Meet Rebekah. Rebekah Niedner.
6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, sunlight breaking over the tops of leaves turning to autumn gold. A group of fifty-or-so girls huddled in a semi-circle near the banks of Lake Lemon, 15 miles from the Indiana University campus. I’m sure most of our college classmates were not up at that hour, but rather sleeping off a hangover, their eyelids not seeing the light of day for a least another five hours.
Even though we might have started off our college experience in a way that wasn’t so typical, the group of girls that surrounded me would become some of my closest friends – and I’m so glad that none of us would ever conform to the “norm” of today’s university life.
In that group was one of the most thoughtful, caring and introspective people I have ever met. Over the next few weeks, we would get to know each other in ways most people don’t experience – taping each others hands to cover up bulging blisters, standing on each others quads while doing wall sits in the weight room, churning a Vespoli rowing shell down a lake covered in white-caps while we thought our lungs were going to explode from overuse and exhaustion.
The start of our friendship was anything but normal, but as the months of our freshman year went by, we realized that we valued conversation about growth, identity and purpose more than most people our age. While both of us stopped rowing during our sophomore year, throughout the rest of our college career, we’d continue to spend long nights talking about anything and everything.
I am so thankful for all those sunrise practices, for weekend trips on buses, traveling to other Big 10 schools, and even the scores of poped blisters.
I am thankful for Rebekah.
How does the word “movement” fit into your life, especially any changes that have happened over the last few months?
“Movement” reminds me that happiness is a journey, not a destination. As my parents often remind me, each of us is almost perpetually in the “wilderness” in one way or another. For example, in the past eight months, I graduated from college, ended one job and an internship, left my beloved IU, started a part-time graduate program, moved to a new community, moved into my first apartment, found a job to pay the bills, and started a new internship.
Traditionally, I am not the “changing” type. In fact, times of transition have been known to surprise me with panic attacks and hypochondria and frightening blue moods. Change was hardly in my vocabulary growing up. I lived in the same house in the same city in the same school system with the same friends until I went away to college at 18. I thrive in community and build my life around schedules and checklists. I yearn for belonging and meaningful connection, and all of these things take time to rebuild when you change and move.
I have, however, been amazed by my own ability to adjust to each of my recent transitions faster and with more enjoyment than I thought I was capable of.
What are you currently doing and what brought you there?
I currently live and work in the community surrounding Purdue University, and if you know anything about Indiana Hoosiers, you know that’s a ridiculous post-grad “what next.” My boyfriend is enrolled in a Purdue graduate program and my best friend, who I met at IU’s freshman orientation, is a first-year teacher in the area. My graduate classes take place an hour away, but it was very important to me to build this life stage around people I wanted to “walk” with. Last spring, with nothing to lose, I asked my boyfriend and my best friend and her sister if they would consider living together… all of us. At first I was shocked that everyone jumped on board my crazy bandwagon, but looking back, it would be hard to overlook saving rent money and such easy access to friends. After five months of living as a strange little family, I’m happy I took the leap and suggested my initially ridiculous idea!
What is one goal you have this year?
I’m keeping a gratitude journal by my bed to document at least one thing I am thankful for each day.
Currently, who/what do you draw inspiration from? When you wake up in the morning, what pops into your head and gets you saying, “Today is my day!”?
Over my Christmas vacation, I raided my Dad’s collection of dusty records. Each morning while I’m getting ready for the day, I put on a new album. It fuels my soul in the morning to breathe in the soulful sounds of Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, Glen Campbell, Carole King, Joan Baez, Elton John, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Wings, Fleetwood Mac…
What is one thing you know to be true? What is your statement of faith that drives you to keep doing what you’re doing?
“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass
In this world of movement and wilderness, the people who cross my life path make the journey worthwhile. I consider it my purpose to connect with the people around me in order to leave this world better than I found it. I recently heard an incredible analogy: my life is a loan from God, and I will pay it back… with interest. Said another way, by Shirley Chisholm, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”
What is something new that brings Joy to your life?
Zumba! The crazy-fun kind where there are “no wrong moves” and you want to buy neon clothes and your hips start doing spins or shakes you never knew they were capable of and you’re sore in places you never knew existed and the instructor celebrates with the most ridiculous face as she sings, “Heyyy sexy laaaday!” during the Gangnam style dance.
Thanks, Rebekah, for sharing with us how you are stepping out of your comfort zone and choosing to grow yourself in ways where you not only gain a new perspective, but in which you serve those around you with love and gratitude. You are truly giving back to this world with interest!