Great Conversation: A Gem of Erskine Life

I may have mentioned this before, but at the risk of repeating myself, I’ve just got to say that of all the things I’ve loved about being at Erskine, the community has been one of the most wonderful. Certainly, anywhere you go, it takes time and intentionality to form meaningful, deep, mutually-reciprocal relationships. (I had to remind myself of this during first-semester freshman year when, despite the great people around me, I worried that I wouldn’t ever have close friends in college.)

That being said, the great thing about college—especially about a school the size of Erskine—is that you very quickly form close bonds with fellow students as you live, eat, and study together on a daily basis. Now, by junior year, it’s impossible for me to count the number of times I’ve just chuckled to myself and thought, wow, this is fun. Studying diligently and growing intellectually are a huge part of college life. But in those moments between hours of studying, conversations begin that are fun and reinvigorating. In a landscape of challenging and often exhausting academic efforts, such exchanges are gems sparkling along the path of daily diligence. Maybe a friendly debate begins at lunch on a topic everyone feels strongly about but on which there are a variety of positions. The wonderful thing about being at a school Erskine’s size is that, almost anywhere you go, you’ll know people and have something to talk about.

Erskine students in “conversation” last night during the hilarious theatre production “A Night at the Asylum”

You might come across friends studying and ask a question about the book you’re reading, engendering animated an animated discussion of everything from politics to religion—topics you’re not supposed to mention at the dinner table, remember?—that lasts almost two hours until you look at your watch and discover it’s almost 2 a.m. The heart-to-heart conversations with girlfriends late at night in the dorm (I’m afraid I can’t speak for the guys, but I’m sure they have similar exchanges) are always fun as well. Wherever and whenever they take place, whether deep and serious or joking banter punctuated by laughter, conversations with friends are always refreshing or invigorating in some way. Indeed, such exchanges often galvanize me to think and study more deeply out of a desire to better learn why I have an opinion or hold a particular conviction with which a friend disagrees. Then there are just those times when my sides ache from laughing and I discover that, interestingly enough, sleep deprivation can act as an extremely effective substitute for laughing gas. Oh, laughter is good for the heart…as is meaningful conversation for the mind and soul.

Choices

It came down to studying while watching Hulu or going out to dinner with my friends. I decided to go out to dinner with my friends at Firehouse. It was delicious! And the time with my friends was well worth it.

Firehouse

20120425-204000.jpg

When it gets down to the last few days of school you begin to realize that sometimes spending time with friends is just more important than work. Yes, we are to be studious but if you’re being studious and studying ahead of time then you should have time to enjoy all those spontaneous moments with friends that may arise.

I’m so thankful for the great friends I’ve made since I’ve been here. I’m beginning to realize that soon another group of students, some who have become very near and dear to my heart, are graduating. So I’ve resolved to spend as much time as possible (while still studying of course) with my wonderful friends.

A Reunion

All right, you’ll have to bear with me for this one a little bit, because I am about to get a little sentimental.

Jordan and I as high school seniors after the musical, "Once Upon a Mattress."

Yesterday evening I drove just over an hour to the Greenville area to see one of my best friends from high school in her senior recital, and it was probably one of the most distinctly “senior” experiences that I have had so far.  Jordan was, as we always say, my “right ear” during high school – we started the first day of freshman year sitting next to each other in the alto section of last period chorus, and we have been friends ever since.  We both auditioned and got into show choir the next year, we did the musicals every year, auditioned for All-State Choir together. . . you get the idea.  Even when we went away to different colleges, we both ended up with one of our majors with music (though she turned into soprano to the surprise of both of us!).

I have gotten to see her a couple of times these past four years, visiting Furman once for a concert and once for their production of “Sweeney Todd”, and we even had a chance encounter in Madrid (yes, in Spain) in the middle of a crosswalk. . . but that is an interesting story for another time.  The point is that we kept up with each other, even if not consistently, and we both continued to surrounded ourselves with music and theatre.

A year and a half ago we ran into each other in Madrid. . . providence.

Finally, in the past month, she managed to find Due West to see my senior recital, and I returned the favor to see her last night.  I think both of us were a little shocked at how much we had changed since the last time we heard our little high school selves sing – I know that I was, and this made me think about how much I have changed.  It’s amazing how much four years, especially in the important years of early adulthood, can affect someone.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing her sing, seeing her and her family again, and reminiscing on how much we have matured.  It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since we met eight years ago, or even since we last sang together.  I also began to realize more fully that I don’t know where we’ll both be even in two years, just as with my classmates at Erskine.

There is so much uncertain about the end of college, even if you know where you are headed next, as I do.  There are so many friends and classmates who will be dispersing, moving on to other colleges, getting jobs, moving all over the place. . . and we will never all be here again, in tiny, quirky little Erskine, taking classes and living together.  It’s funny what makes the strongest impression in periods of transition, because these are often not what you expect them to be.  However, I have confidence that since Jordan and I have stayed friends through these four years, we can maintain our friendship for the next four, no matter where we go, and I think that I will be able to manage this with friends at Erskine as well.

A Night at the Ball

Rachel and I at the dinner

Last night, Erskine’s Student Government Association held the annual SGA ball on campus. The evening began with an elegant dinner served in the Bowie Arts Center, which was beautifully decorated with diaphanous, light blue hangings wrapped around lights and draped across the high ceilings. Everyone was elegantly appareled in a colorful variety of evening gowns, tea-length dresses, and suits. Shortly after arriving, J.P. Duncan, our student body president, said a prayer for the meal, after which each attendee was served a scrumptious plate of shrimp, beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon, asparagus, bread, and potatoes. Next, the animated dinner-table conversation was topped off by a delicious cheesecake dessert, and soon thereafter, people began heading to the dance floor.

A table of lovely ladies

For the dance, SGA had set up a white tent bedecked with lights in the middle of the Mall (the large grassy square in the middle of campus). Punch and more refreshments—in case you were still hungry after the fabulous meal—were set up on tables near the tent, and everyone began to mill around that area for a bit…until that is, a line-dance song came on, and the entire crowd raced as one to the dance floor. (There’s nothing like a line dance to get everyone involved—especially if, like me, one is singularly lacking in creative, “free-style” abilities.)

Schadell and Hannah, looking stunning as ever

At several points during the evening, swing dance and shag songs came on. That was especially fun for me since my brother offered to swing dance with me and show me some new moves he learned recently. (I’ve got to say, I wasn’t sure what it would be like to have a sibling at school with me…but it’s turned out to be great fun on all counts! And besides, he’s just amazing.) Later, a circle of clapping, dancing friends formed, and different people went (or were encouraged) into the middle to exhibit some dancing skills. One friend even did a flip in the air to thunderous applause. All in all, the evening turned out to be a great success, and my friend Laura Beth and I finished it off in true college fashion by heading off to the library to study a bit before bedtime. But don’t worry—we changed out of our ball gowns first.

A Fun Night of Music

Well, it’s that time of the semester again. Walk up to just about any Erskine student these days, and they’ll tell you, “This week I have two papers to turn in, three projects due, two tests, and a quiz.” Oh, yes, and then finals. During the rush of these last few weeks before summer, these words of Aristotle’s become particularly apt: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Image

Christine singing Sondheim's witty piece "Lovely"

Image

Heather singing "I Remember Sky"--this girl has an incredibly rich, full voice. Gorgeous!

In addition to approaching deadlines, innumerable concerts, events, and theater productions are taking place on the Erskine campus about this time. Balancing the academic and the social, thus, becomes quite the challenge, but I was extremely glad this past Thursday that a friend persuaded me to go to a recital put on by Erskine’s voice studios. I had vast amounts of homework waiting to be done, but I nevertheless took a break long enough to head over to the auditorium for “An Evening with Sondheim”—and I’m so glad I did!

Everyone on the program did a fabulous job, and the repertoire ranged from the stirring strains of “Johanna” and “Not While I’m Around” to more humorous selections like “Lovely” and “Children Will Listen.” It was a lot of fun to hear some extremely talented freshman sing solos for the first time. Christian and Heather sounded especially amazing, but I sadly don’t have any videos of their performances because I was too mesmerized by their singing to have the presence of mind to record it. Will—another freshman, to whom I happen to be related—gave an entertaining rendition of “Giants in the Sky,” acting as Jack from Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods. All in all, it was a fun and delightful evening and worth giving up some precious study time. But now, back to the books!

The cast taking a bow at the end of the show.

Focus

Last night SCA hosted a concert featuring 2Moon ministry. They are a father-daughter team and it was so awesome because they not only shared their music with us but also their testimonies.

I was at Outback last night for dinner (check the previous post) and wasn’t planning on making it back in time for the SCA concert. I dropped my friends off at their dorms and was about to turn around to go back to my own when I felt God telling me to go to the concert. So I did. I mean when God tells you to do something, you do it. Or you suffer the consequences.

There was a time for prayer toward the end and as I sat in my seat, I began to weep, desperately. Lately, I’ve been battling a lot so I cried out to God for answers and He gave me one. It wasn’t at all what I wanted to hear but it was exactly what I needed.

The coolest part though is the way in which He told me. After the concert I lingered hoping to speak to the artists. When I stopped to speak the father looked me straight in the eyes and began to speak to me. For that moment I felt nothing but God. No one else was in the room. Just he and I and God. God used him to tell me something I’ve been waiting so long to hear.

My life won’t ever be the same from that point. Why? Because last night I realized how far I’d strayed from the straight and narrow and what it’s going to take to redirect my steps. God never gave up on me. He let me find out some things and learn from my own mistakes the hard way but He has restored me and forgiven my sin. He has reassured me of His presence and that I am still destined for greatness.

I have a purpose on this earth and I will not rest, even though I may grow weary, until I figure out exactly what that purpose is.

So be encouraged, for you too have a very definitive purpose for your life. Let God lead you instead of being stubborn. If you don’t take heed you’ll find yourself unhappy and discontent. And take it from me, that life filled with shallow happiness is worth nothing compare to one that’s filled with unconditional love and joy!