You know how it goes, people always tell you when you start college that "it will be the best time of your life" or "those are the best four years" or "enjoy it while it lasts." And while I don't think there are negative intentions in people who share those words, I would not say that college has been "the best four years of my life".  This may not be popular belief, and I don't mean this in a pessimistic way, but rather than college being the "best" four years of my life, I would say that my time in college has been the most valuable four years of my life thus far.

This seems to be a much more accurate representation of my time spent and journey through college, because quite honestly, there were times when being in college felt like the complete opposite of the "best four years" of my life. My time at Clemson over the past three and a half years has been filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, however, for all of these things I am grateful still.  You see, college for me isn't necessarily marked by the craziest stories and the most insane memories, although there are plenty of both of those to go around. But, college for me is marked by the valuable lessons and growth that I have experienced in my life through the course of the past three and a half years that I have been a student at Clemson University. 

I am forever changed because of my experience here, from Freshman year in Manning to Senior year in Wyatt, I have been marked by people, buildings, traditions, and organizations. I have grown spiritually, intellectually, and personally in ways I cannot even fully grasp yet. I have learned lessons in forgiveness, perseverance, humility, faithfulness, confidence, service, and kindness among so many other important realizations.  And in each year, I have grown in patience and maturity as I look back on who I was the year before. 


Opportunities, whether a summer internship with my church, a summer spent living in New York City, or a chance to shoot weddings with a local photographers, have given me insight into the passions and strengths that the Lord has instilled within me and have grown my confidence in myself and how I am uniquely made, something I didn't quite have coming into college if I'm being honest. 


Memories, whether it's my first Clemson FCA where I met each of my best friends, or hanging out on Bowman as the weather warms up in the spring, or shagging the night away with the sweetest people. Whether it's going to Tampa my junior year where I stood outside of Raymond James crying, holding hands, and jumping up and down with my best friends screaming that we were National Champions, or going to game day in the pouring rain for the Notre Dame game that one time. Playing the Tillman Bells, pulling all nighters in Cooper, coffee dates at All In, finally earning my Clemson ring, & singing the Alma Mater after rushing the field as I squeeze my friends extra tight. These are the things that mark my college years- the moments I'll look back and always remember no matter how old I may be. 


Learning experiences, whether it's not procrastinating on a project until the day before it's due (let's be honest I still struggle with that one) or figuring out how to compromise and be considerate with roommates. Whether it's picking myself back up when I was hurt and choosing to forgive or whether it's humbling myself and asking for forgiveness when I know I've overstepped and hurt a friend. Learning how to manage time, money, and relationships. Learning how to trust God with dreams & with desires. Learning how to be present and not take myself too seriously. These are the ways I have grown, the lessons I will be taking with me wherever I go, and the values I've learned through both the good times and the bad. 


As I ponder what's next, with only three short days left of college, I am experiencing a mix of emotions so indescribable that they don't even make sense to myself.  Gratitude- for all the things Clemson and this season has given me, the people and the memories that I will forever be thankful for, the ones that have changed my life for the better and taught me the things I could have never learned otherwise. Excitement- for the fact that I have completed my sixteen years of school work and come out stronger, more intelligent, gaining skills, and with a harder work ethic than before. I am excited for the future and all of the possibilities of post-grad life, which are no longer limited to certain constraints. Sadness- to exit a comfortable season and leave a place that is so dear to my heart, to lose touch with people that I easily see every day right now and the thought of things never being this way again.  Nervousness- for the thought of graduating and being expected to know what I am going to do and where I am going to go, for the thought of not having a set plan like I have had up until this point in my life. Fear- for the unknown and the real world and for maybe being alone, if I'm being honest. Joy- for the start of the rest of my life, because I have seen and know the Lord's faithfulness, and for the ways in which I know that He is going to open doors and show me where He would have me go. 


Seasons- they come and they go, they change and they fade, but there is a time for every one and there are days when that season is at its peak, when it is the epitome of what it is supposed to be, but there are also times when it is dry, or too cold, or too rainy for a little while. But the thing is, no matter what, it's just a season- it comes and it goes and there is beauty, hope & something bittersweet to that fact. 

As I've been experiencing so many conflicting emotions about graduating, a song by Hillsong Worship has been replaying over and over in my head. It's called Seasons and my favorite part goes something like this: 

I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting
You can see my promise
Even in the winter
Cause You’re the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead You sent a child

I would encourage you, in whatever season you may be in, to rest in the fact that seasons come and go and there is beauty in that. But the Lord sees which season you are in, and He is bringing a new one in His time.  And whether you are in college right now, or you are going into college soon, or if you are a senior like me and about to graduate, I would encourage you to not think of college as simply "the best four years of your life" because I promise you if you do that you are setting yourself up short for all the wonderful things God has in store for not only your college experience but for the rest of your life. Instead, let's accept this season as one of the most valuable and foundational seasons for the rest of our lives. Let's take the challenges as they come and accept the lessons that need to be learned. Let's embrace the memories, make the friendships, and always say yes to the ice cream runs. But most of all, let's make peace with the fact that college is only one season of the rest of our lives, and if we have open hands during this season the Lord will show us great things about His character, our gifts, and His faithfulness and we will be prepared to be launched into the future seasons that are coming.