I have officially reached level 24 in the game of life today, which means it’s time for a special birthday post. Last year, I posted 23 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self, and the year before that, I posted 22 Lessons I Learned In 22 Years. Since those two posts are very closely related, I wanted to avoid doing another generic “xx Lessons I Learned in xx Years,” as well as the usual introspective post I tend to default to. After a long list of ideas and suggestions for birthday posts, I finally settled on this one, where I’m going to share and explain 24 things I keep in my shoe box of memories. If you frequent this blog often, or have read my latest posts, it should come as no surprise that I’m an incredibly sentimental person. Every gift, photo, card, letter, and knick knack has accumulated into a shoe box I keep tucked away in my closet that I go through every so often. Since I obviously can’t share every single artifact that I’ve collected over the years, I recruited the help of my roommates (hey Reece and Conor) to choose 24 random things from my box that I could share with you, the reader, to salute my 24 years here on Earth. Without further ado, here are 24 memories from my special shoe box.
1. A star ornament and birthday card
These two things, along with a Walking Dead comic and a pair of pineapple socks, were given to me for my birthday last year from my former coworkers at the Annual Fund. They had missed my and Max’s, the other student assistant, birthdays – mostly because we didn’t tell them when they were – and so they tried so hard to plan a joint celebration for the both of us when our schedules permitted. Unfortunately, our schedules kept on conflicting, and so they decided to hide fun surprises for us around the office. One day when I was working my shift and they were stuck in a meeting in the calling room next door, I got a text from my boss asking if I could find the ream of green paper in our supply cabinet and bring it to them. I opened the drawer and found this card, the star ornament, and the other two gifts sitting there on top of the paper.
2. A bouncy ball
One way that Cru outreaches and grows as a movement is through surveys that we hand out at club fairs prior to the start of the school year. During my fourth year, the day they were conducting surveys at the club fair, I was also representing a club that I was the Vice President of at the time. I was at my club’s table, ready to answer any questions anyone may have, and standing in front of me was a friend that I had known since our freshman year when we were in the honors program together. It had been awhile since we had spoken, and so it was good getting to catch up on each other’s lives. At the end of our conversation, she asked me if I wanted to fill out a survey for her club. I figured that she had stood there and listened to me go on and on about what had been going on in my life, and so I figured the least I could do was participate in this survey for her club. The fact that I got a fun little toy as an incentive for filling out the survey was a plus. That day, my relationship with God was jump started, and my life radically changed for the better as I walked further and further alongside Christ.
3. My commencement program
I graduated from college this past June, and so I made sure to pocket a program from the ceremony. It took me six years to complete my degree, and there wasn’t a day in those six years where I didn’t question if graduation was any closer. This program, along with all of the cards and congratulations I received, are physical representations that even during the toughest of situations, I have the strength and grit to pull through. Going through 2 different majors, 5 part time jobs, numerous career paths, and several different circles of friends, it feels like I lived several different lifetimes during my undergraduate career – but I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.
4. My badge to a math education conference
For the first quarter of my year long math education class last year, one of the requirements was to attend the California Mathematics Council Conference in Palm Springs. The conference was made specifically for Math educators across California to get together and share teaching styles and tips, and other resources with each other, as well as present research topics that they had been exploring. While I had absolutely no intention of going into teaching (and still don’t), it was still a cool experience getting to see how math curriculum and instruction has changed over the years, and what current teachers are doing to keep it engaging and alive.
5. A script
This past year, I began looking for other avenues to further hone in on my writing skills. For a good part of the year, my goal was to work in the entertainment industry, namely in television. I figured I would try my hand at screenwriting, and so I recruited the help and guidance of one of my good friends, and she gave me a copy of a script she had to write for her screenwriting class. I kept up with this hobby for a couple of months before realizing I’m much better at coming up with ideas and concepts than I am at actualizing them into a finished product. While I’m comfortable in the world of blogging, I still have plans to finish at least one of the screenplays I started.
6. A photo of my orientation group from freshman year
This photo was taken at the end of the my freshman orientation six years ago. I like to regard freshman orientation as a precursor and foreshadow to what was to come over the next several years. Looking at this photo now, even though I don’t directly keep in touch with anyone from my group anymore, it’s interesting seeing where our lives ended up six years later.
7. A patch
A good friend of mine got us both matching strawberry patches. I’ve yet to put it on any of my jackets, so I just keep it in my box.
8. A boarding pass, hotel key, and souvenir sunglasses
In January of last year, I got the opportunity to visit the Cru headquarters in Orlando, Florida. This was during one of the many times I was certain I would be graduating, and this trip was supposed to show us what it would be like to be Year One interns for Cru headquarters following graduation. I met with potential supervisors and the then-Year One interns to get an idea of the departments we would potentially be interning for, as well as what living in Orlando would be like. This was one of the times I truly felt the Lord working on my life, as I struggled with navigating what kind of career I thought I wanted to go to, versus what I felt God was calling me to do. After that trip, I felt more lost and confused about my future than I had going into the trip. Feeling like I had run into too many dead ends, I finally let go and let the Holy Spirit navigate me onto the path God laid out for me. Obviously, things didn’t really work out for me and the internship, but I grew so much spiritually, letting go of my own volition and offering it up to God.
9. A thank you sign
These were handed out at Yellowcard’s farewell performance in Anaheim this past spring. Yellowcard is me and my sister’s favorite band, helping the both of us during the formative parts of our lives. Getting to see all of the people of different age groups – spanning from people in their thirties to young adults younger than I – was such an incredible experience, and seeing how this band had affected and influenced our lives in some capacity. Before the show started, a group of fans handed out these signs to the rest of the audience to hold up during the performance. Just like the band had touched our lives in some way, seeing their reaction as they saw the sea of these signs in the crowd was just as touching.
10. Old photos of my parents
I’m not entirely sure when or where these photos were taken, but I’m pretty sure they were taken somewhere at the beginning of their relationship. They have overcome so many obstacles and hardships over the course of their relationship, and it’s truly inspiring to see that despite all of those circumstances, they fought hard for each other and to keep their relationship alive. I could go on and on about how inspired I am with their relationship, but to save you from all of the overly sentimental mush, I’ll just leave it by saying my parents truly are #relationshipgoals.
11. A save the date
This is a Save The Date for a good friend’s wedding. She has played such an integral part of my life in the time we’ve known each other – from getting me more involved with Cru, to helping me find a job, to literally putting a roof over my head. The happiness and love that these two have for each other is so beautiful, and I can’t wait to watch their relationship grow in the years to come. (Also I took that photo of them).
12. A card from my former students
Once upon a time, I worked for an after school program with the Pomona Unified School District. This was during the time that I still wanted to go into teaching, and this job was supposed to be the first step into a career in teaching. The job was rewarding, knowing that my daily interaction with them during one of the most formative periods of their lives was making a difference, I eventually came to the realization that teaching wasn’t the path for me. Eventually, I decided to walk away from the job and from that dream, despite the overall rewarding experience. This was one of the many cards I received from my students on my last day.
13. A personalized journal
In order to raise support for her missions trip to Prague, a friend of mine was selling these customized journals. For those who have kept up with my hand lettering and calligraphy, this is where I get majority of my inspiration from. I believe that God gave her and I these gifts to reach people and inspire people – in either a creative or spiritual capacity.
14. My Universal Studios season pass and a coffee sleeve
My parents got Universal Studios season passes for my sister and me for our birthdays last year. Numerous laps around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were taken, and so many studio tours were taken that we now know the route backwards and forwards.
15. Wrapping paper
A friend of mine got me a card game I had been pining to get for my birthday last year. She and I have been friends since our freshman year at Cal Poly, and created a certain Paris-and-Nicole reputation for ourselves in every lab that we’ve taken together.
16. A Trolls journal
My former roommate got this for me and my current roommate on the day we moved out of our apartment this past summer. This was the first living arrangement I’ve had that I genuinely enjoyed all of the people I lived with.
17. A Lotto ticket
I bought my first Lotto ticket when I was halfway past 22 for the billion dollar jackpot. Another fun fact about this particular Lottery: The winners bought their Lotto tickets several blocks away from where my dad and I bought our tickets in Chino Hills.
I keep all movie, concert, and event tickets in one of my old glasses cases.
19. Pomona Valley magnet
This magnet, designed by one of our staff members, was given to me as a thank you for helping out with a Cru-sponsored fundraising event last year. The five stars represent the five college campuses in the Pomona Valley – Cal Poly, Mt. SAC, University of La Verne, Citrus College, and the Claremont Colleges – that we as a movement want to reach and spread the Word of God. This year, as the Cru movement on the Cal Poly campus continues to grow, the movements on the Mt. SAC and La Verne campuses are being planted and we pray that the Holy Spirit flourishes on those campuses.
20. East Asia bracelet
A friend of mine was selling these bracelets to help raise financial support for his missions trip to South Asia.
21. Radiate bracelet and a battery operated ornament candle
I went to my first Cru conference, Radiate, in January 2016. That school year, I made it a conscious effort to try and go to as many Cru-sponsored events as I could, namely retreats and conferences. The fall quarter prior to the conference was one of my more stressful quarters, leaving me feeling emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. At the conference, I was surrounded by students across the Pacific Southwest region of the U.S. who were all going through similar waves as I was at the time. This experience was a liberating one, as it was the first time I truly felt what it was to be hurt for my brothers and sisters. The ornamental candles were given to each of us to write our personal prayer requests on it. These candles were placed on the stage during one of the worship sessions, and we then got to keep someone else’s candle so we could pray for the person attached to it. This was one of the most powerful demonstrations I had ever participated in.
22. A book of poems from my dad
When I was in elementary school, my dad came home from work with this book. One of the things that made this particular gift memorable was that it wasn’t for any kind of special occasion (a birthday, Christmas, or the last day of school) – he gave it to me because he saw it, thought of me, and wanted to show me how proud he is of me. He tabbed the following passage from the book:
Sometimes we need reminders in our lives of how much people care.
If you ever get that feeling, I want you to remember this.
I love you, son.
Beyond words that can even begin to tell you how much,
I hold you and your happiness within my heart each and every day.
I am so proud of you, and so thankful to the years that have given me so much to be thankful for.
If I were given a chance to be anything I wanted to become, there’s nothing I would rather be than your parent.
And there is no one I would rather have as my son.
23. Photos from my high school graduation
This one’s pretty self-explanatory.
Last year, my sister went through a crafting phase where she made customized coasters to give away. For Christmas, she gave my parents and me a set of our own coasters to use. In my set, she gave me a coaster with a photo of a Husky (my favorite breed of dog and spirit animal), one with my name on it (that currently sits at my desk at work), and one with the quote, “Life is beautiful, and so are you” (something that I used to say very often on this blog, and a phrase that constantly echoes in my mind).
If you have ever given me something, whether it was a card, letter, or some other small trinket, chances are is that it’s sitting in this shoe box. As you can see from some of the items I talked about here, I try to keep as much as I can – even my driving exam results sits in the shoe box. To anyone else just as sentimental as I am, I highly recommend keeping it all in one place, whether it’s all tucked away neatly in a cabinet, or jumbled together in a shoe box. When going through your yearbook signatures and Facebook wall posts don’t indulge your nostalgia enough, a box full of memories will more than suffice. If you’ve made it this far in the post, all the kudos to you for humoring me in my very personal trip down memory lane. And to those who have contributed to this box, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.