Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"So Here's to You, O, Mountain Brook!"

Some of you who subscribe to this blog this will not appreciate having to read my tribute to my high school alma mater. But, too bad.

Since I've been home for Christmas break, I have been running on the track at my old high school a couple of times. Each time I've been there I've seen students. Last week they were streaming in and out of the academic building for finals, and this week some dedicated track athletes were out in the rain participating in "voluntary" winter break work outs. (Anyone who has ever played varsity sports knows that "voluntary" means "if you don't show up coach thinks you're lazy.")

Being back on that track brings back so many memories. Let me first be clear that I was not a stand-out track athlete. I really only did it because I was bored during my volleyball off seasons. So, being on the track, doesn't only remind me of track practice, but of volleyball two a days in the Alabama August heat. Weeks before the state athletic association would let us practice with a ball, coach had us out on that track running timed sprints and miles. There are times I walk onto the track and still almost vomit, just thinking about some of those days. The track also reminds me of Friday nights in Mountain Brook. The track sits within Spartan Stadium, surrounding the football field, and reminding me of great high school memories like sneaking into the football field house to decorate the team's locker room for homecoming senior year, or sitting in the stands in my "MBHS Bubble" t-shirt. Or (both shamefully and happily) dangling my car keys at opposing teams as the final seconds counted down to a Spartan victory. (You have to realize that most of these teams came with banners that said "Bankrupt the Brookies" and things of the sort.)

So why is it that watching "Friday Night Lights," "Remember the Titans," or even "Varsity Blues" makes me teary-eyed? I think it's because, no matter the sport, anyone who has ever suited-up in a uniform bearing the name of their school or their town knows the feelings I'm attempting to convey here. The pride. The anxiety. The excitement. The fun. Competing for the sake of something bigger than yourself, even if you can't articulate it as a high schooler, makes all of the sprints, mile-runs, and "voluntary" work outs more than worth it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Senior Year"

I don’t know when my life will stop feeling like I’m a student. Speaking in semesters. Mentally grouping my life into four-year time periods. It just feels natural. So, I guess it is ironic that my one and only year of graduate school is actually my “senior year” of life thus far.

Do you remember high school? College? Distinct memories tend to stand out from freshman year and senior year. I would argue that, perhaps, most of the “meat” happens during those middle years, sophomore and junior years. But the memories come from years one and four. Perhaps life goes in these waves too.

Almost three years ago, I was sitting in a house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore overlooking the Chesapeake Bay writing this article for the Falls Church Current. I was halfway through my “freshman year of life,” The Falls Church Fellows Program. I remember being in a new place, far from home, and truly feeling like a “freshman at life.” Everything was new. A lot of it was scary. Yet, it was somehow all held together through a little bit of faith, a bit more love, and a whole lot of grace. It was a time full of new relationships and plenty of memories, and it changed my life forever.

There is plenty of “meat” I could discuss from those “sophomore” and “junior” years, but that is for another post. As I sit halfway through my “senior year” of life, and coincidentally, my fourth year in Virginia, I wonder. What memories will I take away from this year? What relationships? What will my next four years look like? Will my life continue in this academic model of waves of four? I often feel like that senior in college again, awaiting the next change in my life—my next “freshman year.”

I suppose the Bon Jovi lyrics I quoted three years ago still hold true. I am once again “halfway there.” Halfway to the end of another year. Halfway to another “freshman year” experience. Halfway to another big change. And it is frustrating and comforting all at once that I often feel that, in a way, I am in the same place I was three years ago. Still trying to navigate these changes, and certainly still “living on a prayer.”