98 Days of Rolling

An Apology

Last night I enjoyed Roanoke’s open mic night, where students – many of impressive talent, some courageously oblivious to their lack of talent – performed songs, poems, and improv skits.

Kudos to my friend and favorite folk musician Daniel Osborne.
A lot of the people prefaced their performance with something like:
Well I haven’t picked up my guitar since senior year of high school. We’ll see how this goes.
I never read my poetry to anyone.
I just decided to do this an hour ago, so I’m going to be performing a Capella tonight.
It bothered me more than it should. I admire the fact that they are up on stage at all, but I don’t like it when people try to justify themselves or apologize before they have even done anything wrong. Just show me what you can do. Let your performance speak for itself.
And yet, here I am, finally pulling up a Word document, and the first thing I want to write is an apology for not being more diligent in my blogging over the last two months. I have missed writing; I’d like to think you have missed it too? So many good things have happened, and I have wanted to share them with you. The California road trip with my fun and spunky study abroad friends Tracey and Mariah will not go unwritten, I promise. It was too incredible to not translate into words. Things have been pretty crazy, though. Such is life, I suppose.
After being dropped off at the LAX airport on Saturday, I had a more-than-convenient layover in Houston, where my boyfriend Dan now lives. I stretched it out to be twenty-four hours rather than three so I could spend a little time with him before returning to school. On Sunday, I flew into Charleston around 10:30 pm, and I hit the road Monday morning at 5:30 to make it back up to Roanoke in time for class. I had two hours to scarf down some sustenance, read several poems, and complete a mini report before Seminar started. That was almost two weeks ago, and I have not really stopped since.
That’s the thing though…I really like writing, but the extrovert in me would still rather pass my time with people than spend a day doing solitary activities. The same was true over winter break. I had an ambitious list of books I wanted to read, and I only ended up getting through a book and a half. I did, however, make time for over twenty friend get-togethers. So I’m sorry. I hope this is the start of a more regular pattern of blogging.

New Year, New Semester, New Life Philosophy

Now that I am back at school, I do not have the academic challenge that I faced in the fall, but I am still always doing something. When I was drowning in work last semester, I remember thinking to myself, “What the heck did I do with myself freshman year?! I had so much time.” Now that I have less classes, it is all coming back to me. I had fun. I immersed myself in campus life. I looked at the table tents in Commons and I took advantage of all the school had to offer.
And now I can do it again!
As of late, that just had not been feasible. I was stuck in class or doing homework all. the dang. time.
But I declare – no more! I entered Roanoke as an 18-year-old thinking I would dive into Outdoor Adventures. I did homework instead. Academics should be a priority in college, but it’s not all of college. By being so focused on school, I actually neglected another huge facet of my education. I will never be a lead guide in OA like I thought I would be four years ago, but I decided to take advantage of all the activities I can this semester, and my facial expression below is generally how I have been approaching them.
A YES attitude, my friends. A Let’s Do This, I’m Game, Bring It On philosophy. It can lead to feelings of exhaustion. It oftentimes puts you in situations that are intimidating, if not downright scary. So far, though, it has been really rewarding.
I have not had an art class since eighth grade, but I enrolled in Ceramics pass/fail so I could try something new without being stressed out.
I am spending a lot of time in here.
Of course, I still put a lot of pressure on myself, and it is way more demanding than I thought it would be. Every time I lift the lid of the 500-pound industrial bin filled with all that moist earthy potential, the clay challenges me.
What will you make out of me, Jessica?
I don’t know! Stop it, alright? I’m just trying something new. Why are all my classmates so creative? What if mine sucks? I hate being bad at things.
But I refuse to be controlled by fear or the dread of failure. The whole point of this class is to re-learn an art that I used to love. I grab a hunk of that clay and start molding.
I am also taking part in the OA assistant guide training each week so I can still learn how to lead in the outdoors. Hopefully I can apply that information soon after college. I finally went to kayak rolling clinic, which has been offered every Thursday night since I have been at Roanoke, but I never made it out. As I changed into my bathing suit beforehand, I both recognized and disregarded the inkling of fear knotting up in my gut. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is hard. You almost guarantee the bruising of your confidence, and with physical activities, you run an equally high risk of bruising your body. I entered the Alumni Gym pool room with a smile and as much fortitude as I could muster.
It was a blast. With an enthusiastic teacher, I had rolled by myself before the end of the night. The following day I also discovered muscles in my hips that I did not know I had.  It is a strange sensation to intentionally capsize and surround yourself with water, something we humans were not made to be under for more than a few minutes. It certainly is not natural, and it is a little uncomfortable. But I assume eventually you get the hang of kayak rolling, and it prepares you for bigger adventures on a real river.
Last Saturday, that same bit of nervousness crept over me as I walked across campus through the early morning darkness. Over the last week I had gathered a rag-tag assortment of winter gear that I, as a warm-weather South Carolinian, certainly did not own. In three hours, I would be in a West Virginia winter wonderland: Snowshoe Ski Resort.
I have been down-hill skiing once in my life on a middle school youth group retreat. I stuck to the bunny slope, so I don’t think that even counts. I don’t know when green trails became so steep, but as I peered down the first slope, this one certainly seemed more perilous than necessary for a beginner. What the hell am I doing? 
“You ready?” Chris, my patient and reassuring Roanoke guide asked me.
“Yep,” I half lie. “Just pizza slice. Got it.”
What the hell am I doing?
But I was off. I also was totally not in control and definitely did not pizza slice and of course ended that first run by crashing ungracefully to the ground, because how else is one supposed to stop? Thank heavens I did not run into a tree. I got awfully close. Twice.
I still do not understand how to fully control speed, and I am nowhere near mastering a hockey stop. As the day progressed, though, I improved, shifting my weight, leaning forward, drifting from side to side. I will be returning to the slopes.
Despite the challenge – or perhaps, more accurately, because of the challenge – all of these new activities have been rewarding experiences. With my extra time, I have also found myself enjoying power yoga, zumba, Insanity, and running. I am more diligent in my morning quiet times with the Lord. Some of my freshman residents and I have begun meeting once a week as a small group to read Mere Christianity together. I can go to evening lectures and partake in discussions over a beer at Theology on Tap. I now stop by friends’ rooms just to chat, or let my food digest over good dinner conversation as I linger a bit longer in Commons. I don’t like sports, but I even watched the women’s basketball game today.
On Thursday, the seniors celebrated the 100 Days ’til Graduation party hosted by Roanoke.
The joys of a small liberal arts college!
The countdown is officially on, and increasingly so, people ask me how I feel about graduating. I am content. I am excited about the future, so for that reason, I am glad I am nearing the end. But I love that I have this final redeeming semester to do all of the things I always wanted to do in college.
I have 98 days, and with them, I am going to metaphorically roll. Kayak rolling was (is) scary and new, but I did it, and I will keep doing it. The same goes for myriad other hobbies and activities this final semester. Tonight I am going to listen to the Kandinsky Trio. Soon I will be at the climbing gym and horseback riding.  I don’t want a day to go by that I have not “rolled” into in some significant way. Like rolling clinics, such moments are preparing me for bigger, potentially scarier experiences after graduation. This is the end of college. I have 98 more days to make it count.



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