Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wrapping It Up

In 5 days I will pack up and leave school. For the last time.


This has all gone so quickly, really too quickly. Yes, there are many things about post-college life that I have been hankering for for a while now, but there is an undeniable bitterness to moving on from this stage of life. This is the end of my education (for now). This is the end of my "carefree college days." But I'll save up the rest of my reflection for a post after I've actually graduated.

While I'm still here, there's a lot more fun and current happenings for me to focus on and update you about. Classes are over, grades are coming in, and graduation is just a few days away. I'm finding this transitional time to be a welcomed momentary respite - a stillness in which I can sit, and reflect on what exactly happened in my life this past year. The last time I wrote, it was still pre-spring break and there was snow on the ground. Now the pollen has budded and the wet, heavy, green beginnings of a North Carolina summer are in full swing.

While there was still that lingering snow on the ground in North Carolina, I skipped myself home to Texas for my spring break, and some good ol' Texas R&R. My Mom, my sister, and I took a weekend trip down to the small town of Salado, Texas to get out of the city and have a little adventure. While Salado was not the thriving metropolis that my Mom remembered it to be (hint: sarcasm), it was still quite enjoyable! We passed our days at the local shops and restaurants, and played a lot, I mean a lot of cards.

the bed and breakfast, with porch swings a-plenty

love them

Upon returning to North Carolina, I was greeted with, you guessed it: SNOW! We had an inexplicably long winter this year, with snow falling all the way into April. Personally, I think it was North Carolina's way of giving me a little extra Carolina love during my last winter here at school. So I soaked up every bit of snow with a smile. 

April snow - a first ever for me

One of the classes I took this semester was a course in Children's Literature. The class ended early in the semester (i.e. first week of April) and for our last class, we had a little party at our professor's house. This professor certainly had a flair for the dramatic - so he requested that we each dress up as one of the characters from one of the children's books we had read. This is the professor's last semester teaching, after at least 30 years at the University, so it was an honor to attend his final Children's Literature party. Take a glance at our costumes below and see if you have any guesses about who we were!

A big thing that has happened since I last talked to y'all is the job hunt. It has consumed so much of my time, my thoughts, my heart, and my prayers. I mean, y'all, hunting for a job is hard. The kick off for me was a job fair in Knoxville at the beginning of April. It was my first truly professional experience and I really enjoyed it. I absolutely fell in love with the city during my couple of days there - so fresh, so fun, but not overwhelmingly big. I got to stay with one of my sister's friends who lives right in Market Square - putting all the fun and young things right at my fingertips. I know that there are many potential paths for the Lord to lead me down in these next couple months, but at the very bottom of my heart I hope that path takes me back to Knoxville. 

And let me take this opportunity to make a shameless plug for myself: if you have a connection to ANYONE and I mean ANYONE working in an elementary school and they are looking to hire new teachers - PLEASE PUT ME IN TOUCH WITH THEM. I am grasping for any and every connection possible. If the school is in Tennessee - great, if it's in Texas - great, if it's anywhere else on God's green earth - great! I would just love to make as many connections as I can! I'm learning to be a shameless self-promoter people! (Side note, feel free to visit my digital portfolio here.)

krankin' out those business cards

Headed to the job fair and feeling adult-ish! 

spent some time relaxing at this park in Knoxville, watching the ducks paddle themselves along 

part of the chalk festival in Market Square

 One of the rights of passage that we as seniors get at our university is tours of the tunnels and the bell tower. Our campus is built on top of an elaborate system of tunnels that traverse the entire extent of campus. Unfortunately, in the past 30 or so years they have been locked up and off-limits to student explorations/shenanigans. But before sending us out into the world, the university allows us to go on a tour of a small portion of the underground labyrinth. I didn't get any decent photographic evidence, but those tunnels were cool. We saw old old old storage rooms, original chairs from the chapel, bomb shelters, and rooms that were set up as safe rooms during the cold war. All very interesting stuff! Additionally, we got to tour the bell-tower. That's something I did during my sophomore year with some friends, but all the same it was impressive to climb up onto the steeple of the chapel and overlook our city and campus.

making our way through the tunnels

at the clock face

panoramic view from the bellower

The quad and downtown: I've loved calling this place home.

Up next on the docket was Easter. Our shuttle driver is a very eccentric woman, named Dede. She went all out, and I mean all out for Easter. On Thursday, she drove us around in her Easter get-up, with pink nose, painted whiskers, and all. She handed a dyed (hard boiled) egg to each student who got on her Bunny-Mobile (read: shuttle bus) and sent each student off with a "Hoppy Easter!" Campus was in full spring swing right around then and all the trees were blooming with their bright pink blossoms. This Easter brought a special treat, (in addition to the obvious reasons for rejoicing), my Dad came up to visit! He flew into town on Thursday and we drove down to South Carolina to take care of some family business and have some quality father-daughter time together. That weekend was definitively one of my favorites of the semester. We got to visit Bon Haven, the home where my grandmother grew up, visit the resting place of many of my ancestors, eat dinner in the mountains each night, and attend Easter service at the church that my family has gone to for generations. It was a weekend rich with remembrance, rejoicing, and lots and lots of laughter.

oh Dede....

the trees in full bloom

Bon Haven

Bon Haven

what a stud!
dinner in the mountains

the best travel buddy

 This semester has been rich with weekend adventures, including a quick trip into the mountains. One of the items on my Senior bucket list was to visit Blowing Rock one last time. I have been up to the quaint mountain town several times over the course of my years here, even spending Thanksgiving there with the family in 2010. It's also one of my parents favorite get aways. Beth and I managed to scurry up to the mountains for a quick one night get away, filled with good food, good coffee, and good shopping. And I mean, who doesn't love going to the mountains?

on Main Street, at our beloved Last Straw

Our trip to Blowing Rock was the weekend before our last week of classes. It was crazy how quickly the end of the semester snuck up on us. I basically blinked and it was gone. So, in honor of my last college class ever, I of course had to snap a quality selfie. 

I think the picture speaks for itself. It's the end of an era, people.

 With graduation comes graduation presents. Sweet Beth gave me this precious banner to hang up in my classroom next year. I love her creative spirit and personal touch and can't wait to hang it up in whatever classroom I end up in. I also love that it will be such a perfect visual reminder of our time together.

Because the university gives us a roughly week-long break between the end of finals and graduation, most Seniors take this time as a free vacation, trekking out to the beach for the first hint of summer. Beth and I made the journey down to Florida for a change of pace from the usual Carolina coast. It was refreshing and free, a nice journey away from the confines of North Carolina. Personally, busting out on a 10 hour drive gets me all excited and giddy, and this was no exception. We were at Blue Mountain Beach, just down the road from the more widely known community of Seaside. I personally love staying at Blue Mountain Beach, as it gives you great access to both Destin and Seaside, without having to actually be in the middle of the hustle and bustle of it all. Our days in Florida were filled to the brim with poolside relaxation, good books, bike rides, and a little bit of shopping for good measure.

dinner on the beach (with entertainment from the children at neighboring tables)

the view on another night of dinner on the beach

getting that, I mean, tan

post-dinner stroll through Seaside

the view from our patio

relaxing after biking to Seaside

the magnolias were in full bloom in Florida!

Now that we're back in North Carolina, it's time to get down to business and pack up the apartment. It's always sad to strip the apartment of its memories and its essence of home, only to be left face-to-face with the starkly blank walls. It really is such a visual manifestation that this period of my life is coming to a close. So as my apartment is in chaos-mode right now, it's been hard to find a time to sit down and do something that is not packing-related. I resolved to get away from my apartment for a little bit today to Camino Bakery, a coffee shop downtown, for some magical coffee and some good work time. I finally managed to get a few more things checked off of my to do list, including writing this long-awaited post! 

That pretty much brings us up to date! My family starts rolling into town Saturday morning for all of the graduation festivities. I am beyond elated to have them all in the same place at once and even more to have them all experience a little piece of what has been my world for these past four years. I've come to realize how valuable it is to me for my loved ones to get to see parts of my world. It makes me feel like they are truly involved in my life. So I'm stoked that that will be happening in these coming days! I'll graduate on Monday morning at 9 AM and then our little caravan will roll out of town on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

So here's to soaking up my last little bit of time in the city that has been my home for the past four years. It's been good. It's been fulfilling. It's been appreciated.