You Can’t Build a New Life on Old Foundation

Last week, my coworker, H and I were talking about going back to school. H made it clear that she did school, was good at it, but now it’s done. When I asked what exactly she wanted to do career wise, she said she didn’t know yet. She majored in Psychology. Although she thought about being an English major, she didn’t think she’d get a job. Oddly enough, I majored in English when I wanted to major in Psychology. I chose English because it was what I was passionate about. H mentioned that while she was great at school, she lacked the passion that everyone else had. I related all too well to her sentiments. When compared to other people in my program, I was the least passionate, or so it seemed from my perspective. 

When we talked more, I could see clearly how I was at her age. At twenty-three, I was left broken from college. I left school discouraged and feeling as if there were so many things torn down that I could not rebuild. I left feeling like I didn’t give my best. I see now just how much things can change in two years. It wasn’t until I was well into my post-grad resting period that I realized how wrong I was about how undergrad ended. 

At twenty-three, I was devoid of passion. I felt as if my greatest passions were supposed to sustain me from one point to the next. When they didn’t, I was left with no momentum. Passion, like happiness, burns bright red and orange. It burns deep and sparks quickly, but just as swiftly as it finds me, it will leave. My life shouldn’t rely on passion but dedication. Dedication pushes me over the hump when passion runs out. Dedication makes me lay a stone even when I don’t know what I’m building.

I thought my time after college was a time for rest, but honestly, it was the busiest two years of my life. In two years I learned what it takes to live alone. I learned about how to sustain successful friendships. I learned how to love Jesus first, my family second, and myself third. I learned that when I plan, I fail. I get too detailed, and I begin veering off on a path that isn’t destined for me. I learned that whatever you feed will grow. If you love someone today, love them tomorrow, and just keep on doing that until it’s not hard anymore. I learned that hurting people hurt people. I learned that sometimes I can be the most petulant person in the room if I get offended. I learned how not to get offended. I learned that any relationship worth having is worth the good and the bad. Each lesson, its own solid stone.

Between my patches of stone building, I entertained talk from people who said I couldn’t go back to school after a long break. “People get lazy! It happens.” I listened to people bring up my mistakes of the past. “I just don’t want you going out on a whim. Remember what happened last time?” I listened to nearly all unsolicited advice that began with someone’s best friend’s child who waited to go back to school, and life took the wheel instead. I took it all in with a smile and wrote angrily about it later. I did not realize, that my God, my glorious, glorious God was up to something. He had me building a wall. 

I didn’t leave school broken but ready for a new, everlasting foundation (Jeremiah 31:4). My discouragement came from shame, and it was good that those feelings and past actions were exposed (1 John 1:9). They were not authorized to mix in with my new foundation. I gave what I could when I had it, and at the time that was what I knew. Now that I know better, I do better, which means I give all of myself every single time (James 4:7). He was and is purifying the stones that He’s building in me and around me. He’s giving me the best, most solid foundation in all existence.

Now, I am nowhere near having myself figured out, but I know that with every stone that is being laid, I am becoming more secure in Christ and more secure in who He made me to be. He urges me every single day to keep building. Every day I am one stone closer to where I’m supposed to be. Every day, through my dedication to Him, my passions become a reality. 

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My Faith Began with Failure

I remember lying on my floor writing my admissions essay for Truman State University that would ultimately alter the trajectory of my life.

I waited until the last two hours of the deadline date to start. The admissions essay was due at midnight, and there I was, hustling to make myself sound worthy of an acceptance letter. For sure, I knew, that this school was where I was supposed to be. It was a dream campus with a dream alumni list—Jenna Fischer and my cousin. I could be close to my grandma and cousins again. I could be home. My grandpa was gone, there was no changing that, but I could visit where he was resting. In one hour and fifty minutes, I wrote all my fears and shortcomings into my essay. I was transparent and terrified, but with only two hours, I didn’t give myself room to feel or be much else. I submitted my essay at exactly 11:59 PM. I woke my mom up because I was crying and excited, and I wanted her to listen to my essay. She didn’t that night, but she did tell me that she was happy I submitted something.

Two days later, I received a call from the admissions officer.

“The admissions board loved your essay! They loved it! When do you think we’ll receive your high school transcripts?”

I told her to wait while I checked my email. “You should have them today.”

“Great! We’re looking forward to you coming to Truman!” The admissions counselors were passionate about my attendance, and their passion gave me reassurance that I would get in with no problems. I took their enthusiasm as my acceptance.

I called my mom. I rolled off a list of things I needed for my dorm. I debated what kind of room I wanted, “I’ll take the five roommates, but I’d prefer only three.” I was able to go home again, and although the school was technically hours out from St. Louis, it was still in the same state. My mom congratulated me and hung up.

Around 4 o’clock, I received another call from the admissions officer.

“Aisha?”

“Yes!” I noticed her voice was less chipper, but I ignored it.

“Unfortunately, we are declining to accept you for this upcoming semester. They really loved your essay. It’s just,” she paused for what seemed like hours, “they’re a little concerned about how your last semester of high school. I’m sure if you went to a community college and applied again… Aisha?”

I swallowed and put on a smile, “Yes, I’m here. I definitely will go to community college and apply again. Thank you so much.”

“Good, good. That’s really the best plan. Go there for a year or two and get back with us. We’d love to have you. Thank you for applying. Again, I’m sorry.”

“No, thank you. Have a good day.”

“You too.”

I was lying on my bed—supine. My tears filled my ears. I couldn’t even bring myself to panic. Truman was the only school I applied to because I was sure my writing could carry me anywhere. It didn’t. It failed me.

For weeks, I stayed in my room in the dark watching Grey’s Anatomy and neglecting my life. I wanted everything to stand still because my only plan failed. My mom briefly reminded me of what I said in my essay and told me to apply elsewhere.

“Not every place has the same deadline.” As much as I hated to admit it, she was right. I found a community college in Albany. I applied. I was accepted, and the rest is history. Many more nuanced and intentional things happened, but what fun do I get if I lay out everything?

It took me about three weeks to pack all my stuff and get prepared for my new residence. I met my roommate on Facebook. I looked up helpful hints for first year college students. I was excited. Was the school Truman? Nope, but in a lot of ways, it was something better. Darton State College was the first place I met Papa. It was the first place I stopped holding on to what separated us. It was the first place I decided on who I would be. It was the first place I experienced a love that only exists in purple flowers on the side of the road. For ten exaggerated months, it was my home.

I posted my essay below. This is where I started, and since then, I’ve slowed down, but I’ve never stopped. Sometimes, I’ll get distracted and move backwards or sideways, but I eventually end up moving forward, and truly, that’s made all the difference.

 

Keep Moving Forward

 

Aisha Harris

 

Journey: passage or progress from one stage to another. I have heard of people taking steps beyond their comfort zones, and reaching these amazing goals that they have set, never imagining that they would someday reach them. As a child, we see, in movies and in books, how the protagonist must take this rightful step, feeling fearful and with hesitation, to begin a journey that will inevitably move them in the right direction. We also learn that it is never the actual destination that matters, but the path we must travel on to get to the destination; that is where the true magic lies. I write this to you as someone who has not stepped out of her comfort zone, yet. Someone so frozen in fear, that I am nearly incapable of following through with something that will do wonders to my world. Applying to Truman is the beginning of my journey. For the first time in my life, I am not just saying I am going to do something, but I am actually doing it. I am applying to college. This is something very simple, that millions of Americans do every year, but for the last six months, I have been frozen in a time frame—watching everyone move on with their lives, and me, solid, stuck in my sedentary spot. I believe I have clenched to the ground long enough.

Throughout this last week, I have been coming up with reasons on why I would not be accepted, why something that matches my personality to a T, will go wrong. Every time, I tried talking myself out of applying, I thought of the opportunities that will be presented to me, if I allow myself to take a leap onto the first stepping stone. I have lived my life so much on other people’s terms, trying to obey, to the severest measures at times, and it has done absolutely nothing for my self-worth. Now, when it counts the most, I have become the living definition of trepidation.

This, my life, is not something I like to take lightly. I have been trying to plan out my journey attempting to predict the obstacles that I could come across. Well, here I am, blindsided, because an obstacle I didn’t expect came along—my mom. She refuses to see me plan out everything, and instead of letting me move at my own speed of comfort, she has pushed me outward, hoping that my feet will firmly land on the ground. My mom is not an obstacle, but rather a moving barrier behind me, pushing me forward. She is always pushing me forward. I do not expect for her to always hold my hand at the beginning, but the comfort of having her there is more than enough to get me moving to the life I owe myself.

No longer will I allow myself to move at my leisure, to get anywhere in this world. I would have missed out on my life by the time I had it planned out. I have come to realize that with journeys, comes living, not just being, but having an essence for the admiration of life. I have to take things as they come, good or bad, in order to grasp a full appreciation of my life. I cannot plan my whole life out, so why try. The best way to get anywhere is to have faith that you will get there, where ever your ending is. Whichever way my admission status goes, acceptance or rejection, this is still the beginning. I have still moved forward, and I know this will take me somewhere that even I could not have planned for. To conquer: to overcome by force.