Tuesday this week brought the blessing of a snow day, and thus a very happy campus population. Although my day began with an early morning work shift, I happily spent the rest of the day working in Kimball with my friends (we extended over several tables and became somewhat of a roadblock), eating snacks, and chatting as we attended our zoom classes and caught up on homework. After nearly 10 consecutive hours in Kimball (an impressive feat, if I do say so myself), we ventured on to St. Joseph’s where we prayed a rosary and attended a peaceful evening mass. The best part of my day, though, was after Mass, when all of us went sledding, built snowmen, and a few epic uphill snowball fights on the hills at the base of campus. All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I am so, so grateful to be here, surrounded by so many amazing people every day! 🙂
This past week was spring break, and while for many others that meant vacations to the beaches of Florida or time spent with their families, some of us had other plans. For us, spring break meant an early morning flight, a crazy connection, and a drive through the mountains to rural Virginia. What am I talking about? The infamous Spring Break Immersion Program (SBIP). As a freshman, I’ve heard the stories and recommendations for all sorts of clubs, programs and initiatives, but SBIP was one that always impressed me. Students who had gone before insisted that, despite intense work and a chaotic schedule, it was one of the best experiences they had ever had (so needless to say, my expectations were high).
Now, having joined the ranks of the SBIP veterans, I can attest that its reputation is far from an exaggeration, and much more than an intensely-planned marketing scheme (if it is, it is one I am happy to succumb to). The week I spent in Ivanhoe with my group far surpassed all expectations, and will remain in my memories as one of the most peaceful, joyful, and refreshing weeks of my life.
Yes, we slept on the floor, the work was hard, and we went days at a time without showering — but never before have I experienced such a rapid and profound human connection with those around me — both in my group and in the local community. They welcomed us with gratitude and love, opening their homes, their hearts, (and their refrigerators) to a motely group of New England college students, and in doing so, reminded us what life is really about.
One of the major themes of SBIP is the idea of one’s heart being ‘broken open.’ Although this sounds like a painful and uncomfortable experience (and in some ways, it is), the idea is that entering and so quickly leaving a community is bound to hurt. It hurts that we can’t do more, that we can’t know them better, and that we can’t stay. Our hearts are irreversibly opened, and through a little pain, we learn how to serve more selflessly, to care more deeply and to love more freely. Mine certainly was, and I hope it never closes.
It would be easy to write about the devastation of social inequity, the economic disparities, the failure of the healthcare systems and the poor city infrastructure that has left that little town the way it is now. Yet, what struck me more — and opened my heart — was not what that little town lacked, but rather what they had: a community.
‘Community’ is a word that is often thrown around, and can mean so many different things, but this past week showed me that a true community is much more than a mere gathering of people, united by some common characteristic or situation; it is a bond like no other, a space in which all are seen and known and loved to the fullest extent.
To process and understand everything I felt, learned, and experienced this past week will be the happy work of the many weeks to come, but I feel confident that the blessings of this one week will continue to grow and flourish for some time. With our dear site coordinator joining the ranks of my pen pals, and a newfound group of friends by my side, I have no doubt that I am bringing a small piece of that incredible community back home with me to the hill.
My Dad’s favorite author is the infamous Charles Dickens, and because of that, I was introduced to his acerbic writing from a young age. One of the quotes most memorable to me from our (often lengthy) discussions was this, found in Our Mutual Friend: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of it for anyone else.” Although this pithy quote has made its way onto bumper stickers, banners, and inspirational posters (much like Tolkien’s famous, “not all who wander are lost”), it has also taken up permanent residence in the back of my mind.
Navigating these past few weeks, this line has come up for me too many times to be completely ignored. So far, I have had two interviews: the first for the position of Kimball captain, a leadership role in the kitchen, and the second for a new role on campus as a Peer Wellness Coach. Preparing for the interviews, and specifically the age-old question, “why this job?,” I found myself coming back to the same conclusion, despite the two roles being wholly unrelated (it would take a better philosopher than me to find connection between dirty dishes and personal well-being): why, if given the opportunity and the capacity to make another persons’ life a little easier, would I not do it?
As all of campus looks forward to spring break, and quite a few of us prepare to ship out to our Spring Break Immersion (SBIP) sites (for me, Ivanhoe, VA), that question has challenged me to re-evaluate my daily life and how I interact with my environment. The premise of SBIP is that, although entering a community for a week will likely have no long-term impact or incite any sort of meaningful long-term change, it is worth it to go, simply to alleviate those burdens as best we can for the time being. Simply, some help is better than none.
This reflection, rather timely for the Lenten season, has motivated me to change my outlook on my daily life here on campus, shifting my focus from myself and my (quite extensive!) list of problems and to instead asking, “how can I lighten someone’s burden today?”. Holding a door, a smile, staying an extra few minutes after my shift or a simple “how are you doing?” undoubtedly will not fix any significant problem, nor will it have much effect on the community at large. Yet, I would argue that those things are far more important than anything else I will accomplish on a daily basis, simply because they might lighten another’s burden by the tiniest fraction. After all, I would much rather be insignificant than useless!
In the spirit of appreciating the little things in life, I’ve attached a few pictures of some happy little moments over the last few weeks:
I learned a long time ago that churches are traditionally built as ships, with tall, arched ceilings like the keel and a pointed center like a bow. Although there are numerous biblical analogies and historical parallels that might be drawn, the representation of the church as a ship bringing her passengers to safe harbor became particularly and unexpectedly visceral for me this weekend.
Those in New England already know of the record low temperatures and wind that we all saw over this past weekend. Here at HC, we were advised to stay inside, and only go out when necessary. I, of course (with my supreme planning skills and logic), had a work shift on the coldest night, and thus bundled myself up to make the trek from my room to Kimball, where I work. Given the advisory, the shift was near empty, meaning that my time was spent mostly in pleasant conversation with my coworkers rather than my usual tasks. However, when our shift ended, and it was time to brave the storm once again, and head on our separate ways, I found myself inexplicably tired (despite my lack of activity over the past hours) and, as soon as stepped foot outside, cold. It had been a long week, and I wanted nothing more than to teleport right into my waiting bed.
It was in such a state that I sought shelter in St. Joseph’s, which to me stood as a bright, warm respite on the cold and weary path back to my room. As I entered, it struck me that, while the winds outside screamed with fury like I have never heard before, the inside of the chapel remained warm, dry, and peaceful, seemingly unfazed by the chaos outside her doors. Sitting in the last pew, allowing the feeling to come back in my hands and feet, the chapel appeared to me more than ever before like a ship, remaining and strong and constant while the turbulent storm raged outside.
Only a few weeks into the semester, my life, and many others’ can feel and even look much like the storms outside. Tossed on the waves of homework and deadlines, blown away by an increasing number of responsibilities and plans, it feels as though ‘safe harbor’ is a wholly unreachable goal. Yet, although during the day you and I are forced to captain our own ships, planning, working, studying, it is reassuring to know that in the dark and storms, we may peacefully take refuge as, not the captain, but the passenger, of another, safer ship: the church.
I’ve always loved watching people. The ‘shower thought,’ if you will, that each and every person you see and pass has their own, equally complicated and chaotic world that they alone inhabit – that no one else will ever know completely, has always been in equal parts comforting and terrifying to me, and I love to sit and wonder about other peoples’ little worlds: are they like mine? Do they see what I see? Are they wondering the same? Although there are many spots on campus where one could engage in such an activity, my favorite is in the Prior practice rooms. Enclosed by glass walls, I can watch the people on the ground floor, three floors down from where I sit, do everything from study, to sip tea, to perform. The result, at least for me, is the happy knowledge that, although separated by sound-proofed walls, I am far from alone.
My Montserrat course, entitled “Worlds of Sense” this semester, has been reading German philosopher Markus Gabriel’s “Why the World Does not Exist.” (By the world, he means an idea, category, or uniting factor by which everything that is real can be defined [and if that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry – it doesn’t to me or any of my classmates either!]). Although we are only a few chapters in, and barely two weeks into the semester, a few of his claims have already taken up semi-permanent residence in my mind, leaving me constantly puzzling over his words and ideas. Now, sitting in Cool Beans, watching the students, professors, and staff come and go, this quote comes to mind:
“From a cosmic perspective, it looks very much as if, in the interests of pure survival, we cling to an arrogant fantasy, namely the idea that humanity and its life world are something special… To a galaxy long since deceased, whose light has just reached us, it is of utterly no concern whether or not I ate breakfast this morning.”
This sounds, albeit fatalistic, correct. The world will go on, and each of our little worlds will each go on too, with seemingly no effect on each other. I will practice in that little soundproofed room while a class above me will study philosophy, and the workshop below me builds a set for a play; the people across the building from me will wonder at the art gallery’s new exhibit, and the students who sit at tables below me will sip their tea, study their work, and laugh with one another. But Gabriel doesn’t leave us there, as little ants in a galaxy far too big for us. In fact, the entire basis of his claims is that the universe – everything that we know and see of the space around us – is just one, tiny part of the world.
In fact, to Gabriel, I am not separated from the rest of the building at all, despite being alone. For the students on the ground floor, I am the cellist practicing on the third floor, and to the passers-by in the hallway, I am the one whose music they can faintly hear. To the art gallery, I am the musician across from them, and maybe for another student, I am the one whose little world they contemplate. I exist in the material world, yes, but I am also a part of each of those little worlds as well – the worlds that I may never even think about.
So while my world may be small, even miniscule, and insignificant from the perspective of the universe, you and I are not. No, we are so many things, and a part of so many worlds. I may not understand Gabriel’s philosophy, and I may never know the depths of your worlds, but I can say this: how wonderful it is that I ate breakfast this morning! How wonderful is it that, from my and your perspective, breakfast is of such importance! And how wonderfully, fantastically arrogant indeed that you and I are so special, our existence so multi-faceted and so relevant from the view of that practice room!
And just like that, my last final is over! (and by that, I mean hours spent studying, panicking, and drinking coffee at 10pm). It’s been such an amazing semester on the hill, and I’m so excited for what the next holds this spring. Not only have I met some amazing friends, but I’ve also gained an incredible sense of community, from the SGA cabinet to the orchestra, the Kimball student workers and even my classes!
If you had told me a year ago that I would (willingly?!) be taking physics and calc, preparing to declare as a music major, snacking on French toast sticks and bacon at midnight in a dining hall (thank you midnight breakfast), and most importantly, being happy and finding myself at a little college in Worcester Massachusetts, I would have laughed in your face. I’m not sure if I could have imagined or predicted a single experience this semester, but I’m certainly grateful for all of them.
I’m of course excited to go home and see my family, friends, and pets (and not quite so excited to leave campus at 4am for my flight…), but I’m even more excited to come back here for another semester on the hill. <3. Merry Christmas everyone!!
I’ve created a little photo gallery here with my favorite memories of first semester:
and of course, many more, like reading and writing letters in my hammock outside, ordering 50+ chicken nuggets with my friends, late-night Tchaikovsky listening, building bridges in my physics class, impulsively buying a dinosaur onesie for Halloween, watering my plants in the bathroom sink, and improv sessions in my friends’ room! see you next semester hc!
These last few weeks have been filled with some lovely memories that I’m excited to share with you on here!
First, to celebrate the arrival of the cold weather, and to take the stress off of our impending finals, the college hosted a winter festival, with mug-making, build-a-bears, and of course, lots of hot cocoa for all! Mine new friend still needs a name, though — if anyone has ideas, let me know!
Second, my mom sent me some Christmas lights to decorate my dorm — it may have turned into a full-blown room remodel session, but I loved the end result!
Third, the hill saw its first snowstorm of the season! Most of it happened while I was in a review session for my calc class, but when I got out, campus had turned into a winter wonderland! Unfortunately, I had gone to that review session in my crocs, and I had to trek back to my dorm, brooks hall, in them and all the snow!
The views walking during that snowstorm were absolutely beautiful — a lovely reminder of why I chose Holy Cross in the first place. The first time I saw Worcester, and more specifically HC, in person was a dreary, cold and cloudy day in March. I was already nervous about moving to New England, but seeing the landscape look like something out of a Bronte novel definitely made me question my choice. It took me until the morning, seeing the hill in the sun (and my dad’s reassurance) to convince me that campus was every bit as beautiful as I had expected. Thinking back on that day, I was silly to worry. Clearly, HC is just as beautiful and the dark and cold as it is in the sun!
The campus has certainly been buzzing with excitement and anticipation as we move into our final week of classes here on the hill. The music department has been as busy as ever, with several concerts last week, and the iconic lessons and carols coming up this week! Personally, I performed in our chamber music recital, and soon will participate in the end of the semester student concert, and lessons and carols with the orchestra, which will take place in Brooks Concert Hall and St. Joseph Chapel respectively.
One of my final assignments for my Montserrat seminar, entitled “The Theology of Making,” is to tell a five-minute Moth-style story about something we made. I chose to tell mine about a decision I made — the decision to study music.
I started taking violin lessons when I was 4 years old, so music had always been a part of my life. However, complaining about music had also always been a part of my life. I typically spent more time figuring out how to get out of going to my lesson that week than actually practicing.
It’s no surprise then, that one day, when I was around 10 years old, before my lesson that week, my mom and I sat in the parking lot of the music store, where we were buying new strings and music. While she scrolled on her phone, I watched as a girl with a cello case — big and colorful, unlike my boring, black cloth violin case — stride into the store.
I thought that her case, and that she had an instrument that was as big as her was the coolest thing ever, and without thinking, I said, “I think playing the cello would be fun.”
The problem was, my mom thought I was serious. She turned and asked me if I wanted to play one. Ever the little schemer, I said “sure, why not?–” I was hoping that we’d go back in the store, waste some time, and maybe even forget about my violin lesson.
With no other planning on my part, suddenly I was back the music shop, trying out cellos. Then were driving to my first lesson. When my new teacher asked me why I wanted to play cello — after all, I had been playing violin for years — I just told them I liked the sound. I figured saying that I didn’t, and that it was all a big misunderstanding was a little too honest.
What happened next occurred so gradually that I didn’t even notice it was happening — like when you see a few snowflakes falling, and then you wake up to half a foot of snow the next morning.
When it came time for audition season that year, my parents encouraged me to try out for orchestras on violin and cello — they figured that I would be placed in a higher orchestra on violin, but that the audition would give me some good practice on cello.
To our surprise, when the audition results came back, I was placed in the same level orchestra on both instruments — I had made the same amount of progress on cello in 2 years that I had made on violin in 6.
That year, I played in orchestra on cello, eventually quitting violin altogether.
Finally, in December 2019, my conductor invited the front chairs of each section in the orchestra to play in a special nutcracker pit orchestra, accompanying the local ballet theatre in their winter production. I hesitantly said yes, and he made me the principal cellist, first chair.
Although covid put orchestra, chamber music, and competitions on pause the next year, I kept recording performances, and practicing — after all, what else could I do?
The next year we did nutcracker was 2021. I was made the principal cellist again, and this time, I couldn’t wait. I had become best friends with my stand partner in orchestra, and we talked every day. I looked forward to our rehearsals every night, watching the music slowly come together. I couldn’t wait to hear the cheering from the audience again, to look up from the orchestra pit at the dancers.
It took until halfway through our last performance to realize that I wouldn’t be coming back. It was my last time with that beloved music, that conductor, and those late-night rehearsals. It was my last time putting a Santa hat on my cello, and sightreading duets with my stand partner during the intermission.
I had promised myself and everyone around me that I would never study music, but in that moment, I knew that I didn’t want that performance to be my last. I knew that despite every vow and promise to the contrary, I had fallen in love with the cello — I had fallen in love with the blisters on my fingers from the strings and the rosin marks on my pants, with the hours of long rehearsals and with the constant critique and struggle to play better.
Much like my coming here, one of the largest sources of joy and meaning in my life came about completely by accident. If that isn’t something to be grateful for this Advent season, I’m not sure what is!
This past weekend was Family Weekend and Halloweekend (Halloween Weekend) — an exciting and busy combination! Some highlights from the long weekend included:
-Relaxing with my parents in their Airbnb, where they had the most amazing view of the New England color change, and, more importantly, of their host’s three golden retrievers!
-Giving my parents a personal tour of campus, featuring my favorite study spots (one of which is directly in front of a mural of a spider) in the Science Complex and Dinand Library, the best shortcuts up and down the hill, and of course, my favorite foods at Kimball.
There is a bronze figure that sits, centered on the middle plateau of the steps, leading into Dinand Library: a hand, black and shining, pierced by a nail through the center of its’ palm, its fingers impossibly relaxed, reaching upwards, always shining with either the glint of the sun or the gentle sheen of raindrops. Reluctantly trudging up the stairs to tackle the day’s homework inside, walking across the front brick pathway to Smith, running down the steps to our class in Stein, it is seemingly impossible to ignore. It quite literally stands in one’s way; whatever path you take, it must be around that towering figure. Yet, it took me two weeks – 14 days of walking by – to stop and see its’ name: “The Hand of Christ.”
As a freshman, one of the biggest questions we’re asked is, “why are you here?”. To that, I have no good answer. Unlike many students here, who have grown up as ‘crusaders,’ knowing that this was their first-choice school, I didn’t know Holy Cross existed until around this time last year. It was late one evening, sitting at my desk, panicking over college applications, that I was decided to look for schools that I could add to my list of choices. Desperate, and having no idea where to begin, I googled “Catholic Colleges,” and for no particular reason, I clicked on the link to “College of the Holy Cross.” The rest is history.
Quite like “The Hand of Christ,” that, despite having to walk past each day, multiple times a day, I took no notice of, I have often dismissed my finding of Holy Cross that night as chance: a random, lucky event. Apparently, it takes a massive bronze sign to catch my attention and make me realize that my coming here was no accident; it truly was the hand of Christ.
The figure is, in many ways, a gruesome sight to behold. No interior designer would tell you to decorate your space with a disembodied hand, let alone one pierced by a nail. Yet, every morning, as I walk past that figure, I smile. It is a reminder that He, a very human God, who has done everything (and much more) before me, has a better plan than I do. It is a reminder that good things, sometimes, are only a google search away.