It’s a Strange Place

This post isn’t cohesive. It’s not going to have an emphatic concluding point. It’s not so much an update as it is a collection of thoughts. I’ve ended up in a strange place and I’m just going to leave it.Fall 2017 has been the most stressful and busiest semester of college I’ve ever had.  I’ve written more, performed more, participated more, and led more than ever before.

I have never desired rest so strongly.  The past two weeks I’ve been averaging 5 hours of sleep a night.  Not due to procrastination or lack of proper planning, but simply due to the overwhelming amount of coursework and responsibilities I committed to this semester.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed every second of this semester (well…almost every second).  I love Southeastern, the relationships I’ve built here, my education as a music teacher, and my roles in it all.  But if there is one thing that I’ve had to learn again and again, every semester of college, it’s this: rest is more important.

Rest is more important than proving yourself capable.  Rest is more important than a perfect test score.  Rest is more important than being social all the time.

None of those things are bad.  But with rest, they become infinitely more powerful.  With rest, not only will you perform tasks capably, you will excel in them.  With rest, not only will you succeed in your classes, you will actually learn something that sticks.  With rest, you will not only enjoy being social, your relationships will flourish.

I have not done a great job of resting this semester.  Because of that, I found myself lonely often, feeling inadequate, apologizing regularly, and not being at my best in my classes and relationships.

But you know what amazes me?  Even though this semester was tough, and I often wasn’t in the place I should be spiritually and mentally, God gives more grace.  My professors have been understanding, yet have pushed me to produce some of my proudest accomplishments.  My friends have been constant, and have encouraged me (knowingly or unknowingly) many times throughout the semester.

I know God’s grace is real because I am writing this on the last day of the semester, and I have made it through.  And certainly not on my own strength, because if I was to rely on my own strength, I’d have slept through the last month.

On to some other thoughts.  Sometimes I am filled with such overwhelming love for my friends and sometimes I am battling loneliness.  It’s an odd dichotomy, and I think it stems from two things:

  1.  I place too much of my identity in my earthly relationships.  This is something I’ve known about myself for a while, and it’s a constant struggle for me.  If I’m not careful, my relationship with Christ, and the foundation of my identify in my belongingness to Him, becomes second to my friendships.
  2.  Okay so the second thing is actually basically the same thing as the first thing: the purpose of my friendships should be to glorify God and to contribute to mutual growth, not to bring me personal satisfaction or feelings of fulfillment/completion.

It’s not fair for me to constantly expect my friendships to fulfill my social and emotional needs.  And it’s wrong.  I ought to be turning to God.  Didn’t I already learn all of this?  Psalm 16:11 — “in Your presence there is fullness of joy”.  The true meaning of life is honestly relearning lessons over and over again.

I don’t want to downplay everything that has been given to me this semester though.  I’ve made new friends who have made me laugh, music education friends have honored me in ways I never expected, friends and family have supported me by attending my final concerts and recitals, and my professors have reassured me of my preparedness for the future.

Wow.  This semester has truly been incredible.

I will miss many things.  I’ve suddenly became very emotional.  I think it has to do with the lack of sleep and the complete relief that this semester is over.  Let’s conclude this post with shoutouts to the real heroes who have made this semester a meaningful last semester.

To my roommates: thanks for not hating me when I didn’t want to talk, thanks for paying rent on time, thanks for drawing pictures on our calendar, and thanks for making home a safe place to vent, relax, and go crazy.

To my new friends: I’m glad we met.  I wish we met sooner.  Thanks for sharing your snacks, for being interested in my life, and for not ditching me as my stress increased.

To my old friends: Thanks for the reliability.  It’s so comforting to have group of friends that I can depend on for help, laughter, and to work through things together.  Thanks for putting me in my place when I needed it and for celebrating with me.

To my ACE family: Thanks for turning a job into one of my favorite places to be. I would never have met many of you if not for ACE, and honestly, I would have laughed a lot less this semester because of it. Believe it or not, ACE allowed me to destress, and our conversations were always stimulating, hilarious, or just really random. I’m gonna miss this place so much. You all taught me that it’s okay to have an email signature and how to work in an all-female non-profit.

To my music ed family: Wow. I’m always incredibly impressed by you guys and overwhelmed by your support.  I’m honored when you come to me for advice, I appreciate your willingness to volunteer your time (especially when I tell you you’re going to volunteer your time!), and you’re just a really talented group of people.  Never stop getting to know each other better and investing in one another.  I cannot even express how much I love this group of people.  I can’t wait to see how each one of you is going to make a difference in the lives of children all over.

Alright this got too sappy too quickly so if you’re still reading, props to you.  And thank you.  For caring enough to read.

Final thoughts: I’ve spent a substantial amount of time leading rehearsals and conducting this semester, both with my peers and in a high school orchestra.  Although I still definitely want to teach elementary, I am much more open to a secondary position than I was before.  Also I’m conducting my first high school concert this evening, so that’s a cool thing.

Speaking of elementary schools, I’m super pumped to be interning at Rochelle School of the Arts in Lakeland next semester!  I will be working with Mr. Hansen, the elementary teacher, so I will be learning from him and doing a lot of teaching and lesson planning.  This is a crazy good placement, so I’m really excited to jump into that in January.

Aaaand speaking of jumping into teaching, I’m gonna wrap up this post with a heads-up: starting in the beginning of January, my social media is going to practically disappear.  Blog posts will no longer be posted to Twitter and Facebook and there is a good chance that both of those accounts will be either deactivated or made private.  I still intend on creating blog posts, so follow the blog if you want to stay updated on my student teaching semester.

Thanks for reading through these ramblings.  Here’s to more adventures, more learning, and more mistakes along the way.

Chad

P.S. I just realized that I titled this blog post with the intention of discussing my honors thesis (where the phrase comes from) but then neglected to mention it at all. So, in summary: I wrote a 70-page paper on the film music of Danny Elfman entitled “It’s a Strange Place: The Narrative Film Music of Danny Elfman”.  My thesis was presented along with an original short film score that was performed at my senior recital.  It was an arduous, but rewarding, experience.  Danny Elfman is way cool and so is film music.

It’s not uploaded yet, but at some point in the near future you can find my paper here.

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