Here it is. The last week. As the clock ticks faster and faster, I become more aware of the world around me. I never noticed how precisely the tulips were planted in front of the Chapel, I realized I have taken for granted how comforting the theater hallway is, just like visiting an old friend. I still dread the flights of stairs in McMurran that seem to burn your thigh muscles regardless of being in shape or not, and I sit in Einstein’s looking at the students and professors flying in and out, grabbing coffee, stopping for a chat, skimming through notes and realize: this is it.
Now, I am both a lover and a hater of change – I am ready for the next phase in my life, without a doubt, yet I didn’t think I would be this nostalgic and, quite frankly, sad to be leaving CNU. I’m always looking forward, asking what’s next, and now I am pausing to reflect and realize how much I have established myself as an individual on this campus and it was these professors and students that molded me into the woman I am today. I feel blessed. I feel thankful. I would like to thank Theater Professor Dr. Grace Godwin, Dr. Sean Connable of the Communication Department and English Professor Dr. Scott Pollard for making the biggest impacts on both my life and my academic career, for pushing me to be a better student and a better person, for believing in me even when I doubted myself. The growth and promise of Christopher Newport University is astounding and any student should know to take advantage of the faculty, who truly care, and work to take control of their own future. Do not be passive, do not say “maybe later.” This is your one shot at college (unless you do want to do it twice – I get it) so do not let it pass you by. Say more “yes” and less “no.” Ask more questions rather than remaining silent. Go to others rather than letting them come to you. You’re at CNU, you’re ready to make a difference.
The end is near! There’s just a little over a week separating me from summer break … although that week is full of finals and speeches and stress. But, that’s OK. We’re almost done.
The last week of school is bittersweet — bitter because you’re nearing the end of time with school friends, but sweet because the schoolwork is FINALLY coming to an end. There’s a quiet feel around campus; it’s like the final breath at the end of the race.
One of my favorite things about moving back home is packing up boxes. Call me an organizing freak, but I love filling boxes with just the perfect, balanced amount of junk from my room. I’ve learned that you can put a lot more in a box than first imagined, but I’ve also learned that it’s not smart to pack a box so heavy you can’t carry it across campus to your car. (That was me, freshman year. Struggling to heave a 40-pound box from York River East all the way to the parking lot next to Warwick River). But, that box was packed extremely well, if I do say so myself.
It’s a little bit like playing a game of Tetris. How many picture frames and pillows can fit in one box? The possibilities are endless. Mostly endless. Unfortunately, I can spend hours rearranging boxes and folding and refolding clothes and completely forget about, you know, studying, finishing papers, getting real work done. Besides, it takes so long to pack your room away anyway, it’s bound to eat into your final-studying time. That is, if you like packing things like I do. It’s not for everyone.
So, if you see me around campus, make sure I’m focusing on my schoolwork as well as packing up my life here. They’re both important, but I want to be fully present while I’m still here. Completely engaged, and finishing strong. And, packing sporadically.
If asked where you see yourself in five years, what do you think of? Does graduate school come to mind, pursuing academic scholarship? Do you see yourself sitting at a desk, writing reports and filing documents, all with the hopeful expectation of growing within the working world? Maybe you’re not even in the United States—maybe you are off in a foreign country exploring, volunteering or a combination of both. But wherever you see yourself, are you happy? Is your college experience leading you to a life of bliss?
“Well, of course I’m happy,” you respond. “I’ve got it all—the supportive family, friends, straight As, five internships and 10 clubs. What more is there?” Of course, having it all is not the same as being happy, but there’s a tendency in college environments to equate them as being the same: more accolades means more happiness. But, as my final thought to you, I’m asking you to challenge that assumption whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior by contemplating the reasons why you attend college. Because my parents told me to, because that’s what I’m supposed to do, because it’s the only way I can get a job?
To be fair, I’ll also answer this question to level the playing ground: I attended college because it was what people did to achieve anything for themselves. I did the time, got the grades, but even that wasn’t enough–I wasn’t part of 10 clubs, I didn’t have five internships or more friends than I could count, and I certainly didn’t have a schedule so jam-packed it would be impossible to breathe. I couldn’t avoid the feeling of not doing that meant I wasn’t as smart or ambitious or talented, because that standard is what we students work ourselves into: this mad frenzy of doing that is so opposite of living. I include myself in this, but how students conceptualize the purpose of college as getting straight As, graduating with 50 cords around their necks and obtaining a Fortune 500 career diverges drastically from what the original purpose of attending college was, learning to increase one’s understanding and to expand one’s mind for personal enlightenment and growth. Now, the expectations of and emphasis on practicality prevent leaning for the sake of learning.
Which leads me back to my point of being happy. As a senior, it took me four years to realize that following scripts and doing what others expected of me was no way to lead a happy, fulfilled life—one of meaning and purpose. In some ways, CNU breaks this assumption by maintaining small class sizes and focusing on the individual student, rather than mass producing educational standards. The liberal learning core curriculum provides a great opportunity for students to explore different interests, disciplines, and perspectives. The professors I’ve been privileged to learn from here have fostered thoughtful debate and different points of view that really made me think outside my own ways of thinking. But even so, we can’t change assumptions unless we first change ourselves.
To be happy with what I wanted to do—travel and join an AmeriCorps program—I had to stop buying into the status quo that demanded my intense involvement in every single campus activity and organization. I had to stop pleasing everyone else and only worry about pleasing myself—and being myself. (Still waters run deep, as they say.) And although I still encounter people who would gladly remind me how much they are doing and how much I am not, finding validation in myself and not others’ opinions has been the happiest, most blissful part of attending college. And it can be for you, too!
I’m finding it hard to come up with a conclusion to this post, because it is a never-ending learning process. Sometimes I think it’s better to leave things partially open, never closing the door all the way. So in the spirit of partial-closure, I guess I’ll end by sharing with you an old teacher’s favorite quote by Maya Angelou: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Wherever you end up, make sure to savor every single moment and never take anything for granted. And more importantly, make sure that you are happy.
And with that, it’s been real, CNU! See you at commencement!
So here we are in the final stretch of the semester, and as spring arrives so does the chirping of the negative chimes. Everywhere I go it seems students are seen hiding in library cubbies, drinking large amounts of Starbucks coffee with their heads buried down as they type furiously away on their laptops. It’s that time of year again, where the work is piled high like Mount Everest and it seems that no matter how high you hike, the mountain never gets any smaller. So I decided to take each negative phrase I heard and turn it into a positive thought. I’m challenging you all to take off the negative lens and see another outlook.
Negative:I can’t believe I only have about two weeks left; I’m never going to have enough time to get everything done before I graduate.
Positive:I can’t believe I only have two weeks left, but I know I’m going to spend the time with my friends, going on fun adventures, plaza dates and even study groups in the library.
Negative: Oh my, there is so much pollen all over campus, make it go away!
Positive: Oh my there is so much pollen all over campus but at least its nice and warm out so I can get sit on the great lawn with friends.
Negative:If I am assigned one more paper, my procrastination is going to kill me.
Positive: If I’m assigned one more paper, I may become the queen of procrastination and should win an award for getting all those assignments done.
Negative: Eating all this food from the dinning hall is making me fat.
Positive: Eating all this food from the dining hall is encouraging me to go to the gym.
These are just a few of the ways to turn a negative thought into a positive one. I know it’s hard with all the finals and the beach so close, but you can push through. A lot of our negativity stems from perspective and a change in perspective can really affect one’s mood and overall demeanor. Most times if your outlook on something is happy, then that will reflect onto others. Your smile and positive reinforcement could turn someone’s day around, always remember that. If you have any thoughts you want turned into a positive please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to bring some positivity your way! Just remember each storm will pass, and on your cloudiest of days remember to let the sunshine in.
In which I have no motivation to finish my essay.
What would you do if you had extra time?
Personally, I would hammock in the trees behind Commons while catching up on the novels I have been struggling to get through this semester. Or, grab a friend or two and reminisce about all our awkward stories from freshman year (it makes me sound older when I say “freshman year” instead of “last year”).
But, seriously? What would you do?
Join a club you’ve always been interested in? Chat up a stranger in Einstein’s? Establish a nifty exercise routine? By the way, CNU’s gym offers all sorts of exercise classes, from yoga to Zumba to cycling, so there’s something to keep everyone active regardless of your level of expertise. Trust me, you can still have fun in a Zumba class even if you can’t dance. I can personally testify.
Would you grab lunch with an old classmate and catch up on where life has taken you both? Or, learn to play a musical instrument? Volunteer somewhere? Get a part-time job? I’m currently job searching for the summer, and it’s got to be one of my least favorite activities. This whole “growing up” thing is not as easy as the movies portrayed it to be.
Maybe you would learn a foreign language. Or, maybe you would adopt a pet. Road trip the state of Virginia (there’s actually quite a lot to see here). The possibilities are vast!
A wise man (aka my father) once told me: “There’s always time to do the things you want to do.” That’s absolutely true. If something is important to you, it’ll get done. And if it’s not, it won’t cross your radar. So, if an idea has been sitting in the back of your mind for a while, make some time for it. Shift your schedule. Make new plans. Immerse yourself in what’s important. You can do it!
A few months ago, I got the chance to work a night shift at my first beloved home at CNU, Santoro Hall. Admittedly, I felt some serious jolts of excitement, and probably more nostalgia, as I walked up to the old red-brick building and rapped on to the glass door. Although I’ve never moved outside of my family’s home in Northern Virginia, I think the feeling of visiting somewhere you used to live is pretty much the same—there on my left was that same burgundy-colored couch and the same blue-speckled floor, all reminding me of my own time living in Santoro.
As I move out and the youngest students on campus move up, I’ll leave some advice from myself and some freshman year friends for not only making the college experience less stressful, but also for cultivating your own personal development.
“Call your family every so often. It’s easy to get caught up with your life here and let days, weeks and sometimes months go by without talking to your family. College is busy, and college is fun, but make time for your family. They have made time for you for the past 18 or so years, and you shouldn’t let those relationships wither—nurture them.”–Daniel, mathematics major and psychology minor
Pick your battles. This is a big one, and honestly is not just advice I would give to freshmen—it’s an ongoing lesson that everyone should strive for. If I’d learned to pick my battles more wisely and choose what I was going to make a fuss over better, things might’ve not been much different, but at least I would have learned a little more about a thing called maturity. And while it’s easy to react to every spark and flame, it’s also just as easy to walk away.
“One piece of advice you should really consider is time management. Time management is essential to having a successful college career. If you can manage your time right from classes, social life, extracurricular activities and studying, you will be stress free.” –Jeremy, biology major with organismal concentration and psychology minor
Don’t let others decide what kind of person you’re going to be. How many times have you heard this phrase in your 18 or 19 years of life? Probably too many, but its importance never fades. Everyone, from elementary to high school, must remember at least one time when fitting in was such an integral part of growing up. Hey, I mean I wore some pretty questionable things when I was younger for the sake of “looking cool.” When you go to college, however, don’t care so much about trying to fit in with the cool kids—you are the one who has to live with yourself for the next 50-plus years.
Every semester there’s always the uncomfortable phase where you have to tell your professor you have accommodations. You’ve been given that big manila envelope with forms that each professor has to sign. I used to hope no one would notice, but now I don’t care if anyone knows because I’m proud. I’m proud of my story.
Every scar tells a story. The science of diagnosing a broken bone is not that mysterious. A simple X-ray thrown against a lighted screen easily confirmed my 30-degree fracture, as if my misshapen wrist wasn’t evidence enough that something was clearly wrong. It was the product of a nasty bicycle accident the week of Hurricane Isabel. The treatment plan was five stainless steel screws and a metal plate. Although the experience was painful, injury did have its rewards. In elementary school, any bandaged appendage brought sympathy from your peer group. It was an instant badge of courage.
However, the scars of being diagnosed with a learning disability tell a different story. There’s no visible badge of courage. No cast your friends can sign. On the contrary, you duck and hope nobody snickers when your teacher announces it’s time for you to meet with the remedial reading assistant. But I was determined to excel for myself and to prove to others that there is no shame in having a learning disability. But something still was not right. Unlike being able to wait out the healing process of a broken bone, there is no timeframe or medical gadgetry that tells you how long you’re going to struggle with spelling, phonetics or the often dreaded math word problem. I soon learned I had dyslexia. It was this epiphany, which helped me discover there is no shame in having a learning disability, and perhaps the greatest badge of courage is earned and worn within the heart, and not on any appendage. And while every scar tells a story, it’s the journey, not the beginning or end that makes me the proudest of my story.
Throughout my schooling I have never felt more supported then I do at CNU. They have an amazing accommodation program and the professors are more than willing to help. Having their amazing support makes it that much easier to tell my story. Some of you may understand the anxiety of that manila envelope but next semester when you get one, hold it up and be proud of who you are. Whether you have accommodations or not, remember to be proud of your imperfections because that’s what makes us unique. Every scar tells a story, don’t be afraid to tell yours.
In which I share my personal tips for dealing with stress and staying on top of assignments as we all approach finals.
One of my favorite things about CNU is our holding doors tradition. It’s pretty simple: if you’re entering a building or room on campus and someone is close behind you, you prop the door open for them before walking in yourself. It’s a small gesture, but it means a lot to me. On days like today, especially, when the rain is pouring down and your hands are full with a to-go salad from the Chick-fil-A Express and a bulky wallet, it’s fantastic to have a fellow Captain hold the door open for you. It saves you the trouble of shifting everything you’re carrying into one precarious tower balanced on your non-dominant hand as you fumble for that magical student ID that has somehow found its way into the deepest recesses of your raincoat’s pocket. And, it’s one of those little reminders that there is goodwill left in humanity.
It’s always odd for me on breaks from school to go out somewhere public and not have a door held open. Or, on the flip side, to hold a door open for someone out of CNU habit and receive a bewildered look. Holding a door is probably one of the easiest ways to make someone’s day a little brighter, and it’s unfortunate that it’s not more common. However, it’s refreshing to get back to school and fall back into a rhythm of being courteous.
I know this sounds like a pretty amazing tradition (and, it is!), but it has brought about its share of awkwardness for me. For example, if you’re not careful about your hand placement on the door and your timing of letting the door fall into their hands, there’s a great possibility your hands will touch. Whenever this happens to me, I feel obligated to apologize and introduce myself; I mean, our hands touched – we should obviously become best friends. However, my potential best friend is always headed somewhere in a rush, and so there’s no time to smooth out the awkwardness. Another example of door-holding woes would have to be the appropriate door-holding distance. Of course, you’ll hold the door for the kid right behind you, but what about the kid a few paces back? Or, the one 15 feet away? Or, the one still crossing the road? Can someone inform me on when to wait and hold the door and when to walk on in?
Believe me, I have been that girl who holds the door for you while you’re still halfway across the Trible Plaza. You start to jog in slow-motion towards the door I’m propping open, and every second I wait I think, “Gee, that one really was too far away. But, I can’t close the door now because they’re already slow-motion jogging towards me.” It’s awkward for both of us, but please, just accept my door-holding faux pas with a smile.
I’m still figuring this out.