Confessions of a College Control Freak

Hi, everybody! I’m Emi, a sophomore digital media production major here at Dordt, and I’m new to the Dordt Life crew this semester. I like dogs, Bunsen Brew cinnamon rolls, and writing unnecessary commentary about myself in a blog post that is most certainly not a bio - but, I digress. I do actually have something of substance to share with you today.

A long time ago, in a dorm room far, far away, I was a control freak. By a long time ago, I mean last year, and by far, far away, I mean West Hall, but again, I digress.

I remember the summer before I came to Dordt, I kept reminding myself that I had to be on top of things at college. “College is for grown ups,” I told myself, “grown ups get things done on time, don’t get behind on anything, and they definitely don’t get overwhelmed. Not ever.”

Little did I know, speaking to myself in this rigid, unforgiving tone was anything but helpful in preparing me for my collegiate career. I mistakenly thought that the only road to academic success was the one paved with straight A’s.

This constant urge to be perfect quickly flooded every aspect of my life. My existence became nothing but strict checklists, immovable daily schedules - the whole nine yards. At first, it was incredible. I had absolutely everything under control, and I felt like I could handle whatever life chucked at me. That is, until life chucked some things at me.

The main problem with this mode of thinking is that you simply cannot prepare for everything that is inevitably going to come your way. It’s a heartbreaking way of operating day-to-day, and it does nothing but squeeze joy out of what ought to be some of the best years of your life. So, if my story sounds anything like your current situation, I have a few things to say:

1. Your inherent value does not lie in a grade letter.

I cannot stress this enough. Your gift of worth comes from your identity in Jesus Christ, not that Core 140 paper that you bombed last week. If you are going to strive at anything, I beg you to work on fully grounding yourself in Christ.

2. If you must plan, leave room for the un-plan-able.

Life is just plain unpredictable. If you welcome grace into your personal daily goals, you’ll find that some anxieties just melt away along with your unrealistic expectations.

3. Exercise your spontaneity muscles.

One of my fondest memories of my fall semester freshman year was when I agreed to drive with a couple friends to a Taco Bell that was twenty minutes away. It was a Wednesday afternoon in one of the busiest weeks I had that semester. To this day, I am unsure of what possessed me to tag along on this hour-long escapade when I had so many things due the very next day, but I’m sure glad I made that decision. It was this kick of spontaneity that got me through the rest of that week. I really needed that reminder that it’s okay to have fun; to go on tex-mex adventures with people I’ve only known for a month. I also needed the reminder that I had friends, people who were on my side. We were all stressed, but the friendship we shared pulled us through it.

It took me a year to realize, but - surprise, surprise - being consumed by the goal of perfection is not freedom in Christ. Of course, homework is important and you should make an effort to do it to the best of your ability. Academic success is important, but it should never be the king. Do not allow a midterm to reduce you to a desk-ridden robot.

My vision for my adult life was way outta line. I spent too much time trying to get everything under control because I thought adults were supposed to have everything together. But, actually, a big factor in personal maturity is recognizing that some things in life are simply out of human control. So: take your time, allow for mistakes, give it another try, then move on. Let your hair down. Get some burritos on the cheap. Love Jesus with your whole heart. Repeat.

- Emi

College Is Weird, I've Decided

Ron Weird Reaction.gif

I have spent three and a half years now at Dordt so far. I have spent countless hours studying, sitting in class, and writing papers for Dordt over those years and learned so much because of it; however, college is a lot more than studying, sitting in class and writing papers. You live at school with tons of people your age, there are planned activities, sports games, theatre performances, music performances, art exhibits, food places, cafes, game rooms, lounges, I can keep going...all within a 5 to 10 minute walk from your bed. Dordt is different than a larger school's campus, so understand I am talking about a small school experience.

I've decided, from experience, that college is weird. Just plain weird.

You see the same people basically every day. Our schedules tend to stay consistent throughout a semester. So, if you pass by someone going to class on a Tuesday, while you're coming back from class, there is a chance you will see that person every Tuesday and Thursday, and practically in the same spot every time (Hey Chad). This sometimes happens even if class schedules don't align with each other. There always seems to be that one person you always see around campus, and eventually it's weird if you don't see them every day (Hey Rachel).

Since we are talking about people, let me ask you. Where else could you find multiple, legal adults, walking, biking, scootering, long boarding, or skating around to and from buildings in their pajamas? AND I MEAN AT ANY TIME OF THE DAY! Besides Walmart and maybe a nursing home, where else do you find that? If there is please let me know. Asking for a friend.

Let me give some insight of why many people wear pajamas everywhere and anywhere on campus.

Did I mention puppies are provided to cuddle sometimes before the week of exams!

Did I mention puppies are provided to cuddle sometimes before the week of exams!

  • First reason: They just rolled out of bed about three minutes before class and they didn't have time to care about their appearance.
  • Second reason: They are planning on heading back to their room directly after class to spend some quality time with their bed, and they don't want to waste time changing.
  • Third reason: They will be taking a nap at some point in the day. They won't go back to their room, they will find some corner in the campus center, classroom building, the commons, and so on...or just smack dab in the middle of the grille, library, theatre pod, so on and so on.

Either way, they will be sleeping soon. Very soon.

College is also a place for such diverse, brilliant minds to come together in one place. I have friends that are logical, creative, focused, observant, etc. I have friends who are more left brain oriented and friends who are more right brain oriented. My room alone has six different majors in it, which includes Finance, Plant Science, Engineering, Communication, Biology and Actuarial Science/Computer Science (he's an over achiever).

There's diversity of the mind, but also in background. Everyone comes from somewhere else, everyone has their own story and everyone has their own future to live. There are students and faculty from all around the world. There are opportunities to send students all around the world. We have students who know exactly what they are going to do, and we have studies that literally have no clue and they graduate in a few months...guilty.

Professors are some of the weirdest and most interesting people you might ever meet. They are extremely intelligent, write and get published books and papers, they get funding for studies, and they also want to teach you...yes you...the student. They could most likely be at some fancy titled place doing research or whatever, but they are in the classroom helping you earn a degree so we can somehow survive in the "real world." 

Where else am I going to find professors that discuss the influence the Renaissance has on the modern world, and how Meatloaf relates to how we memorize in the same class period. Professors who have lived in Japan, the Amazon Rainforest and Sioux Center, Iowa...and I'm talking about the same professor. Professors that invite you to their house and it's not weird...but also super weird at the same time...but only when you think about how weird it is..

Speaking of not finding things weird, but not thinking its weird is weird (sorry if I just confused you). Let's talk about pulling all-nighters. No one really questions that you pulled an all-nighter. A lot of students do it (I'm looking at you Digital Media students). Others might ask you why? But they never think it's odd that you just stayed up all night and still haven't gone back to your room. They probably have done it at least once.

DISCLAIMER: I do not support all-nighters. TheDordtLife.com does not support all-nighters. Your grandma does not support all-nighters. I did it once...it was the worst...that's a different story though, and this also might explain why that person is sleeping on the couch by the info desk.

College is a place of maturing as a human, expanding your mind, finding your identity...but it's also a place to go on donut runs in the middle of the night, to walk around in onesies and as long it's not a Snuggie no one will judge you, and to play Humans vs. Zombies for three days where you literally see people running across campus throwing socks at each other.

College is just a pit stop on the road of life. Like Tom Cochrane's masterpiece "Life Is A Highway" talks about. We are driving on the highway called life. College is that weird back road through that small town you can never remember the name of that you take to get to the next main road called a career. It's sketchy, fascinating and full of surprises. All we can do is ride it...all night long...because I have a 15 page paper due at 8am and I'm about to pull an all-nighter.

- Luke

The Dreaded Two-Letter Word

Photo credits to my lovely roommate, Ellen Inggrid Dengah.

Photo credits to my lovely roommate, Ellen Inggrid Dengah.

Busyness becomes a competition in college.

“Oh, you play a varsity sport? Well I’m in the musical and I’m on Student Symposium and I volunteer in the nursery at my church.”

“Oh yeah? Well I’m in charge of the sustainability committee and tutor Spanish students. Plus I play intramural softball and I manage the business club, which means I work at 55th basically every night.”

“I run cross country and track, so I don’t even have an off season. And homework during the day? No way! I’m in Concert Choir and Kantorei. I also work at the movie theatre in addition to my maintenance work study.”

 “I’m a digital media major. Everybody is always asking me for help making videos for campus events. I did the video for TX, the freshman talent show, NCDC, the Pops Concert, and convocation last year. And I write for the Diamond.”

“Well I’m a nurse. I average five hours of sleep per night.”

“That’s plenty of sleep! I’m on res life staff, so between babysitting my professors kids twice a week, basketball practice, planning wing events, taking 21 credits, swing dance club, and the travelling worship team, I’m lucky if I get three hours a night.”

In taking an honest look at those statements, can’t you hear them coming out a friend’s mouth, if not your own?

As college students, and especially as Dordt college students, we’re constantly offered opportunities to fill our schedules. A day doesn’t go by without an in-person invitation or an email or a text message regarding a service project or an acting job or a summer course that I would love to participate in. And would I want it any other way? Absolutely not! There’s nothing like living in a place where people are involved, taking initiative to create outlets for their passions. It’s inspiring.

But, as President Hoekstra wisely noted during his chapel talk last January, God has only given us 24 hours in a day, and that time constraint is a pretty good indicator of what He’s calling us to. In other words, He’s not calling us to take on every responsibility that finds its way into our inbox.

College is about learning – obviously. Much of that learning happens outside the classroom, though, including this lesson inherently embedded into the college experience:

Sometimes, you have to use that dreaded two-letter word. You have to say no.

The course catalog is chocked full of classes that peak my interest, but it isn’t possible to fit them all into my few semesters here, even if I overload every semester. Some of those classes will have to wait until grad school or until I’m an elderly, retired lady sitting in on classes to keep my mind sharp. And that’s okay.

The club fair features dozens of booths advertising engaging groups that will broaden my social circles and extend my comfort zone, but some of those hobbies will have to be post-college pastimes, or perhaps they’ll never litter the “special interests” section of my resume. And that’s okay.

My various friends plan various Friday night adventures that would all prove memorable and scrapbook worthy, but there’s only one of me and only so many weekends in a semester. And that’s okay.

College isn’t the end-all-be-all we treat it as; rather, college is just the beginning. As human beings, and especially as Christian human beings excited about exploring the world He’s created us for, we are life long learners. We’ll always be taking in new information, honing new skills, and trying new activities. Our curiosity will never be satisfied, and it certainly won’t be satisfied in a four-year span, no matter which remarkable institution claims those four years.

So should we use those four years to grow our curiosity, to take advantage of all the opportunities God lines up, and explore as much as we can? Absolutely. But should we put so much pressure on those four exploratory years that we fill our schedules beyond what we can bear, planning our lives on an hour-by-hour basis, every slot between 8:00am and 2:00am waiting to be filled? Should we commit to so many activities that we can’t give any of them our full attention? Should we fill our time with so many meetings that we neglect spending time being with people we love? or sleeping? or eating?

And most importantly, should we compare our schedules to everyone else’s, basing our worth on whether we’re as busy, as involved, as invested, and ultimately, as stressed out as everyone else? Should playing these comparison games paralyze us, make us fearful that we’re not enough and that we’ll never be able to be enough? Last time I checked, nobody was giving out awards to the most strung-out students, unless you consider high blood pressure and early hair loss rewarding. We’re called to be good stewards of our time, which does not translate into overextending ourselves.

As a freshman, I learned the art and eventual demise of overextension. I just read Hayley’s blog post about her first four weeks here, and I can relate fully. Dordt is a special place, as Haley so articulately expresses. Initially, I wanted to tap into every outflow of that specialness. I wanted to try it all, and I’m glad I did because, as a current junior, I now better know how God wants me to use my twenty-four hours. Because I’ve previously explored so broadly, I’m now prepared to explore more deeply in the fewer activities I choose to stick with, all alongside the people I’ve been developing deep connections with these past few years.

I’m not advising everyone reading this blog post to eliminate "yes" from their vocabulary. I’m simply echoing wise words spoken to me by older students, words I’ve repeated to friends frequently these last few weeks. In turn, I’m speaking to the majority of us college students, to those of us who have stretched ourselves so thin that we’re failing to live out the second portion of the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Until we take time to care for our own wellbeing, to rest and assure that we’re being filled, we won’t have anything leftover to pour into others or into worthwhile activities that bless others. A little bit of alone time, or a prayer walk, or time with friends, or a nap, or reading a good book for leisure proves biblical.

And it begins by saying no every once in a while, which is okay.

-- Annie