by Emily Kauffman, class of 2016
I recently left one home to return to another. The transition home after graduating from Hesston College was filled with grief. I had found myself at Hesston. I began my time there self-conscious, timid and semi-confused, and I left confident, motivated and at peace. I entered as a psychology major and left as a communications major. I entered a Christian and left an Anabaptist.
I will always count my time at Hesston as the most formative two years of my life. What’s weird is that they almost didn’t happen.
Not many people know this, but for a short time during Christmas break my first year there I was considering not going back for a second year.
My transition from home life to college life was disorienting. I was grieving the loss of my family, those who knew me best. Although I was still staying true to who I knew I wanted to be, I didn’t feel like I belonged my first semester at Hesston. But I found the courage to return for the second semester and I’m grateful I did.
As I have reflected on my transition to Hesston, I can identify three discoveries I found were needed for a healthy transition: (1) I found a safe space, (2) I found myself, and (3) I found courage to do hard things.
It was in that second semester that I found my safe space. I began meeting with the campus counselor. After the first few times of meeting with Julie, I realized what I had been ultimately grieving. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where vulnerability and authenticity were practiced daily. I grew up coming home from school and being able to process my day with my mother. She was my safe space. At college, I found you have to search and find those safe spaces. My counseling sessions became my safe space. I learned to identify what I needed to stay healthy in one of the most difficult transitions of my life.
As I adapted, I became more emotionally stable and gained the confidence I needed to branch out. My courage and strength grew, and I found myself opening to others and to deeper conversations. I was also identifying what I was passionate about because I was taking classes that were pushing me to ask questions and explore my beliefs. I grew up with parents who were passionate about living sustainably, but it wasn’t until I took environmental science at Hesston that I realized the significance of this life choice. I am now more appreciative of my mother’s love of gardening and canning and my father’s love of raising grass-fed cattle. I became more aware of how my life up until college allowed me to explore and identify who I am and where my passions lie.
My second year at Hesston rolled around, and I noticed within the first month that I was going to have to do some hard things. I was a resident assistant, a writing assistant and a student worker in the Marketing and Communications department. I was the busiest and most involved I had been in my entire life. Within the first few months, I was connecting with the girls in my mod and speaking during chapel and forum. Amid the busyness, I was also learning how to set boundaries to take care of myself. By the end of my time at Hesston, I was just as sad, if not more, to leave my Hesston family as I had been to leave my biological one two years earlier.
I am forever grateful I took the risk to go 14 hours away from home because I found a new home. I am grateful for the safe spaces I found and the leadership roles I filled that not only helped me discover who I am but what I can and cannot do. But the journey has only begun. I hope to remember the importance of finding safe spaces, finding myself and finding the courage to do hard things as I continue to experience transition.
May we each choose to be in tune with what our hearts and souls need to grow. Because it is in the depths of our hearts, the core of who we are, that God lives. May we open our minds to how the Spirit is leading and calling each of us. May we follow.
Published in the August 2016 issue of The Mennonite. Used with permission.