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Four Years at the Mount

As the flowers grow once again and the days get longer and warmer; the Four Years at the Mount writers finish yet another great semester. We asked them to reflect upon their time as Mount students so far.

Another Year Under the Belt

May 2016

Nineteen Going On Six

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." -Albert Einstein

As I reflect on my freshman year of college, I recognize a significant growth in my maturity, but in many ways, I have reconnected with the six year old version of myself. In particular, I have adjusted to college much as I learned to ride a bicycle. Let me explain what I mean...

Flashback and Iím six years old. Itís a breezy July afternoon, and the wind takes me where it may. Time and time again, I fall and remount my bicycle. My dad stands by the curb as I falter because I insist on mastering the skill on my own. I try again, wobbling at first, but this time catching speed. I drive my legs rhythmically, faster and faster until the spokes spin into a constant blur. "Be careful, Michael!" My dad shouts as I gain distance from him. Iím going too fast to care. I squeal with euphoria and pump one arm in the air, only to quickly clutch back onto the handlebar. "I did it, Dad! Iíll take on the world!"

But reality sets in. Iím an adult now -- or at least I try to be. My dad and I stand on the back steps of my new dorm, Sheridan Hall. We inch towards his car, jabbing at smalltalk. "Well itís a beautiful day," my dad starts. "This will be such an adventure for you." He tells me that he is proud of me and wraps me in a tight bearhug. As I slink back towards the dorm, he turns around to say, "You better tell your R.A. about your lightbulb thatís out." I nod, and he opens his car, "Oh and I put your notecards in that top drawer for you."

I wave and muster my cheeks into a smile. I know heís expressing the same concern and excitement he had for me when I learned to ride a bicycle. This time, however, Iím the one watching him drive off into the distance, and I realize that I will be taking on the world in a more independent way than ever before.

This year has reminded me that taking off the training wheels can be scary, but I only learn and grow when I am outside of my comfort zone. As a homebody, moving nearly five hundred miles away to a school full of unrecognizable faces was a good first step. I began the year by going on a pre-orientation camping trip designed for freshmen to become involved in campus life and to meet like minded individuals. Although I had gone "glamping" once as a child, camping and the glories of nature were relatively foreign to me. The trip was absolutely liberating. We woke up early to cook a rustic breakfast and embark on a rock climbing, canoeing, and caving excursions. We stayed up late, running around in the open field or telling stories around the campfire. By boldly stepping outside of my comfort zone with seven other new students, I began the school year on a positive note and felt empowered to continue stretching my limits. Shortly after the trip, I ran and was elected class president, began my journey in Division 1 athletics, and heavily invested myself in my academic courses. Each new role presented thrilling new opportunities. I continue to look for ways to serve in these capacities to the best of my ability, meet new people, and engage in new activities.

As with riding a bicycle, adjusting to my first year of college came with a fair share of trial and error. Inadvertently tie-dying my laundry taught me that whites and colors do not mix well. Oversleeping a class reminded me that I need to set multiple alarms on maximum volume in order to get up in the morning. Getting locked out of my dorm reminded me to never go anywhere without my room key. Nevertheless, these minor bumps and bruises have all been overcome with humor, resilience, and good company.

My family and faith have enabled me to steer a steady course. Unlike the stubborn little boy I once was who was so eager to independently master bicycle riding, I now appreciate the guidance I receive from my family and faith. Rather than perceiving it as a roadblock, my family has used our geographic distance as a platform to grow closer with daily phone calls, sporadic visits, and surprise packages in the mail. Additionally, the faith-based opportunities at the Mount, the second oldest Catholic university in the United States, have enabled me to thrive. I was fortunate to go on a pilgrimage to Philadelphia for Pope Francisí visit regarding the World Meeting of Families. Through my work at the National Shrine Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes, I have met pilgrims from all over the world and continually witness the awe-inspiring beauty associated with Catholicism. Going to mass with my classmates has been a source of profound fellowship and inspiration. Meeting weekly with a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary has been a further wealth of knowledge and guidance. Growing in my relationship with God and my family this year continually enlivens my journey and reminds me where I come from and where I seek to go.

My dad was absolutely right; this year has been such an adventure! My higher grade of independence, the outstanding Mount community, and the values that I have cultivated over the past nineteen years have enabled me to reconnect with the distinctive joy, vulnerability, and fearlessness I felt when I first mounted my bicycle at age six. As I round the bend towards sophomore year and foresee the towering responsibilities it holds, I believe more and more in the words I expressed as a fearless little boy, peddling fast towards the road ahead: "I did it, Dad! Iíll take on the world!"

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.


Time flies when youíre having fun

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

Grace Kelly, who is one of my role models, once said, "I avoid looking back. I prefer good memories to regrets."

Unlike Princess Grace, I cannot help but look back; not at regrets though or mistakes (because letís face it, they are inevitable so thereís no use crying over spilled milk), but rather, I look back on everything that has happened to bring me to today. As a little kid, I remember being excited to grow up, thinking that every day dragged on and on. However, now I realize everything moves so fast, but we do not even notice what has passed us by until we turn around and see that, whatíd ya know, you are an adult with responsibilities and life is still spread out before you.

Looking back, it seems to me that sophomore year started ages ago and yet it seems like only yesterday I was starting my first semester. Time is funny in that way. Nonetheless, no matter how much time has flown by, I can comfortably say I have enjoyed my two years at the Mount. A lot has happened. A lot has changed and will continue to change. Within the next month and a half, my older sister, Katie will be married, which is weird to think of because she still acts like a child. I am so excited for her, but this happiness is tinged with a bit of melancholy because I know that even though she will be living close by, she will no longer be right down the hall when I need her.

That is not the only thing that has changed; I think I have too. I have grown a lot, met new people, got a job, and I like to tell myself I have gotten smarter.

Right now, I am learning to juggle school, work, and time for my writing. So far, I think I am doing okay. I still have a ways to go until I have this whole "time management" thing down, but I am getting there. My newest job is at this small shop in downtown Frederick called the Pasta Pallet that sells handmade, dried pasta. It is a fun job at a unique store and even though I have only been working there a month, I have been enjoying it. The job both keeps me occupied and fuels my bouts of creative recipe making.

I still enjoy learning at the collegiate level; still enjoy reading and writing (obviously). I have discovered that my current catchphrase is "so far so good," when I am asked (excessively in my opinion), "how is school going?" It has become an automatic answer and, if I am honest, it is not a lie. School is going well and I am enjoying what is left of my spring semester. I am eager for summer, even though I am positively dreading the heat and humidity that comes with living in Maryland. However, I find myself less eager for junior year. Allow me to explain why. Junior year is when it starts to sink in, the reality of the real world; the world of taxes and mortgages and loans looms in the all-too-near future.

My mother always talks about the difference between eager and anxious. Eager is defined as wanting to do or have something very much. It holds a positive connotation, a type of optimistic excitement. Anxiousness, on the other hand, is the worry, unease, or nervousness one experiences about an imminent event with an uncertain outcome. This being said, even though I am anxious due to the fact that time flies, I am excited for my classes next semester. Three out of five are geared towards my major (English, if you are curious) and these very same classes are taught by my favorite professors. I hope that by next year, I will have a draft of that book I sometimes mention (the creation of which is painfully slow). I am planning on going to London for a Study Abroad program next spring, and am so excited that even thinking about it makes me want to jump up and down and squeal like a schoolgirl. Even though I am apprehensive as to what the future holds, I am excited to continue to learn and grow alongside my family here at the Mount.

As you can see and have probably realized on your own, there is a balance to all this. With the sour anxiousness of a somewhat uncertain future comes the sweetness of all the exciting and wonderful things to happen. I know that the future isnít going to be all sunshine and rainbows, that it will be tough and at times, unfair; but I also know that there are so many beautiful things in the world and a whole heap of experiences just waiting to be felt. When I remember this, I find my previous uneasiness is forgotten and I am filled with a bright optimism.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


One Year to go

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

It certainly doesnít feel like the end of my junior year; it feels more like midway through sophomore year, or the more I think about it, maybe even midway through freshman orientation. One year from today, I will be three weeks away from commissioning as a Second Lieutenant, beginning a civilian career, and moving away from the Mount forever. As I try not to freak out about the reality of the next 365 days, and am forced to reflect on the past 365 Ė I can come up with three real categories that everything over the past year can fit (not so neatly) into: Conclusions, Fears, and Changes.

Conclusions

Okay, so there are a few conclusions Iíve come to since August, here they are:

1) My mother was right all along: my sanity is indeed more important that my grades.

Iíve never been a person to stress over school or spend much time on homework, but the rumors were right and junior year proved to be my hardest year thus far. Between overloading credits, beginning Student Teaching Internship One, ROTC, and you know, life, it has been a constant stream of abnormal stress and an absurd sleep schedule. Interestingly enough, my class attendance reflects this clearly. Iíve certainly learned the importance of a personal day.

Fears

Between impending adulthood and a series of unfortunate events this past year, Iíve developed some very irrational fears

1) Fear of Parking Lots

Hear me out Ė I backed into a car while backing out of a parking spot in November and now every time Iím forced to drive through a tight parking lot, I cringe a little. Also, every time Iím forced to back out of a parking spot, I cringe a lot. I totaled a car during my sophomore year and have no fear of that road, icy conditions, etc., but those parking lots are terrifying.

Changes

1) Well, if youíve followed my articles, you know that I had until May 1 to decide if I want to serve out my commitment to the Army in the active component or in the National Guard or Reserves. For the first time in my life, I made a decision early and have chosen to enter the Reserves upon commissioning. Woohoo! The decision has been made Ė now, my life plans and goals have changed and are currently changing. I was under the impression until the decision that once the choice was made, a weight would be lifted off of my shoulders and a calm, purposeful life would commence. Oh, how wrong I was. Now that the decision has been made and my daily thought process has changed, it is time to figure out a life - how vast an idea that is to even type. Iíve learned a valuable lesson in all of this; before, with the prospect of active duty, I had a guaranteed career, paycheck, place to live, and immediate employment upon graduation. Now, as a result of a single email containing less than two sentences, I have none of that, and I donít believe Iíve ever felt happier in this entire process.

Iíd now like to take a moment to go backwards and return to conclusions-

Conclusion 2

Through the accumulation of fears, rational and irrational, minor conclusions, and major changes, this year has provided me with one ultimate conclusion.

Iím about to offer what is perhaps one of the most clichť sentences youíll hear in a long time, but Iíve come to the conclusion that embracing and appreciating life for what it is in every moment is ultimately crucial for any true level of happiness and contentment. I learned this through fears, changes, and conclusions.

Conclusions Ė in review

I think this one speaks for itself Ė embrace the insanity and stress as a chance to sit on the couch, watch Friends, and eat bowls and bowls of chocolate ice cream.

Fears Ė in review

Okay, so, Iím afraid of parking lots. I donít have a valid or logical response to this one Ė but I do know that had I not backed into another car, I might not be so cautious in parking lots, and if you have ever parked a vehicle youíre aware this is certainly not a place where most people like to, or care to, pay attention. Iíll embrace the dent for the cautious driving I never practiced before.

Changes Ė in review

So, I donít know what my life holds now and Iím willingly forgoing a career Ė Iím taking this opportunity to embrace the unknown and laugh a little every time somebody asks me what my future holds. Itís allowing a new appreciation for each day and each small decision.

Ultimately Ė Iíve learned this year to embrace each moment. In high school, I created a yearbook with the theme Itís your life; embrace it. The book revolved around embracing every little thing from the pains of pre-seasons to the bittersweet moment of graduation. Finally, almost four years later, Iím taking my 18 year old selfís advice. Each moment this year held a new value Ė whether it was something as minuscule as driving through a parking lot or a career decision. Each new day offered an insight, or a stepping stone, or anything that I overlooked at the time. To mitigate a senior year of moments passing by with little to no recognition, the goal is to now embrace each moment for what it is and what it has to offer. So maybe I was a little too stressed, and maybe I took one too many personal days, possibly I could have made some decisions earlier, and I probably should learn to be a better driver, but when I take my last final and watch my friends walk across the stage, Iíll be thanking junior year for the lessons and carrying my conclusions into my last year here in Emmitsburg.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary


Four years in Maryland

Katie Powell
MSM Class of 2015

As my senior year is coming to a close, I am finding it hard to keep up with all of my work. Senioritis is setting in and it is making completing homework and other tasks pretty challenging. I feel like I want outóI donít want to go to classes and live in a residence hall. I donít want to eat dining hall food. I want a job where I earn money, not credits. And yet, amongst all these annoying little things about college life, I donít want to leave this place. The most important and life-changing four years I have ever experienced are about to come to a close and I want to document it for me, and for everyone.

I think the most important people I am talking to are the high school students who donít think they want to go to college. I know financial situations make it hard or impossible, and sometimes living on a college campus isnít ideal for everyoneís needs. However, the experience of living away at college changed my world and I think if you are at all capable of working it out, it is something that you should do.

Do not believe everything that you see on Facebook. I know it seems glamorous to be Kylie Jenner and buy your own house at 18 and own your own business without getting a degree, irreversible under-eye bags, and huge piles of crippling debt. However, college graduates have something that Kylie Jenner does not have, and I do not mean a diploma. It is something you can only get from braving college orientation in a town in which you are completely foreign. Some-thing that you get when you hand in your first brutal mid-term exam. Something that you feel rise inside you after your first all-nighter, as you watch the sun rise outside of the library windows. It is something that is known as grit, a factor that has to do with self-confidence, fortitude, ambition, and persistence. Grit is an important attribute here at the Mount. If you do not arrive with it, your experience here will instill it within you.

Your degree says that you got a Bachelorís or Masterís in some topic or another, but what it does not say is how you got there. When you enter college you are a child. When you are 17 or 18 years old, it feels like you are an adult, and even though you legally are, you have a lot to go through before I, or anyone, will consider you a grown up. The best way to do it is to go away to college. Why do I say that? Because college makes you fight. It makes you push your-self to the limit physically, mentally, and emotionally. It makes you look inside yourself and ask the tough questions: Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Do I have what it takes? College rips you down; it exposes what you are made of. College makes you validate yourself to be successful.

There is a confidence that comes with handing in your first ten-page paper. At the time it is disguised as a lack of sleep and the coffee jitters, but it will fade into a quiet confidence that you are where you are meant to be. You earn a sense of pride during your college years that is unique from any other experience.

"Act like youíve been there" is the advice that my stepfather gave me when I went away to college. He did not tell me what that meant. It is a hard thing to do when you havenít been Ďthere,í and it is especially hard when you donít know where Ďthereí is. College teaches you what that means: it is the ability to be confident where you are. You learn what it means to look a daunting week in the face and think, "I got this," and to apply that to new situations like job interviews and social settings.

I have talked a great deal about the academic vigor that college cultivates, but there are entire sectors of college life that have no influence on oneís GPA. Anyone who has lived away from home for college remembers the first time they did laundry at school. Maybe, like me, you ruined a favorite shirt because you didnít separate your lights and darks, or you put delicates on heavy wash. You probably remember all the junk you ate and soda you drank because your mom was not around to make you eat vegetables. As you go through college you learn how you function best. You figure out how much sleep is best for you, what foods you can eat, how much you need to exercise, and how to do your own laundry and take care of yourself. Without a parent telling you what you need to do, you find out what works best for you. It is invigorating to set your own schedule and know you can take care of yourself.

At the risk of being clichť, having a social life during college truly is an important aspectótake it from the girl who did the exact opposite her freshman year. I spent the entire year sitting in my room, watching Netflix and perfecting my Pinterest page. I had friends because my roommate had friends and because I was on the swim team, but I made little effort to reach out for my own people. I donít know what changed in me, but my third semester at the Mount, I be-came known. I started talking to people in my classes, going to activities with my school, and branching out and working with new groups, and I felt great. I enjoyed class and I did better in school. Forming those friendships makes you a happier person and helps you network. I have friends from across the country and around the world. Even though I never got the chance to study abroad, from my friends I have learned about different cultures and backgrounds. I have been able to recognize in what ways I am privileged, and in what ways I am not. I have learned what it means that we are all fighting our own battles. I understand the way the world works much better than I did in high school. And I now know people from a "small town in Maryland youíve never heard of" better than I could ever have imagined.

I tried to avoid the classic "stay in school" speech; I donít know if I succeeded. What I do know is that my college education was worth more than the credits I earned or the loans I accumulated. The stories I have from the friends I have made will last me a lifetime, and 40 years from now I know that I will still laugh at the time my friend burned popcorn and made the whole hall smell, or when my teammate melted a sweatshirt trying to heat it in the microwave. I will never again shrink my favorite dress in the dryer, but I will probably still burn my dinner to a crisp by forgetting it in the oven. My four years in Maryland have made me who I am. I am so different from who I was when I started here; and yet, I have never felt more myself.

Read other articles by Katie Powell

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount