My roommate and I have been putting off taking out the trash for at least a week (which, considering that our trash can is tiny, is a bad thing). For days we have been precariously perching our wrappers, tissues, and discarded flyers on top of the haphazard pile, like playing Jenga with trash–trying desperately to avoid making the tower tumble.
Tonight at 10pm, spurred by the gracious team attitude shown by my roommate in washing both of our dishes, I decided I would take out the trash. I gathered up the overflowing pile, tied off the plastic Target bag that served as our trash liner, and walked out of the front door of our dorm.
I crossed around to the back of the dorm where the dumpster is, and after I tossed the trash bag inside, I stepped back and looked up at the sky.
I wish I could say that it was a diamond-scattered carpet, littered with stars. Really, it was just a typical night sky, stars blocked out by streetlights or by clouds–I wasn’t sure which. It did not matter. It felt as if there were a beautiful starry sky staring back at me, and it whispered from behind its curtain: This is exactly where you are supposed to be.
There is an overwhelming peace that settles over you when those words enter your head and you know them to be absolutely true. I hear them every day. When I step out of the dorm lobby to a courtyard peppered with spindly, scrubby North Carolina trees, dropping pinecones and needles to carpet the ground between the sidewalks, I feel it. When the sun shines down onto my sunglasses and warms the backs of my legs, I feel it. When I am dodging bikes and longboards while walking down Chancellor’s, when I escape into the library (a Narnia of silence and peace), when I wander down the halls of the Union to the Hawk’s Nest to get food from the Mediterranean place that makes the best gyros, I feel it. When I am sitting in a class in which my job is to do nothing but laugh and think for an hour and fifteen minutes straight, or when I am struggling not to fall asleep in calculus or my art history seminar. When somebody holds the door for me or offers to let me go first in a food line. When I walk through the sliding glass doors of the Catholic Campus Ministry building (which is in reality just a small house) or into the second-floor meeting room where the Writers Association spends Wednesday and Thursday nights. When I am laughing so hard with all of the wonderful new friends I had no clue I would make so quickly. When I am deciding to have cereal and pizza for dinner, amused at the idea that this is my most radical form of college rebellion.
I feel this every day, but tonight when I stood outside in the warm air and the dark, the words were loud in my ears. And after spending this evening in my first ever Bible study session, I thought, I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and I am so blessed that I almost can’t believe it.
For a lot of people, college is the place where temptation is greatest and religion is weakest. I can remember browsing the student organizations page months ago, picking out the ones I was most interested in. After a couple of years of lukewarm faith at best, my eyes landed on the Catholic Campus Ministry; I thought that UNCW would be as lacking in Catholicism as Johnston County was, that it would have a handful of students who carpooled to church on the weekends. I was so wrong.
I expected to find friends here at UNCW, and I did. I expected to find kindred spirits, to find people who love the same things I do, and I did. But I had no idea that I would also find a church community the likes of which I have never had before now, including the years when I was enrolled in a Catholic school. I go to mass on Sunday nights. On Tuesday mornings, Sister Rose cooks homemade pancakes, waffles, or omelets. On Wednesday nights we have community dinners (and if we’re lucky, kittens). On Thursdays, a student who has already become an incredible friend and mentor to me leads a Bible study group in my housing area. I go to all these events; I am amazed, continually, at how much I enjoy them, and at the preciousness of what I have found where I least expected to find it. There was a time in my life when God was an often-neglected chore, but after only two weeks I can hardly believe that was ever the case.
Having this faith is such a privilege. Having this community is such a privilege. Having this life, these opportunities, these relationships, this abundance of love and joy, is a privilege. It is a blessing beyond anything I could have asked for.
I am so grateful for all of my incredible friends. I am grateful for this gorgeous school, for my fantastic professors, for the clubs and organizations so wonderful and in such a vast supply that I am forced to choose between them. I am grateful for my family, for all the people who have supported me, for all those who have assisted me in settling into my new home. I am grateful to CCM and all it has given me already, and to everyone else whom I have not met yet, who will change my life for the better.
But most of all I am grateful to God, who was patient with me even in my failures of faith, who has granted me a beautiful life that I have done so little to deserve.
I know that there are so many great things to come, and I am ecstatic to meet them.
And I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Featured image courtesy of Josh Felise.