And with that we are halfway through my undergraduate career.

I am stuck somewhere between exhilaration at the opportunities ahead and sheer terror at the prospect of being one year closer to reality. Over the course of the last year, I have emerged from my dimly lit freshman dorm room open to growth, discovery and relentless epiphanies. I have learned the value of trust. I have learned how to be independent without being isolated. I have learned that seeking guidance is not a sign of weakness. I have learned that I am not alone.

Freshman year, I carried a blank compass, certain it would lead me to success. I blindly and impulsively followed a sporadic arrow, never settling into one place, fearful of the consequences of becoming too comfortable. I shied from commitment, struggled with independent decisions and sought validation. White knuckled from clutching this compass, I lacked direction. I lacked awareness. I lacked purpose. I was lost.

This year, I relinquished my fear of failure and embraced the unknown. I asked questions. I wandered. I lost my compass and instead stumbled into a house near the edge of campus. Initially fearful and timid, I hid in its shadows. I was quiet. I was attentive. I was curious. I kept coming back. Gradually, armed with a nametag and sparked curiosity, I entered this house alone, without a shadow to hide behind. I was greeted with smiles. With assurance. With grace. Strangers became friends, and friends became confidants. I found myself longing for this house, craving the abundance of laughter, warmth and faith it fostered. I was no longer scared. This house became a home. I stopped looking for my compass. I have been found.

Rarely, if ever, do I share my thoughts on faith. Until last January, I had none. When asked about my religious views, I described myself as a “blank page.” Occasionally I would write in pencil on this page, perhaps to please someone or to fill a temporary void, but it would always be erased and quickly forgotten. I find comfort in being knowledgeable and aware, in being the teacher and not the student. I relish control. It wasn’t until I realized that this scope of control is so small, so minute, that I discovered I actually have none. I stumbled and struggled at the onset of this realization freshman year. I masked it and clutched whatever remnants of control remained. This was unsustainable. I was unhappy. I lacked perspective. Every event was a tumultuous one. I was drowning, unaware that I was surrounded by air.

This home I stumbled into led to fantastic and growing friendships. They embraced my blank page. They handed me pencils, erasers, pens and permanent markers, allowing me to write, erase, scribble and doodle whatever felt right, free of judgment and free of fear. They accepted my limited knowledge and thought nothing of it. They embraced me, for me. They were patient. They answered my questions and weren’t afraid to admit when they too didn’t know the answer. This community helped me start a conversation with something far bigger than myself. From the first Thursday I stumbled into that house on the corner of campus, I realized that I am not alone. I was never alone.

I have started writing onto this page, in ink. I have found a home in my faith. I have found direction, purpose and a greater sense of awareness. I can breathe again. God has graced me with perspective. He has shown me that no matter how difficult, daunting or dark my day may be, I am blessed. Through His grace and my constant pursuit of His truth, I have found hope. I have discovered that my God is your God, and your God is my God. That every prayer is heard. That I have a voice, but that I also have an ear to listen. Life’s mysteries persist, but they have a larger meaning, a meaning beyond comprehension. I make an effort to be still, to take notice of the subtleties of these mysteries and realize that my purpose is far greater than I could ever comprehend. Faith is powerful. The Spirit can thunderously echo throughout your life, and yet make itself appear so small and minute that you almost miss it. I’m keen to listen. I’m ready to learn. I’m open to His grace.

When I return to campus this fall, I get to come home. Still armed with my nametag and relentless curiosity, I get to embark on this journey with a listening ear, inquiring mind and open arms. Since realizing and accepting my faith, every action has become purposeful; every failure a masked opportunity, and every person a messenger of His grace. God is my compass. He will bring me home.

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