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Four Years at the Mount

Postcard from the future

This month celebrates the anniversary of the first picture postcard. To commemorate this addition to the writing industry, Four Years at the Mount writers were asked to write a postcard to a younger version of themselves. Unfortunately, the post office couldn't send the letters back in time, so we've placed them here for your enjoyment.

Lessons to learn

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

Dear Self,

At five years old I know things might not make sense. Everything seems so confusing. Especially baffling is how to arrange letters to make words. Itís challenging, I know, but you will soon learn how they can be organized and how each letter has a specific sound. If ever anything is unclear, make sure you speak up. I hope that you can keep wonder always on your mind. Try striving to learn and to discover. Iím not sure if you know yet, but our world is beautiful and has many great things in store for you.

Remember how everything looks from this height because soon you will grow bigger and see the world differently. Always make sure you run and jump and play all you can. Never outgrow the dollhouse in the living room, the one with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen and working lights, but always remember to share it. It is the envy of many of your friends. Let me tell you a quick secret before itís too late: Barbieís hair isnít like your hair. It wonít grow back. This seems completely illogical, I know, but sadly it is the truth.

As you transition through grades in elementary school, I hope you hold tightly onto all that you learn. Some of the most important things you will ever know are the things you have been taught at the very age you are now: share everything, only run in the halls if no one is watching, laugh until your belly hurts, always say youíre sorry when you hurt someoneís feelings, and, of course, ice cream is good for you! You are capable of doing anything. Maybe the most pressing issue for you right now is the strangest of them all: all the beautiful colors of the rainbow donít turn into a super beautiful color when mixed together. Who would have guessed?

If I know myself, and I do, I know that you love to talk. Your teachers frequently call you a social butterfly. Though that sounds like a very nice compliment, they are often politely asking you to talk less. Take this as a warning before they have to give you one. Try to hold in all the extremely important things you must tell your best friends until lunchtime. Talking too much while other people are talking quickly leads to losing recess, and in fifth grade they donít just take away a few minutes. They take away the whole thing!

I bet you cannot wait to finish reading Where the Red Fern Grows. Even in the future it is still your favorite book. I know itís hard to wait to see what happens in the last few pages, but remember that not all stories have endings that make you happy. It is best to let the sadness roll down your face at home. It is here that mom can tell you that Old Dan and Little Ann had very long and happy lives with Billy Coleman. While she is at it, ask mom to explain the significance of the red fern one more time. It will be that explanation that will make the fern your favorite plant.

Each day your brain is being filled with more and more things that you are learning. Donít worry! There will always be room for new information. Letís just try to keep those super important and meaningful memories in a special box that we will always protect. This will give us the chance to look back on them when we grow old. The box will get bigger and bigger with all our new experiences, just like you are getting bigger and bigger every day. As you grow, remember that the world is waiting for you. Go discover!

At eleven years old, entering middle school can seem pretty scary. I know you are concerned about riding the bus. Donít be afraid. Youíll rarely miss the bus if you are able to run to the bus stop a couple of times. The ride on the bus wonít be too long. Sit next to a friend and everything will be okay. When you arrive at school and walk up to those four blue doors, know that behind them lie friendly classmates, great teachers, new schedules, and exciting information. Hold on tight and you will be just fine.

I know your love for school went downhill when geometry was introduced, but try not to get frustrated. You are not the only person who has difficulty finding the area of a rhombus or determining congruent sides on a triangle. Remember to get your calculator before class, and donít forget to thank your older sister for downloading games onto it. Though your high score is incredible, it does not show up on your report card. Make good decisions on what is more important. Obviously, you just need a little Tetris here and there sometimes.

When you get a certificate for making Honor Roll (even with your Tetris playing) and you are allowed to go to the cafeteria for donuts and muffins, pick a donut instead of that muffin you want. I know muffins are your favorite, and they just look so good, but trust me, it is not worth it. Food poisoning will quickly ruin your love for blueberry muffins, and you wonít be able to look at them the same way again.

At fifteen years old, entering high school is like walking into a maze. There are so many people going in all different directions, talking quickly, and pushing past you. You are just a freshman in a sea of over 2,000 fish. I know you are wondering where you fit into the mess of everything. It will take some time, but you will figure it out.

Please, donít take on more than you can handle. I know you think that the more things on your plate the better, but it is not worth it. Youíll be stressed way too often, and you wonít be able to just have fun. I wish that you would make time to relax instead of constantly being on the go.

I ask that you cherish each moment you spend on the volleyball court or on the lacrosse field with your team members. These will be some of your favorite memories. You will miss them more than you expect. I must warn you, when you are waiting to receive your varsity letter, donít expect something in an envelope with a stamp on it. Although this mistake will bring laughs for a long time to come!

On the most important day of your high school career, take a mental movie of all that is around you. Remember how you can single out your familyís voices from the rest of the crowd as they cheer for you. While you are so busy trying not to trip in front of everyone, make sure you lift your arm high enough that the sleeve of your gown doesnít get stuck when you are holding onto the railing!

At eighteen years old, your journey continues at the Mount. I know you are nervous because you donít know anyone, but you will be positively surprised at all the friends you will make. It is hard being away from home and away from everything that is familiar to you. Just know that it will be okay, and in time it wonít be as difficult.

Your first year takes some time to settle into, but you will quickly be making memories to lock away in that special box you created so many years ago. Along with the memories you have already saved away, make sure you place inside that box the Mount memories that already mean so much to you. Soon enough, your first year will be over and you will be a sophomore.

I wish that you would study a little more and try to go to the gym more often, but I know you are only beginning to figure everything out. You can only do the best that you can do. Just never forget what I mentioned when you were young: the world is waiting for you. Go discover!

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen


Letter to Myself

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Like the other Four Year at the Mount writers, I have written a letter to the past, imperfect version of myself, the Kyle that was caught somewhere between two different realities: the independent man I am today, and the nervous, shy young man who ventured out into the world one tentative step at a time.

Dear Past Me,

What is up, dude?! First things first, letís not worry about the specifics as to how you got this letter. Weíre English men, so letís leave the science stuff to people who are far better at it than us. We may be great at writing, but contemplating the sheer scientific knowledge to understand time travel is far from our wheelhouse. I am not sure the exact time that this letter will reach you, or what youíll be going through by the time you get this. Weíve been through a lot, you and me. We switched schools together and made a whole new group of friends. In a world of a million different possibilities, dreams, and career paths for us to choose from, we decided that the only thing we wanted to do with our life was write for a living. We wanted to share the stories we had in our head and in our heart with the entire world. When we put the pen to the page and the words just seem to flow out, itís intoxicating. I know it is easy to get lost in the words, the pages, and the characters. I promise you that the wonderful sensation you get from creating whole new realities when you write will only grow as you do. However, I would caution you to keep one foot in the world you live in and the other in the world you create. Yes, the things that you can come up with are amazing, but believe me when I say that the places you will one day go are far more beautiful than any landscape you could dream up. And the people? The people you meet will surprise you and inspire you in ways you could not yet understand. Believe me when I say that your work and your existence will be richer for having met them.

I know youíre probably wondering how weíre doing, what we look like, how we sound, the places weíve gone, and the things weíve done, but I know how much you hate when people spoil the ending. Iíll try my very hardest to avoid any of the specifics of our life so far. It suffices to say that things are going really well for us, better than we had ever hoped for, to be honest. We still love our parents, and our little brother. Overachieving continues to be a favorite pastime, but luckily, by this point in our life, weíve managed to turn our desire to succeed into a healthy ambition. At the time of this letterís creation we are currently a 20-year-old junior in college. How sweet is that, dude? More than halfway done with the last phase of our educational career! Itís kind of mind blowing for me to think about, so I can only imagine how you feel hearing that you have become so old so quickly (I kid, I kid. We still have many years left in us, God willing).

Now, since Iíve broached the topic of school, letís talk about college. You think life is cool now? Just wait until you get to the Mount. I know we spend a lot of time thinking about freedom and adventure, and pursuing higher learning will give you the chance for both of those things. If I may, I would like to offer you two pieces of sound advice. First, go and try everything. Second, remain strong in who you are. For the former, leave no stone unturned. We have spent so much of our life crafting an image for ourselves, an identity that we feel comfortable in and one that has served us well. Step beyond that. You will find some amazing relationships and experiences in unexpected places. You will make friends with people who you would never have given a second glance to earlier in your life. If something seems scary, impossible, and utterly strange, GOOD! Go and try it. Do it, and throw your weight behind it. You have spent enough of your life living a certain way. Please, break the majority of those barriers, and if you wind up on a roof at three in the morning, eating pizza, and looking up at the stars with an eclectic group of companions, youíre doing it right.

While it is important for you to experience and grow, I would urge you to heed the second piece of sage advice. The temptations that go along with a brave new world are everywhere, and they are as alluring as they are detrimental to your success. Yes, you should always be open to change, both external and internal. However, before you decide to embark on the road that you have chosen, make sure that you take stock of the things that you hold in the highest esteem. No matter what you gain from going out on a limb, it could never make up for losing sight of the man you are and the man that you want to become. The way to true learning and enlightenment for youóno, for usólies in balancing our desire for freedom and adventure with the values that make us who we are. Our family, our faith, our commitment to give everything that we are to tasks and not let up until it is finished, and our belief that the world is ultimately a wonderfully amazing place. Those are tenants that have served us well in the past (and believe me, they are tenants that will serve us well in the future). If you can hold onto those things, then believe me when I tell you that this life is yours to seize.

Anyway, Past Kyle, Iíve got to go soon. Weíre still busy almost 24/7 (Itís nice that some things will never change regardless of how old you get). We actually have quite a bit to prepare for in the next couple of days, so I need to sleep a little before tomorrowís work begins. I have to say it has been a pleasure getting to talk to you, even if our conversation has been a tad one-sided. If and when you ever get this letter, please understand that I am so excited for you. Our life has been blessed in wonderful ways, my friend, and you have the pleasure of experiencing it all for the first time. Take care of your brother, respect your mother, go to bed and wake up earlier, and emulate dear old Dad. Oh, and speaking of Pops, I want to leave you with a few words that he will say to you later on in life (I promise) but that I feel will do you some good whenever you receive this letter: "Sometimes in life, youíve got to take care of you." Youíre no good to anyone unless youíre totally and completely yourself, the best Kyle you can be. Stay strong and keep the faith, brother; youíll come face-to-face with me sooner than you think.

Sincerely,

Kyle

Read other articles by Kyle Ott


Dear Self

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

Dear Self,

There are some things about life that you should know. I may only be writing this a few years in your future, but I learned a lot in that time. I donít want to spoil the adventure for you, so I canít tell you everything, but there are some general tips I want to give you. Take them or leave them, but know that whether or not you apply them now, you will learn them later.

First, you shouldnít take high school so seriously. Itís not the most important thing in life. Itís your senior year, so go have fun and be a teenager before responsibilities swoop in to ruin the day. Iím not saying you shouldnít keep your grades up, but put down your fifth book of the week and go hang out with some friends. You work hard and should take the occasional opportunity for fun. You should know that your efforts in school are rewarded with more than just good grades. I wonít spoil the surprise, but I know that youíll love it.

No one expects you to be perfect, so stop worrying about trying to be. It is okay to make mistakes. Just relax and donít let fear hold you back from trying and accomplishing new things. That goes for driving, too. I know the responsibility can be scary, but itís one for which youíre ready. Besides, a license is a necessity these days, so be brave, take a deep breath, and drive.

Hint: apply to summer jobs before summer actually arrives. They arenít going to be easy to find because businesses most likely want to give positions to people supporting a family before a high school student who just needs gas money, but the jobs are out there. Youíll go through dozens of applications. Keep trying and remember to follow up wherever you apply. If an employer hears your voice or has the chance to meet you in person, he is a lot more likely to at least give you an interview. Also, donít be so picky about where you work. The food industry isnít glamorous, but working with the public and in a team setting is good experience for future job opportunities. The tips arenít bad either.

Appreciate your high school friends while you have them. You will fall out of touch with them because college will give you friends that relate to you better. That doesnít change the fact that youíve had a lot of fun and made some great memories with your high school buddies. Maybe you should try staying in touch with them a little more after you graduate. You will never be as close with them as you are now, but it doesnít hurt to keep tabs on one another.

Donít give up on your volunteer work at the Carroll County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program. I know it can be tiring and even frustrating at times, but the end result is always good for you and those youíre helping. You are making a difference in someoneís life, and I have yet to find something more rewarding. Youíll also have an awesome teaching opportunity arise from this.

This will be your last full show season before college, so enjoy all of your horseback riding competitions. I wish you would try to relax a little bit more in the arena; itís supposed to be fun, not stressful. Just try your best and enjoy the challenge. Youíll have plenty of other things to stress about later.

Learn how to play the piano again. If you hadnít stopped taking lessons, you may have never tried horseback riding, but now that you ride, take up the ivory keys again too. You donít have to take lessons, just buy a keyboard and a book and teach yourself. As you get older, you will begin to appreciate music even more, and youíll be very glad to know how to play an instrument. An understanding of music will also be important for you to fully enjoy some of the musicians youíll grow to love in college. Remember to explore music on your own and not to rely entirely on what friends and family listen to. There are some incredible artists out there just waiting to be heard.

Try to thank your teachers every once in a while, especially Mr. Beard and Mrs. Wood. Mr. Beardís hard work gave you a strong foundation in English. I truly believe it is in large part thanks to him that you will go on to do so well in college. Remember as much from his classes as possible. You will use his rules and techniques for every class essay and newspaper article you write. Mrs. Wood largely encouraged your desire to learn languages, something that youíll pursue in college. She also helps you with public speaking. Thank her for that, because it will be very important later in life.

You donít know it yet, but you will want to be a speech pathologist. This doesnít change your current plans. Still go to the Mount. Still major in Communication Studies. You will miss out on so many good things if you replace those four years for a direct route into the major at a different school. The people you will befriend at the Mount are incredible. Olivia Gorman, Maggy Mastin, Lisa Lopez, and David Gayhart. Remember those names and seek them out as soon as possible your freshman year at the Mount. You will need each of their support, advice, and company in the future.

Youíve always loved to read, so keep a few more dollars in your pocket by befriending the public library. You already have the card, just remember to use it. Itíll free up your wallet and bookshelves for those books you absolutely must have. Oh, and donít worry when Borders goes out of business. A new bookstore will take its place.

Go to church whenever you have the chance. Though it may not seem like it now, your faith is important, and you wonít always have access to a decent church. Being heavily exposed to religion six days of the week made you burn out a little, but when you go to college you will appreciate everything youíve learned. It will help you make some wise decisions, and it will give you answers to questions you never thought you would ask yourself.

Most importantly, treat your parents well. They sacrifice so much for you to go to private schools and give you everything you have, and they ask for nothing in return. Sometimes your teenage attitude gets in the way of remembering this, so you donít always give them the respect they deserve. Just do what is asked of you Ė itís never a lot. Thank them often and say I love you daily.

I donít expect you to remember all of this, which is of course why Iíve written it down. Keep this in a safe place and reread it every now and then. Hopefully it will help to make you a better person and help smooth over some of lifeís little bumps. Know that there isnít anything to be afraid of. Your life is a very blessed one, so be excited for your future because there is a lot to be excited about. Also, know that whatever hardships you may face, you will make it through. This letter is proof enough of that. 

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount