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!

Titles, Power and Pelf: Applying to the College Honors Program

Recently, I was in a meeting with a professor whom I had asked to write a recommendation for me to the College Honors program. Over the course of the meeting, he asked me what to most, probably is a very simple question: “what should I tell the application committee about you?”. My mind, naturally, went blank, and I could not think of a single redeeming quality about myself.

The question still on my mind hours later, I set about writing a proper answer back to him. What could I say to sum up myself in a single phrase? What would convey the most important qualities of myself that would convince a panel that I am worth the instruction and attention that, if selected, I would receive?

This is what I said:

“My greatest ambition is to be like my father. Like me, he has an impressive list of qualifications and talents. He has a master’s degree, prays a rosary every day, and has a vocabulary of half the dictionary. He has read every piece Charles Dickens ever wrote, can name the composer of a classical piece just by listening, and includes footnote references in his letters. If ever there was a man of many talents, it is him. All of that certainly is good, but it has nothing to do with why I want to be like him.

He works three jobs. One at an office park, another in the tech department of the local library, and the third at the Kroger deli department. One during the day, two at night. For a qualified, intelligent man, there is seemingly no reason why he could not simply work one, better-paid position. Instead, I’ve watched every week for years as he wakes up before the sun is up, goes to work, comes home, changes into another uniform, and heads back out, not returning until 10pm. I have watched him come home exhausted, dirty, hungry. I’ve watched him stay in the car picking me up from things because he didn’t want to embarrass me in front of my high school friends wearing a grocery store uniform.

Why? He does all of this just so that he can be there for my family. He was there at every school play and musical, every concert, ever equestrian meet. He was there to hold my mother’s hand through cancer treatment and around to take me to the city pool in the summer.

I could never be embarrassed of a man like that. Like I said, my greatest ambition is to be like him. All the education in the world would mean nothing if I cannot at the end of the day recount what I have done for another person, whether that be listening to their story or cleaning the floors. None of what I do here will matter if my friends and family cannot say that I was there to tell them that I love them and am proud of them (as he reminds me, at the beginning of every letter he writes).

My father does not see the world in terms of what he is owed and what he or anyone else deserves. He simply sees what needs to be done, sees what others need, and does it. Hopefully, the result of my education will be the same: that I will be able to see better, and that I will be better able to just get it done.

So, my point in all this is that I have no interest in remaining in an ivory tower. If there is no task or person below my father, then there is nothing beneath me, either. Dickens, as my father quoted to me, said it best: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”

I will accept any other insult, but I pray that I am never useless. I love my education dearly, but I am fully aware that this is merely the training for something far more important (and I do not mean money, thankfully).”

I won’t know until November if I was chosen for the honors program. In the meantime, I’ll content myself by knowing that every day, in every work shift and class and meeting, I come closer to achieving my greatest ambition. Who could not be content with that?

*The title of this blog is a reference to Sir Walter Scott’s poem, “Breathes there the Man,” which claims that the man who has everything (titles, power and pelf) still dies twice, body and soul, if he lacks connection to others and his homeland.*

Hospes Venit, Christus Venit

Hospes Venit, Christus Venit. When a guest comes, Christ comes. That is the inscription centered above the doors of Kimball dining hall, a familiar site for anyone living on the hill. Much like the Hand of Christ statue, on which I reflected over my very first blog post last year, I did not notice this inscription until today, as I was sitting on Fenwick Porch, marveling at the skyline and beauty of this summer day.

Since I moved back onto campus a week early for Kimball Captain training, I have watched as students slowly trickle back onto campus. Soon, everyone will return, and the hill will once again be crawling with life.

I would be failing in my reputation as a nerd, and, as my Snapchat private story boasts, an “unemployed philosopher” if I did not mention that this sentiment reminded me of a segment from John Donne’s Meditation XVII. He states,

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”

If Christ comes with each student, then truly, we are not complete until every student, temporary yet beloved guests on the hill, takes their place back in our community.

Like the inscription, which took me nearly a whole year to notice and read, it is easy to pass over the many parts of the Holy Cross body – that is, the students, staff, faculty, parents, and volunteers that make this campus, and this college, what it is. To say, “I am involved in mankind,” is a Jesuit sentiment, if there ever was one, and yet, one that I often could not truthfully use to describe myself.

My resolution for the school year, a resolution I invite you to join me in, is this: to not be an island. Rather, let us all strive to be a part of the main, together involved in mankind, mourning each loss and celebrating each joy in the community as if it were our own. For now, though, it is time to celebrate the return of Christ to campus in the form of each one of us! Let us celebrate each new and returning student we encounter with the enthusiasm, hope, and love of God that we would give to Christ. Truly, could there be a happier way to begin the year, than with the promise of Christ’s return, and the reunion of the Holy Cross body?

my view from Fenwick Porch, as I noticed the inscription!

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!

Empty Campus, Empty Tomb

Staying here on campus over break, the Triduum looked quite different this year than it has in years past — long walks replaced car rides, peaceful prayer and reading replaced raucous easter egg hunts, and corndogs replaced easter ham (yes, I really did eat a corn dog for easter dinner!). Yet, the near-empty campus and the long-awaited warm weather gave me a different, equally good break, filled with miles of walking, hours of reflection, and some much-needed peace and silence.

The liturgical sequence of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally, the Easter Vigil, has always been some of my favorite days of the year. This year, break began with peaceful studying and reading on Wednesday evening with friends on the Hoval.

lounging in a hammock…

Next came Holy Thursday Mass and adoration at St. Paul’s the local cathedral here, just 2 miles (an easy walk) off campus.

don’t be fooled by my smile — my legs were sore for days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday more practice, studying, and finally, another walk off campus, to the peaceful St. Catherine’s Parish.

a beautiful sky on my walk over!

the view after practice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then finally, after a long lent, the Easter Vigil! Both Saturday and Sunday were gloriously warm, which of course meant more reading, walking, and a peaceful chapel visit.

All in all, it was a lovely break and a much-needed time to rest, relax, and prepare myself for the rest of the semester. Happy Easter everyone!

you know it’s spring when the flowerpots are filled again!

happy 🙂

how could you not fall in love with St. Joseph’s?

the light in St. Joseph’s in the evening is unlike anything else!

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!