I have had a hard time sitting down to write my last words. I’ve cried and dreaded my time with GRIT ending. I know that once this post goes up it’s it for me. The difficulty with last words, beyond my own sadness, is that I’m tasked with writing down what I want to tell the young women of Biola. There is so much, yet not enough to say to you.

My time at Biola can easily be compartmentalized.  There are defining features of each of my years here. My freshman year I was ill-adjusted. I didn’t realize how much I missed out on until I heard from others what their freshman year was like. My sophomore year was beautiful. I made friends and fell in love and had the warmest community. I also felt dejected about school failures and changed my major. My junior year I got depression for the first time in my life. I went from feeling numb to feeling all the worst emotions about myself and everyone I loved. Nowhere felt like home. I also fell in love again— with the English major, writing, and creation. I fell in love with who I was when I was given the freedom to express myself in new ways. Senior year I felt my body and soul settle a little. I thought, “Oh, this is who I am. This is who I am.” I’m telling you this because you’ll probably have some similar experiences. Maybe you won’t. But maybe you can read this and think “her too”.  Experience results in lessons learned. That’s what I want to share.

Nothing ever stays the same. But, there will be people who are constants. Look for those ones. And if for some reason some fade away, by their fault, yours, or both, it’s okay. It happens.

To all the girls here, don’t be ashamed. Please, please for the love of God, don’t be ashamed. Don’t be ashamed of your emotions, interests, sexuality, family background, socioeconomic status, or the status of your relationship with God. Being unashamed doesn’t mean you are happy with every aspect of yourself or that there is no room for improvement or change. It just means you aren’t weak and hiding. Shame is darkness. Nothing can be fixed in the dark. And sometimes, things only appear like they need to be fixed when they are in the dark. You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll hear the words, “me too” when you start to share the thing you once thought you were alone in. You’re not the only one that pretends to be interviewed in the car or has a hard time going to church.

Don’t ever make yourself smaller, lesser, or quieter to fit with someone else, including the Christian community. Let the Lord shape you, not the expectations of the church. Don’t be afraid to show interest in “secular” things, like music that isn’t about God or R-rated movies. There is a “you” that is wonderful, holy, and whole. That version of you can be developed without being in church 24/7 or worrying that the line drawing of a nude woman on your wall makes you un-christian. Remember that God is not confined to any building, he can mold you anywhere and anytime, even when you may not want it. 

If you are not sure who your best friend is, I feel your pain. I have gained so many wonderful friends. All of which I am thankful for. (To my friends, I love you so deeply. Thank you for loving me.) But, I know it can be hard to see everyone in their groups on campus and all the social media posts about “girl gangs” and think about how you don’t have one. Don’t let that sadness keep you from all the individual souls you do love.

Ask hard questions and be honest about and with God. Reject the idea that doubt and questions means you aren’t a christian (or aren’t a good one). Trust me, asking those tough questions that no one else wants to say out loud makes you braver and stronger. Christianity is only a label when it is an identity without tension. Sometimes, those questions will be answered beautifully and fully. It is in those moments that faith is grown the most.

I may not be finishing my time here as the model Biola student but I let this place affect me and I am proud of who I am.

These are my last last words. How can I end it any other way than with a thank you? I am indebted to so many. To name only a few amazing people at Biola who supported me, shaped me, taught me, and loved me: Lisa Igram, the sweetest soul alive. Katie Agarth, my coworker and friend crush, I’m a grad now and I’m coming for you. Chris Davidson, Buck, Dr. Shelley Garcia, Dr. Marc Malandra, and Dr. Bethany Williamson— my English department heroes. Kathy Spicer, thank you for caring for me on early mornings at the library. Chantelle Gibbs, you made me believe it was okay to be me. 

Young woman, look at the sky and remember that you are alive and your body is breathing and you heart is beating and the world is there for you. Notice the beautiful and the painful and let it affect you. There is so much to see. So much to do. So much to be. So see, do, be— with laughter, strength, and grit.