I learned in a rather unconventional way that the future is always changing, in the largest of ways, by the smallest of things. While reflecting on my time here at Jewell I was struck by the truth in this statement. I have stories about growing up, dealing with life’s hardships and being completely knocked down by life, but these events aren’t the ones that taught me invaluable insight into life or pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of. While Jewell taught me how to search for the answers I was seeking, I discovered that the times that immensely changed my life weren’t at Jewell. They were opportunities that I received and was brave enough to take because I had walked on this hill, but they were as far from this place as you could get. They were big adventures, but the little lessons I found in them left lasting impressions.
After spending two rather stagnant years at Jewell, learning the basics of science, and college, and how to thoroughly procrastinate, I was ready for something different. The summer after my sophomore year found me in Shreveport Louisiana. I spent an entire summer sweating from places I’d never sweat from before. My friend Krysten and I filled our days caring for kids from the poorest most neglected neighborhood in Shreveport. We spent our days playing basketball and kickball, climbing trees, and making chocolate chip pancakes for 32 hungry bellies. I learned a lot of little things that summer. I experienced community, became a master of connect four, and learned that scrapes heal better when covered with twenty bandaids. I learned that the church wasn’t meant to be buildings with huge crosses out front, but that it can be a house on 68th street next to a drive-thru daiquiri store. A house that lets kids be kids, and give them the attention they so desperately crave. I learned that even when you think your heart is full and you think there is no more love to give, God could send one more forgotten child to the doorstep who is content to just sit in your lap, and in the process, melt your heart. I learned that family isn’t something that is defined by chromosomes, genes, or skin color, but by the blood of Christ. And I learned from the tight grip of the smallest little girl, with the largest smile, that love is a messed up imperfect thing that despite its imperfections has to be freely given to all. These little things added up to change the entire way I looked at life and my future. I knew I wouldn’t be content sitting at a desk for the rest of my life. I needed to be out with people getting my hands dirty.
Returning to Jewell with this new vision however rocked my world. I came back to a lifestyle I wasn’t familiar with. I went from spending time with children who didn’t have fathers to one’s who were thoughtlessly spending every penny of their daddy’s money. I went from being the out of place Yankee without a slow southern drawl, to blending in seamlessly. Despite the challenges I spent the next year at Jewell thinking I had my life figured out. I worked on my Spanish vocabulary, grew enormous amounts of bacteria, on purpose, and was pummeled with benzene rings, functional groups and steric hindrance, before taking my next adventure.
I left after the end of my junior year for a summer internship in Lisbon Portugal. It was a job where I studied membrane receptors and cellular death in response to amyloid beta, the protein responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. But really I spent the summer dissecting rats, drinking coffee, and falling in love with the Portuguese sun and sand. I was taller than the entire nation, loved their pastries and beer, and earned the title of elegant redneck American. During that summer I fell in love with my newfound freedom, and the Portuguese language. I was proposed to over a turkey leg, and attended many an elegant affair in a cotton sundress and sandals. The future changed again that summer. My five-minute walk through the hospital everyday convinced me that after dreaming of Medical School for 15 years, that I didn’t want to go. Five minutes of watching patients receive a number and a bandaid before being sent back out the door without a second thought to their deeper need dissuaded me from my long-term goal. At first I was impressed with the efficiency. Then I saw that the patients were reduced to their ailment. I had no desire to practice medicine in that manner, and I didn’t want to be part of a culture that did.
So whether it is a tiny girl slipping her little fingers into mine, or a five-minute walk through a hospital, small things in my past have changed my future. And I’d like to say that despite the fact that Jewell wasn’t the place of these changes, I know that it has given me the skills and tools to seek after the things that make my heart happy. I’m content not knowing my future goals or the endpoint of my destination. I just know that I’m perfectly happy not being tied down. I know that a certain messed up irregular love is what will keep me standing, and that people are deeper than the cuts that they show on the surface. Adventure must be taken head-on and thanks to Jewell and these lessons, I’m brave enough to take the risk, and willing to chase after the small things that will change my future.