July is the month we say goodbye to some regular writers who have aged out or are moving on to other projects. We’re extra thankful for Lauren today—she’s been writing with us since the very beginning July 2013.

I read Bart Tocci’s most recent post about a week ago. He wrote this:

But once you graduate and professors are gone, what do you do? Calvin College loves Frederick Buechner, and teaches students his message—that their vocation is where their great passion and the world’s great need meet. I love the idea, but it doesn’t provide accurate expectations for the struggle ahead. The frustrations, the delays, the heartbreaks, the hurts, the ups and downs, are all overlooked in the quote because there’s no concept of time. Sometimes it takes a while to find your great passion… I imagine that it takes a while to find how that passion matches the world’s great need as well.

I started writing for the post calvin five years ago today. I was twenty-one years old, and still a college student for five more months. It has been an important five years for me. For FIVE YEARS I’ve jotted down margin notes, rearranged commas and overused the caps lock. Some months, I was inspired, thoughtfully re-visiting and gently gift-wrapping a bundle of ideas of which I was very proud. More often, I locked myself in a bedroom on the twenty-third of a month, banging my head against my laptop and screaming “THIS WAS DUE AT NOOOOOOON.”

Sometimes, in hopes of inspiration, I will re-read something I have written in the past. Sometimes, this makes me smile. More often, this makes me shudder. While the discipline of monthly writing has done wonders for my personal development, the side-effect of public writing is that anyone (myself included) can rewind and watch me grow up. Simply begin at Blog Post #1, in which I make a rudimentary, over-simplified attempt at the “can’t we all just get along?” argument that would become a recurring theme in my work over the years. LET’S ALL JUST BE NICE TO EACH OTHER, said the girl who had pretty much only lived in a world where people had been nice to her, and she, in turn, had done the same.

It all seems pretty simple before you graduate. You, little smarmy adolescent genius that you are, sit in your desk, scrolling Pinterest and nodding at your professor’s powerpoint on JUSTICE IN EDUCATION. Yeah, those stats are OUTRAGEOUS, you think to yourself, so OUTRAGEOUS—you can tell because of your professor’s tone of voice. Teachers are gross and PATHETIC; the world is GROSS. The education system is so easy to fix. Thank GOD Calvin College is sending me to be my students’ very own personal MESSIAH.

I’d like to blame myself in part for my shitty attitude, and also, probably, the system.

Then you start working. And you cry a lot. And you wonder why the adults aren’t acting like adults, and you suddenly realize that adults are just people. And then you get put in charge of things, and emergencies happen, and you’re running around looking for someone to be in charge. And then you realize that holy CRAP. That person is you.

You start to realize that just because your fifty-year-old co-worker doesn’t know that gender-normative terminology is both a symptom and catalyst of systemic oppression… doesn’t mean they don’t know a heck of a lot more than you about what you’re supposed to be doing.

And you realize that working is difficult. And change is slow. And nothing good is really easy. And if this were all easy, somebody would have fixed it all before you got here. The assumption that the world is both depraved and also completely fixable hinges on the assumption that you know something that everyone else in the whole world does not.

So it’s important to live strung up like a line between the idealistic and the cynical. You have to be just cynical enough to say “Jeremy, everyone knows you’re on MiniClip right now. Please close your laptop and stop by after class,” but not so cynical that you start assuming Jeremy doesn’t care about his life and he probably does drugs and that makes him a bad person and he will probably end up in jail, that idiot. You have to be idealistic enough to believe that it is worthwhile to try to build a lesson plan that fosters empathy and understanding between your students and people they’ve never met, but not so idealistic that you expect to eradicate all bullying within the school district.

So, if you start with my old posts, please keep reading. All the way through. Beyond this. Probably until I die. Marvel in the wonder of growing up. Laugh at what an idiot I can be. Nod when you get it. Appreciate when you don’t.

Thanks for reading.

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