Being a Pioneer

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I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Bachelor’s degree from Rochester College yesterday, in the top 10% of my class and the first of two students to ever graduate through the Honors College.

As excited as I am to finish this chapter of my life and start new adventures, it’s also a little bit strange. I’ve spent the last four years of my life preparing for this moment, working as hard as I could to be the best that I could be and graduate with a 3.9 GPA (I’ll never forgive that B+ in my math class.) And now, suddenly, it’s all over; honestly, this morning, I automatically sat down at my desk to check and see what was left on my to-do list. It’s a surreal feeling to stare at it and see every item crossed off.

As I prepare for grad school this fall and all of the new, exciting changes that are sure to come along with it, I’ve found my theme song.

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When Beckah Shae announced that she had a new single on iTunes, I immediately went and purchased it. As I listened to it for the first time (and then kept it on repeat for the next five days) I knew that this incredibly encouraging song was going to become my anthem.

I’m holding these words and God’s promises close to my heart as I step out into new adventures. It feels pretty awesome.

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Farewell, Rochester College

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Warning: Many tears were shed in the creation of this post.

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To say that it is a difficult task to write about the past four years of my college education, express my gratitude to all of the wonderful professors who have supported and guided me, and attempt to say goodbye to all of the friends I have made during one of the most incredible experiences of my life in one article is most definitely the understatement of the year.

 

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Since transferring to Rochester College my sophomore year, I have not only had the chance to gain an education, but also to form lifelong friendships, grow, change and become both a better person and student.

 

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I have gained a vision for my life and future, and am excited about starting grad school this fall. Working as both a supplemental instructor and English tutor through the ACE lab has deepened my love for the English language and literature and cemented my desire to become an English professor and teach at the college level.

 

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I have made incredible friendships through various classes, writing clubs and Sigma Phi Delta Nu, of which I’m proud to be a member.

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I have thousands of pictures, memories, stories and jokes from the countless hours I’ve spent with my friends studying, learning and spending time together. I am beyond blessed to have found and formed friendships with people who have encouraged me, laughed with me and cried with me.

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Throughout the classes that I have taken here, I have learned more than I thought possible (especially because I have had to read Hamlet nine times in various courses!) I have been taught more than simply academics; I have learned spiritual, practical and life lessons. Professors have been more than instructors. They have supported and championed for me, welcomed me into their homes and given me their time and attention. If I can someday be half as influential and incredible as the professors I have had here, I’ll consider that a great accomplishment.

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I am thankful for more than simply the educational accomplishments I have had here, however. Through Rochester College, I have travelled multiple times to the Hillberry Theatre, Stratford, Rock Glen in Arkona, Canada and more recently, Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, where I walked through the ancient cities of Ephesus and Laodicea. I experienced Turkish culture and the Muslim religion firsthand by visiting mosques and various families. It was a life-changing opportunity that I will never forget.family turkey laodicea

Even as a writer, it seems as though words are not enough to convey the depth of emotions I feel upon preparing to leave here; I am grateful, excited, sad and looking forward to the future.

 

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Thank you, thank you, thank you for a wonderful three years, RC. It’s been one heck of a ride.

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Hope

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Inspired by and dedicated to all victims of sex trafficking.

Esperanza used to be such a beautiful girl. She always wore a light pink dress with light pink ribbons, a sharp contrast against the dark hopelessness of the village. The Americans had brought it for her. Maybe someday they would take her away with them. Esperenza loved to tenderly care to a tiny kitten that had found its way into her hut, sick and nearly starved. She nursed it as best as her 5-year-old hands could, saving bits of her small piece of bread for the feline. When it grew stronger, she would rock it gently, humming. She so loved the rare moments her mother could do that for her. One day Esperenza carefully ripped a corner of her sheet to make a little makeshift dress for the kitten, who proudly strutted around the village sporting her new look. Esperanza, the tender-hearted.

Esperenza grew older. At the age of ten she was always running through the village, heedless of the rocks and sticks that cut into her bare feet. She always had a quick smile she would flash before she was off again, chasing a dream, a butterfly, sometimes even just her own whim. The boys challenged her to a race, tired of her constant running. She beat them….so they beat her. A bloody nose her trophy, Esperenza held it high in the air when she passed by them, walking slowly, and they clenched their fists. Oh, the humiliation of being bested by a girl. Once they could no longer see her, she took off running again. Old Mr. Carlos shook his fists together over his head in a celebratory manner when she flew by. No one could catch her. Esperenza, the wind chaser.

Esperenza grew older still. She didn’t run with the wind anymore. At 13, her steps were slowed by the weight of her soul. Her mother was sick and needed medicine they couldn’t afford. Esperenza moved out of the village to the city, to work selling necklaces to tourists…but then there was no more money to make necklaces, and certainly nothing to pay Esperenza. She couldn’t go home, so she began to beg for money on the street corners, sending whatever she received home. A man stopped her one day; was she hungry? Esperenza was. He offered her bread, and she eagerly took it, wolfing it down and wishing immediately for more. She grew confused when he demanded money for the food. Wasn’t it a gift? Oh, no, Esperenza; nothing is free. What was she to give him? She had no money. Esperenza, the innocent.

Esperenza grew up. She was in high demand because of her youth and beauty. Her tattered skirt hanging around her, Esperenza waited for the fifth man of the day, clutching her knees to her chest. She wanted to run again; she wanted someone to hold her, rocking her gently back and forth, wiping away her tears. And so, one day, she soared. He screamed her name; she never turned back. Chasing and fleeing simultaneously, she ran as though she could fly. Esperenza, the strong, graceful bird.

But even the most majestic birds get shot down.

Esperenza used to be such a beautiful girl.

Keeping a Sensitive Heart in a Cruel World

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Two events in particular have really been laying heavily on my mind lately:

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April 15, the one year anniversary of the Boston bombing.

Over the weekend, I watched Brian Williams and his report on the first 108 hours and had an instant flashback to last year. The bombing at the Boston Marathon is on the same level as September 11 for me; I remember exactly where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing when I first heard about it. I was busy prepping for finals wrapping up my junior year of college. I had just gotten out of class when a friend said to me, “Did you hear Boston is on complete lockdown?” We googled the news report and stared at each other in disbelief for a moment, especially thinking of the innocent officer shot in his car at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as we sat in our college’s cafe. Watching the report on Friday, I ached for the victims and their families just as much this year as I did 363 days ago.

In an event that happened right in our backyard, Steve Utash was nearly beaten to death after attempting to do the right thing. He hit a young boy who ran out into the street suddenly; when he got out of his pick up truck to check on the boy and see if he was okay, he was beaten senselessly by a mob of men. Miraculously, he has come out of his coma and is able to answer yes or no questions, but he still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. The story reminded me so much of what my own Dad would have done if he had been in the same situation, and my heart hurt not only for him, but also for his children.

It’s senseless.

It’s angering.

It’s disheartening.

Sometimes, it’s hard to have a sensitive heart.

In a world that likes to crush any spark of kindness and even just plain human decency, it’s tempting to join in. Fight fire with fire. Soothe our hurt souls with violence and anger. Throw our own sense of compassion and decency away. It’s hard to get hurt ourselves if we surround our vulnerable hearts with barbed wire and lock away every ounce of our compassion.

But then, in the midst of all the pain and hatred, some brave soul encourages us to keep trying.

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Someone reminds us that evil doesn’t get the last word.

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Someone does the right thing, even when it costs dearly.

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In a world of overwhelming strife and darkness, the strongest weapon we have is love.

Mother Theresa sums it up best:

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered:

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives:

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies:

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people will try to cheat you:

Be honest anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight:

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous of you:

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten by tomorrow:

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.”

~Mother Theresa

Yet Another Blog Post on the New Noah Movie

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I know, Noah. I make that same face whenever I see a new post about how this film is either an atrocity or a masterpiece, depending on who’s talking about it.

This, however, is an objection to the objections of objections to the Noah movie.

….it hurt my brain a little bit to write that, I’m not gonna lie. Basically, I’m causing trouble again, but when is that unusual?

I’m going to admit right now that I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I plan on it. This is not because I have moral objections to the movie or because I believe it’s unbiblical and people are supporting blasphemy if they watch it, as some vehement reviewers have been claiming. (By the way: it’s horrible comments like those that make the world hate any religion, but especially Christianity. But that’s another blog post.)

No, I’m simply not seeing it because I’m a movie hermit. I don’t watch movies very often and rarely rave over them. (See my previous post about being selective in what I like picky.) My objection to this whole shebang goes deeper than criticizing how well done the actual film is. Since I haven’t seen it, I can’t fairly judge that.

This isn’t even a “Oh, all art is beautiful, people; let’s just bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone can eat it and be happy and it’s okay if you don’t even go here” post.

This post is due to a chain reaction. The new Noah movie came out. Christians everywhere rioted, claiming it was unbiblical and offensive. Other people, including some Christians, responded to these objections and their comments were less than pleasing, resulting in my objection to the objections of objections. (Dang, that is starting to be really fun to write.)

My objections are a result of the blog posts, comments, and Facebook statuses that I’ve seen, such as:

“Why are we even concerned with a movie about a story from the Old Testament?”

“Who cares if it’s unbiblical? It’s not like they messed up an important story like Mel Gibson did with The Passion of the Christ.” (Which I actually enjoyed. But that’s another blog post.)

“Why are we, as Christians, worried about whether or not a Jewish story, in the Jewish Old Testament, written by Jews, is accurate?”

…..we’re gonna have some issues.

I raise an eyebrow and frown and even get a little irritated because not only does that smack of anti-semitism, but it is also a faulty and irrational argument. Last time I read my Bible, Jesus was a Jew and most of His stories were written by other Jews. It’s easy to forget that, though. We don’t like to think of Jesus as Jewish, nor do we like to acknowledge the fact that Christianity is largely based off of Judaism. We like to disregard the Old Testament except for the Psalms and maybe that cool verse in Jeremiah about God having a plan for us. When connections are made between Christianity and Judaism, however, we squirm and mutter something about being under grace and not the law.

It’s wrong. It does injustice to the many people and writers of both the New and Old Testament, most of whom were Jewish. Do I even need to mention Paul? To quote Adam Sandler: “also a Jew!”

Let me be clear: This is not a post about the negative aspects of Christianity, a religion in which I identify. I’m also not asking all Christians to adopt aspects of Judaism into their lives; that’s not my place and would actually be super obnoxious of me.

Basically, I’m calling for the elimination of apathy.

Do you object to the new Noah movie because you find the fact that Noah wants to murder his newborn granddaughter a slap in the face to all that God stands for? I’ll support you.

Do you love it because you think any instance of the Bible being told to the masses is a positive thing? Cool. Let’s talk about that.

Do you hate it because it’s only slightly based off of the account in Genesis and has some pretty glaring inaccuracies? I’ll see where you’re coming from.

Are you turning up your nose because you’re still bitter and disgusted over Russell Crowe’s singing in Les Misérables? I’ll…okay, I actually liked him as Javier so you’re basically on your own there. 

But please, don’t have a passive attitude simply because it’s a “Jewish” story and therefore not applicable for us and our Christian lives. It’s a weak argument that discredits the entire Bible.

Besides, we can never truly bash a Russell Crowe character as long as this guy exists.

 

Creepy Marius