let’s check in.
If you’re like me and many other people, you made a resolution or two when this impeding shift appeared on your radar–you had an agenda, consciously on your mind, of some things you wanted to accomplish. My classes actually don’t begin until Monday (quarter system what’s good), so I have yet to implement any of my resolutions or agendas, but I’ll share with you some things that are on my mind. Your resolutions are likely–and ought to be–different, but hearing mine may give you a schema to understand that about which I’m speaking.
I’d like to get on a much better sleep schedule this year. I really struggle with sleeping sometimes, so it’s important for me to clearly define when to put screens away, when to be in bed, and when to wake up. I get a lot more done this way, and it’s healthier.
In conjunction with this resolution. I hope to pray more. Having a schedule for getting to and getting up from bed should allow me to cordon off time for prayer. Because it is so stringently scheduled, I can’t miss it.
I’d like to read the entire Bible this school year. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a lot of it in chunks, but I’d like to do it coherently. I’m following a schedule and setting aside time every morning.
I’d like to get more involved with the social life at school. Last year, I was that freshman, who burrowed into the library every evening, desperately keeping his head above the teeming waters of schoolwork that suddenly inundated his previously kiddie-pool-esque academic rigor. I needed to be that guy to survive, and I was–now, I think I can be more involved with student organizations, and I’d like to be.
I have more, certainly, and some are personal–these just serve as an example.
My request of you, now, is to identify your resolutions, whether explicitly made and publicized, or subconsciously decided upon and only now recognizable.
My question for you is to check in on the young man or woman you hoped to become. How is he or she doing?
There was a shift, a changing of the landscape, when you began college and returned to a collegiate environment–doesn’t matter if it was your first year or your tenth, you were in a particular environment this summer, and now you’re in a new one.
As you were introduced to the new environment, you correctly recognized it as an opportunity to try something new–to alter your internal landscape in response to the alteration of the external landscape. So, introspectively, as someone who tried to become someone different in a different place…how are you doing?
If everything went according to plan, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how you did it, because you must have been bitten by a radioactive something to pull that off.
For the rest of us humans, something went to seed. The new environment, the collegiate environment, promotes some things and demotes some others–makes something that was previously difficult, effortless; something that was previously natural, wrong. I seek to grow socially this year, and the collegiate environment promotes that. I seek to sleep in a better schedule and pray more this year–the collegiate environment, quite simply, makes that very, very difficult.
I wish I could tell you that everything the college environment promotes, you can integrate into your life–however, this is simply not the case, and that’s what makes our life difficult as young Orthodox Christian adults. What I can tell you is that, very often, our faith tells us one thing, and the broken, fallen world fights back. The world does not take our resolutions laying down, and it throws as much as it can at us, to knock us off course.
But the Lord allows this. He allows this! Why?
That we may struggle; that we may fail; that we may fall; that we may see our fallen state; that we may turn to Him for help getting back up.
So, check in with yourself. Take a few minutes, put your phone deliberately away, sit in silence and check in. Answer the tough questions: who are you? Who were you before, in the old environment, and who are you in the new? Is that change a good one? Who do you want to be? What concrete things do you need to do to get from who you are to who you would like to be?
One month down, ladies and gentlemen. In the immortal words of the 1960’s R&B group The Impressions, keep on pushin’.