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.

Philofoodlibrology

What’s your idea of the perfect day?

(A partial answer will be revealed shortly)

This is a slight alteration to the question my Philosophy professor asked in class last week: What criteria do we require for a perfect class?

You’d be surprised how many things we came up with, and how many of them we’d take as a given. For instance, you’d think it’d be easy to get perfect attendance or be in a good environment, but in a class of 28 someone is bound to get sick and the basement of Beatty Hall is overheated. Some of the more interesting answers ran along the intellectual line: participation, open minds, enthusiasm (both of the teacher and students), and incentive. However, the final requirement my professor listed kind of stuck with me this weekend: When class is over, you want it to continue.

How many students can say they’ve been in a class they wished wouldn’t end?

Well, I have, but only twice.

But that isn’t the point of this little story, we can discuss the American education system at another time (haha).

What I’m trying to get at is this: We all value our weekends: the time to kick back and procrastinate about papers while we hang out with friends and laugh so hard our stomachs hurt. But how often have we had a weekend that we want to continue, to extend for just a few hours longer not because we want to avoid the week ahead, but because we love the moment in which we are living?

This is why I decided to take a little escapade to Barnes & Nobles.

I powered through my homework on Friday night (still life for art) and Saturday (readings readings and more readings) so that on Sunday I could sleep in and hit the fun books.

By fun books I mean A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin (who, incidentally, was on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! last week). I really like fantasy books, especially ones that pull you into a completely different world and you can lose yourself in for hours.

While I was reading, I met a volunteer for Barack Obama’s campaign here in Baltimore. She was really nice and we had a brief chat about the election (she got to meet Michelle and hear her speech at Morgan State!). Of course, at some point I had to catch the Collegetown Shuttle back home, so here I sit writing and watching the Emmys (I believe in Sherlock!) as my roommate makes baked ziti for dinner.

I really wish I had a bit more time to chill out this weekend. Another day to enjoy the crisp autumn weather, a few more hours to read for fun, a few more moments to meet new people.

Maybe the James Taylor and Allman Brothers Band CDs I bought can brighten my walks across campus. My new soundtrack for the fall!