When approached about writing an editorial, my first thought was, “What would I say that might be relevant to this audience?” I’m 36 years old, a wife, a mom and I work in the Office of Student Life (gasp). The distance between us seems vast. But then I remembered our similarities. I too chose Jewell as my college home, walked to class in wicked temperatures, won Campus Sing with the Independents, sat in fear of Dr. Armstrong during BBAM [Birth By Any Means], paddled my way through the Florida Everglades and still stand each time I hear the Alma Mater.
As a student here, I met my husband, Brad. He is all kinds of great things, makes me laugh out loud and has good legs (he played soccer for Jewell). We have two daughters. Their names are Rory and Emme, but I often refer to them as R and E in writing. For the past seven years, Jewell has been our home. R and E have learned to ride their bikes on the bricks, have taken first-day-of-school photos on the steps of both Melrose and Ely, and in the summers, when the Ely lobby becomes our rec room, we’ve hung our hammocks between the pillars and set up a tent for slumber parties. Raising our kids here has been unique and fantastic. When I reflect on being a family living alongside college students, I realize that many of the most important lessons I want R and E to learn are the things I often end up sharing with my Jewell friends. Ultimately, these are things I wish I would’ve known when I was your age, things I tell my daughters over and over so the words will become a part of their inner dialogue, and they’ll hear them even when I’m not around to speak them out loud. I am continually learning these lessons and am far from having mastered many of them, but I believe they are valuable for my children and me, and, hopefully, to you too.
Lesson 1: “Surround yourself with friends who make you feel safe and special.”
Years ago I came up with a quick and memorable phrase to use when helping Rory figure out true friendship. Ask yourself, “Does this person make me feel safe? Special?” If so, that person has the potential to be a true friend. Those people can be hard to find. Try not to invest too much of your heart in those who don’t pass this test.
Lesson 2: “Be good to others.”
Do you look outside of your circle and invite people in? Being able to make others feel like they belong is a powerful skill. Its value is difficult to measure.
Lesson 3: “You can lose your talking privileges.”
I have revoked this privilege from both my children and my residents. And yes, by that I mean that years ago I stood in front of a group of residents and told them they were no longer allowed to speak. Sometimes to continue talking, EVEN in the instances when you are right, does great damage. Know when to stop.
Lesson 4: “Who are you in control of?”
The answer is always only ‘me.’ I am the only person I have control over. Life is not always fair; and often tasks, punishments and rewards are not divided equally. This fact should have little bearing on how you conduct yourself.
Lesson 5: “You can feel however you feel, but you cannot act however you want to act.”
It is very important to me that R and E do not experience guilt because of their feelings. I acknowledge and place value on their emotions, which can sometimes overwhelm them. The last thing I want them thinking about in a moment of intense anger/fear/sadness is how they shouldn’t be feeling that way. However, giving space for our feelings does not equal a freedom to act out of those emotions.
Lesson 6: “Your worth is never found in the value that others assign to you.”
We teach our girls that our value comes from a God who loves and delights in us all. Regardless of your beliefs, please trust that you are uniquely talented, attractive and intelligent individuals. The opinion of others does not change that truth. It took me a long time to grasp this one, and I still struggle with it. But one of the best parts of my “grown up” years has been the confidence and acceptance that I have found in who I am, both in my strengths and areas for growth. I pray R and E find this contentment in their individuality at a very young age.
I am entering my 12th year of living in a residence hall at Jewell, either as a student or an RD. I have shared this campus with numerous students, some of whom have grown into close friends. I am grateful for my unconventional life and the incredible individuals I have met because of it. You are an impressive bunch. It’s an honor to be your neighbor.