I smoothed the comforter on my bed and checked the mirror before bounding down the stairs and out the door. I turned the key in the lock, placed it in its designated pocket in my bag, and waved to Simon as I turned down High Street toward Anderson University's campus.
"I have it really together today," I thought, which is something only someone inflicted with one too many type-A traits actually takes the time to think. But the point was, there was time to stop at Decker for a coffee and perhaps to bump into friends before class began.
And so I made the short walk through the northwest end of campus, which was always my favorite end of campus, if only for the view. You could walk above it all, looking down into the valley, and something about the valley. That first time I set foot on campus and descended the slight slope, I knew. I knew that was where I would attend university, and wouldn't you know I could never put my finger on exactly why other than the feeling that valley exuded.
College is a funny kind of animal. If you're like me, you came from a high school experience that had set you up sort of. You spent those four high school years really forging a path that you were just so certain was "yourself." I cultivated obsessive standards and compulsive behaviors and expectations of greatness, all so rudely knocked down after spending a semester back at the bottom of the totem pole. And that's hard.
But it was a place and period for reevaluation as well. From there, some days would work like clockwork, all the pieces clicking into place so that there was time for a coffee and a chat in the bottom of Decker. And some days were dashing out the door in pajamas, exhausted from studying the night before (which, of course, what I actually mean, was staying up way too late watching reality TV marathons with friends, textbooks open before us, but not being read), and sheepishly nodding to the professor as you interrupted the lecture he was already at least 15 minutes into.
If there was an important lesson that I learned at Anderson University, it was that there are both kinds of days and that excellence can be found in both. Just like I had to start over, a freshman once again trying to sort out her place, each day had a reset button. There was one for the day and one for the semester and one for the year, should you, like me, end up a college junior suddenly confronted with the fact that YOU ACTUALLY DON'T WANT TO BE A PSYCHOLOGIST.
Excellence isn't a laundry list of tasks completed perfectly and on time, nor is it a smoothed bedspread before leaving your apartment or being so on top of things that you find extra time in your day. Sure, all of those things are truly excellent and they'll make you feel excellent. But the sort of excellence I learned, the sort of excellence that Anderson University taught me, was that we are made to do something and when we apply ourselves and give grace to ourselves, the pieces of an excellent life come together and we can do that something well.
Excellence is not perfection; it's something greater. Excellence is a job well done, bolstered by grace and forgiveness, intention and understanding, appreciation and humility. Excellence is a mentality and a way of life, and I might not have understood this had it not been for my college experience.
And now every time I'm back at AU, every time I'm looking over that valley, I feel these things stir in my heart again. Maybe that's what spoke to me when I first inexplicably chose that school as my home; and it's certainly what I've kept with me all these years later.
I'm so excited to be collaborating with Anderson University. This is a sponsored post, but the words are wholeheartedly my own. If you are considering university or continuing your education, I encourage you to check out Anderson University. It was such a happy and important place in my life.