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!

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!

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!

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:)

Semester One… All Done!

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!

a group of students with their professor stands in front of a black chalkboard, covered in mathematical terms. All of the students are smiling, and some are holding up peace signs.
my calc 1 class on our last day!

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:

orchestra auditions!

a (very) full car on move in day!

 

 

 

 

 

manyyyy hours spent in the practice room!

my first montserrat event going into Worcester!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first football game with my friends!

a first-year retreat at the Joyce contemplative center!

a season-opener hockey game!

 

 

celebrating my birthday with Kimball cake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!