Community, the Capitol, and Central Hall

Every time I meet someone from Hillsdale College while out here in D.C., they always ask if I know [insert their friend’s name here].

Most of the time, I fall back on “I know the name, but not the person,” but the point has been made. Even here, hundreds of miles away, the Hillsdale community is strong. And when I say it is strong, I mean it’s almost obnoxious how many other Hillsdale students and alums are working or interning in the nation’s capitol.

I know it’s because I run heavily in the conservative culture here, but it seems like my alma mater is everywhere I turn. I meet someone from my school almost every week—a speaker at a lecture, someone on the street, a fellow church member. And although Hillsdale’s ever-growing presence is a sort of running joke in town, I am thankful for it.

Community takes on a new meaning when you’re in a city for the first time, and I am lucky enough to have one built in. I haven’t had to flounder for friends, because there is a whole dorm full of them quite literally a block from where I work.

There is something to be said for going it alone, to be thrust completely out of your element, but I think it is only possible to thrive on your own once your roots have been firmly planted. I am only beginning to understand my roots. I am only starting to learn what it means to be grounded in people and places and moments.

Nearly three months in D.C. has only shown my heart has not been uprooted, only transplanted.

This isn’t a post about school spirit. This is not about cheering at football games. This is not about bumper stickers or class shirts or banners.

This is about how I have buried my heart under the well-worn steps of Central Hall. This is about planting my hopes among the flowers of Arb, rooting myself in the blue and the white, finding my purpose among bustling Midwest halls.

This is about unspoken allies in the city.

No matter what internship or job brings someone here, we both understand what is like to struggle through American Heritage, to see the glow of Central Hall at sunset, to have your heart jump in fear (or excitement) when Dr. Arnn rounds the corner. It’s a shared experience that is irreplaceable, unexplainable.

Knowing there are others—many others—in this town who share these roots is a comfort. Seeing where they are now is an encouragement. Meeting them is a joy, if only because the unspoken becomes the spoken.

The friendships I form at school might fade. Details of classroom lessons will be replaced. But the sense of community will never disappear, no matter where I go.  Once a Charger, always a Charger.

So charge on, Washington. Charge on.

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The Inside Scoop

In Iowa, the smell of manure hangs in the air and the highway is sandwiched between two empty fields that disappear over the horizon. I’m a midwest girl, but spending two weeks in drizzling rain in what seems like one endless cornfield was a little too much, even for me.

But when you get the opportunity to work with some of the best Christian journalists in the country, you go anywhere, including the cornfields.

World Journalism Institute is a program for young Christian journalists (like me). This year’s program focused on “backpack journalism” and was essentially a crash course in print, audio, video, and photo journalism.

And although getting to work with experienced writers was amazing, one of my favorite parts of the trip was something much less grandeur.

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These girls are as sweet as the dessert

It turns out that just a few towns over from Sioux Center, Iowa, is Le Mars, the ice cream capital of the world. The program director had promised to take us there to visit the Blue Bunny parlor. So, we put a pause on our finals presentations and stuffed ourselves into vans. The Blue Bunny store was cute, with a penny press and a little gift shop.

But this story isn’t about ice cream.

After a cone and a quick photo-op, we piled back into the vans. With 26 students to get back to Sioux Center, each van was packed tight.

As the van rocked back and forth past the dark cornfields, I realized I had fallen in love with these people.

I listened to the row of girls behind me scream-singing to pop music and watched a boy marvel at the country stars. One girl had fallen asleep with her head rested against the seat in front of her and her blond hair was spilling over her shoulders. The guy next to me saved space by sitting on the floor, wedged between the seat and the van wall. It was a mix of chaos and joy and exhaustion and maybe a little too much sugar.

And I loved every second of it.

Two weeks is not very long to fall in love with someone, let alone 25 other someones. Yet that was somehow what had happened.

Perhaps it’s the fact that we are all connected by our love of stories. We all take some form of solace in words. We all want to be better Christians, people, and writers. We all want the same thing.

I’m trying not to paint this as a profound moment. This wasn’t a life-changing van ride through the country or the first step on some sort of journey.

It was a small slice of community, a taste of joy.

And, sometimes, that is the only story that needs telling.

Surprise, I’m not an extrovert

I used to absolutely adore parties. Not the raucous drinking and dancing parties of college, but the middle-school, my-parents-dropped-me-off parties someone would host once a month. I was extroverted beyond belief. I couldn’t wait to go out. I would be texting 3 friends and talking to 4 more on Facebook. I lived and breathed people.

As I got older, these events began to exhaust me. Groups seemed louder and conversation was harder. I became tired more quickly, but I couldn’t understand what had changed. As an extrovert, I knew I was supposed to be energized by these events, so I kept making myself attend, even though they were actually draining me. I was working under a false impression of myself, and it was negatively affecting how I reenergized.

Then one day I stumbled across the definition of an “ambivert” and the heavens opened. A choir of angels descended from the sky and blessed me never having to attend a party again with sweet angelic song.

Someone who is ambiverted is neither extroverted nor introverted, but is instead a mix of the two.

I am an extroverted-ambivert, meaning I still lean toward the extroverted side. For me, this means that I draw energy from small groups of people, but shut down at large events. I can stay up all night with three people, but prefer watching movies alone to attending a house party.

Knowing that I draw my energy from both staying in and going out has changed the way I interact with people and how I take care of myself. Knowing what kind of interaction is best for me means I won’t put myself into situations where I stress myself out more. I use this knowledge to make sure I am at my best.

The more you know about yourself, the better you can take care of yourself. I definitely believe that if I had not realized I was ambiverted before college, I would have tried to reenergize by going out on the weekends, because that’s what I was “supposed” to be doing as an extrovert. Instead, I know that staying in or socializing with just a few friends is a far better way for me to relax and prepare myself the fresh hell of Monday.

If you’re an incoming freshman (or even if you’re not), I encourage you to take a Myers-Briggs test. You answer a few simple questions and it will tell you your personality type, including how extroverted or introverted you are. The more near the middle you are, the more you share traits from both sides of the personality spectrum.

When I first took this test, probably sometime during late middle school/early high school, my introversion/extroversion results leaned heavily extroverted (somewhere above 50%). Because personalities shift as a person matures, levels of introversion/extroversion can change, too. My latest result told me I was 3% extroverted, meaning I am almost exactly in the middle of being introverted or extroverted, with a very slight leaning toward extroversion. This fits exactly with what I observed about myself.

The official Myers-Briggs test costs money, but I like THIS knockoff, as it tells you the percentages of your results.

Share your personality type! Are you introverted, extroverted, or ambiverted? What are some of your self-care tips?

Different kinds of perfect

There are some moments that no amount of photography or videography can adequately capture.

Different Kinds of Perfect

One such moment was just the other night. My friend group had spent the day together swimming and adventuring and were finishing out the night on a boat. Pizza boxes were scattered around and empty pop cans sat on the table. I was snuggled against my boyfriend, a blanket keeping out the cool air. Stars were starting to shine against the dark sky, and music played softly over the lapping of the water against the boat.

Why, I wondered, would anyone want to give this up?

I realize this time in my life is fleeting. That one day staying out until 1 or 2 a.m. won’t be possible because we told the babysitter midnight. That one day I will need more than six hours of sleep. That one day exploring with my friends will dissolve into meeting for lunch occasionally.

If life is perfect as it is now, with all its adventures and terrible food and long days, why would I ever want it to change?

Because, I concluded, watching my friends talk among themselves, there are different kinds of perfect.

As we change, so does our idea of perfection. At age 19, it consists of late nights and greasy pizza and friends—but our tastes and desires and wishes shift. What was right for me now won’t always be what I want.

If my idea of perfection is growing, it means I am, too.

Even as we grow, though, we yearn for what we lost. That’s why we take the pictures, why we take the videos. We want to desperately remember all our versions of perfection. Even as they change, we hold them dear.

Perfection is fleeting, but only because perfection is always changing.

One day, my life will be something completely different than it is now. It might involve children, or travel, or photography. It might be right back on the boat, with summer air and older friends.

Whatever it is, wherever I end up, it will be perfect.