Thursday, February 2, 2012

Student Leadership Season

Because I am writing this without an outline of some sort, or some point that I'd like to make, the shape of this post may not be as nice as some of the others,

Student Leadership is something that is talked about often and promoted a lot on campus, both by Student Life staff and by students. Leadership development is something that likely was advertised to you when you were looking at the university and it is most definitely something you have come into contact with as a student. Student leaders are everywhere, they lead your UNIV 101 small groups, they greet you in the collegium, and they run your dorm meetings or bible studies (discipleship groups). You would have to be a very specific type of student* to not interact with student leaders, and personally I think that "forced" interaction is great.

Now, a couple months ago something I like to call "Student Leadership Season" (SLS) started. In November of every year applications for leadership positions for the next year open up. Looking ten months into the future while you are at the same time deciding which classes to take in less than two months is slightly terrifying. If the process wasn't complicated I would suggest (as I have often internally suggested) that they push leadership applications back a bit. But what this early consideration period allows us is a time of contemplation, of evaluation, and prayer before committing to our decisions.

This also gives us time to weigh into our friend's decisions, to help them figure out what it is they would like to do, where their strengths lie, and if you're a good friend where they should steer clear of. As a goal-oriented person I like to know where I am headed ASAP, but I also like to take some time to consider where I feel God is leading me. While I don't want to open up a theological debate about God's will and free will, I will say that I believe it is pretty clear that there are decisions we can make that can help further God's Kingdom in big ways and choices that would do so in smaller ways. As students are seeking after these student leadership positions I hope that these things have crossed most people's minds.

Now, let's backtrack to the friend's responsibility for a moment. First, social protocol changes during SLS, it is now nearly mandatory to ask your friends if (or what) they are applying for for student leadership next year. Just like after Summer or Christmas you have to ask how their break was (even when you know they'll say "good"), you must now ask which positions people are applying for. And then you have a choice to make, you can choose to react in an honest way or in the "Christmas was good" way. Personally I try to err on the side of honesty, because nothing is more awkward than filling out a reference for a student who you don't think would be ideal for the position they are applying for.
I am not in any way discouraging these interactions, in fact I do it all the time. There are a couple of good reasons for it. First, you are encouraging the person that you think they have leadership potential. Secondly, when they have more than one position you have the opportunity to encourage them further in at least one of them. Thirdly, you get the chance to hear what others have to say about your leadership skills and potential and what they have to say about which roles they think your personality fits. When I started writing this I chose not to talk about which roles I am applying for, but because I feel confident in the steps I have taken I will disclose them for the sake of this example which I think demonstrates this really well. Sometime last month I was talking with a friend I hadn't seen in a while and she asked me what I was applying for. I responded with RA and SOSC. She then said "You would be such a great SOSC." It was really good to hear that because up until then I had been receiving encouragement in the RA role I was applying for, but this person obviously thought I was better suited for the SOSC role. Now, this was good to hear because it made me think about two things, not everyone thinks I am a good fit for the RA role, and some people think I would make a good SOSC.

Soon we will be in the post-season of Student Leadership and the verdicts will be out. Some people will be offered multiple roles, some will be offered one and others may not be offered any. My encouragement as we are getting through interviews and heading very soon into the post-season is that these are just man made appointments, not to take away from the great things you can do with these roles. But consider what God can do with you and for others in each of these roles, if you are offered three or offered zero God is not limited to using you as one type of student leader or a student leader at all. Just yesterday I realized that one of my really good friends isn't a "student leader" but it took me all year to realize this (and half way through a conversation with him about leadership at that). He has made more of a difference in the lives around him this year than I think many student leaders do with their roles all year.

And if you are one of those people who doesn't get a position, remember this verse, I hope I will: 1 Thes 5:16 "Be joyful always"

So, don't feel limited and don't try to take too much control in this time. God has a plan, and His plan includes using you for His purpose. Take comfort in that and move forward in faith.


Example from earlier:
*This is the best type of person I could come up with in my minds that could avoid significantly interacting with a student leader: A transfer student with enough credits to not take UNIV 101, who commutes because they are old enough to not live in on-campus housing and never visits a collegium.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Semester, New Beginning - and how the Sabbath fits into that

It is now the second week of our new semester here at TWU, the Spring '12 semester. With everyone now settled back into their dorms or temporary homes in the Langley area, classes are off to a great start - with very few lost student stories as far as I know.

Everyone I know seems to be pretty content with their classes, and everyone feels pretty confident that they will do well this semester (often qualified by saying something along the lines of "better than last semester"). However, we all know that in three months from now, when papers are due and exams are approaching, that our self-confidence in our academic abilities will plummet. All of a sudden we (generalizing the student population here) will feel over our heads and will regret a lot of the decisions we made over and over all semester (like staying up until 2 am every night doing nothing). In first, and even second year, I would get into this thinking that I somehow slipped past the system and I wasn't actually smart enough to be here. Now I figure that if I somehow outsmarted the system this long I would be smart enough to be here.

So my plan this semester to avoid that thinking is two-fold. First, get AS MUCH homework done as I can while I still have this insane motivation to do well. Since I have this motivation I should use it, and hopefully if I use it enough the momentum will last longer. Secondly, focusing on my favourite piece of scripture while I am in this negative mindset that tends to creep in during the end of a semester. Micah 7:8 says "Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light." Or as a popular song from the 90s called "Tubthumpin'" said "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down." So whether you are spiritual or musical, you now have a saying in your pocket that you also can use.

This semester I have decided to take a semester off of participating in a theatre production, my first semester in two years. What that means is that I now have approximately 24-30 hours more free time per week. So with all that free time I decided that now would be a good time to seriously ramp up my academics, and of course add all these other things I have wanted to do. On top of doing my 18 semester hours, I am leading a men's small group, going to The Challenge, working, taking piano lessons, being a member of the theatre club A7E, and looking into helping with the junior high students at my church. Now, when I see this I think "completely manageable," but I know that future Thomas is going to possibly think "dumb" at the end of the semester if I'm not careful.

So what I am doing, and what I encourage you all to do is to reconsider what you want to pour your life into this semester. Because it is not that we aren't capable of great things, but we aren't capable of doing our best if we don't leave any time for rest in there somewhere. Last night in my small group we talked about the Sabbath and what that could/should mean to us and I really appreciated the conversation. It is very humbling to think that God has given us 1/7th of our week to rest (that's just over 14% of our week).

In Adele Calhoun's book "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us" she says "Sabbath is God's way of saying, 'Stop. Notice your limits. Don't burn out.'" At my church on Sunday we talked about being in God's will and part of that is accepting and being faithful to where God has placed you right now. We are very privileged people; we have the opportunity to go to an amazing Christ-centered university in a beautiful, free country. However, we still burn out.Calhoun says later in the chapter on Sabbath that "[The Sabbath] is a day that [God] gives us to remember who and what work is for, as well as what matters most."

So as we enter this new semester I would challenge you all to take a look at what it is you're planning on accomplishing, whether or not that is possible, and how much time you have factored in for rest. It sounds pretty simple, and it is on paper, but try and stick to that schedule for a week and you will soon notice that it isn't as easy as it looked on paper.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WHY I go to TWU.

There are MANY MANY reasons I go to TWU and not another school like UBC or UVIC (my other two previous choices). I have listed a few of them below in no particular order, and there are more if you'd like to ask about certain things. I will take examples from the past 24 hours to draw from so you know that I am not stretching too far and that everything I say really is true.

Last night I attended Sunday Night Alive like usual and a thought struck me. We are so blessed to not just live in a country where we can worship our God openly, but also that we go to a school that encouragers students to do so. They pay people to make sure that every couple Sundays we have a night service that we can go to just to worship. On top of the five weekly chapels.

Today at dinner a few of my friends were talking about how much money they owe and who they owe it to. Everyone knows that TWU is an above average cost institution, but they do give away quite a significant amount of scholarships. But even though I know we are an expensive school, I would never give my experience here up for anything. I mean what school can I go to besides TWU that gives a high quality education (ranked A+ in quality of education more times in a row than any other university), and encourages the students to live godly lives?

Today I had a talk with one of my professors for over an hour. OVER an hour, and when I went into the office I had no agenda other than catch up with them. We talked about ways that I thought our class could be improved, she asked my opinion on a few things, and then we talked about musical theatre and how theatre artists (including myself) can be kind of snobby towards it. We also talked about UK citizenship, getting pregnant, proper ways to critique, and a few other things. I love that I can have random conversations with my professors and that they are open to hearing my opinions on their class.

Today I had a three hour class with only twelve other students. We got to work in small groups and have a group discussion on the subject material for the class. I have the privilege of being in my second year and being able to sit in my class and have a detailed conversation about the material we are interacting with and not just hear and do the work. We talked in detail and then when we were nearing the end we discussed what this meant to us as Christians, and not just people. What can we take out of it and apply to our own life, or what understanding did we gain that will help us later on.

Today I had my first ever Dress Rehearsal fo a show I am in. The Theatre program here at the School of the Arts, Media, + Culture is incredible and beyond description. Being in a show directed (and written) by Aaron Caleb has been an incredible experience I wouldn't trade for anything. I have learned countless things about how to work as an actor independent of a director and with a director. The best thing about working with Aaron is that his process is very collaborative, he expects you to work and bring options for everything rather than him just blocking it for you. He makes you think and engage not just what you as a character thinks is the right choice but what you as an actor want to bring to the scene. I am SO please to be a part of "The Bacchae" there is no other show on earth that I'd rather have my stage debut with than this one.

Friends. I have amazing friends. Yesterday and today I have had some great talks with people. I have some very caring friends who know me quite well. I like that I have opened myself up here, enough that I can't hide very easily from my friends. Today my friends actually pointed out to me that I wasn't being myself even when I thought I was. Turns out I was frustrated. And then later another friend of mine noticed I wasn't my happy smily self and checked in on me. I feel like the friendships I have from TWU are stronger emotionally than any other friendship I've had, and they are definitely stronger spiritually. And they buy me things like coffee when I really need it. Which is SOOO good.\\

While alone these things seem fake or too "fluffy," they really are true, and they are just the toppings. These are just things I have experienced in the past day or two. I will post later about the deeper reasons that I love TWU and continue to go here, but all of these previous listed things are very important to me.

Til next time,

Friday, March 18, 2011

What it is like being a Theatre Major

This is the "Inevitable Theatre Post".

**This is in no way a complaint, I chose and continue to choose to be a theatre major. And I appreciate the challenge it gives us.**

I held off on this post because I was trying to keep this blog applicable to most by posting about my life as a university student. Because I work for admissions, the point of this blog is to give an idea of what life is like as a university student and while no one is an "average" university student I feel like my experience as a theatre major is even further outside the norm. However, for anyone considering majoring in the arts I figured that this post could be extremely helpful to know what arts at a post-secondary level looks like.

Being a part of the School of the Arts, Media + Culture is a crazy experience. In both a good and bad way. There are sacrifices you have to make in university, and there are sacrifices you have to make for art, and there are large sacrifices you have to make for university art.

Everyone in the arts knows that a lot of time and dedication are needed to attain the results you want. Right now I am registered as a fulltime student and am acting in a show that opens next week. That means that in any time that I am not doing something, I should be. There always needs to be time for socializing and rest, for your physical health, and prayer and worship, for your spiritual health. But after those things are taken care of I need to be either working on school work, working, or rehearsing (since our first show is in 4 days!).

This week has been Tech Week, and tomorrow is Tech Day. As of yesterday we are officially done rehearsing but need to still be fixing things (such as dance and movement pieces). Tech Week means that all week our rehearsals have been dedicated to making sure the technical aspects of our show get the attention they need and deserve. So it means that we stand around waiting for a light to be focused or a level to be set.

For those of you who are not theatre students or who are prospective theatre students, the average rehearsal schedule for a show is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday nights from 6-10pm and Saturday from 9am-5pm. EVERY week until the show opens. Which overall means 20 hours a week. Some shows have an added four hour rehearsal on Fridays or Mondays which brings the total to 24 hours a week. That is an entire day out of your week. 1/7th of your week. Now comes the kicker, on top of that you are expected to rehearse between rehearsals to make sure you get everything down and to bring in new options. That on its own is not terrible, do not get me wrong, I LOVE rehearsal, I LOVE being in a show and it is entirely worth all the work that we have to do.

What makes our rehearsal schedule crazy is when you are taking a bunch of classes/jobs that don't particularly work around a theatre schedule. Last semester I was assistant stage managing a show that was rehearsing 24 hours a week (plus as a stage manager you must be there a half hour before and after each rehearsal), I was in two lab sciences, an acting class that requires hours of rehearsing outside of it, a Religious Studies class that was important to me, holding a part time job in admissions, was an SOS leader, was in weekly counselling, and was trying to be an active member in the TWU community.

Needless to say, I was burnt out pretty quickly. And that was only 13 semester hours (plus two labs). I passed all my courses and maintained the GPA I need for my scholarship. If you want to know what it is like being a member of the School of the Arts, Media + Culture, that is it right there.

What I haven't mentioned is the amazing program that we get to work in. I can safely say that the programs here are unique. First of all, TWU in general is an incredible school, and SAMC is no exception. The professors care way more than one would expect and they mean what they say, they are there to create whole artists. I have cried in all of my theatre professor's offices for very personal reasons. They have helped me realize the parts of me that I have hidden and that need(ed) work. They are continually pushing me to be a better person, a better role model, a better Christian, and a better theatre artist.

In class I have seen nearly every person in my year cry. We are always on a journey being pushed further and further. If you are looking at pursuing a post-secondary degree in theatre I would STRONGLY encourage you to check out TWU's SAMC Theatre program. The same goes for every program in SAMC (art, music, and communications), and in the rest of the university.

Till next time,

P.S. Check out SAMC Theatre's production of "The Bacchae" the show that I am in that opens next week!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Stages of Life

All my life I have felt like I am alone, there has always been this feeling of knowing that no one else really knows what is best for me - so I had to try my hardest to get what I needed done. I felt like the people in my life were not really permanently there for me, so I started to keep this thinking for everyone. Everyone in my life for the past ten years has been given a "Disposable" label from me. I knew not to get too close because they might not stay.

Now I'm in university where everyone is in this state, where you know that the friends you make probably won't be around in a couple years - even your really good ones. Now for the first time ever I have started not handing out the "Disposable" stickers because I'm in a place where I don't feel I have to, and at the same time people are leaving.

Which made me think, everyone around me for once has the exact same problem. They might not know it, or be aware of it, or maybe even really care, but they have it. Everyone at university is at a "life shift" where everything in their life is changing. The people you meet, the jobs you take, everything is temporary.

I've been at university long enough now that everyone outside of it that was in my life has moved on to bigger and better things. And like I mentioned, the people in my life now aren't permanent (for the most part).

So last night as I lay in bed at a time I should've been asleep, I thought about what that means for me and my life (short and long term).

Short term:
This summer most of the people I know and love will either graduate and move away, drop out and leave, or go home for the summer. Which means that I get the pleasure of staying here in Langley (where is still to be determined) with very few people around. There are a couple of people whose presence is more important to me than most, most of whom are going away.
My girlfriend is talking of going home for the summer to see her family, which I completely support. One of my best friends, if not my best, will be staying for a little while to do a show in Vancouver and then go home. My friend who is more like a sister is talking about going all kinds of places from Kansas City to Australia. And a bunch of other people in my life will be moving away, mostly going home. While I'm happy that they have a place to go, I still can't help but feel unsettled about the coming summer.

Long term:
Most of the people in my life are not permanent and I might not ever see them again after graduation, but I will have friends all over the globe.  Without having true "roots" anywhere, I am free to go wherever I feel called.

Right now it feels (and looks) like the short term negatives outweigh the long term, very vague positives. This might be just another whiny post from a college student wishing life could be easier. But here I am wishing life could be easier and complaining about it in a blog post.

Till next time,

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring or Reading Break, which is it?

As "Reading Break" comes to a close and everything returns to normal on campus, all the students are looking back on their reading breaks wondering what they did with their time. You don't really have a choice because if you run into someone you didn't see over the break you have to ask them (it is the social norm). Then you play a game of one upping, one person will probably talk about their trip to California or Hawaii and the other will talk about how they became more aquainted with the stacks in the library basement as they prepared for their term papers. They'll tell each other that the other person was better off "I wish I had studied and written papers" the first will say, and then the other will respond with "No! I'm so jealous you got to lay on the beach in Hawaii for a week, I'd much rather see the sun than write that history paper!"

I've had multiple versions of these conversations today, with variances on the places where people went or where they studied, and it has got me thinking. What do we do with our free time on reading break, is it beneficial or could we use our time better. And is there a balance when it seems like people seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Personally, I know I could have done more this break. It was more of a Spring Break (plus cold and snow) than a Reading Break. I did very little Reading and a lot more Breaking. Being a theatre student and in a production, I had rehearsal on Saturday all day (9-5), and then immediately following rehearsal I booked it downtown Vancouver and watched an amazing (required) 3 act play. I got home at nearly midnight and so it didn't really feel like a break yet at all. So come Sunday, I was ready for a break. So me and three others skipped church, caught a ferry and headed for the island. There we stayed  at a professor's house for a couple nights and had an amazing time. It was incredible to see my professor interact with her family and be able to see her incredible Christian character at work in her family. It has caused me to deeply respect her even more than before. While we were there we got to take a backstage tour of the Chemainus Theatre, including their rehearsal space and shop space. From there we went to my hometown (or as close as I have to a hometown) Galiano Island. We rented a cottage there for a couple of nights and really got to relax and bond. I grew way closer to the people I went with and loved spending time with them.

We got back on Thursday morning. You would think I would take a hint and get to work. I didn't. I thought it was a great time to take 24 hours straight to write as much of a play as possible. 24 hours later, I had written one act of a play and was content. Then it hit. I have 2 critiques to write, 2 CHITS (similar to critiques), 12 journals entries, a sound design project, a scene to rehearse, and a sonnet to have ready for Wed, and I haven't done much of anything. So I spent a while doing work, went to bed, and then Saturday flew by, and Sunday I went to church and helped two friends move. So it was Sunday night when I realized I should have done more homework during READING break. Whoops.

Now, the rest I got, I NEEDED. I have no doubt about that, but perhaps I didn't need to waste so much other time. Perhaps I could have found a happy medium. And that's how my second reading break ended. Wait, I forgot to say I satyed up till 2:30 in the morning working, got up at 9, finished working, and then my reading break ended.

And on our break we listened to the sermon online. We didn't miss the sermon, we just chose to hear it at a more convenient time. But we did listen to it! Promise.

So what do you think? Should Reading Break be a break from reading and a time for rest or a time for reading where we can not stress about going to class? I'm still undecided. I know I personally needed the break, but now I'm wishing I hadn't left so much to the last minute.

Til next time,