And the Snow Falls

Snowfall

Every beginning has its end. On February 25, I put up my first post. Now 10 months later, this is the last. This is my last post I will have this semester and most likely the last post of mine here on WordPress. We, as in Cougar Diaries, are moving on to a new platform, Facebook. There, we hope to connect to even more people and share the small moments of life here at Saint Xavier. It was fun doing this blog. It has given me time to think with workloads that sometimes prevent me from thinking of myself and of what is the world around me beyond the classroom. But as an end to this blog, as it may be, it is also a beginning.

 

It is the first snow, a fitting beginning for an end. The snow is white, fluffy and has a gentle coldness to it. There is no dirty or uncomfortable slurry of freezing rain. There is just a silent falling that sounds in the air. No cars are out heading to 103rd Street. No people are out to disturb the blanket of white snow. Only the hum of exhaust from steam above on the roofs of buildings and the ambient sound of the wind tells me I am not deaf. It is more than just frozen water constructed in beautiful and unique shapes, but the end of a time. The campus is empty, not a soul out as I walk slowly through the cascade of gentle powdered sugar. It is fitting that on this day that the first snow fall is the last day I am to be here on this site.

 

There is sadness and anxiousness within me. I am somber to the fact that I no longer will be on this site. And with the load of finals on my back, I find it hard to finish this. But I also find a comfort in the quiet snowfall. The end of the semester seems so far away yet in only a few days I will be leaving this school for home once more. It’s quiet as I sit by the window watching countless snowflakes fall to never be seen again. And in the haze of the snow, I smile, knowing only at this moment in time will it be so. The day is drawing to a close and I have much to do. But let me take one last look outside and remember the day I first wrote to you here. It’s not the end of Cougar Diaries. We will continue on here. It’s only another beginning for stories of this school and its people. The day draws to a close and the snow falls.

 

Around the Table

Every year, Saint Xavier closes down for the Thanksgiving holiday. The dorms empty and the students go home. This leaves a quiet peace here on campus as the sounds of footsteps and cars no longer grace the air with its presence. With no one in the dorms, I’m guessing the maintenance staff is very thankful for a reprieve from the usual rambunctiousness of the student body. It’s safe to say that the student body is also very thankful. For many, it is a well-needed rest before finals week. Others find it a chance to be with family and enjoy some long missed home cooking. And it is this time that we as Americans take a moment to think of the things that we are grateful for and lucky to have, whether that be the families we grew up with or made, the country we live in or the possessions we have. However, in these times of great political polarization and hate on both sides of the aisle, there is a threat to that time of unity and of humble thanks.

 

Respect, an integral part of life here in Saint Xavier. It is one of our core values and something that is instilled into us as a necessary part of the discourse of learning and of living with one another. But it does not just mean respect with opinions in the class. When it comes to family, we must also be respectful of our family’s opinions. What’s the point of coming together as a family to have Thanksgiving if we are not willing to give each other mutual respect for our sometimes different perspectives in life. Respect goes both ways. But it should not be assumed or expected if one does not contribute to it as well. Often times, respect is expected automatically which is both right and wrong. You should have the courteousness and respect and not present yourself as a rude individual, but at the same time, the person receiving the respect should also make good and present themselves and conduct themselves as being worthy of said respect. But respect does not just mean to other people. It also is a way of living and appreciating the things we have. That’s why they call it Thanksgiving.

 

Thanksgiving is not just Turkey Day. And while the origins of Thanksgiving may not suit the pallid of some, the meaning behind it should. Too often do we forget the things that we have and lose our perspective in the world. We toss things we don’t use anymore in the trash and underappreciate both the things and the people in our lives. A healthy respect for the lucky things in our lives opens our eyes to not just what we have but also what others do not have. Volunteering at homeless shelters has opened my eyes to things I had already known. But they have kept my eyes fixed on these injustices and things we take for granted. There are so many people in the world, so many here in this country that do not have the things we have or the people in our lives. That is why when you’re around the table with your family, not just on Thanksgiving but on every occasion, take pause to be grateful for what you have and maybe give a little as well.

Those Sky Flowers

There was an energy in the air on Wednesday night. The usual chatter of rowdy college students outside was absent. They were all inside. The chips and salsa were out and the soda was bubbling away in our red party cups as our eyes were glued to the television screen. Everyone had a nice comfy seat which they refused to sit in. We were all standing. Everyone held their breath in that 10th inning as another Cleveland batter took to the plate. So close but so easily taken away those last few minutes could have been. And when the final score came, everything became a shout fest.

 

The quiet stillness of hallways was shattered, as an overly enthusiastic viewer ran down the hall barefoot shouting at the top of his lungs, “They did it!” The sound of fireworks bellowed in the distance on cue lighting the night in an aura of brilliant lights. Excited and exhilarated screams and cheers echo in the empty streets around Saint Xavier on Wednesday as the Cubs finally won! And when I went to the window and heard the collective cry of the campus residents in united celebration, it made me reaffirm my reason for living on campus. It was a good day!

 

After the school day is done and the commuters return home, there is a silence in the air that tells me that the day is over, and yet I must linger. As the sun fades behind the clouds and the day dims as cars depart and less and fewer people are seen walking the sidewalks and paths of the campus, there is a sadness that I feel, like watching a dear friend leave on the train while you remain. Perhaps this is just my family’s famous sentimentality that got my grandfather through the losing side of a World War or my father through years of hard labor to afford me this moment to stand idle in the silent of an American campus. But either way, there is something I find special about living as a resident here at Saint Xavier.

 

Campus life can be a mixed bag at times, especially as a person that works with the maintenance and housekeeping staff here. It can be difficult with certain folks who, for whatever reason, were not taught by their parents to clean after themselves. But besides the occasional workplace gripes as in any place, the students are respectful and generally try to keep their home away from home clean, or at least tolerable for us workers to step in time. On occasion, depending on your personality, you might get into arguments with your fellow residents and dormmates as is to be expected. But for the most part, there is a sense of community here and it is emphasized regularly. It’s an almost comradery among those of us that have no place to go during those holidays when the dorms are closed. And as I look out the window watching the grand explosions of brilliant lights from my door room with the cheers of my fellow residents in the distance, I can’t help but know at least here, there is a gentle peace.

Hoco 2k16

Homecoming Week here at Saint Xavier is one of the most exciting week of events that the school hosts. Every single day we were able to do something from October 1-8. A couple of things I was able to do was receive a waffle on a stick that was chocolate-dipped and sprinkled with Butterfinger crumbles, courtesy of SXU Diner. Another fun activity held was the movie in the quad where they showed the film “Now You See Me 2.” To top it off, there was even a dance called the Heritage Ball. Students were able to dance the night away before the big game held on Saturday.

On Saturday, October 8, the SXU football team won 25- 21 against Concordia University Ann Arbor. From the moment you walk into the stadium, you are given face stickers that you are able to put on as well as a $5 concession stand voucher. (I personally got a walking taco … It was delicious!) The SXU cheerleading team as well as the dance team the Paw Prints had got the crowd full of spirit motivating the Cougars to push through to the very end to win. Outside of the stadium, Cougar fans were tailgating and coming together in support of our home team. It’s a time for students to get to know each other outside of a school setting while having loads of fun.

I am most looking forward to next year’s homecoming game because of how successful this year was. My friends and I got closer and made plenty of memories as well as made brand new friends. If there is any event you should attend, it is this one! So mark your calendars, people, because before you know it the year will end and a new one will begin!

Getting to know my fellow cougar pals outside of the football stadium before the big game

Getting to know my fellow Cougar pals outside of the football stadium before the big game.

Living with Roommates

Residence life is a great way to not only get involved with the school but make friends on campus. While living on campus, I have made so many friends. Since attending Saint Xavier University, I’ve dealt with almost every scenario with a roommate. Each thing that had occurred though had made me learn a valuable life lesson on handling situations. I’ve made lifelong friends as well as grown distant with some friends, none of which I would take back since it has made me grow as a person.

Regina Hall (Freshman Year)
My first experience with a roommate was my freshman year, and she was LITERALLY non-existent because my roommate never showed up. I had a room all to myself, and believe me, it was great! I had been given the chance to decorate my room however I wanted. I had a spare bed for my friends when they came to visit. I combined both desks to form a “super desk.” I even used the extra dresser as a pantry to store all my snacks. The only problem was that sometimes it would get really lonely. Even though I had so much space, there were times I wish I had a roommate to share experiences with as well.

For four weeks, I had a room to myself until I met a girl who was on the cheerleading team with me. We instantly became friends, and when she told me she was having issues with her roommate, I offered for her to come live with me. That week she moved in, and I no longer had that feeling of being alone. Not to mention when she moved in, the room looked much livelier, since there was more stuff to fill the room. We would have late night conversations, snack, do each other’s hair and makeup, go to practice together and rescue each other.

There were two girls who lived directly across the hall from us whom we both became close friends with. We instantly knew we were destined to be future roommates, including our close friend who lived six doors down the hall. It came to the point that we would just leave our doors open so we could easily come in and out of our rooms to hang out. Our little group would eat, sleep, study, motivate, sing, dance, play games, and even play pranks on one another. We would even have conversations from our separate rooms because the dorms were that close to each other. We had formed such a strong bond that we couldn’t imagine living with anyone else.

O’Brien Hall (Sophomore Year)
The four of us girls from that second floor of Regina Hall couldn’t wait to move into our new building we currently live in. We finally had our own microwave, toaster oven, and bathroom. (If you’ve lived in Regina Hall, you’d understand the struggle.) Having these girls as my roommates is a dream come true. I mean who wouldn’t want to live with their best friends. We do all the stuff we did before and more. The first week back we had all binged watched in our living room the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” One of my roommates and I designated a napping schedule. Our sleep schedules have become so in sync that we wake up in the middle of the night around the same time.

Studying has become not only easier but a lot more fun. We do our studies in our living room and when someone is stressing out over something, we tell a joke or share a funny story to lighten the mood. My roommates and I even motivate each other to do better in everything that we do. Our support system is strong and gets stronger with every day that passes. I can’t thank Saint Xavier University enough for not only giving me a place to call home but for giving me my best friends. There’s no better feeling than coming back to my dorm at the end of the day and seeing three girls smiling and yelling with excitement “Amber’s back!” It’s honestly the best thing ever having roommates — especially mine!

My roommates and I wearing matching SXU rain jackets

My roommates and I wearing matching SXU rain jackets.

Seeing Old Faces

Every year, a new crop of students leaves Saint Xavier and every year a new crop comes in. In my time here, I have seen friends walk across the stage to receive their diplomas while others leave for one reason or another. The rather sizable list of cherished friends that remain here grows thinner each year as they depart. With each graduation, I am reminded of my temporary time here and of such relationships as poignant and yet so rewarding as friendship. For some, they come and go as does the snow of winter, while others stick around like pine sap on one’s fingers. But nevertheless, the sting of time and the cyclical motion of our lives can dampen even the most optimistic and happy-go-lucky person. And yet it seems as if time is convoluted.

Faces I could have sworn had moved on to greener pastures to pursue their respected careers are here before me sitting and chatting with those of us that remained as if they had never left. And nothing is more beautifying of the day than seeing a close friend greet you and offer a seat across the table to chat away the day on the latest happenings and gossip. Every year is different here and yet the feelings, the friends and the daily conversations do not; and perhaps that’s the cyclical habit that I don’t mind keeping.

Every day I enter the bustling SXU Diner, I am confronted by the absurdly wacky and over-the-top residents of the “corner,” the area of the diner adjacent to the Student Lounge lined with sitting booths. It is this place that I call a home away from home. It is here that one meets the people that they will be friends with for the rest of their days. They almost make the sun rise, if I may be so sentimental in my description. Confusingly absurd in their own right, the eccentric and whimsical members of the corner are what make life here exciting. There is not a “normal” person there, myself including. Every quirk of ours is a result of a lifetime of strangeness. Those of us in the corner can have rather strange hobbies and mannerisms to the normals as we call them. And make no mistake, everyone has a rather interesting outlook on life. For myself, I find living life as surprise-filled and as blithe as possible to be a rather fun life to be had. This offsets my dear friend and roommate’s rather controlled and orderly existence. But one thing we can both agree, it’s never boring at the corner. And when I am seeing old faces, I can’t help but feel that warm feeling of both nostalgia and anticipation of what is to come next. Because despite the constant change of time and my love for the unexpected and the noveties of life, I know at least one place remains the same.

And So It Begins Again

And so it begins again. After a summer of listlessness and procrastination, the school year has now begun once again here at Saint Xavier. The sea of emerald and forest green has been cut low to gently bristle the toes. The looming trees that line the road remain standing tall to shade the palaces of which one reads on a summer day. Cicadas sing their nostalgic song of childhood days gone by remaining from high up in the trees, the steamy air of summer still gushes to tell us ‘not yet.’ And as that first day began, the sight of lost doe-eyed freshmen brings back a sense of amusing youth and nostalgic naivety to the school grounds.

It’s a marvel to be had seeing the faces of those first years and remembering that once we were so. With their nice collared shirts and prim and proper summer dresses, their almost foreign appearance becomes apparent in the sea of dull-eyed upperclassmen. It is so out of place seeing these magazine catalogue-looking kids walking down the hall with almost a swagger about them. And despite the small gap in our ages and my own youthful age, I feel old, old in heart and temperament. While they walk aimlessly playing the latest mobile game, I yearn for the free days that I may remember such a time that I was able to wander into the park district and fish for snails along the rocky shores or weaving words into a story of people and places and places with people and people from places. Like an old man watching rambunctious children walk off to school while he remains glued to his stoop, I find myself content in my amusement of the strangeness of youth as if I am somehow separate from it as if I were somehow detached.

Perhaps it is I that is out of place as I sit lazily in the diner with worn sandals and dirt-covered sweats and Tee. Is it really the excitement and nervous fright of the first years that should be alien to this school as so many others? Does feeling a sense of adventure in the sea of the mundanity of those of us accustomed to life here so wrong? I wonder if such a feeling as that is such a bad thing in this place that sings a song of flight. We all want to get out and get into the real world but when we’re there we want to go back to these carefree days when being a kid was something we took for granted. And here, I feel myself at a crossroads. The nervous fright of nearing the end of my time here begins to loom over me now. The eventual bidding of farewell to friends only a year older draws near every day. Here I am hapless as I inch towards the inevitable day when I will be left only to remember those days when nothing but what I’d do tomorrow mattered. It is these things that bring up this bitter and yet so sickly sweet nostalgia for those endless summer days that have me stepping back to that warm feeling of independence from home but still knowing I had a place to go back to. But perhaps the misguided ventures of the first years are just the end of that same accustom they had the year before as their days as high school students went by. And perhaps it is that same feeling of adventure and nervous excitement that will come when I am handed that diploma and take my first step out the door on my way to work. And so it begins again and the days count on as they had done before.

A New Day

This year has seemed so short in its passing and yet so much has been done and has happened. I have finished my second year here at Saint Xavier and it doesn’t seem real. I am going to be a junior in the fall. To be honest, it’s frightening to see that my school career here is already halfway over. It seems like only a short time ago I was still a high schooler anxious of my future in college. Now, I am a college student and I am anxious about what the future after college will be like. Much thought has gone through my head as this year became the pivotal moment in my and my family’s life. My father is retiring after twenty-odd years of hard manual work, and with that, a new change in our family dynamic. It is said that sophomore year is when a student “gets it.” What that is can be debated. Is it when a student finally realizes that their major was the wrong one? Or is it that they realize what they were called for, in the lack of a better word? I find it to be the latter. After volunteering at the Salem United Church of Christ’s PAPS or Homeless Shelter and with SXU’s Bread Truck and just interacting with people, I realized that I did indeed pick the right career in mind. I found that going out there and helping others was not just the wholesome thing a person should do but also a fun one. There is no point in a career or education if you’re not having fun. I want to enjoy what I’m doing in my livelihood. That is what I believe.

Finals are next week. I have my first one tomorrow. I’m not completely stressed out like a lot of my friends, but it does have me thinking. Once they are done with, what is there to do? What more can I do here until next semester? And what am I to do this summer? I am hopeful that I will get a job to help support my family. Since my brother is graduating college in the next two weeks, there is an excitement and an anxiety for him as well. Will he get a job following graduation? Will my parents be able to pay the payments of the Parent Plus Loan? All these spiral in my head as I crack a carefree joke to my friends. I don’t want to be a bother, and so I keep it away. This is my problem, why share it? Maybe that’s my mistake. But I can’t worry about that now, finals are here.

I feel that this year was a good one. I made new friends and cemented ones I know will last me a lifetime. My heart warms and pangs at the knowledge that many will graduate this year while I will be left behind. I live far away and visiting them is beyond the question. But I am confident this is not the end. I smile knowing that, but I frown for the future. I feel anxious looking to what the future entails, but I am hopeful that at least this step in my life is over and much more are to come as my aspirations to become a teacher draw ever nearer. Now I look out my window, the sun is setting. End comes this day but there comes the promise of tomorrow which is uncertain. Uncertain as it is, it is beautiful what this new day shall bring.

The End is Here!

Hello, loyal readers! This is the last post for this school year! Crazy, right?! Where did the school year go?

This past Monday, I started my week off at Columbia Explore Academy for my last hours for middle school education requirements. Although it wasn’t my last day going, it started to hit me that this was the last week of classes… It flew by so fast!

IMG_0113 (1)On Monday evening, I was able to attend the Scarlet and Grey Awards. The previous week I was notified that I was nominated for the Cougar Award. They had such great nominations for this award I feel blessed to have been nominated. Although, I didn’t get the Cougar Award, I did receive the John the Baptist Award with the description of “for calling us to a deeper commitment to our faith, challenging us to act for justice, and witnessing to a life of truth and love.” I just feel so blessed and taken aback about being awarded this award!

On Tuesday, I started off my morning with a tour. Being a student ambassador is one of my favorite things that I get to do on campus. I love getting to work with prospective students! If anything, it reminds me of where I was once at, and how fortunate I am to be at a school that I consider my home.

IMG_0124That evening, right before my last teaching ESL course, I stopped to grab some free food that was being served by President Wiseman. Maybe it’s just me, but how cool is it that the president of our university serves students food? How many presidents do you know who do that?

If anyone has the chance to take a class with Professor Hilton, I would for sure do so. Out of all my best professors I have had so far in the School of Education, he truly got me excited about teaching middle school. IMG_0131 (1)His experience before teaching at SXU was all middle school education. His stories and experience truly brought the class to life. His assignments had us students thinking about who our support system was, who our great teachers had been, and why we wanted to be teachers. And it’s just a great class. Every assignment, project and presentation, I feel like I learned so much… Sad to have it end… (Ana and Professor Hilton in picture.)

I am sorry to say that Wednesday wasn’t all that exciting of a day for me. I started my day off with a tour, then class, and then my last meeting with Bridget for the year. (Bridget is my campus ministry advisor).

IMG_0146On Thursday, I started my morning with my lovely 8 a.m. class and then I got to go to my last day at Columbia Explore Academy. I had to go an extra day on Thursday because my ESL endorsement requires extra hours. I know I have talked about this observation a lot, but it truly was such a great experience. My teacher allowed me to actually teach! And you could truly see a connection from Ms. W to her students; something that I hope to have someday in my own classroom. Everyone was so sweet that they even signed a card for me. I will miss getting to go to the Columbia early Monday mornings.

On Friday, I had my last class. (Yayyyy!) Later on Friday, I finally found out where I will be living for University Housing next year. For those who missed the previous post, I am currently a RPM (Resident Peer Minister) in Regina Hall (the first year hall) on the all-girls floor. I have completely loved my job every step of the way. IMG_0174I love getting to work with first-year students and hopefully, provide them with the support and guidance they need. Next year, I will be going on year three living in Regina Hall, and I will be just down the hall from where I currently live now. I am going to be a RA (resident assistant), and I am so excited for the staff for next year and to work with them all. I feel especially proud because two of my residents are now RPMs. To make it even better, Susie, one of my residents that I consider a friend, is literally taking my current job and room. Could not be prouder of her! (Susie and I are presented in the picture.)

On Saturday, I had a chill day prepping for finals week and working on papers. Not all that fun, but necessary.

IMG_0194On Sunday, I convinced my boyfriend to join me downtown for some exploring of the sites. We went to the Field Museum and got to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, which was great. I love history and being a history major can somewhat suck sometimes because going to museums normally means that I already know most of the information… But it was amazing getting to see pieces from the burial site.

Sunday evening, I attended the last service for this year at SXU. With a focus on finals we had “Blessing of the Brains,” which is just a blessing for everyone before going into finals.

I wanted to end my post by saying thank you to everyone in my life…

I want to thank Campus Ministry for not just giving me a job but also giving me a place of faith, service, and meaning. One person who I could always come to within Campus Ministry to talk about service and life was Meg Laville. She will be doing long-term service next year and will truly be missed by anyone who knows her.

I also want to thank my residents. They’ve shown me the true beauty of being excited and fresh to school. My residents who have a hunger for adventure and trying new things remind me of when I was in their place. Their ability to create a new community and relationships is to be admired. Thank you to all my residents who made my job so great to have!

FullSizeRender (24)Thank you to Brittany who somehow is still my friend after this crazy year… I know that you are a great friend and that I can always depend on you. Also want to give a shout out to the only other middle school education major that I spend my whole day, Ana. Thanks for dealing with my over controlling organized self in all our classes. And especially thanks for driving to get tacos. Love the tacos!

Jon, thanks for dealing with my crazy self. Thanks for feeding me! (Just kidding… kinda.)IMG_0210

And thank you to my lovely family For the calls to being supportive, sending pictures, keeping me somewhat up to date, and just unconditional love. Can’t wait to be home this summer, even though I will be missing SXU and Chicago!

I want to thank SXU itself as a whole for creating a community that I could have never had imagined so many opportunities and such a great place to call home. I can’t wait to be back in August. See you in August, SXU!

The Canvas is Blank

Art has been a very important part of my life growing up. But I never saw it as a viable career path since, to be frank, I was not very good at it. It was only during my last two years in high school that I was able to fully appreciate the craft as it pertains to me and bring myself to the level of which I am now. Now, it is my second year at Saint Xavier, and I am fully engaged in my path toward becoming an art teacher. As an artist and an appreciator of art, museums and art galleries are a welcome change of sight from the normal pace of school here at Saint Xavier. This week, I had a fantastic opportunity to see both. On Thursday, my Digital Imagery class went to the Art Institute of Chicago. There we went and saw many pieces of wonderful and intriguing art pieces. My favorites include, “Festival in Montmartre” by Gino Severini, “Terracotta Decorative Panel” by Louis H. Sullivan and “The Banquet” by Rene Magritte. Here are the three pieces:
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This wasn’t the first time I went to the Art Institute. In fact, I’ve been there about six times and each time I’ve learned something new. But like my art professor said, museums are where art made by dead people hangs; galleries are where art made by living people hangs. You can only learn so much by looking. Sometimes you have to ask and listen.

On Saturday, there was the Senior Art Seminar gallery opening. There were dozens of people who came to the SXU campus gallery to see the hard work of the seniors in the Art Department. A lot of my friends were there and it was nice to see their progress and what the future for myself entailed. One of my friends displayed a beautifully constructed miniature house with a film projected on it displaying his pet insects and arthropods. Another student displayed dozens of black-and-white photographs of locations across Chicago in which a person was murdered. It was hauntingly beautiful — the serenity of the photos – while knowing full well that someone had lost their life there. It really broadens my understanding of the media and the depth of an artist’s concept.

For this week, I’d like to discuss the importance of exploring the field in which we pursue. I often hear people entering careers as a result of their parent’s urging. It’s a problem we all might face. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a parent having high expectations for their children. In fact, I would encourage it as it shows that anything less is unacceptable, at least for me. But there needs to be a restraint on that notion. Students need to be able to fully examine their own path and horizons if they are to be happy with the career they seek. Leave no stone unturned on your path and be sure to never regret it. This path we seek is ours, not our teachers or our parents. It is ours of which our lives will revolve around. The canvas is there; we just need to think of what to paint.