Culture Shock

shadyvalleytrail

I ran 1,000 miles in middle school because my parents wouldn’t let me participate in a half marathon. I grew up in a sleepy mountain town where not much ever happened. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who lived as sheltered as we did. My parents homeschooled the six of us under very strict rules. We never watched movies, played sports, or went to Disney World.

I lived with my parents all those years, yet I know so little about them. I have no idea how they met, how my dad proposed to my mom, or what they did in high school. My childhood felt like one long academic marathon; we studied nonstop, long into the evenings and on weekends. My siblings and I didn’t spend a lot of one-on-one, unstructured time together, so we didn’t know each other either. Once we grew up, we all moved away. One of my siblings is in the Middle East, another one is in Europe, and the others are spread out across the US. Most families have happy childhood memories pulling them back together – we don’t. None of us miss home.

When I got to college, I finally felt free. I had looked forward to college since I was 10. I ran a half marathon. College was also overwhelming; It was as if I showed up in a different culture. I had to figure how to play sports. I didn’t understand what certain words and terms meant. Music and pop culture were new to me; I had never heard of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.

Thankfully, I had a wonderful friend who helped me adjust. He was smart and also humble. I learned how to act by emulating him. I have such respect for him and so grateful for his support. Making friends wasn’t easy, but someone told me – people care about you as much as you care about them. If you are authentic and care for people without an agenda, even if you are a little quirky, people will understand and care for you too. God’s been faithful in this area, I was afraid of not being able to be a good friend, but He has blessed me with awesome friendships.

During college, I developed a passion for helping kids without parents. I mentored a boy in the foster system. I saw him maybe 1-2 hours every couple of weeks. I did my best, but I didn’t feel like I was too involved in his life. When he was adopted and about to move away, he told me I was what he was going to miss the most. That comment stayed with me always, not because I felt I did a fantastic job – I didn’t. Rather it was because if me, a lousy friend, was what he missed the most then what did that say about his life at home. I can empathize.

My hope is to finish the race well. God told us the world would be difficult, but if we trust Him and be faithful, it will be totally worth it. Rely on Him and there is a real joy. I made the decision to trust Him in middle school, and everything that’s happened since then only solidified my conviction. I am very optimistic about life. Trials may come, but it only makes my resolution stronger. I want to love and follow God.

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