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!

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!

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!

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 🙂

The Little Things

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:

valentine’s flowers from my parents!

an early sunday morning in a comfy chair!

finding out my friend and I owned the same funky socks!

listening to the organ in the choir loft for my music theory class!

feeling official with my SGA nameplate:)

Weathering the Storm

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.

St. Joseph’s that night