A Year Ago Today

Maybe, one day, I’ll travel around the world.
Maybe, one day, I’ll write a book!
Maybe, one day, I’ll climb a mountain so I can get a new perspective on life.
Maybe, one day, I’ll do everything I’ve ever dreamed of.
Maybe, one day…

All of these “Maybes” are what keep me going in life. There are so many possibilities and directions my life can take, so many day dreams just waiting to unfold. Ok, so maybe I’m a little scared at the prospect of all these options, but overall I have a more positive outlook than last year.

A year ago today I published my last blog post of sophomore year. When I think about how I felt at that time, what was going on in my life, where I thought I was going, all of the “Maybes” and questions I didn’t know how to answer, I can’t help but realize how much of that has changed.

I spent an unforgettable semester abroad soaking up the culture and history of Ireland while meeting some amazing people along the way. I learned so much, both intellectually and about myself. Art, music, literature, history, people, those are my passions. Thirteen museums, a multitude of books, one hand-sewn cloak, countless hours with newly made friends, and over 3000 photos later I’m back home wishing it had never ended. Sometimes all of it feels like a dream, so vivid and yet already so far away.

I’ve mentioned before how I have a better sense of direction, how I now have a (vague) sense of what I want to do with my life. And it’s true, I do. Taking communications courses has created so many more possibilities for my creative endeavors, to such an extent that I’m interning for Loyola’s Communication department on the Timonium campus next fall! (Woo! I’m super excited!)

Oh man, next fall…is going to be interesting. I’m taking 6 courses, a good mix of comm, art, and, ready for this? Morals and Politics of Lord of the Rings. Yep, that’s right. You know when you flip through course catalogues at college admissions offices and you see all the cool courses like “Scandalous Victorians” or “Global Macho: Race, Gender and Action Movies” and you’re like, Oh boy! I can’t wait to take that! But then you get to college and find out those are only upper levels or the professor who taught them is on sabbatical or the courses simply aren’t offered anymore. So you can imagine my geeky joy when I found out Loyola was offering such a course and I got one of the last spots in the class. As demanding as my course load will be, I’m still looking forward to the beginning of my senior year.

How can I be thinking of next year when this one has barely ended?

Great question! I don’t know, to be honest. Call it procrastination, or stress induced hallucinations, or the basic excitement for what’s to come. All I know is that next year contains a whole lot of “Maybes” waiting for me to make them into definite eventualities. And I have to admit, that’s a tantalizing prospect.

And so I bid you adieu, fair readers. May all your wanderings, wherever you are, be fruitful, happy, and full of adventure! Have a great summer!

Getting It

“I just have five more gen ed classes and the next three years will be all neuroscience and chemistry.”
“What!?!?! Five? Only five? I have like, I don’t know, fifteen!!!”
“Hahahahahaaaa, sucks for you.”

That is the rough summary of a conversation between me and one of my best friends last year. We had been talking about graduation requirements while enjoying the shade of a nearby sidewalk cafe on a hot summer afternoon.

To be honest, my reaction to “Sucks for you” was “Mmmm” as I sipped my drink. Because if you think about it, wouldn’t you rather be doing what you love sooner, instead of having to balance core (gen ed) classes with your major/minor requirements? As I reached for a french fry from the basket between us, I tried to remember when a core class at Loyola turned out to be something I “loved” without knowing it.

Maybe I had missed something, a discussion in Theology that really got me to think about a global issue, a poem in English that inspired me to write one of my own, a lesson in CompSci that made me appreciate the complexity of the web*. At the time, I couldn’t come up with anything. Don’t get me wrong, I liked those classes, loved them even, but nothing stood out that made the core at Loyola “essential” to my understanding of “the bigger picture.”

And then last semester happened.

I don’t know if it was the combination of classes, the professors, or just the content, but suddenly everything started to click. Every week I had a Eureka moment of “Oh my God! We just talked about this author in my other class! And he relates to both classes! Ah!”

Here’s a less vague example: My first core History class started with the Renaissance, as did my Art History class. Throughout the semester we’d be covering the same time periods, but focus on different aspects of society and I was able to see how politics and cultural trends directly affected the art world, in every era. My Art History class covered the 1970s feminist contributions which were later discussed in my Life Drawing class because the representation of the female nude is a huge point of contention. That Life Drawing class also had assigned readings relating to philosophy and the concept of what makes us truly human which my Philosophy professor ensured we discussed when we read Plato’s Timaeus. Those connections made those classes worthwhile. I was excited for whatever came next, knowing that it might relate to a different class.

You don’t get that in high school, and you definitely don’t get that in all colleges. There’s a lot of early specialization in state schools, and if there is a core, you don’t have to take 2  classes of Theology, Philosophy, English, History, and Social Science, courses which teach you to think in totally unexpected and different ways.

Unexpected. That’s the best way to describe it, I think. We’re reading Frankenstein right now in my Lit class and Rousseau in my Philosophy class. Suddenly the debate about human nature and man’s “natural state” takes on a whole new meaning. I just learned about comparative cost in my Microecon class and boy does that change my rate of procrastination!

Maybe it’s pure luck that my classes are working out this way. Maybe my attitude has changed from last year and I view classes differently now. Maybe I’m just paying more attention.

No matter why this change has occurred, what’s important is that it has. Last year I was frustrated at not seeing how my classes tied into each other. I was forcing that connection the Loyola brochures advertise as an advantage of the core. This year I see, hear, and understand those connections. I finally get it. And it’s beautiful.

*For the record, since this chat with my friend, I have realized all of those possibilities are true.

Tying It All Together: Sunday Morning Questions, Thoughts, and Fears

One of the things I’ve always valued and loved about the weekends is the Breakfast Ritual. It could be Saturday or Sunday, really, but I feel Sundays are better suited for this. Here are the basics:

  1. Wake up without an alarm. It sets a nice unrushed feel to the day.
  2. Tiptoe around the room so as not to wake your roommate.
  3. Listen to The Dallas String Quartet and Jingle Punks Hipster Orchestra as you do the dishes.
  4. Make (strong) coffee and a bowl of Marshmallow Mateys (ShopRite’s version of Lucky Charms)
  5. Sit. Eat. Think. Ask Why?
  6. Repeat step five for as long as you care to sit in solitude enjoying the quiet. Or until your roommates get up.

That is the start to a good morning. Just contemplating your life, thinking about what you want to do, not what you have to do, and ruminating why you chose the paths you did as the coffee kicks in.

Today, my Sunday morning questioning takes the form of this writing, and I’ve just hit all the marshmallows in the bottom of my bowl (I like to save the best for last).

I know asking really vague questions isn’t as fun as other things, or as comfy as staying in your nice warm bed. But sometimes it’s good to let your mind wander and take an uncharted and unplanned course. Which has led me to thoughts of yesterday afternoon.

I met with the same group of friends who gathered to talk about what authenticity is, but this time we focused on why people have trouble being authentic.

Why are we so afraid to be our true selves?
Why do we find the need to prescribe to societal standards that don’t always reflect our true inclinations or beliefs?
Why are we intimidated by letting people in?
Why are we afraid of being open or practicing self-acceptance?

The answers that come to mind without thinking are the ones most likely to be true. Peoples’ responses yesterday: Fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of not being accepted for who we are. And the list goes on …

Those words: ridicule, rejection, acceptance, all bring me back to middle school bullies and trying to change who I was in high school (it took me a couple years to realize how much I was hurting myself and those around me in a fruitless battle to be “cool”). I’m 20 and I still have the fears of a 13-year-old. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

If I’m not the only one, then shouldn’t it be easier to reach out and connect with others, who undoubtedly want to feel like they belong at this school just as much as I do? Or is this a larger social problem, something that is impossibly huge and scary and multi-generational? Maybe it’s a combination of both.

Spiked hair on a Sunday

Confession: If I felt that people were more open, I'd probably spike my hair more frequently.

Self crossword - the missing letter is a T, by the way

You can't tell who a person really is just by looking at them. You have to ask and listen. Don't be afraid to initiate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I don’t have the answers to all these questions, and I’m not asking you to, either. I also know I don’t have perfect solutions. But I have an idea about the (possibly subconscious) intimidation of others.

When you walk over the bridge on Charles St, or through College Center, unglue your eyes from your phone or iPod and look at people as you walk by. Smile and wave. Ask how they’re doing and mean it. Show interest in their life and well-being; they will reciprocate. You don’t have to go out of your way to be present to others. Just a nod will do. I know I’m not the best at this; sometimes I miss a wave or “Hey’” because my earbuds are in, but I’m trying to get better.

One thought and smile at a time.