Monday, February 11, 2013

You are a necessary part of us.

For those who've transferred. {This is going to be a long one}.

I know you sometimes feel as if you don't quite fit in with the rest of your class, but you truly do. And here's why.

Let me tell you a little story about a small freshie class a few years ago. They were a good class. They were pretty out-going, friendly, a bit wide-eyed at the whole college experience. They settled on a fellowship rather quickly and immediately got started trying to fit the proper mold. The guys learned to always walk a girl back to her dorm if it was dark out. The girls learned that the cardigan would be their new best friend for the next four years. Every Saturday morning, there was a class prayer meeting and they'd all go get brunch together afterwards. And a few Sundays per quarter, the freshies would decide to have a dress-up day, where everyone dressed a little fancier than normal for church. Taking group pictures was a class hobby.

During GOC on Friday nights, you could always find the freshies all sitting together in the front few rows. They'd get there early and hurry in to reserve their places. Class unity and spirit reached its peak during Broomball that year, when they rallied together to tie for first place against the seniors. That had never happened before. The freshmen were excited. These were the people they'd spend the next four years with and they began planning their themes for future Broomballs right away.

Spring quarter hit and there were whispers going around about this mysterious event called Spring Banquet. It entailed dressing up and asking people if they'd be your date and what if you didn't get asked and what did one do at this Spring Banquet? Twas quite nerve-wracking. So nervous were the freshmen, in fact, that the asking started before tickets for the event were even announced. They got a lecture about that.

Before Banquet arrived, however, there was the matter of Spring Retreat, a Friday evening to Sunday afternoon getaway with the fellowship that included teaching and baptisms and having fun with your class. It was then, during a late-night class sharing time, that the freshmen realized just how little they knew about each other.

Oh sure, they'd learned all the surface things, like where everyone was from, what their likes and dislikes were, and  a little about everyone's personalities. They knew that they all got along decently well and would excel in class-versus-class competition. But what they learned during that sharing time was that everyone was insecure. About themselves and their place in the class. About whether GOC was the right place for them. About college in general and making new friends and surviving this first year away from home. They were lonely and they missed their high school friends and they worried that everyone else in the class was more godly than they. They were afraid of pretending, but even more afraid to be honest with everyone. What if everyone else was just pretending to be nice to them?

The recurring theme that night, though, was that, in the end, they realized that their fellow freshies were genuine. They cared about each other. They encouraged one another through meet-ups and cookies and encouragement cards. The fact that everyone would come out for birthday celebrations, make and sign cards, and bake things for each other helped remind the freshmen that they were loved and this was their class. They were a part of something bigger than themselves and no matter what happened during those next four years, they had each other to lean on.

As transfers or newer members of our senior class, there's no denying that those of us who've been here since freshmen have a few more shared memories with each other. However. And this is a BIG HOWEVER. We would not be the class we are today without you. You ARE a part of what makes us awesome and brings us together as a senior class. As wonderful and lovely as all the things I said about that freshmen class sound, that's not the full story.

See, that adorable, close-knit freshmen class? They drifted apart slowly the following year. It wasn't intentional and it wasn't a conscious thing, but with all the emphasis the upperclassmen put on getting to know the incoming freshmen and starting to take more responsibility around GOC and taking harder classes and joining other extracurriculars, the new sophomore class found that they just didn't have as much time for each other. They tried to continue their weekly Saturday morning prayer meetings, but less and less people showed up. Class outings became few and far between since everyone always had conflicting plans and impromptu dinners with fellow classmates were replaced with purposeful meet-ups with other GOCers.

That year's Spring Retreat class sharing time had a different theme. One of, we-know-we-didn't-get-to-hang-out-much-this-year,-but-we'll-all-be-in-the-apts-next-year-and-it'll-be-better. They made grand plans of class potlucks and study parties and walking across the street to hang out {as opposed to hiking from De Neve to Hedrick for a jam session}. Hopes were high.

But it didn't really get better that next year. Not at first anyways. Everyone was even busier than before, especially since many of them were in leadership positions now. Classes were even harder, free time even more rare. It wasn't looking good for those grandious plans naively made the previous spring.

Until it came time for the Junior Transfer Hangout. After three years at GOC, this class had gotten pretty good at planning official, traditional events. They were excited, not only for a chance to hang out with each other, but especially to get to finally meet the new transfers-- after all, who doesn't like new friends? And it was there that the class dynamic changed forever. And for the better.

You see, you guys gave us a reason to start hanging out together again. We knew each other, there was less mystery there. That freshman excitement we once had over meeting new people and learning more about them resurfaced and it was amazing to see how much life was brought into our class with this infusion of new people. You kind of revived us.

I may sound a tad dramatic, but I think it really is true. You guys make us a better class. You didn't start out with us as freshmen and that's exactly why you're so good for us-- you have a different perspective on GOC and on being here at UCLA. You're excited, you're driven, and you're just what we needed when we were feeling a little too comfortable with each other. You give our class a different dynamic and it's so much better than we could ever have been without you.

What brought this on was a conversation with a fellow GOC senior about senior trip this Spring Break. When I asked why she wasn't going, she told me, "I don't want to intrude."

"Intrude on what exactly?," was my inquiry. After all, she is a senior. She's part of GOC. I was really confused.

"Intrude on you guys. I feel like this is your last hoorah and you all have known each other for a long time. You have history. I don't want to intrude."

Honestly, that stung. Because if that's the vibe we've been sending out, that is a sad, sad thing. And so incorrect. Just because you didn't start out with us as freshmen doesn't mean that you are any less a part of our class. There is not, or at least there shouldn't be, a hierarchy here. I didn't know what to say.

Obviously, it bothered me a lot. Enough that I couldn't help thinking about it for the rest of the evening. Enough that I decided I had to write this all out instead of study for my midterm. Enough that I'm staying up to get this all down on paper before I go to sleep.

If this is what we've conveyed to our transfers and newer members, then we have failed as a class.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the above situation. I feel a little awkward writing all this out and giving it to her as a letter or something. I'd try to talk to her about it, but I know I'll never be as eloquent as I am when I'm writing.

So for the few of you who will read this, take it as a cautionary tale of sorts. Make sure your transfers KNOW they are loved. Include them and invite them out to things whenever you can. They are a vital part of what makes your senior class amazing and you should strive to let them know just that.

For you transfers out there, please don't let the fact that you have fewer shared memories with us keep you from making new memories with us. We want you to join us for official class events and instigate new ones. You are an important part of our class and please forgive us if we've somehow convinced you otherwise. You are loved and you are needed.

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