I wish I could remember what happened in the moments leading up to my breakdown. I can’t. All I know is I locked eyes with who had quickly become my favorite professor during my freshman year at Columbia College Chicago, and before I knew it I was in her arms crying uncontrollably. She escorted me to the bathroom, so we could speak in private, because my outcry had clearly interrupted Voice 1 (I was a theatre major). She kept quietly repeating “No, no”, as if I’d done something that disheartened her. I knew what she was thinking, so I quickly said “I’m not pregnant”. She seemed a little shocked, but replied “So what’s wrong?”. I informed her I wouldn’t be returning for the second semester, due to a lack of funds. She quickly gave me alternative options that could possibly prevent me from having to drop out, but I’d already been there, done that. I needed money to return. I didn’t have it, so I had to leave.
Lower than low. That perfectly describes how I felt. All I ever wanted in life was to be “somebody”, and since I had dreams of being an actress, studying theatre at Columbia was my dream come true. For once I was surrounded by the dreamers, the artists, and the hippies. And for once, I felt like I was exactly where I belonged. Being a student at Columbia was going to give me the tools I needed to make magic. In a moment all of it was snatched away, and I found myself back at my mother’s house, broken and defeated.
I didn’t want to immediately enroll in the local community college. My pride wouldn’t let me. I’d done a big song and dance about attending Columbia, only to drop out after one semester. I couldn’t stand the questions that would sure come my way if I was seen taking classes at somewhere less exquisite than Columbia. Nope, couldn’t do it. So instead, I remained at home, wallowing in my own self-pity. I enrolled in junior college a year later, and eventually got a job as a makeup artist for M.A.C. I still had dreams of going to college, but I slowly began to let them go. I distinctly remember telling my cousin that it made no sense for me to go live on campus, because I’d hit the age of 21. But God said different.
My best friend Briana mentioned that her husband Glen was attending North Park University, which is a Christian school on the North side of Chicago. I’d never heard of it, but decided to check them out. Next thing I knew, I was fully enrolled. Was this really happening? I told the Lord that I’d only feel comfortable living on campus, if he provided me with a job. At the time I was working at MAC, making $15.70 an hour, which wasn’t bad for a 21-year-old. If I was going to give up my pay, along with free makeup (gratis), it had to be worth it. Well, whatever the Lord does, he does it well. Not only did he provide me with a job on campus, but the job consisted of me working in the Media Center, which was perfect seeing I was a Media Studies major.
It took awhile for me to fully unpack my bags after moving on campus. In my head it was too good to be true and I just knew I’d have to eventually drop out… again. Nope. I stayed until I walked across that stage, becoming a first year generation student to receive a degree in my family. My time in college was magical. I helped rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, ministered to inmates at a prison in Mexico, lead a trip to Zambia, was the first African American Homecoming Queen, and began to find my writing voice as Campus Editor. If I had to pick a scripture to sum up my college experience, it would be the following:
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. Joel 2:25
The years I thought were wasted in my life, God restored. I’ll repeat: The years I thought were wasted in my life, God RESTORED.
And here I am again in the thick of a season that I consider to be “time wasted”. Haven’t I learned my lesson? God wastes nothing. Even our tears are considered precious to the Lord and bottled. (Psalm 56:8)
If you’ve had to give something up or feel like an opportunity was snatched away from you, be still. Sometimes the end of a thing, is actually the beginning to a beautiful testament of God’s providence. No matter how long it takes, God RESTORES. Know that.