See you in 5 months, or maybe longer. I’m about to go on the adventure of a lifetime or at least the adventure that can be held in one study abroad program in one semester of college that happens to take place in Rome – doesn’t seem so foreboding when you put it like that.

This semester has taught me a lot and I am prepared for the adventure ahead… I think. It hasn’t been a cakewalk, but it’s equipped me for a whole different experience called “life in the real world”. I have no worries about my fast approaching departure to Europe – T minus two hours and counting. I know this will be quite the experience and although it will be hard I know looking back at this time in my life I will not regret a single moment. Lets be real I’m traveling the world, who would! I appreciate your prayers past, present, and future as I embark on this journey. I’ll do my best to live boldly (and safely) and take as many opportunities as I can while abroad. Thanks to everyone for the support and help in preparing me for this journey. 

As I sit on an airplane for the next 24+ hours I will be doing a lot of reflection, preparation, and of course sleeping. Yes, I will be thinking about all of the things I have to look forward to, but I will also be considering the things I will not be a part of this semester. What I’ve realized is this isn’t just the start of something new it’s the continuation. My journey started a year and a half ago when I came to Belmont.

A couple days ago I received a package and it contained my “adventure essentials” which included a journal and a stack of letters from people who care about me. This whole time I’d been preparing for Rome I thought of it as something new and although the scenery will be a little different my support system remains the same. This will be a test of some of my friendships and a glimpse of life after graduation. WHAT?! Yes, I realized that when we walk across that stage we will be going separate directions. The plane I’m about to get on is definitely taking me in a different direction than Nashville and Chicago, but my life will always be intertwined with the people I have met and now call friends. Our stories are forever interlocked whether our journeys continue together or apart. The Lord has placed some incredible people in my life and all I have to say is thank you. Thank you for loving me, encouraging me, supporting me, and showing up. I am forever grateful.

I don’t know when you’ll see another post up here, but next time I am sure I will be sitting in some café somewhere in Europe. I cannot wait to share my adventures with. So here we go. To my friends I will miss you dearly and I can’t wait to hear about your lives over the coming months. To my family, I love you and start preparing to swap stories.

-a. marlo


The Worried Well

I heard my dad call my hometown “The Worried Well” for the first time the other day. As he explained I realized there was some truth to it. I grew up in a privileged area with a lot of wealthy families and a high school almost as big as the university I attend. Everyone seems well off, but in reality the smallest thing can wreck people’s mental health.

Here’s the theory. Everyone is so caught up in making a good living and maintaining this well-to-do image, the smallest things cause them to worry so much they might as well be stuck in a 100 feet deep cylindrical stone shaft – also known as a well.

The new fabric for the couch becomes the focus of every conversation and holds so much weight you would think that someone was donating bone marrow. In truth the reason so much weight is put on these items is because “appearances are important.” That’s what all of it comes down to. Who can live the American Dream the best? Of course I’m no exception. I fell into this cycle myself in high school and focused on only what I was doing and how I looked to other people. What positions could I get on x or y clubs and how many people knew who I was? This wasn’t just a condition parents had it was engrained in us as people in this system. There are also some people that cared so much about helping others that the stay-at-home mom became an angel swooping in to try and end world hunger, taking on every task she could to be there for her family, the school, the town, the country, and don’t forget world peace. For arguments sake, let’s put these people to the side for a moment.

It sounds like I’m being harsh on my hometown and to a degree I am, but I will always have my hometown pride. I learned a lot from this community and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. I learned the value of true friendship, that unfortunately appearances do hold weight, that politics bleed into everything, but most important I learned how to give grace and forgiveness to others and myself. They say it is a dog eat dog world out there, so I choose to be a giraffe – a horse of a different color. I don’t have to play the game, and neither do you.

The Worry Well doesn’t just apply to the town I grew up in. We get so caught up in such miniscule things that we can’t see the big picture, or we look at the big picture so much that we can’t see what’s right in front of us. There’s a balance you see that no one quite gets. Without love and relationship where would we be? Some day I’m going to come to the gates of heaven and if all I have to bring is the swatch of fabric from my couch, well… I don’t even know what will happen in that case. What’s important is the soul. Soul making, not soul faking. We may be able to pretend with our neighbors and even our families, but we can’t do that with God.

Maybe we focus on our outfit choices or hair color and freak out at minor incidences because we’re control freaks. Maybe all the worry comes from not trusting God. If you feel like the rest of your life is spinning out of control, then yeah I’d be spending hours upon hours picking out furniture. That’s where a lot of eating disorders, OCD, and other illnesses come from – trying to gain control in just one area of your life. People like to be in control of their own lives, or at least feel like they are. When the smallest thing goes out of focus, we hyperventilate because we have a delusion that we dictate our lives – In my opinion that sounds like a lot of work. Can you imagine trying to control every aspect of every situation down to timing, location, people, and conversation – sounds exhausting and impossible. We can’t control other people, and it’s hard enough for me to control my own weirdness on a daily basis and waking up at a decent hour so I don’t think I can handle controlling how other people act.

Control and trust. If you have problems with one you’ll likely have problems with the other. If you think they’re unrelated you are probably in denial. If you’re saying oh yeah I get that, but I’m different this is from my childhood and its just part of my DNA I think you need to take another look. I know many people have already made their new years resolutions, but I’d like to propose another. What if we spent this year trying to learn more about ourselves and figure out why we are who we are? Rather than blaming our odd ticks on our childhood, why don’t we figure out what moment changed our behavior or what reoccurring action made us so insecure, angry, or passive. Self-awareness is one of the most beneficial things, and I think it gives us some control back and even identity. Instead of flying off the handle or overreacting or having the urge to run we may be able to see a situation and know how we are going to react, and know why. It’s frustrating not knowing why we get so quiet around the underdog or break down when someone gives us constructive criticism. I said before that last semester was hard, so let’s help ourselves out a little and instead of trying to change ourselves this year we could try to discover more about ourselves. The first step is admitting there is a problem, is it not?

Netflix Revolution

Over the last few weeks I’ve had a lot of alone time, in fact more than I would typically like. Just like any other college student I’ve spent more than a few nights binge-watching shows on Netflix. This got me thinking, what am I doing? Did I seriously just waste 6 hours (don’t judge, you know you’ve done it too) watching a TV show that I am in no way invested in, and I stay up until ungodly hours to watch it just for something to do? I realize my mistake in a fully conscious state the next morning and resolve to instead read a book the next time, journal, read my Bible, sketch, or listen to music. The plan has been made and I will follow through, I mean it’s so easy to keep my computer closed and choose a number of other great options.

The next night comes and here’s my opportunity. I think to myself FOR SPARTA!!! That’s about my only self-motivation technique left since I used up everything else during finals and over the holidays. It’s been a long day now it’s time to wind down. Well that got me thinking about the movie 300, which got me thinking about Gladiator. I wonder if that’s on Netflix! So what do I do – that’s right, Netflix always wins. You could say I am currently in a relationship with Netflix. Those shirts that say Sorry I can’t go out tonight. I have a date with Netflix or how about Relationship Status? Netflix, pizza, and sweatpants – these are me, I am this, it is all the same this winter break. It’s really not a bad life at least I get fed. What I’ve learned through all of this is that although this relaxation technique may not be the best, some time to rest my mind is ok. Although I could be spending my time rereading the classics this break – To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies (please Lawd no), The Odyssey (throwback to freshman year of highschool), or my personal favorite Lord of the Rings – I don’t need to.

As college students we need a break as most of us have spent our time the past 5 months doing only school work or working a real job if like me you never wait till the last minute, have no social life, haven’t joined any other activities, hate the outdoors, and absolutely can’t stand talking to people. Ha. But really, in reality we need even more of a break because we’re burnt out. As we get older we will hopefully be able to combat this in better ways by going to sleep instead of going long boarding at 11pm or playing soccer at midnight. We will become those boring old folks with jobs who earn their livings and have wonderful family and friends who are willing to compromise and have dinner parties and eat well instead of eating raw ramen. We will be grownups, living in the working class and hopefully loving what we do.

I for one am not ready for those days yet. I still want to stay up late and swim in fountains in the middle of the night and go on ice cream runs way too late and talk to my friends in the freezing cold until 6am when we have an 8 o’clock class that morning. So for now I am going to let myself be a child for once. I’m allowed to have my moments of insanity. Although this semester I’ve been going to sleep earlier and making my own food (that’s right I have a farm in my kitchen-cows and chickens, the whole shebang) and working on my communication skills, I am still 19 years old. I may not be a freshman anymore, but I’m not in the adult world yet. Even as an adult I don’t want to feel boring. I like adventure and I like having fun. One of my favorite people is 70 years old just had a shoulder replaced and still wants to travel the world, she laughs as much as I do, and is even more outgoing because she has the time in which to do it.

I may not be ready to kiss mommy and daddy goodbye and take care of myself. One day I’ll get there or they’ll throw me to the curb, but even when that time comes I bet I’ll still choose to be a little immature.

As an only child I’ve lived in the adult world my entire life, so it’s time to make some mistakes of my own. When my dad said goodbye this year he handed me some cash and said, “Be reckless, will ya? Stay up all night and goof off, ok?” You could say I have the best parents ever – because it’s true but my point is that whether you have supportive parents or not you have to have fun and make friends – while trying not to gain the freshman 15 from one thing or another or just gain weight from gettin old.

From me to you – spend the last days or week(s) of break relaxing. The semester is about to hit full-force for some of us and for others maybe it’s going to be finding a job or living in our parent’s homes again or maybe a career change. Maybe your break has already ended, but don’t forget to take a break. We all burn out because we’re not robots. We’re not perfect and we don’t always know how to handle things. So take a deep breath while your Netflix account is loading, because it’s time to detox our brains with all that information and temporarily go into a coma.