I wrote this post to possibly share through a project taking place at Warner, but wanted to share it here before the editing process begins.
I went to college after high school because that’s what I was supposed to do. In my family, you went to church on Sunday, you obeyed your parents, you collected Happy Meal toys, and you went to college after high school. My only real decision was my location and my major, and the second part of that was not decided until after my first semester, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Because of a mission trip to Alaska my junior year of high school, I dreamed of going to college there one day. But once I found out that most of the majors were about wildlife or minerals, my interest dwindled considerably. In addition I was the first grandchild, so the family said I needed to remain in the state. No problem! I looked at colleges throughout Washington, and enjoyed a brief fantasy about Harvard when they sent me an application packet, before narrowing it down to Western Washington, Whitworth, Whitman, Washington State, or Seattle Pacific (had to have one non-“W” in there). I applied to Whitworth first, primarily because of their application deadline, and was overjoyed at my acceptance without knowing if I really wanted to go or who I really wanted to be. Just before the application deadlines for the other schools, I received a new brochure from Whitworth that was sent to my address under a slightly different name. Looking through I spotted a service organization that included mission trips to Alaska. I literally fell of the bed as the figurative lightning struck. I had found my new home! The irony is that the organization mentioned had never done a single mission trip but rather served lunches in downtown Spokane; an unusual misprint in that brochure that guided my next four years.
So off to Spokane I went, with big hopes, dreams, and wishes about becoming a fabulous something. My first semester was spent primarily in the all-guy’s dorm enjoying my new-found freedom (no, nothing bad happened) and attending general education courses in my pajamas. I lived in an all-girl’s dorm, survived the laundry room drama sessions, played powder-puff football, and just enjoyed this new world.
Now I mentioned before that I had not selected a major yet so I was among the many many undeclared freshman; not a place I wanted to be. As I talked with friends and dorm mates, I kept finding myself rejecting their majors as possibilities for my own. Education? No. Biology? No. Sociology? No. Psychology? No. Business? No. Religion? Hmmm…I have no idea what I would do with that so why not. I had grown up in the church but only during the autumn before college had decided that my faith needed to be more than a “Get out of Hell” card. So the spring semester included my first religion courses with the plan of one day working in children’s ministry.
While the major stayed the same, the career goals shifted a few more times during those four years, but I want to skip to my senior year for now.
Whitworth College had a wonderful concept called “Jan Term” which was a three-week period in January where students took one intense course or were able to take an off-campus course. This was a great option for those who wanted to travel but could not fit a semester abroad into their four or five-year plans. Over my years at Whitworth I survived an upper-division philosophy course that included 10 hours of homework a day, a weeklong jazz adventure in Cuba, an administrative ministry course with every personality test ever created, and finally a three-week trip to Germany where we studied Reformation and World War II history. During the Germany trip I learned about “two-beer theology”, the Swiss education system, and the value of an iPod when traveling with a group of 30 people for 21 days. Oh, and there were some cathedrals and museums in there too.
The most significant moment came near the end of our time in Germany, just before we ventured on to Switzerland for a few days in the Alps. We were in a monastery, with most of the group listening to a speaker and me wandering just a bit behind the group. I vividly remember walking past a low bookshelf and realizing every single book on there was written hundreds of years ago, and I could not read a single word on a single page. In that moment I realized I was not done with my education. I realized that God had, for some reason, given me an academic gift and I needed to find out why. I had to continue on to graduate school some day and that I still needed to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.
As I type this story, I am one graded paper away from completing my second Master’s Degree, and I am in some ways still wandering through that library, amazed at the accomplishments of mankind and wondering who I should be when I grow up. There are simply too many books, too many experiences, and too many opportunities to stop now.