Dear NW College

A friend of mine from college, Sara M., wrote this "letter." She graduated this past spring and is enduring the heartbreaking transition of leaving NW college. I only edited her letter in parts, removing the exact name of the college and town for obvious reasons. I post this here because, although it is not my writing, she wrote my thoughts exactly... and I believe these words sing too.

Dear NW College,

I am writing to you because I am angry with you.

You will take note that I graduated and moved away. Thus, the sentiments that I express this Sunday morning in September will likely be wholly unoriginal, as I imagine that a great deal of the letters you receive expressing one's anger are from those who have graduated and moved away. Either that or from sophomores in their fall semester who have not yet figured out how they will ever find a calling at a liberal arts school in O.C. Iowa.

The thing, NW, is that those of us who graduated and moved away thought that we did figure out our calling. We pushed past our sophomore anger, found a reason to not transfer, and we stayed. We stayed because we found reasons that no longer allowed us any room to doubt that NW was exactly the place we were supposed to be.

Perhaps, NW, you know where this is going. That place that was exactly where we were supposed to be? You prepared us to leave it. That whole education for our whole lives that you gave us made us pursue what we thought were our dreams--the kind of dreams that when we said them aloud made us sound driven and passionate. And so after saying these dreams out loud so many times, we got in our cars and we drove to seminary, to law school, to the Americorps program, to begin that job among the trees of California. Maybe some of us did that slow, creepy drive around campus five times before we could finally turn on to the road that would take us out of O.C. for good, but we left it nonetheless. We left the tulips, the loud Christian music on Sunday mornings in the caf, our usual pews in the chapel, and the Conoco sign advertising the "cheapest cigarettes in town." We left our churches where that kind man looked into our souls when he said "Peace." We left our department suites where everything in the world felt right when we were in them. We left the coffee shop after the last farewell coffee date. We said goodbye, and we drove away to our dreams.

Now, NWC, perhaps my tone seems careful and calculated right now. Perhaps nothing I've said so far seems a cause for anger, but I am. Angry, I mean.

Having arrived at our dreams, we unpacked and realized that no matter how tightly we grip our NWC travel mugs when we're around our new friends, they will never really know where OC is or why we always have to preface our college stories with: "My college town was a really small, crazy, conservative, Dutch town." Nor will they ever understand how or why, over the years, we fell in love with that small, crazy, conservative, Dutch town.

So we decided that it is not integral to our identities for our new friends to know our stories about walking down the middle of the road in inflatable sumo suits before we really had any homework freshmen year. It is not essential for them to know about the moment when we discovered our vocare. It is not even really that important for them to know how living within that community of people who were all trying to figure out how to live the Christ life changed us into who we are today.

We decided this in our heads, but then we pulled on our NW hoodies to help us remember who we are, and we remembered--"Wait, there are people who know all of those stories and understand who we are because of those very moments and years we spent together."

And there we sit, on some hard floor, in some new town with bugs and flavors of soda we've never heard of before, wearing our NWC hoodies and remembering those who knew us and those who understood our dreams.

NWC, what if we only had those dreams in the context of those professors and friends and bosses who cultivated them? I'm not sure you ever told us that they would have to be our own dreams. As we strolled outside on Friday afternoons to the sound of Heemstra's music, amidst the comfortable sights and sounds and smells, our dreams made sense to us. They made so much sense to us that we filled out those applications to our new programs, and we drove away.

Yet now, NWC, we're not really sure what we're doing. We're trying to make new friends, we're buying travel mugs with the name of our new institutions, and we're trying to make a home here. If we did it at NWC, we can do it again.

And yet it has been 4 months since graduation, and none of the things we have tried thus far have done anything to fill the void. The forced interactions with our new companions do not fill the void. Getting our first compliment on our work does not fill the void. The chocolate brownies do nothing to fill the OC shaped void. And so we look at any of the bits of NWC memorabilia we brought to our new lives, and our hearts ache.

NWC, I carry around my new syllabi in a red and white NWC folder, hoping that my intentional syncretism will turn what I have now into that which I came from. The thing is, we haven't figured out how to move on when what we came from was exactly what we always needed. We go to our new classes, and all we think about are our old professors. We go to our new churches, and all we can think about is how much we miss our old churches. We hang out with new friends, and all we can do is miss our old friends.

Do you understand why I'm angry, NWC? I am angry because you prepared me for the future, and then the future came. It is true that this anger is not really anger at all. This anger manifests itself in teary eyes and an aching heart. But it is easier to call it anger than it is to name it for what it is--sadness, grief, despondency. This is not the kind of anger that will keep me from being a good donor, NW. Rather, it is the kind of anger that makes me hope every day of my new life for the phonathon kid to call today so that I can talk to you. I don't want to write a note to the Classic expressing my anger; I just want to sit on my hard floor, in the new town with the weird bugs and sodas, and talk to you so that I can remember my dreams.

NWC, we want you to tell us that our dreams are still relevant even though we drove away.

NWC, we want you to tell us that our dreams didn't only make sense in the world of poffertjes and too many churches.

NWC, we need you to tell us that our dreams, and us, can remain in our OC stories, but can also extend into new stories.

NWC, we are really not angry with you at all. We are simply trying to figure out how to live in a world where our dreams are really our own. We are trying to figure out how to apply our whole education to our whole lives. You will please forgive us if we feign anger to control our sadness. You will please be patient with us as we figure out how to keep you with us even though we have moved on. You will please know from our anger how grateful we are to have known you.

But for now, NWC, as we still transition into our new lives, we will wear our hoodies, clutch our travel mugs, pin up our tulip pictures on our walls, and we will miss you.

I think, NWC, it'd be best for you to just give us more time. But please, NNWC, have that phonathon kid call soon.

A NWC Graduate


final photo shoot with caroline

Before leaving, Brent and I helped set up Caroline's new room. The canvas is officially on the wall!

I of course had to shoot a couple hundred photos before leaving yesterday. Here are a few of my favorites:


Sweet Caroline...la la laaa

It has been a great day. The sun was shining, Kali was a bit perkier, and Caroline had a few visitors.

Here are some more pictures, again, in no particular order :)

Kali was "dressing her up" tonight. We all decided this bow was a little much at his point... although I think she's ready for Vegas :) This was much more her style.

Before Papa had to leave, we took a family picture

Caroline holding Papa's finger
Staring into each other's souls :)

An Irwin trait I'm afraid I've picked up...the "squeeze"

She's remained very alert today and her eyes have been open quite a bit; she's eagerly taking in the world

She has officially been inducted into our family. I think she'll be ready for next deer season.

This is my favorite one yet!

I was even able to steal a minute to finish the canvas I have been working on for her room.

Caroline is currently in her Uncle Brent's lap beside me and just finished her first round of Patty Cake. My mom is on his other side staring intently hadher. Kali is doing well, and Dan is watching football. It's a good night, and Caroline will be celebrating day one in an hour!

Caroline Harper

Last night Caroline joined us at 10:02 weighing 8 pounds and measuring 20 inches. When we finally got to go in the room to meet her, she was wide eyed the entire time and never made a peep! It is evident already she definitely has Kali's temperament :)

I wanted to post a few pictures I was able to quickly snap last night. We were all pooped and the room was dark, so I'll try to get some better ones today. These are in no particular order:ENJOY!!

Uncle Brent and Aunt Kelsey! We were so glad we were able to be there!
Papa Buddy and Grandma are beaming! (I think this is a great picture of them...especially since they had been up since 5 AM

I'm pretty sure she likes me :)
She has a little dark hair under that cap, and I think her eyes have a little blue in them, although it's hard to tell at this point. Her nose is precious!
While not singing, "Born on a mountain top in Tennessee..." Papa Buddy was pretty happy to hold sweet Caroline. His "allergies" seemed to act up a few times though ;)

Brent's an old pro at being an uncle!

My first squeeze of her!
While Nurse was checking all her vitals. She was so relaxed like, "Is there anything I can help you with up there?"

Mom's (Grandma's) First time holding her (she was of course the first one after Dan and Kali) Dan taking a much needed nap during the day. He was such a trooper!The first look! And she is intently looking back. She never closed her eyes and was constantly taking in her surroundings.
More to come! I promise :)