In college, most freshmen girls go through the “I need a dog” phase. Needless to say, it hit Nealy and I pretty hard. She was my roommate at the time and we lived in Hart hall which was (and still is) a 12×14 box with two poorly insulated windows. It also included a window AC unit, one bathroom for four girls, one sink, one closet (for BOTH of us), and the rule that no pets are allowed. To satisfy our urges to get a dog, we bent the rules a little bit and got a fish. We went to Walmart, picked out the prettiest Betta and named him Dwight — if you know, you know. A semester later, Nealy won another Betta fish at a chess tournament in her bio lab (I still don’t know how because she claims she doesn’t know how to play). When it was time to move out of the dorms, we split everything like good fish parents do. She got custody of Dwight since “he was prettier” and I could tell she was way more attached to this fish than a normal person would be. So I happily took Jim.
Up until spring break of 2018, we had both fish but then Dwight tragically died from one of Nealy’s roommates overfeeding him. Naturally, she came to my house, we sang hymns and buried him under my big oak tree so we could bury both of our fish there. Then sadly over Christmas break, I left for my ski trip and he died peacefully under his Whataburger number aka his favorite spot to chill. I had one of my roommates put him in a bag and stick him in the freezer so Nealy and I could have a proper burial when we got back. It’s gross, I know. But if you ask Nealy, “it’s just plain wrong” to flush a fish down the toilet.
His death was sad, but I was mainly upset because I had this little guy for my first 2 1/2 years of college. A lot go good and bad things had happened between living with Nealy and living at The Back Perch. One of my friends that’d found out about his death texted me her condolences and added, “Well Caleigh, it’s the end of an era.”
I replied, “Yeah, but I guess it can be the beginning of a new one.” I was actually talking about getting a new fish but the more I thought about it, the more relevant it got. Of course I was sad that Jim died but I realized that this could be the symbol of my new era.
So, this last semester was rough. Like, REAL rough. There was a point I actually thought I could be depressed. I have never had depression or knew what it felt like, but my guess was that this was pretty close. I usually slept in until 12PM which meant I slept through some classes (sorry Mom & Dad). I didn’t go out much, not even to go dancing at Harry’s. I never grocery shopped. I was late to work often. I had no motivation to make plans with people or invest in new friendships so my loneliness hit an all-time high.
My spiritual life suffered as well. I rarely had quiet time, worship music didn’t get me pumped like it used to, and I wasn’t praying as much as I had been. I even overslept for Church some Sundays. I never wanted to admit that I could have depression, but I felt horrible all the time and I refused to come to terms with the fact that it could be a possibility. There was just no way.
Finally, in December when school was slowing down, I took a step back to examine what had happened in this semester compared to others. I felt like my life was spiraling down the toilet and I needed to figure this out because I did not feel like myself. After a long shower with deep thoughts, I concluded that it was from my lack of community.
That was it.
So, some back story: freshmen year I went to Church A (for the sake of some confidentiality and other people’s opinions, I’m going to refer these churches as Church A and Church B). After church hopping and praying for a church that I know spoke truth, the next Sunday Church A started a series called, “God, Politics, and the Church.” I knew this was where I was supposed to be. I instantly got involved in a bible study and discipleship. I loved the people I met there because they challenged me in ways that I’d never been challenged. Going from my home church to this one, it was a step out of my comfort zone and that was good for me. However, as sophomore year approached, I felt out of place because I’d began to believe lies in my head that said I didn’t compare to my friends because they were more spiritually mature than I was.
So, I decided to go to Church B which was more in my comfort zone and familiar. I got plugged into their Bible studies and enjoyed the college service a lot. It was here that I had the opportunity to go on my first mission trip to Greece which helped me gain a whole new perspective on my faith and the need for missions — a story for another time.
Summer 2018 came around and that’s when the “Dead Period” hit me like a brick. If you’re wondering what the Dead Period is, compare it to math. You take a whole semester worth of Calculus 1, going to class to learn how to take derivatives and apply the chain rule. Then summer starts and you don’t apply any Calculus in your daily life (seriously, who does?) When school starts back up, you’re in calculus 2 but you’re so rusty that you barely know what a derivative is.
The metaphor: Summer is the dead period, calculus is your spiritual life as a Christian, and going to class is your community that holds you accountable. When you’re not being held accountable all the time, you slip up, fall back into old habits, and stray away from God a little bit. When you’re back from summer, you feel the consequences of not doing what you should’ve been doing and you probably didn’t any steps forward in your walk with God.
I’m super guilty of falling victim to the Dead Period year after year. But don’t get confused; It’s not a period where you just stop being a Christian or something like that. It’s just less personal growth due to less initiative/accountability. It’s just hard when your year-long community is suddenly taken from you (i.e. when you basically live in your college’s town, like me) or you are taken from it (i.e. everyone else who doesn’t live here and goes home).
Anyways, coming from a busy summer of work and study abroad, I was excited for the fall semester. I was turning 21 before school started, I could finally whoop at the football games with Jimbo as our new coach, I was PR chair for my woman’s organization, and Priscilla was back in town aka my best friend/roommate who had been in South Korea for the last 6 months. However, once it started, it never slowed down. I found myself not being able to find time to try a new Bible study that worked with my schedule…. well that was my excuse anyway.
The combination of the following was the perfect recipe for Satan to gain control of my life: The Dead Period had me spiritually weak, school was keeping me stressed, commitments to social orgs were keeping me extra busy, work was the cherry on top. Sleep moved up on priorities and finding time to explore new Bible studies went down. I wasn’t getting my dose of Christian community anymore except for Sunday’s. Even after a year at Church B, I’d really not gotten as plugged in as I was at Church A.
Now, fast forward to December, before I’d evaluated my rough semester:
Priscilla invited me to a hangout with some old friends from Church A. I had nothing going on socially, per usual, and I really just wanted to stay home and watch Netflix. However, she told me there would be s’mores, so I caved and went. It was that night that I realized how much I missed being around people who loved Jesus, were goofier than me, and genuinely enjoyed life as a whole. It was that night in the shower that I took a step back and saw that I missed having people in my life to encourage, challenge, and be there for me.
The second thing I realized, I completely had the wrong mindset when I moved churches. I was guilty and ashamed that I wasn’t on their level but I actually should’ve been convicted to get there.
So, moral of this story: Community is so important. Like Ben Stuart says, “You’re an average of the five people you hang around most.” Surrounding yourself with people who are literally amazing is the best thing you can do to for yourself.
Now, I’m not a medical expert but if you think (non-severe) depression might be an issue for you, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the people you surround yourself with. Are they positive, fun to be around, challenging, and overall people you want to be like? If not, that could be your red flag to re-evaluate like I had to. But hopefully it doesn’t take you a whole semester, your fish dying, meals that consists of mainly rice, and bad grades like mine did.
So, rest in peace Jim, ‘ol friend. But now it’s time for my new era, a new fish, a gold Aggie ring (WHOOP) and the beginning of a better season. And I am so thankful.
**Now taking new fish name ideas for when we get a new fish, which will be soon. Leave them in the comment section or send me a message using the contact page. Seriously, I will consider all rational suggestions!**