Story Time: I GRADUATED

Well, this post is now three months overdue. (Sorry! I will eventually catch up. Hopefully.)

Anyway, THIS APRIL I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. And it involved four ceremonies and a lot of picture taking and I maybe burst into tears in the middle of Pizza House at the end of it all. (Warning that this post is about to be a billion words long. And involves me being at my melodramatic height. I’m mostly putting this up for posterity’s sake, so totally don’t feel obligated to read it.)

I hit a couple rough patches during undergrad (who doesn’t), but overall I adored my time at U of M. And I am so desperately sad about leaving. (Although the Ann Arbor Art Fair began yesterday, and that’s basically hell on Earth, so my opinion could be different in a few days.)

Graduation Weekend began for me, really, Thursday night. This was because after months of deliberating about what to put on my graduation cap, I managed to procrastinate actually putting the thing together until like 10:00 PM. (I am a genius.) So, while my friends all went out to celebrate our last night of undergrad, I settled in for one last assignment.

I had the TV on in the background–there was a How I Met Your Mother marathon–and I confiscated a roommate’s box of Kraft mac and cheese (because if there’s ever a time for comfort food, the night before you graduate from college is it). Luckily, I’d already done a lot of the legwork for my cap earlier in the week (dyeing paper with tea to artificially age it, buying fake flowers, picking out quotes, etc.). So mostly I was just hot gluing everything on, one piece at a time. Still, it took me until midnight to finish. And, of course, in like the last five minutes I managed to drip hot wax on my wrist.

(I graduated with half of my right hand wrapped in bandages, between the burn and my squirrel bite and a couple who-even-knows-where-these-came-from injuries. Remember: if I can make it through college, anyone can.) (Also, general PSA: don’t feed squirrels, kids; it’s a bad idea.*)

In the end, my cap looked like this:

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I ended up not being able to choose between two quotes, so I used them both. The quote layered in the background is from Winnie the Pooh and reads: “‘Is that the end of the story?’ ‘That’s the end of that one. There are others.'” And the quote on top is of course “mischief managed” from Harry Potter. (I know it’s cliche, but it’s just so perfect with the block M.) Also, the white flowers on the cap are decorated with cursive writing (to symbolize writing), typescript (to symbolize reading), and music notes (to symbolize, you know, music stuff).

So, totally unnecessary backstory on the Winnie the Pooh quote: for anyone who doesn’t know, I was the publicist for a local used bookshop throughout senior year, which mostly involved me posting pictures of books to our Facebook page to try to drum up business. I liked to keep these at least somewhat timely, so during finals I gathered a big pile of children’s books for a post about graduation.

I was flipping through the shop’s copy of Winnie the Pooh in search of this other quote I adore when I randomly came across the one above. I’d been searching for the perfect quote to put on my graduation cap since like October and had never even seen this one before, so YOU HAD BETTER BET I started crying in the middle of the sci-fi/fantasy section because HOW PERFECT IS THIS QUOTE.

(I’m not a big crier, but pretty much every time I cried this school year, it happened while I was working. That poor bookshop.)

ANYWAY BACK TO THE ACTUAL STORY: Even though I was exhausted when I finished the cap and I had to be up at like 6:00 to get ready for the first ceremony, I couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up for another hour or two reading the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and, you know, crying. Again. (I am a cautionary tale in what not to do during graduation weekend, if that was not already clear.)

I eventually did get to sleep, though, and the next morning Hannah and I rushed through getting ready and were only like twenty minutes late for the time my parents were supposed to pick us up to drive us over to the Crisler Center.

Our first ceremony of the day was for the Honors Program. We posed for lots of pictures before the ceremony, and met up with lots of other nervous friends, and then Graduation Weekend For Real began.

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Mortarboards are great for hiding the bags under your eyes.

People gave speeches. We walked across the stage. We posed for even more pictures.

From there, my family drove across campus to grab lunch at Noodles & Co., then we headed to the Honors Program reception, where they proceeded to stuff us with even more food. (This was unexpected, but turned out to be the rule of the weekend. I’ve been going to receptions for four years at this university and normally they serve us some fruit and maize & blue corn chips and cookies. But all of the graduation receptions throughout the weekend were catered with huge piles of real and delicious food. It was a-maize-ing, if you’ll ignore my completely awful but necessary pun.)

Anyway, continuing: then I showed my family around campus a little, we took–you guessed it–more pictures, and I–you guessed it–cried some more.

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My mom took this photo in Angell Hall, our English building. When I was a senior in high school, Michigan was my top choice school but I hadn’t actually been on campus since I was like ten, so Mom and I played hooky one day to come explore. It was seeing this building, dedicated to words and stories, that convinced me this truly was the school for me.

From there, we walked to the Union, where we had the Screen Arts & Cultures (aka: film school) ceremony and reception. My family loaded up on even more food. I talked with friends. Then we sat through our second ceremony, and I walked across a stage a second time, and people took more pictures.

The director of our screenwriting program, Jim Bernstein, gave a really wonderful speech about giving kids in arts fields the time to succeed. I’m paraphrasing here, because, again, it’s been a few months, but he basically pointed out how we give the kids who become lawyers and doctors all of their extra years of schooling past undergrad before we expect them to be successful. So, why don’t we do the same for kids going into film-making, or writing, or photography? Just because we’re not in a formal school environment doesn’t mean we’re not also using those years to learn and grow.

If you want people to succeed, you need to get them the chance to.

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I only minored in SAC, because I was way more interested in learning how the industry works and how to analyze and critique films than actually learning how to make them. So, I decided to forgo taking production classes in favor of taking only the classes I really wanted to (which means I was only a few classes short of a major, credit-wise, but requirement-wise I was nowhere close) (sorry not sorry; I had an amazing time in film school).

After that, my family said their goodbyes and headed home, and I headed back to my apartment. That night I went out with some friends to celebrate. (Yay!) Aaand my roommates and I made one of the biggest mistakes of our life by watching the series finale of Gilmore Girls. (NOT YAY. VERY NOT YAY.)

The next morning was Day 2 of Graduation Weekend. I got up at 5:30 to shower and Hannah and I were ready (actually mostly) on time, this time. We headed off to our friend Melissa’s apartment for breakfast. The group of us there ate, freaked out about the weather (WHY WAS IT LIKE FORTY DEGREES AT THE END OF APRIL?), then piled into an Uber and headed to the Big House.

For anyone who doesn’t know: the Big House is the nickname for Michigan Stadium, aka our football stadium, aka the largest stadium in the United States and second largest stadium in the world. (#GoBlue)

Every spring, the university hosts the big, everyone-is-invited graduation ceremony in the Big House. This means organizing something like six thousand graduates. It was madness. Our group managed to stay together, though, and we had a wonderful (albeit surreal) time.

The Big House ceremony is weird, because it’s the one everyone talks about, so it’s the one you most look forward to–but it’s also really impersonal and huge (and the speaker honestly left a lot of us feeling like we were getting lectured by our doesn’t-realize-he’s-racist uncle). But still, I love being in the Big House, and it was a last hurrah for a couple of the people in our group, and it was nice.

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A selfie of me and 6,000 of my closest friends.

After the ceremony, I adventured across the bleachers, stopping to talk with friends who’d sat elsewhere along the way, and finally found my family. We took pictures (I hope you’re noticing a trend by now), then we headed to a special graduation brunch in the Union.

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I am a walking stereotype.

The food was delicious (that was also a trend), but unfortunately, after battling traffic across campus, we arrived at the brunch about twenty minutes before I needed to be at my fourth and final graduation ceremony. So I had just enough time to stuff a bagel in my mouth, wave goodbye to my family, and sprint across campus (in heels that had already rubbed half the skin off my ankles at that point) to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the League to check in.

Although all of the graduation ceremonies were great throughout the weekend, my last one was by far my favorite. It was for the Residential College. The RC is known for being quirky and informal and the exact opposite of what the Big House is: personal.

I lived in the RC for the first two years of college and the girls with whom I’ve shared my apartment the latter two years are all RC. The hell that was Intensive Spanish my freshman year was an RC requirement. I had the same creative writing instructor from my intro class freshman year to my honors thesis senior year.

In the past four years, I’ve hated the RC and I have loved the RC. I’ve gone through periods when I never would have recommended even stepping within ten feet of the RC’s home, East Quad. But looking back on it, the RC defined so much of my undergraduate career. And I’m really grateful for the opportunities and friendships and weird stories being in the RC afforded me.

And, of course, RC graduation was the most RC thing in the world. Instead of just having us walk across the stage like at a normal ceremony, each graduate got a couple minutes to do whatever they wanted to on stage. There was a lot of thanking of parents and friends and favorite professors. There was singing and plant-stealing and two girls boxing. A friend even roller skated across the stage.

It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. It was incredible. I cried a lot. (Who’s surprised.)

From there, a parade of bagpipers led students across campus to East Quad, where the university stuffed us with even more food. (At that point in Graduation Weekend, I was pretty sure I would never be hungry ever again in my entire life.)

Unfortunately, because my family and I hadn’t realized quite how much U of M would be feeding us throughout the weekend, we had a dinner reservation for after the last reception at Pizza House (a local place known for their feta bread, which, by the way, is life in food form).

So we dutifully trooped over there, where we attempted to get through the mound of food they served us. And then I gave my parents a photo album I’d put together with pictures of our family over the last four years. And, yeah–this is the part I mentioned before about bursting into tears in the middle of Pizza House.

It was a really lovely time with my family, though. I’m so grateful so many people were able to come celebrate with me that weekend. I never would have been able to make it through college without them, so it meant a ton that they all came to graduation.

After dinner, my family dropped me back off at my apartment, where I spent some time staring at all of the Michigan stuff on my bedroom walls and being numb (I FINALLY CRIED MYSELF OUT IT WAS A MIRACLE). Then Hannah and another of our really good friends sat on our couch for a few hours drinking cheap wine and binge eating apple pie and talking and being sad-but-happy in that weird way things like graduation can make you and it was also lovely.

Overall the entire weekend was that way. A weird mixture of sad and happy. Lots of crying and lots of eating. (What’s not to love.)

And I’m really proud of myself. Like, college truly is what you make it, and I’m so happy I spent this time learning everything that I could and traveling and having lots of chill nights at home writing or watching movies with friends or playing guitar. And I love the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor and so many of the people I’ve gotten to know while here.

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I’m going to miss them, this place, and being an undergrad. But I’m also so excited to see what comes next.

For now: Ch1Con 2016. Then the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then the Columbia Publishing Course UK at Oxford.

After that, who knows. I’m kind of terrified. I’m really excited.

Here we go.

 

~Julia

*This is a lie. (But be careful because they do occasionally mistake human flesh for a snack.) (But LOOK AT HOW CUTE.)

Wordy Wednesday: Writing

Happy Wednesday! The past week has been weirdly hectic without very much actually going on (mostly just family stuff, grad party, and endless trips to the dentist) (my mouth loves me).

Tomorrow, though, my mom and I leave for BEA and BookCon in Chicago, which is going to be SO ACTUALLY HECTIC and SO MUCH FUN and I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE PEOPLE. Let me know if you’ll also be there so we can meet up!

Meanwhile: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

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Sheets of paper, crisp with
ink and lines and scribbled words,
stacked thick and high enough to build
a tower (or a world)–
I disappeared through the pages,
my own portal to Narnia or Neverland or Wonderland,
and I have come out on the other side
in a place that had been waiting
for someone to find it

I was looking for a story,
a girl and a wristwatch and ivy-coated walls,
but instead I found the universe
waiting

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Thanks for reading, and keep a lookout next week for a BEA/BookCon recap! (Also hopefully my graduation recap at some point?) (I am really falling behind on this whole blogging thing, whoops.) (Love youuu.)

~Julia

P.S. You only have two weeks left to enter my giveaway of a signed copy of Susan Dennard’s New York Times bestseller Truthwitch, as part of the Ch1Con blog tour! Read Susan’s exclusive guest post and find the giveaway here.

P.P.S. Two weeks is also how much time you have left to register to attend the 2016 Chapter One Young Writers Conference at our special, discounted early bird rate! Register here by May 31st to only pay $74.99.

P.P.P.S. I am currently totally addicted to “Spirits” by The Strumbellas. It feels a lot like writing, if that makes sense. I dare you not to like it.

Wordy Wednesday: Coming Home

I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE!!

I’m going to do a longer post dedicated to that soon, hopefully, but for now here are a few pictures from the four ceremonies my family was kind (and patient) enough to sit through over the weekend.


Since graduation, I’ve spent a lot of time watching movies with my friends, taking part in a last few Wolverine traditions (mostly: painting The Rock), and semi-moving home. (I say “semi” because I’m bouncing around a lot of places this summer, so most of my stuff is still at my apartment. But I am home for a couple weeks now, whoooo.)

Also, in the past week I’ve had a couple cool interviews and a fun guest post go up in different places:

  • Interview on the Ch1Con Tumblr (as part of our 2016 blog tour), about talented women and good writing! Read it here.
  • Guest post on Allison the Writer (also as part of our 2016 blog tour), about Star Wars and how it’s affected my writing! Read it here. (ALSO I’m giving away a full manuscript critique on this one, so make sure to enter the giveaway!)
  • Interview on the University of Michigan Facebook page, about graduating and my time at Michigan! Read it here.

And now: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a song.

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CHORDS: G, D, Em, C [on last, just G-D-G-D-Em-C]

INTRO
Don’t leave the light on for me,
I will find you in the dark
And you should probably lock the door,
I hold your key beside my heart
I promise I am coming home,
no matter how far away and long I roam
I am always, at least a little bit
on my way home

VERSE1
Bags never seemed so heavy
until you’re carrying them across
the ocean wide

And I’ve never felt separation
the way everyone else does
but with this, I might

TRANSITION
And I don’t know where
I’ll be this time next year
or this time tomorrow

But I know someday
I’ll be right back here,
in this space I borrow

CHORUS
So don’t leave the light on for me,
I will find you in the dark
And you should probably lock the door,
I hold your key beside my heart
I promise I am coming home,
no matter how far away and long I roam
I am always, at least a little bit
on my way home

VERSE2
I know it doesn’t make sense
but I need new places
the way I used to need you

And I was born running,
never been able to sit still,
but maybe here’s what I’m meant to do

TRANSITION2
And I don’t know what
I want to do next year
or even next week

But I know someday
running right back to you
is what I’ll seek

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE [Em, C, G, D]
And I take you with me
in the photographs on my phone
I’ve got these memories to guide me
when I’m thrown

Don’t you see you’ve prepared me
the best anyone could
I promise I’ll write each week,
and I promise I’ll be good

[Repeat CHORUS]

ENDING
Dreaming of the letters I’ll send,
don’t know what else to say, but
I don’t know when,
but I’m coming home someday

I am always, at least a little bit
on my way home

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

P.S. May the fourth be with you!

Wordy Wednesday (“Peter Pan”)

You know, I always have so much I want to tell you, and then the instant I open a new blog post I forget and my brain just goes like, “Blahhh… words… wasn’t there something I was supposed to remember to say… blahhhhh blah blah blah blah… on well… blah… give me a caramel apple… whooo.”

Yeah, I’m blanking pretty hardcore at the moment.

But what I do remember: It’s Wednesday, so this is a Wordy Wednesday post. And this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a song I wrote around the time I graduated high school. I got really nostalgic and sappy my final semester, and this song basically describes what I felt like when I met some of the theatre kids from the class that would be freshmen the year after I graduated (aka: REALLY sappy). Looking at them was like looking at myself four years earlier, and it was the weirdest, most Twilight Zone-ish feeling I’ve ever experienced.

**********

[C, G, Em, D]

VERSE1

Hey there, little girl, with the braces on your smile

You’re so lucky, don’t you know, you get to be here for a while

I remember you calling my name, like I was a celebrity

Well, being a senior, graduating, isn’t all it cracked up to be

I’ve seen that look on your face before

Like you are waiting for someone to open the door

And you’re scared of being lost, and you’re scared of being alone

But you’re happy now, ’cause you’re finding a new home

CHORUS

Right now you’re at the beginning,

but the pages turn pretty fast

and someday you’ll have to let go

because today’ll be in the past

And I know it sucks, and I know it’s mean

And I know you feel stuck in between

But just remember as much of everything

as you can. Then fall in love with Peter Pan.

VERSE2

Hey there, little girl, just happy to fit in

Don’t forget who you want to be, for the sake of pleasing him

And just ’cause it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s always right

Don’t worry, not for now, it’s not goodbye at closing night

I’ve seen that look in your eyes before

I’ve said the words that you can’t ignore

And I’d give anything, to be in your shoes

You don’t know what you have, until it’s something you will lose

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE

Those four years are going go by faster than you think

One second you’re making friends, then it’s all gone in a blink

And you’ll cling to the memories, the bad ones and the good

Thinking of all the things you’d relive, wouldn’t change them if I could

[Repeat CHORUS]

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59

 

 

~Julia

Oh, PS. I just remembered one of the things I was supposed to say: THIS IS A BOOK has a new home–it’s very own website! And Mel and I are holding a contest to draw our logo (a squish)! Make sure to check it out and enter your drawing: http://thisisabookthebook.wordpress.com/

Wordy Wednesday (“The Truth About High School”)

Gosh, so much has happened since last week! For the sake of brevity though, I’m going to try to keep this short, so…

  • My Blogiversary Giveaway ended New Year’s Eve and I’ve contacted the winners, so congratulations to the three of you, and your books should be in your hands shortly! 🙂 To everyone else who entered, thanks so much, and I’m sorry you didn’t win–if I could send prizes to all of you, I would! It meant a lot to me that you entered the raffle.
  • I found out that Lauren Oliver’s hosting a really-super-awesome contest over on Figment that I am EXTREMELY excited about, and I think you should enter, just because it is too really-super-awesome not to (and then if you win, you should totally thank me for telling you about it): http://dailyfig.figment.com/2013/01/07/the-requiem-writing-contest/
  • I ALSO found out that I’m going to be going to an Ally Carter book signing next month, and besides the fact that I’m just about dying from excitement over it, I wanted to ask: Would you be interested in winning a signed copy of one of her books? Do you want me to pick up an extra at the signing, if possible, to giveaway on the blog?
  • I FINISHED WRITING CADENCE!!!!! After two months and 20,000 words more than I’d been planning on spending on the first draft, I finally managed to get to the end yesterday afternoon, and I am exceedingly happy with how it turned out (despite the 20,000 extra words).
  • I moved back to college yesterday evening, which means that I’m now back sitting in the cozy little cave under my bed (my lofted bed, that is), and it’s 78 degrees in my room despite the fact that it’s 22 outside and we have the windows open and our fans on, and I don’t even care, because I am just so happy to be back here at the moment. (Although, let’s be honest, I barely managed to get out the door without stuffing Sammy in my duffel bag last night.)
  • And, last but not least, I just got back from my first college creative writing class (which was also my first class of the semester–fantastic way to start, right?), and let me just say: This semester is going to be interesting. The professor’s awesome, the other students seem really into it, and that actually scares me a little bit, just because I’ve never been in an environment like that before. Like, I have never sat in a room with a bunch of other people the same age as me who are all into creative writing as much as I am. I’m one part scared, and one part excited, and overall just very, very nervous about it all, but hey: At least it’s guaranteed to be an adventure, right?

Now, moving on from that not-nearly-as-short-as-I-meant-it-to-be recap of the past week…

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a personal essay I wrote as a part of the Senior Sunday sermon at my church this past summer, in honor of all of us graduating from high school. It’s pretty Christian-y, obviously, since I wrote it for church, so if you don’t want to read something like that, I apologize. But I am a Christian, and it’s a big part of who I am, so something God-related was bound to pop on here eventually. 😉

So, I mean… I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry? Something like that.

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            “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”

An issue a lot of us struggle with in high school is identity. Who should we be friends with? Who should we sit with at lunch? What classes should we take, and what extra-curriculars should we do?

This all seemed big and real and scary when I was there, but looking back, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Because the fact of the matter about high school is, well, first of all: It’s just four years of your life, and those four years go by really, really fast, so why spend so much time being nervous and afraid when it’s going to be over so quickly? And second of all: While you’re all caught up feeling uncomfortable and shy and like nobody likes you? Well, everybody else is feeling the same way too.

So why does it take four years to figure that out? Why am I just now saying it? – You know, now that I’ve graduated? And the fact of that matter is: When you’re there, it’s like seeing the forest through the trees – or any number of other similes or metaphors that they teach you in English class. When you’re in high school, you’re extremely likely to look at everybody else through rose tinted glasses, and then look at yourself without any glasses on at all. It’s hard to really see something when you’re staring it in the face; easier to look back on it, and understand what was happening, now that it’s over.

And just like how, “‘[t]he eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you,’” you are always important, even when you don’t feel like it.

High school is about finding yourself. Experimenting, trying new things, and meeting new people. Chances are, a lot of the stuff you try isn’t going to work out, but that’s okay because a few of the things will. That’s high school – and beyond that, that’s life. Because high school, ultimately, is your training ground for the rest of your life.

Yes, you learn all about factoring, and the Civil War, and the differences between protons and electrons and neutrons. But you also learn about the type of person you’re going to be when you leave high school. You learn that it’s okay to talk to someone who might be more “popular” or “smarter” than you, and that no matter what you’re into – should it be theatre, or robotics, or sports, or art, or anything else – there’s likely to be a group of other students, just like you, just waiting to be your friends. I mean, my school even has a table tennis club, of all things.

So, how does all of this affect us as graduating seniors? Now that we’ve learned all of these lessons? Well, just like it’s our job to remember that Holden Caulfield is the main character of Catcher in the Rye, which takes place in New York City, and yada yada yada… It’s also our job to remember all the things that we learned outside of the classroom during high school. Like how to be selfless, by helping others during mission trips. Like how to understand that sometimes what you want to do isn’t what others need you to do, by understanding when you don’t get a role in the spring musical.

High school is about disappointments. It’s about not making your goals, feeling left out, and feeling worthless. Because without those things, how would we ever grow as people? How would we ever grow in our faith in God, unless we let Him challenge us every once in a while?

High school is about honesty. It’s about learning who you are, and learning who you aren’t. It’s about crying when you lose, and then crying when you win, too.  It’s about taking risks, doing the thing that scares you, no matter how small that is – whether it be sitting with some people who you don’t know very well at lunch, or flying halfway across the country to follow one of your dreams.

And no matter what it might be for you, and what it might be for me, all of us who have gone through high school, or are going through high school, or will go through high school sometime in the future, have one thing in common: While going through high school, we have the opportunity to come here. To church. Where you’re appreciated and loved, no matter where you are in life. No matter what your grades are or if you’re fighting with your friends.

God appreciates each and every one of us. It makes no difference whether you’re the star football player or “just another stagehand” in the school play – See what I did there, hands and feet?

“If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.”

We’re all important, no matter what.

An issue a lot of us struggle with in high school is identity. Isn’t it nice to know, in the end, that everything turns out fine? Because God loves us no matter whom we are?

That’s what I learned in high school, and what I’m going to take now, as a high school graduate, out into the world.

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~Julia