Let’s check in.
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 email@example.com 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’.
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.
CC West 2015
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.
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.
The month of May was full of transitions. Twelve of them to be exact, with a couple more to come. As I meet with each outgoing member of the SLB and their incoming replacement for this year to transition from the old SLB to the new SLB, my feelings careen from excited to nervous to anxious to happy to sad to scared. Change is hard.
The seniors on the 2015 – 2016 SLB took OCF to bigger and better places, served the Church and the Faith, and became some of my dearest friends. It’s hard to say goodbye to them as they make their own transitions into the real world, whether that be further schooling or a career. They have been models of faith, strength, leadership, hard work, love, and dedication for the rest of us underclassmen who were on the SLB this past year. I am excited for them and scared to let them go.
2015 – 2016 Student Leadership Board
As I get to know the incoming members of the 2016 – 2017 SLB, I already know they will also do great things. They’re motivated, excited, faithful, smart, and kind people. I can’t wait to get to know them better and work with them to serve Christ and His will.
Get to know the new SLB here!
This month of May hasn’t just been a period of logistical transitions – changing email accounts, updating the incoming Regional Student Leaders on the current state of their respective regions, etc. – but also of personal transition. As I step into my position of Chairman for the upcoming year, I go from team member to team leader. Suddenly there is a lot more to do – my email inbox has tripled in size, my to-do list continues to grow without end in sight, my calendar is cluttered with conference calls. I’m passing the torch of Publications and assuming the raging bonfire torch of Chairman. What has surprised and scared me the most about this transition is the power. The power of making decisions, of starting new programs and ending old ones, to control what OCF looks like for this year. It could either be really good or really bad.
As myself and the incoming SLB begin feeling our way through our new positions, I remind myself to keep these words of Christ in mind:
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:10
We are called by Christ in whatever we do, not just serving on the OCF Student Leadership Board. As each of us transition into new aspects of our lives – leadership positions, jobs, relationships, moving, a new semester, we must remember that all things are for the will of Christ and His glory.
You’ve finished the application process. Take a moment, breathe a sigh of relief.
Applying for colleges is rough. The process can be grueling and unpleasant. And then, after all that work, you receive a rejection? That hurts. Wait-listed? Still hurts, totally different way.
But you got accepted somewhere (I’m pretty sure), and that’s awesome. Now it’s time to make what can be a life-altering choice: which of the schools to which you’ve been accepted should you attend?
I had to face that decision once, so I know that it’s a doozy. I’d like to share with you some ideas I think are crucial in these, the waning stages of your college application process—these recommendations come solely from my experience, and are likely a tad subjective, but you can glean from them what you will.
- It will be okay. No, actually, it will be. You know how you hear that a lot and it just kinda goes in one ear and out the other? You should really take a second to let that sink in. It validates everything you go through. Because everything is going to be alright, it’s okay for things to be really tough occasionally, it’s okay to struggle and fail, because you’re going to survive. You are indomitable. This is excellent news.
- Though, if you want to be totally positive that it will be okay…pray. God needs to be a part of this decision—really, God needs to be part of every decision, but He really needs to be a part of this one. These are going to be (at least) four formative years. You will be a different person by the end of this decision, this decision that will have echoing consequences for the rest of your life. I don’t say this to freak you out, but I would like to impress upon you the magnitude of this choice: it’s important, and if you forget God in it, that will come back to bite you. There is no moment in life wherein asking God for guidance and love is a bad idea—this, particularly, is a good one.
- Have a game-plan. In one of the best confessions I’ve ever head, my father confessor told me “Benjamin, forgive my slang, but don’t screw around with this.” It was a pretty funny moment, but there’s a lesson in there. I just told you how important this decision is gonna be—so don’t screw around with this. Sit down (after you pray for guidance and love) and ask yourself: “What things are truly the most valuable to me?” A friend of mine was accepted to the best art school in the nation, but declined because the structure of the curriculum did not beget the aspects of art she honestly valued. “What resources must my University have?” I knew I needed a big school, near a city, with an expansive core curriculum—and I got one. “Will I be able to continue doing the things I love?” I get to run on Lake Michigan every morning and watch the sun rise; I get to attend an OCA church every week. Be honest with yourself and what you need. Considering how crucial an OCF is to the continuation and growth of your faith is a must.
- Don’t go it alone. I’m writing this post so that you don’t make this decision cold-turkey, having never heard another perspective before. Access people you trust—those who are still in college, recently graduated, and graduated ages ago. Bounce your ideas off of them and let them bounce off of you. Odds to evens, you aren’t the smartest person you know, so access some other people.
P.S. This doesn’t stop once you choose your university. It keeps going. Have trusted individuals, with which you can be vulnerable. A wise man once told me: when we’re at our most vulnerable, we’re at our strongest.
- Choose, then be at peace. You got it right—and even if you got it wrong, check out recommendation #1. Be at peace. God will be with you no matter where you go, and even if it’s awful for four years, you will emerge a stronger individual for it if your trust is in the right place.
- Get pumped. YOU’RE STARTING COLLEGE! It’s game time, baby. You get to start impacting the world, on a drastic scale, right now. Here we go.
Benjamin Solak is a undeclared first-year at the University of Chicago. He’s a fan of football, priests who dish out communion really fast, and brightly-colored pants. He invites you to check out his personal blog on Christian living and personal development at benjaminsolak.wordpress.com
One of my very best friends at school and I first met at our OCF meetings. And through that, we started going to Liturgy together.
During our freshmen year we lived on campus, about a fifteen minute walk from our church. Every Sunday morning – whether it was raining, snowing, sunny, or freezing outside – we met in the quad and walked past the sleeping houses to Liturgy. While we walked, we chatted about our weeks, complained about homework, talked about our families. It was during these walks to church that we became friends.
Here we are!
We’re now juniors and roommates in an apartment we rent from a lady who goes to our church. I teach church school. Parishioners come up to us during coffee hour to ask questions about OCF and the priest’s wife gives us all a round of hugs. We’ve made friends with other young adults outside of our OCF friends. I feel like a full-fledged member of a church and a community.
This feeling of belonging I attribute to walking to church with my friend. If I had to go alone, it would have been harder. I’m not sure I would have stuck around during coffee hour to meet people or gotten out of my bed on those sub zero mornings.
St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA
And that’s my biggest piece of Orthodox College Prep advice: find a friend to go to church with. You’ll feel alone and lost and confused during your first semester of school. That’s okay. The Church is a place that welcomes you and surrounds you with her arms. Just look up at the outstretched arms of the Theotokos behind the altar, embracing you into the glory of her Son. Then look to your left or your right and see the Mother of God also embracing your new friend.