This is not an ending.

Written April 27th, 2016

And as I finished preparations for my senior project—the culmination of not only four years of a college education but of my entire past twenty two years of life on earth—I realized that the paradox of it all is that this is a beginning as well. It’s only the first ripple in the surface of a turbulent and wonderful ocean.

When I was a senior in high school, I couldn’t even imagine myself finishing college. Four more years of school was too daunting, too long, too challenging. And yet here I am on the other side, the same but completely different. I guess our art practice is like that too. On one hand, what you make now is totally different from what you’ll make in the future, but it’s the same. It’s all a part of you as you continually evolve and grow more rings and deepen your roots. Never take your work too seriously. It’s the most serious work in the world, and it also doesn’t matter. I’ve learned that no one will care about my work as much or quite like I do, and there’s a great freedom in that. And yet, the work will influence people deeper and in far different ways than it affects me. This world is far larger than we can imagine and our lives are but a wisp. But it’s the most beautiful single breath of air I’ve ever known.

To my fellow seniors that are going to walk across a stage with me in just a couple days, I just want to say thank you. There is a community here at George Fox that is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life. I am beyond thankful that God led me here, to you, to this place, to be surrounded by a loving community that cares for me and supports me and loves me with no expectations. I may make mistakes and fail and not live up to standards, but I will always be loved. I am so very grateful for this place and you. And here we are at the end. It’s so fulfilling. It’s beautiful. It’s terrifying. But I know we are going to leave this world better than we found it. You all are beautiful souls, and I am so honored and humbled to know each of you. Really. These words are frustrating because I could never explain just how eternally grateful I am.

To the incoming freshmen, who have no idea how their lives are about to be changed by this place, you have found something great. I know college is challenging. Growing up is hard. When I look back to who I was coming in on that day in August in 2012, I thought I knew who I was. It’s funny how life works that way, where you look back four years later and put yourself into the mind of who you once were, with a faint recollection that you’re going to experience so so much. I think if I could narrow down my college experience into one word, it would be this: rich. You are about to be blessed so richly. You will be overflowed with love—from new friends, from professors who care about you more than you know, from the land that we walk upon every day, from a God who always cares for you even if you can’t feel it—there is an overabundance of love and you will leave this place with a richness that is beyond words. Savor every single moment. People will tell you that this phase of life will pass by quickly (I didn’t believe them). It will. You will blink and transport from moving into your freshman dorm on the first day of school to the end, when you’re surrounded by a community of people all wearing the same ridiculous outfit. It’s bittersweet. No one ever talks about how bittersweet graduating from college is. It is an ending. But it’s also a beginning. Here is a special piece of advice for you that I happened upon about two years ago:

“Campus Delusion number one: ‘When I get out into life …’

College days are not a time in which to prepare for life. College days are life. The weeks and months spent on a campus constitute a segment of the life of every student. These days may be preparatory to a larger or even to a smaller life thereafter, but in any diary their record will always embody an actual part of the whole. They are life itself.

Campus Delusion number two: ‘Then I will …’

It has been suggested that the ‘Devil’s Soft Spot’ is that imaginary time or place in which it will be easier to do what one should, rather than here and now. But life is made up of todays, which are lived one at a time. Any duty neglected today becomes more difficult tomorrow. The will power which should have directed the performance yesterday finds itself weakened by the procrastination until in reality the imagined soft spot of tomorrow turns out to be a harder spot of another today. Industry, regard for time, honesty, thrift, courtesy, helpfulness and all other desirable virtues must be incorporated into life today or never.

Campus Wisdom: ‘Hail to the morn! This is today!’

Whatever I desire for my life throughout the years to come I will, by the grace of God and careful effort, seek to incorporate therein today and throughout the succeeding days as they come one by one. For I realize that life is but the summation of daily living.”

A message from Gervas Carey, George Fox University President, 1949

Be thankful for every moment in your life, even those which are challenging and seem impossible. George Fox is an incredibly special place, where you will cultivate and grow and stretch. Challenge yourself. Allow yourself to be challenged. Seek out every opportunity and make opportunities for yourself. Believe in yourself and in your art, and allow others to believe in you when you don’t think you can. Hail to the morn! This is today!

-Lauren Parker

Since graduation Lauren began a 52 week self portrait project, and she’s been photographing engagement sessions and weddings. Lauren also got married this summer! Photos are below. You can check out more of her work at http://laurenparkerphotography.comimg_0041-2

Photo by Lauren Parker // http://laurenparkerphotography.com