Sundays with You: The Past

Why do we spend so much time thinking about the past?

In June, I moved from Cullowhee, North Carolina to Dayton, Ohio. I came to Dayton not only searching for a new me, but rapidly running from an old one. At this point, I was running from everything. Mostly because I had gotten to a point where every little thing, felt like everything. The little stressors in life turned into things that took weeks for me to address and process. My thoughts would come and go, often too quickly for my mind to keep pace. It’s difficult to maintain any pace and feel like you are succeeding when your mind is never completely processing thoughts; but instead, only loading each to 75%. The past had become something I was both running from and trying to glorify at the same time.

I think the reason we spend so much time thinking about the past is simple; it’s easy to glorify. It’s easy to glorify the past because it can be whatever we want it to be. The bad memories, easily forgotten and replaced by the good ones that we will “wish we had back.” We begin reaching back out to those people or situations which have provided us comfort before, and blind ourselves to the reason we left and the work it took to leave. Too often, our familiarity with the past can be more comforting than our present or future.

Now, just 8 months later, I sit writing a Sundays with You because I want to, not because I need to or even feel like I need to. It’s weird to say that I am a different person from the person in June who was running, because I know it’s still me here. But I do feel different. I feel like the world is less heavy and that the days are longer (in a good way). But what has changed?

Often now I will hear “I want the old me back” or “if I could go back to ___ I would”. Why do we cling to the past as if we didn’t make intentional decisions to make the past … the past? Working to get the “old you back” can be somewhat detrimental. I think to an image of an elderly man struggling at each attempt with his shovel to dig closer and closer to his goal; only to give up with the goal merely inches out of reach. What if working to get that old you back, is just treading over the path of progress you so tiredly created?

A lot has changed since moving. Being here in Dayton, at times, has felt lonely. Coming from a city of 6,000 to a city of nearly 160,000 people, that was something that seemed like the least of my worries. Yet, there I was feeling lonely because I had ran so hard trying to leave the past behind me, I also left nearly everyone behind me. Fortunately, Dayton has been the exact landing grown I needed. Dayton doesn’t feel like home, I don’t think it ever will, but it has been a great place for me to stop running. At Dayton, I have slowly started to be capable of loving myself again. This has allowed me to pick my head up, look around, and realize that there were a lot of people who loved me even while I couldn’t see it. While I refused to see it. Does that realization make sense to you?

I’ve found it increasingly more difficult to do the job I do since rekindling this understanding of how present-day happiness can feel. It’s easy to sit and give advice to those who are sitting in the same dark room as you, but not so easy when you are trying to give directions to those in darkness while you sit in the light. It’s hard to look at someone who is struggling and want to say “you can truly be happy if you just let yourself be” when you know you would have dismissed the same words only months ago. Knowing that most students are already treading over that path of progress because they find themselves lost and searching for comfort. The feeling of “Who I am!” one day to “Who am I?” the next is not something that can be simply addressed when someone asks, “How are you?” in passing. I find it difficult because I know the running never seems to end until it just finally does end. Until you find your landing ground. I think it’s so difficult now because the past is something I no longer wish to glorify, but instead except the good and the bad which have led me to the present. The “what ifs” and the “I could have done this” will eventually drive us all into the ground if we let them. So, why let them? But how I relay that and get everyone to understand? I am not sure yet.

I type up all these Sunday morning thoughts with you to share a few thoughts I had this week:

What is it that you are glorifying about your past? Are there things still in your present only because you are hanging on to comfort from the past? What needs to change for you to stop thinking so much about the past? How do you know when change “should be made” before it becomes “change needs to be made”?

It’s never good to live in the past too long., even with the comfort it may seem to bring. As for the future, while it might not always be everything you want it to be, it can still be anything you let it be. Maybe your best “you” is always still to come, not one that has already passed by.

Thanks for stopping by every week and letting me spend these Sundays with You.

-Colin Lane Croat

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Sundays with You: I Am From

  1. I am from a neighborhood hidden away from a town
  2. I am from a competitive home where you either win or “run it back”
  3. I am from a room that very often had its door removed because of a poor attitude
  4. I am from where silence often means something is wrong
  5. I am from the beaches at Thanksgiving
  6. I am from where you are told to keep your mouth shut and listen
  7. I am from where we hate meatloaf, but eat it anyway
  8. I am from where you describe the seasons with smells
  9. I am from where a vacation is finding the quietest hidden spot
  10. I am from where even Superman can only do all that he can
  11. I am from where we blast Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen on Saturday morning
  12. I am from where we go to church, but don’t always hear the message
  13. I am from where people do not see every side outside of their own
  14. I am from where I want to find a woman who pushes me to be the best me, I can be
  15. I am from where anything I needed was obtainable
  16. I am from where anything I want, or need, is obtainable
  17. I am from where not leaving an impact is never an option
  18. I am from where anything is possible, including everything
  19. I am from where the difference between hope and reality only has to be a few seconds apart

Above, what you read, paints a picture of who I am and where I am from. Memories that I have which have shaped the person I wake up as every day. Entire stories, summarized in a few short words. So I ask, where are you from?

Hello once again to this week’s Sunday with You, thanks for stopping by. I find myself thinking a lot about these posts every week, only to find myself sitting down late Sunday night almost feeling like I am looking at a blank canvas. While a blank canvas is a beautiful beginning and has all of the potential in the world, it also presents a magnification of every stroke as you begin. That very pressure, often keeps many of us from even beginning. While that can be frustrating, I also believe it can be an opportunity for reflection. So this week, I want to do just that. I want this Sunday with You, to be just that, with you. I will leave the instructions for the I Am Poem you read above and challenge you to think about your answers. What stories are you telling line by line? What memory came back that hasn’t been thought about for years. What haven’t you given yourself credit for that you should? For me, a lot of the memories were with my Dad. A man who frustrates me like no other, but someone who has inspired me like no other as well. Memories of frustration, growth, and lessons which I wouldn’t understand until years later about patience and when to “keep your mouth shut”. That, is where I am from.

If you feel comfortable, please feel free to share yours. If not all, maybe just the line that stood out to you the most. While I love doing these posts, what I enjoy even more is the interactions I get from them. For this week, I hope something that each of you are hoping for becomes a reality.

Thanks for stopping by and once again letting me share this Sunday with You.

Instructions for “I Am From” Poem:

You will read a series of prompts and will write a descriptive phrase or series of words that correspond to each. After you have answered each prompt, you will add the words “I am from” before each line. If you can’t think of a response, or do not feel comfortable answering any of the prompts, you can skip that prompt – it will have little to no effect on the final product.

Prompts:

  1. A description of your childhood neighborhood
  2. A description of your childhood home
  3. A description of your childhood bedroom
  4. A description of your childhood experience (a sound, smell, or taste)
  5. A family tradition or family trait
  6. Things you were told as a child
  7. A favorite meal growing up
  8. A favorite smell
  9. A detail or two about a favorite vacation spot
  10. A lesson learned from a parent or grandparent
  11. A song or saying you learned as a child
  12. How you think about your religion, faith, or spirituality
  13. How you think about or describe your race
  14. How you think about or describe your sexual orientation
  15. How you think about or describe your class or socio-economic status
  16. How you think about or describe your ability or disability
  17. A fear you have
  18. A belief you have or a motto you live by
  19. A hope you have for the future

-Colin Lane Croat

Sundays with You: A New Beginning

January 23, 2022.
6:34pm

For those of you here since I started this blog as I stumbled through grad school, it’s been a while; but wherever you are now, thanks for hanging around. For those new readers, welcome to Sundays with You. Sundays with You was simply a grad school project that I put together because I had to. Part time grad school, part time work, full time person in distress. Why not start a blog and give others advice… right? What Sundays with You became though was a place where I could give myself advice. A place where I could talk through my struggles and rationalize them as if I was giving advice to the readers. Writing became my escape from a world that was fascinating, yes, but just not fascinating to me. I finally found an outlet to address, and then express, years of emotions I had held in. It was, at times, freeing. But still… difficult. Because let’s be honest, I do not live a very exciting life. Some might go as far to say that I am boring. What am I going to continue to write about that not only helps me, but possibly helps others from time to time. So, what did I do? I dug deeper into my past to try and find unsolved emotions that I could write about. As I hope most of you can assume, that is not a good idea. Now, not only am I trying to complete my last year of grad school, supervise a freshman residence hall in the midst of a pandemic, and job searching across the entire country… but I am very emotional 90% of the time (very much unlike me) because I am trying to analyze why I was sad 12 years ago and turn it into a blog post.

If I am going to be honest, I was also very much engulfed in a wannabe hero complex. I had done so much good work for a university, that I had convinced myself that I could save any student there if given the chance. That somehow, if they needed to be saved, I would find them. And that is great, until it isn’t, and you don’t save them all. The atmosphere on a college campus when it loses a student is one that cannot be explained. It doesn’t matter how, or why. What matters is that the community, no matter how good, will feel some shade of empty for the foreseeable future.

Working in housing on a college campus has been an experience that I have deeply loved yet one that I would jump at the chance to go back and never do. It gets hard. And the “rewarding” moments you do get, the ones you worked an entire year for with a population, are often fleeting only to remind you that the new academic year is quickly approaching. I say that to say, it’s a feeling that I have come to need. Regardless of the bad we see year after year; the suicidal ideation, the struggle, the confusion, and the doubt. For me, the little moments of success SOME HOW continue to make it “worth it.”

Now, nearly a year after my last post. I sit in a bit of a different situation than when we last spoke. As I sit in a freshman residence hall at the University of Dayton, where I oversee a building with nearly 700 first year students who have known nothing but a pandemic for the past two years and are now thrown into one of the most pivotal developmental years of their lives… I can’t help but be glad I gave up on wanting to be President. But really, it’s fun, for so many reasons. Seeing four people in an apartment living on their own for their first times is hilarious, now make it 650 in one building. Hoping that all of them are finding their place and doing “ok”, however, not so hilarious. How do you even find the ones who may never admit to be struggling and, even harder, get them to have a conversation with you without them thinking they did something wrong? How do you find ways and time to celebrate all of the wins that deserve to be celebrated? The answer is you don’t. You never can, truly, save everyone and it doesn’t seem like we spend near enough time celebrating the good. I’m not even sure you can save anyone, honestly. Give someone a chance to save themselves, maybe? But I would say maybe, at best.

So, here I am pulling this blog out once more. Hoping that Sundays with You can become what it was for me, to whoever else might need it as well. Each week I will post Sundays with You and with it a message to walk away with; whether that be through an activity, a life lesson, a challenge, or a mere conversation. Maybe the conversation that you needed to have that week, but just didn’t get to. To do that, I look to each of you for support. Thankfully, I have so many friends/previous colleagues who bring so much knowledge and potential support to the table. Friends who also understand that everyone needs at least some support… all of the time.

I was nervous to start this. Probably because part of that superhero complex still remains. I want to have an impact everywhere it is needed, and that just isn’t possible. What is possible though, is getting back to feeling like myself and doing things that make me feel…like me. And writing is one of those things! So, while each week I will ask you all for a response to my post, I instead will give you a current favorite lyric of mine from Better Days by Dermot Kennedy.

“I know you’ve been hurtin’

Waitin’ on a train that just won’t come

The rain, it ain’t permanent

And soon, we’ll be dancin’ in the sun”

And if you do find yourself waiting on a train, maybe come back next week. For now, thank you for letting me spend this Sunday with You.

-Colin Lane Croat

Sundays with You: 11/3/2020

If I told you that I had just painted a picture of vulnerability, what would you imagine it to look like?

For me, I would probably paint a sand volleyball court on the beach, this is where I feel like I am most myself. I would have it be a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. I would paint my friends on the court playing, a crowd of strangers standing all around watching the competitive match. There would also be the waves crashing onto the beach and some random surfer trying to catch one. There would also be a few bushes in the corner of the painting, just big enough to hide behind.

I have friends who vary with how vulnerable they are. Some will call about anything and everything that is going on in their life, some call when things get too rough to handle, and some never call and just laugh away the pain. I respect every one of these ways because it is a part of what makes them, them. For me, vulnerability is often showing everyone the painting above, letting them get distracted by the volleyball, the sunset on the beach, the crowd of people, and never having to talk about why there are a few random bushes on a beach. Can bushes even survive on a beach?!

This weekend I had the worst anxiety attack of my life. *CUE BEING VULNERABLE* I was in a place that I loved, playing golf, with one of my best friends. I should’ve been having the time of my life, yet suddenly, I felt like running behind a few bushes. The scary thing about being vulnerable is, sometimes, you honestly don’t have much of a choice. Last week in my blog I spoke about telling people how you are actually doing when they ask and not to settle with the casual “living the dream.” Well, this past week I did exactly that, settled. I buried the pressure of work that week and acted like everything was all good. I didn’t talk about how I felt like I was falling behind again with my homework to those who were asking how my classes were going. I didn’t talk about how I didn’t feel like myself. Instead, I pushed it all down because I knew I was about to be on vacation and having a great time.

I think it’s amazing how even in the best of environments with people who care about you, you can be in the worst headspace. It’s almost a testament to the idea that if you aren’t winning in your own head, then you have no shot at winning outside of it. Anxiety can come out of nowhere and it looks different for every single person. It seems to feed off of every little negative aspect you are thinking about and continuously grow until it’s the only thing occupying your head space. Being vulnerable is something that is so outside of my wheelhouse, I don’t even know if I could describe it to anyone without putting up mirrored walls as distractions anymore. Vulnerability usually is something I pull out of my pocket when I feel like someone speaking to me needs to see it. The avoidance of being vulnerable is at times the cause of my anxiety.

When I sat down to write on Sunday, I couldn’t seem to put anything down. I had so much I wanted to talk about, yet I couldn’t seem to make sense of it all. I wanted to talk about my anxiety attack and talk about how I failed myself. I had edits which were based around the thoughts of losing versus learning and how you don’t simply win or learn. Edit after edit, I couldn’t put anything together. So, I gave up on the post. I decided that I would just wait another week until Sunday and start the posts bake up again and no one would notice. But I noticed.

This week hasn’t felt right so far and I can’t help but think that part of it has to do with giving up instead of being vulnerable in a post. I wanted to talk about how I was struggling last week but convinced myself that wasn’t what a “leader” should do. In reality, it’s exactly what I should’ve been doing. It’s our responsibility to care for the most vulnerable, even when that is us.

As you go throughout this week I hope you can be vulnerable, at least with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because you think you should’ve done more in a situation that has already passed. Celebrate the wins to better prepare yourself for a loss. Maybe most importantly, let the right people see you vulnerable, you’ll be surprised with how it helps. For me, I will actually answer how I am when asked and further process how I got to where I was when I experienced my anxiety attack.

I would love to hear what your painting of vulnerability would look like if you would like to comment below! While it might not be Sunday anymore, I am hopeful that you got to spend a successful Sunday with You.

-Colin Lane Croat

Sundays with You: 10/25/2020

How are you?

Most of you probably were asked this a time or two this past week; how did you answer? Did you find yourself giving the classic responses of “living the dream” or “just another day”? If so, why? Did you feel like the person who was asking did not care how you were? Did you just not feel like explaining the struggles you were facing? Or is it just easier to give a generic response because you don’t know how you are? On this Sunday, I challenged myself to process how I was, and this post came from that thinking. I hope you enjoy it!

If I were to ask you what you thought your most significant strength was, what would you say? If I were asked, I would likely speak about my communication skills; specifically, I would talk about my abilities to communicate in challenging situations. I’ve always loved the mindset of being in the spotlight, the put up or shut up moments, and being able to perform in a crisis. This week, however, I was humbled.

Working in student affairs has been an experience that continues to throw me curveballs every single week. In student affairs, you must continuously find the middle ground in so many things. Enforcing your department’s rules, but still trying to always put students first. Being able to recognize the good moments, even though they always seem to be immediately followed up by a difficult one. Maybe what I have found most challenging, though, is making sure the many are safe while not losing focus on the individuals. When you want to be the person that “puts out the fire” during a crisis, it can be challenging to reach out for help. As I spoke about last week, it’s important to recognize when you are not the right person to put out said fire, and you must be comfortable passing the baton on. This week, I had to pass the baton.

Throughout my blog posts, I am consistently speaking about communication skills. Specifically, I talk about the concept of addressing feelings and emotions as they arise, so they do not bottle up and gain momentum in your mind. This idea is research-based, spoken about by experts way smarter than me, and has been practiced time and time again. It has been a mindset that I lean to in difficult conversations to help others address how they are feeling in times of struggle. So, as I entered a conversation with a resident experiencing an anxiety attack, I felt prepared to navigate them through talking points where they would address what was going on. This quickly showed not to be an effective strategy.

What did I do? Two years ago, I probably would have bulldozed through my talking points and continuously tried to help this student even though it was clear I was not prepared to put out this “fire.” Thankfully, I called for help. What happened next is something that I will not soon forget. Over the next hour, I got to sit back and watch someone who I did not know at all handle a situation that I was all but running from. I was amazed by every second of the conversation that passed. The conversation I observed was so effortless, which was reflected by how the student had begun to catch their breath, sit back up, and have a back and forth conversation.

I can’t express how important this moment was for me and how much I learned from observing two individuals talk back and forth. Most importantly, however, was how I reacted when I was asked, “how are you?” following the incident. I fell into the same trap I spoke about above. “Oh, I’m fine. I didn’t even do anything; I was just there.” But really, I did everything that I had been trying to get myself to do for a long time; to admit to myself that I can only do all that I can. “Even superman can only do all that he can,” as a wise woman once said. Instead of falling into a deep hole of doubting my abilities, questioning my strengths, and creating a bad day in my head, I was just thankful.

I wanted to share this story because I have a challenge for each of you for the following week. Every time someone asks you how you are doing, tell them. Be honest. If you are having a rough morning, speak about why it has been rough. If you are having a great week, share with them why it has been so great. I think this is important because you just never know when you will be surprised by the response you get. Maybe the person asking how you are is ready to tell you a joke that will brighten your day, but also maybe they need to see someone else having a good week to remind them that better times are ahead. This might seem like a simplistic task, so if you see it that way, I challenge you to count how many times you just give a simple answer like “living the dream” or “thriving and surviving.” I think you will be surprised by the end of the week.

I am thankful for these experiences this week because I think it opened my eyes to the progress I have made in both my personal and professional life. I would love to hear about some of your stories where you saw progress being made within yourself if you are comfortable sharing. Otherwise, I hope each of you have a great week, and thank you for letting me spend this Sunday with You.

-Colin Lane Croat