Flying Heavy

To say that this semester has been busy would be quite an understatement. My friends see me emerge from a practice room, Dinand, or my room in Ciampi approximately every two weeks, during which I reassure them that I am in fact alive, that it is not the ghost of my overworked self that’s sending memes into our group chat… and then I disappear again.

a recognizable sight, to be sure.

It would be easy to point to the breaks that I’ve taken amidst all of this — evenings spent relaxing with a tv show, an excursion into Boston with friends, the occasional dinner with my roommate — as the times when I’ve had fun, or really enjoyed being here at HC. What’s not so easy to immediately see or be grateful for is all the time in between the breaks; the time when my friends don’t see me except for in classes or when I’m spotted carrying my cello around campus (which is not exactly a subtle experience).

 

 

College is busy. Life is busy. Busier for me compared to many, perhaps, because of my double major, pre-vet and honors college requirements, extracurricular commitments, ensemble rehearsals, cello practice and job, but… we’re all more or less in the same boat. If this semester is teaching me anything, it’s that if you wait to take a break or enjoy the moment until there’s nothing to be stressed about and no work to do… you’ll be waiting for your casket.

One of my favorite quotes of all time, taught to me my Dad, of course, is from G.K. Chesterton: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly… Seriousness is not a virtue… It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.” In that spirit, (and as a reminder to myself to do this more often, so that I’m not a hypocrite for writing this), here are some times of ‘lightness’ amidst the heaviness of the semester:

a pretty sunset on my way to rehearsals!
the orchestra performed a full program of movie music, including clips from star wars!

 

 

 

 

taking a quick study break on the hoval!
a morning practice session!
getting to watch a movie for my spanish class!
hot chocolate while studying for orgo!
an evening spent in the practice room… ending with a jury performance going well!

San Fran Strategies: An Adventure

This past week I was given the opportunity to attend the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) strategies conference in San Francisco, California with two other Peer Wellness Coaches on campus. Since our work largely deals with peer education and student health and wellness, the conference was the perfect opportunity for us to network with other students and professionals in the field, learn more about current research developments surrounding student substance use and mental health and wellbeing, and to brainstorm with other peer educators about programming and program development. Of course, all that aside, anyone would be crazy to pass up an opportunity to visit California when back here on the hill it’s below freezing and snowing!

doing some networking with other student educators!

Not only did we learn a lot from all of the presentations and speakers that were present, but we also got to do a little sightseeing!

exploring the golden gate bridge!
we arrived right at dusk and got to see the bridge with beautiful clear skies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite presentations of the conference were “Can’t We Like… Talk: Women’s Peer Support of Mental Health” and “Associations between Substance Use and mental Health: Prevention Opportunities and the Power of Peers.” The former of these presentations was the conclusion of a study examining how women negotiate mental health and boundaries with their peers from a feminist poststructural perspective, and the latter centered around recent studies about substance use on college campus, the legalization of marijuana and its effects on the student population, and ways to combat drinking cultures on campuses.

Heading back into the semester now with a jam-packed schedule of 5 classes, work, and my co-curricular involvements, it’s time to implement everything I learned into my own life (especially regarding stress relief, self-care, and wellbeing practices)! Of course, my fellow travelers and I will also have the opportunity to discuss and present what we learned to the various peer education groups on campus (including SWEET, COPE, RPEs, and SHAPE) and get to work creating positive change on campus!

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and the food!
a little pre-conference selfie 🙂

Plans, Schemes and Daydreams

In a previous post, I detailed the reflective experience that was applying to the College Honors Program (CHP). Now, nearly three months after the process began, I am delighted to say that I was accepted into the program, and that my schedule now bears the added discipline of an honors seminar, colloquium nights, and, once I get to my senior year, thesis writing.

The happy news prompted, yet again, a moment of reflection (I am, after all, at a Jesuit school, and must live up to its principles in full). This time, what came to mind was how far I’ve come over the last few years and who has been there to see it – that is, who has been with me along the way.

My parents and my family, of course, are in the forefront. Beyond that, there are a few individuals to whom I owe overwhelming gratitude for putting up with my planning, ranting and scheming over all of these years. I’m happy to tell all of them now, whether in my life anymore or not, that I happily consider myself to have ‘made it.’

While of course there is still a long way to go before I could consider my goals accomplished, for anyone that has known me for a while, they know that I have long  fantasized about ‘making it.’ More specifically, this included moving out, becoming independent, focusing on academic subjects I am excited about, taking on leadership and higher involvement in topics I am passionate about, and, most importantly, becoming the kind of well-accomplished person that I have aspired to be for so many years. For me, acceptance into the CHP marks a concrete measurement of just how far I have come from the days of planning and daydreaming about the person I would become.

I was the one person out of all my high school friends who left. Choosing to move out here to HC meant leaving behind the people with whom I had shared the majority of my previous life, including my hopes for the future here. Here to see it or not, the person I was even two years ago, and the people that surrounded me then would undoubtedly be proud of where I am now, and the person that I am becoming.

To those precious people: thank you for shaping me into the person that was ready and excited to bring me to where I am now. Thank you for listening to hour after hour of my ramblings about what the future would hold for me – it’s shaping up far better than I ever could have asked for. 

my family visiting at family weekend!

 

Coffee and Nonsense

It’s quite a perilous thing, being friends with me or being related to me. You never know when you’re going to find a chance encounter or passing comment form the central point of my writing here. Thankfully, there are a few people who have either ignored this warning or simply choose to play the resultant game of chance, and they are all quite dear to me. This is a story about one of such people:

My day a few weeks ago began with a chance encounter in Dag’s during breakfast. I was enjoying my breakfast and working there, as I do every day, when my friend decided to pop by for a quick breakfast before class. This first accidental meeting turned into two, then three, and then a whole week of breakfasts. Now, four weeks into the semester, our morning breakfast debriefs over coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese bagel have not only become custom, but also one of the highlights of my day.

At our first SSPP (Society of Sts. Peter and Paul) meeting of the year, one of the resident Jesuits proposed to our group that our life is defined by seasons, intervals of time that dictate our attitude and behavior. He suggested that, beyond the academic and natural seasons, we live in ought to define the time and seasons we live in through prayer. Of course, he pointed to the Divine Office, the Angelus, and Daily Mass as examples of religious governance in our lives.

Taking a more liberal view of the idea, however, each of our days is structured not just by prayer, but also by our habits and encounters throughout.

While the hours of the Divine Office, and daily mass certainly shape and define my daily schedule, our morning breakfasts have become an added ritual of camaraderie and joy that I would consider equally powerful in defining the tenor of my day.

As Charles Lamb said, “Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.” I am very lucky indeed to indulge in nonsense every day with such dear people!

We Came, WARSAW, We Conquered

As promised, hello from Poland! I have spent the last two weeks with my classmates exploring Warsaw, Lublin, and Lodz, visiting the historical and cultural landmarks, attending class discussions, and of course, eating some very delicious food. I am taking a course entitled, “History, Memory, and the Holocaust,” in which we are examining the politics and factors that determine how and what we choose to remember and memorialize in history. As I write this, we are heading to the last city we’ll visit, Krakow.

Due to a heavy course load and pre-vet requirements, I won’t be able to study abroad for a semester or a year. The Maymester program has offered me the opportunity to still travel and learn – an incredible, life-changing opportunity that I will be forever grateful to have experienced. An introvert at heart, the trip has certainly demanded of me a newfound adventurous nature, but the results have been far better than I could have expected.

While we spend weekdays as a class, visiting relevant sites, memorials, museums, and taking tours of the city, the weekends are free for us to explore on our own and in smaller groups – and explore I have! I’ve spent my days wandering through the cities, visiting various churches (they are all GORGEOUS), and of course, being as much of a tourist as possible.

Someone out there said that pictures are worth a thousand words, so… I’ll let you all see for yourselves what I’ve been up to 🙂

another Lublin old town view!
outdoor stations of the cross? say less.
first group dinner!
all I can say is… yum.
found a little nature trail in the Warsaw old town!
JPII!! need I say more?
again, gorgeous.
the best preserved pre-war street in Lublin!
Lublin!

 

I’m making myself hungry just looking at these again…
so many churches, all of them gorgeous!
a view of Krakow from a tower!
a group of us exploring the Warsaw old town!

A Letter to Holy Cross

Dear Holy Cross,

The simplest way to say this is that I am not the person that I was a year ago, because of you. When I packed a van (very) full of stuff and pulled out of my little Dearborn driveway, I thought I knew what it was going to be like here. I had everything planned; I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do, who I was going to be. Really, I had no idea.

Nothing could have prepared me for the joy, love and care from the students, the professors, and the faculty that would envelop me. My joyful and fantastical daydreams of college friends and parties pale in comparison to the genuine community that found me, loved me, and accepted me here. I am leaving this year a far better person than when I came, and I can only credit that to the people around me this past semester – the people who welcomed me to the hill, accepted me without question, and showed me what it looks like when you love and serve unconditionally.

My first post on this blog was a reflection on how I ended up here – specifically, that, without the hand of Christ, which coincidentally stands tall on the steps of Dinand every day to remind me of that reality – I would have never even known about this college, let alone chose to come here. I think it’s fitting then, to tell how that same hand has shaped my year here, in ways I could never have imagined.

I met the person that would introduce me to my closest friends on an afternoon Kimball shift – a shift that, had my computer not crashed while I was signing up for shifts, I never would have chosen. Over a break on our first shift of the semester, he invited me to a Students for Life meeting. I brushed off the invitation, not planning to go, but the night of the meeting, he saw me in Kimball, eating dinner with my friends, and invited me again. Still not planning on going, I once again brushed him off. Walking up the hill, though, I passed him again, this time right outside the meeting place. Without an escape, I conceded and went to the meeting with him. The people in that room would, within weeks, become my best friends.

One meeting turned into two, then three, and meetings turned into dinners, then study sessions, evening rosaries, daily masses, Thursday night adoration and Saturday evening movie nights. My professors introduced me to ideas that I am sure will form the basis of my vocation in the future, and my friends taught me to grow and evolve, somewhere along the way becoming a better version of myself than I ever thought would exist.

To sum it all up, a year ago, I had no idea what to expect coming here, and would sit daydreaming of what life might be like in the future. Now, I have an answer: life is good.

The next time I write will most likely be from Warsaw, Poland, where I’ll be studying on a Maymester. See you there 😊.

An a-MAY-zing Spring

The last few weeks have ushed in a flurry of activities and events on campus as we all hunker down for the last weeks of studying. For me, the last few weeks have been filled with concerts, late-night studying, and a visit from my parents! In such a flurry of activity, it has been quite easy to ‘go’ without stopping, and without acknowledging that I’m just a week and a half away from having finished a full year here on the hill. In light of that, I wanted to dedicate this post to highlighting all the things I’ve done in the past weeks that I never would’ve imagined myself doing a year ago:

  1. I went to Clark University last weekend to perform in their arts showcase! It was so fun to pull out some old rep and just have fun performing solo for an audience, and to do a little improv with the dancers beforehand!
  2. I officially finished a YEAR of music theory courses (a major that, a year and a half ago, I had no intention of pursuing).
  3. I worked my first shift as a Kimball captain… (with only a few little messes)
  4. I went to a mini prom (Peter and Prom, a knockoff event of our usual Peter and Paul meetings).
  5. I somehow survived a year of college physics (an impressive feat, trust me).
  6. I said goodbye to my home for the year, Brooks — on to bigger (actually, smaller, but that doesn’t fit the saying) and better dorms!
    peter & prom 🙂
    last kimball shifts!
    the girls of peter & prom 🙂

     

    pre-physics final!
performing at Clark!
saying a final goodbye to brooks!

Riding the Cyclone

The end of March has meant a multitude of exams, assignments, performances, and the long-awaited arrival of weather, but for me, and a small group of students here, it also meant the opening of the spring Alternate College Theatre (ACT) production: Ride the Cyclone (RTC). Certainly, tech week rehearsals and the final push before spring break could be described as a cyclone of events and responsibilities — one that we all had to ride, like it or not.

the opening of the show!

Although hectic, and some might say crazy (free time became more of a theory than a real thing), RTC  brought me back to the happy days of nutcracker pit orchestra rehearsals back home. I remember, as we all struggled to learn the 70+ pages of Tchaikovsky, let alone play it well, that our conductor said, “It’ll sound like we won’t pull it together right until the last rehearsal. You’ll be convinced we’re not ready, that it won’t work, right until the last rehearsal. But by that first performance, we’ll be ready.”

Of course, we were ready for our first performance, and it went well. But getting there? It certainly felt like we wouldn’t be. A similar experience happened with RTC — we only started rehearsing with the cast three days before opening night, and yet somehow, everything fell into place.

I think that such an experience as that applies to much more than music. As an easily-stressed perfectionist with a tendency to procrastinate, I’m frequently convinced that things won’t work out, that I won’t be prepared, or that full-on disaster is going to strike. Perhaps, I ought to just take a lesson from the show I’ve watched so many times now: “it’s just a ride.”

our lovely little band!

After all is Sled and Done

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! 🙂

the brave souls who flung themselves down the hill with me!

 

snowball fight!
getting back up the hill was pretty tiring, too…

Spring Break(ing)

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.

our little immersion group!

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.

a little pit stop at a dam!
another group photo 🙂
a midnight dinner at a cookout!
the welcome dinner with our blankets! aka our pillows for the week
driving to a work site:)
a silly picture for the road 🙂