1. It's never too late to make new friends in an old place
In high school, I had some friends but my tunnel vision on getting into a good school and my refusal to take social risks generally isolated me. I didn't meet new people, and I certainly didn't try new things. I stayed within what I thought was the safety of my home… I didn't know how much that 'safety' was mere isolation until I went to college and grew my confidence and social skills to the point of becoming unrecognizable to my old self. Though still an introvert, I love getting to know people. I didn't know that about myself until the past 2 years.
As much as I'd grown by being away from home, there was part of me that dreaded being isolated once again upon returning home. I love hanging out with my family, but I still felt the ache for exciting, explorative, and emotionally invested friendships. Well, this summer I got that.
I had to take the risk to step into a bible study group I'd never been to – I remember almost staying home and avoiding the unknown and the risks of trying something new. But going to this bible study allowed me to meet other people my age who were home from the summer. They all had attended different high schools, but this bible study brought us together. We have bible studies, game nights, we play ultimate Frisbee with glow sticks at night, we go to country concerts the aquarium and up to Estes Park for camping. It was a blessing I never foresaw coming, but it has helped me not only to make new connections and memories but heal some of my old wounds about feeling lonely in my hometown. I'm always growing, and there's no broken place where loving others and trusting the process of healing can't uproot pain and allow redemption to take root.
2. Family time is not wasted time
I mentioned that I've grown a lot since the start of my college career, but that doesn't mean that returning to home base is unneeded or unhelpful. During the school year, it's easy for productivity to be my focus, but it's a needed reminder that people are more important than accomplishments or possessions when I'm able to see and talk to my family. I love that I have people who have known me all my life, not just for one or two years. At home, I can rest and be myself and reflect with my parents about who I am and who I want to be. It's been a great chance to eat familiar foods, take long walks and hikes, and to take in the wisdom and insights of my parents that I need at this stage of life.
Above all, I just love being around my family. It's nice to see their faces, and not just hear them over the phone every few weeks. This quality time reminds me how much I enjoy knowing others and getting to be known by others. I can be loved for who I am and I love my parents and my sister for who they are. Relationships are hard work, but they are invaluable compared to the trophies of life. Being home always reminds me of this, especially in a life stage where my peers are always striving to have and to be something more. At home, I just Am.
3. I forgot how many wonderful kinds of books there are
Seriously. There are so many! As an English and Linguistics/Psychology major, I do a lot of reading, not always of pieces, I would pick for myself. Getting to choose my own books has been refreshing and inspiring. At this very moment, books of poetry, novels, books on scientific studies, books about poets and famous authors and the best poems of a time period, autobiographies and classics are all piled up on the table beside my favorite armchair. Reading fills me up, and at the same time lets me unwind. I've been this way since I was a kid, maybe in 3rd or 4th grade. It's a joy to return to the books I want to read and learn from them, reminding myself why I love words and why I want literature to always be central to my life and to my growing ways of thinking.
4. Babysitting is as fun (or as boring) as you make it
It's a pretty good way to make money, but there isn't always a lot of accountability with babysitting. You can be the boring babysitter and just sit back and let the kids do what they want, be it playing on their own or watching TV. Or, you can suggest driving to the library to get some books, let them pick out flowers for their mother, you can jump around with them on a trampoline or pile up the kids in a wagon and go on a safari through the neighborhood parks. This summer, I have learned to love the creativity of children in ways I had not previously appreciated.
Kids are funny and observant, witty and full of love. Yeah they're not perfect at sharing or at expressing what they feel in precise words, but I am growing more and more to believe that there is so much to be learned from kids, and I'd rather be a part of helping these children to grow into creative and confident people, than save my energy and let these kids be bored in my presence for hours. The more I pour into the experience, the more I receive back from it – I love when kids giggle and smile and run to their parents to tell them about all the fun things we did together. The money is nice, but taking the opportunity to contribute to a child's growing heart and mind is the true value of being a babysitter.
5. Comfort is a good thing, but it's not THE good thing
Generally, summer is a time of restoration and peace. Comfort and healing. This is a good thing. Especially in college, so much life is always go-go-go with a thousand papers to write, tests to study for, office hours to visit, friends to keep in contact with, and classes to take notes through, all the while trying to sleep enough and cook/eat something with nutritional value. I love this time at home to reflect and to restore, but summer and time off of school isn't the only time period any person should live for. We aren't designed to live for these periods of rest – we're designed to grow and change, and sometimes take a rest from that growth so that when we return to it, we can grow better, with more energy and excitement. I love being home right now, and the remaining weeks I fully intend to take full advantage of through seeing my new friends, my family, reading, and babysitting. But, I know this isn't the final destination for me. There is so much that lies ahead, and though it exhausts me, it has a purpose. And I can't wait to see where it will take me.