published as guest column in The Herald-Sun, Durham | August 2016
I’m pretty introverted, and I don’t really like parties. At least the stereotypical college version. The thought of spending an evening in a humid frat house with sticky floors and strangers kind of makes me want to cry.
Though I don’t like partying, I do love celebrating. I love planning and surprises and sneaking off to Harris Teeter for yet another standard (but sufficient) birthday cake. In our freshman year of college, my dear friend Julia and I were known to plan elaborate birthday surprises for unsuspecting friends, the best of which involved kidnapping our 6’2’’ hallmate, throwing him in the back of someone’s car, and treating him to ice cream at the shop down the street.
My friends and I rented an apartment last summer while we did psychology research at our college. Rising juniors, we were living through the exact middle of our college careers. These were essentially our final few months before the pressure of preparing to enter the working world really hit.
Our apartment was dusty and unfurnished, but it was the very first place of our own. We had people over often for chicken stir-fries, the only meal we knew how to make, and rushed to clean out the sink before they arrived. Our living room had no lights, so when the sun set, we would be left sitting in the dark. But everyone stayed. No one really wanted to go.
Our friendships formed out of proximity. It was anyone’s guess whether we would have even been friends had we not all gotten jobs in the same geographic area. Nevertheless, there we were, eating cheap pasta from mismatched bowls in the dark, a little less lonely and a little more full.
And it was celebration. Clinging to people like stuffed animals during a thunderstorm so you don’t have to be brave alone. Meeting someone for coffee though you know bombs are exploding elsewhere in the world. For us that summer, celebration was dancing across the no man’s land between declaring our majors and getting our degrees, between our so-called potential and its realization, between one more bowl of cereal and bed. The research world we immersed ourselves in that season insisted we make names for ourselves, preferably in print. But we rejoiced in being a band of nobodies, recklessly choosing to build community rather than our resumes. Maybe it wasn’t wise. But maybe it was just what we needed.
Can you see? Celebration is not so much artful conversation, swept floors, and having enough wine for the feast. I think it looks more like sitting on waterlogged wood porches covered in grace and bug bites and finding the glory of God can light the darkest corners.
I know it feels insignificant and frivolous and counterintuitive in the light of so much darkness, but I think it’s our brightest hope. So let’s throw confetti in the face of uncertainty. Let’s stay up a couple hours longer and leave the dishes for the morning. Let’s believe in celebrating today even as we long for Tomorrow to come. Consider this your invitation.