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.

Senior Art Show

This week marked a very important occasion for the Art Department at Saint Xavier of which I am a part of. This Saturday, April 23, was the second half of the senior art show of which the artists of the Senior Seminar course showed to their instructors as well as their families and friends all of which they have achieved this year as well as what they have done since they begun their education at Saint Xavier. There were beautiful traditional drawings, informative and beautifully designed information posters, digital design and more. The reason why I enjoy these shows and why I encourage all students and anyone really to check them out is because of what they represent. These pieces are the products of nearly half a decade of work here at Saint Xavier. It shows what the school has to offer in the old field of fine arts. While SXU is known for its nursing program and its business program, the institution has a thriving and strong Art Department that I am lucky to be a part of. Below will be some examples of the art shown in this half of the art show. What I want to discuss in this blog is the significance of this show and the SXU Art Department as a whole for us art majors. The reason I am writing about this is because of the thoughts that have begun flowing in my own mind of what it will be like for me in Senior Seminar in two years.

20160423_171330_HDR20160423_17134320160423_17140020160423_17140520160423_17142920160423_17143920160423_171334

The Art Department at SXU is small. The entire department is located within a simple protestant church down the road from campus. Due to its small size, both location and faculty-wise, there is a much more casual and close relation between students and teachers. Most of us who are in the department are on a first name basis with our professors, cracking jokes and snarky comments unheard of in other departments. As a result, we realize that a professor does not have to be the distant and hard-to-approach mentor we once thought but a human being that like us who shares the same hopes and aspirations and fears we do. There is no need to be afraid to talk to them, but we are them and they are us. Education is not a one-way transference of information. It’s a collaboration, a sharing of knowledge to better ourselves. That is a major reason why I feel that I made the right choice. I’m sure other universities have similar going ons at their art departments but I feel that with our small size, there is more room for connections that could not be possible if anywhere else. There’s a lot on my plate but seeing some of my close friends succeed in this endeavor has given me some steel to push on steadfast.

Bread, A Service Introspection

At Saint Xavier, there is a required general education course that all undergraduates must take in order to graduate, community-based learning. Some high schools may also have this as part of their requirements. CBL, as it is more colloquially called, is an aspect of a class that involves the participation and appreciation of service in the lesson plan for the course. Service, it is, in my opinion, the core value of SXU. We hear it all the time — service, community service, volunteer service. All of this wordplay, but what does it actually mean? This week, I participated in an SXU service opportunity that occurs every Monday and Thursday afternoons, Bread Truck. In it, we went to several locations in the neighborhood, including an area known as Back of the Yards that has a predominantly Latino, many newly arrived immigrants, and black population with much of the populace at or below the poverty line. For those students that may not have experienced the level of poverty that those living in the area endure, it may be a shock, an eye-opener of one salient facet of Chicago. But for those of us, including myself,that indeed experienced the level of poverty they currently experienced, it was a reminder of painful memories and an ever constant thought in the back of our heads, the feeling of true hunger. It is a human right, I believe, that all people should be fed, never to go hungry. Millions around the world and here at home suffer that terrible pain. It is services like the Port Ministries Bread Truck that bring light to this issue and attempt to elevate it. That is what I wish to discuss in this week’s introspection, service.

We, as citizens of this nation have the opportunity and duty to our fellow citizens, the downdraught and destitute. I often hear the word privilege used in a manner, especially today, that is jarring and divisive. I, myself, do not like the word. Instead, I find opportunity a better fit. It allows us, with our financial and social standing, to achieve things to a degree that those that cannot are able to. When you think hard and long on this issue, a thought comes to mind. Would I want someone to do the same? I’m pretty sure we’d all want someone to help us get back on our feet. All of us would want not to go hungry. When you look into the eyes of these people, you see a part of yourself in them. When you drive through Chicago and see these people asking for money from car to car or out front of the Art Institute, it’s easy to ignore them and hope they don’t ask you. But once you hand them a paper bag with food, when you see them beam as they humbly accept the meal, you can no longer ignore them and it is hard. But this is life. WE all have a duty to our fellow man. This is what Saint Xavier University desires in its students, and it is something we all should strive for, service.

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:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
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.

Easter Introspection

There comes a time in a person’s life that they have to interact with people not of their own, whether it’s faith, gender, race or economic standing. Here in America, with an incredible richness in cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, it is a virtual inevitability. Now I am not saying it will be an easy step. It can be hard to do so, especially for those that have lived in a homogenous environment. But conversing and sharing with an array of people can be a rewarding challenge for those that wish to face it. Depending on who we are and how we grew up, our actions toward one another can either be negative or positive in their impact. To be able to understand the fundamental differences in people and share culture and traditions and find common ground are salient points of discussion that students face on a daily basis here and in the wider world. Unlike certain areas in our society that attempt to limit this interaction or force it to the point of condescension, here Saint Xavier has found an amiable balance of diversity and uniqueness. This is the topic of this week’s introspection, interconnection between people of different backgrounds, specifically of the religious variety, and Saint Xavier’s role in assuring a place of understanding and mutual learning.

One of Saint Xavier’s core values is diversity. It is a value that the students share, the professors endorse and the school cherishes. It knows the limits it has and does not force it where it is not needed and advocates for us students to work to maintain it when we leave. Here, people of all faiths and racial and economic standings, come together with a common goal — to pursue a college education. There are interfaith discussion groups in the dormitories and school-sponsored events in which panels of writers, thinkers and activists discuss the connect of faith and race in our lives. While being a private catholic institution, Saint Xavier does not force the Catholic doctrine upon its students beyond the general guide of mercy found in all faiths and non-faith pursuits. It realizes that such a practice does not work to its goal of understanding and embracing diversity. As someone with no religious faith, I find this school very open; perhaps even more open to diversity than public institutions I have attended in the past. That says a lot of what this school stands for and the openness it has for all its students. It shouldn’t be surprising though; it’s simply the smart thing to do. Now it comes down to the interaction between people of faith that I wish to think over that goes beyond Saint Xavier.

In today’s world, we are seeing just another wave of violence and destruction brought upon innocents by zealots and fundamentalists. As of today, over 60 people were killed in Pakistan by a Taliban attack on Easter, and only several days prior, Brussels was attacked by men aiming to bring about destruction and chaos. There is a fundamental problem in the world and that is dividing people. It so happens that this divide is along the lines of faith and religion. These terrorists abroad and bigots here at home share a disturbing commonality when it comes to their feelings toward people of other faiths. It can be confusing and upsetting for many of us that do not understand how such hate can come about. Are we all not human? Do we not share the same land, drink the same water and see the same sky? Then why is this so? Like the saying goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke was right. It is up to people to do something. There is a war ongoing in the world, the war for the soul of a generation, the soul of Islam, the soul of Christianity. For all of us, religious and nonreligious, we must look within ourselves and realize that even though we may each share a different view of the world and how it should work, we all can agree that what is happening is not the answer and that if we can chat and be friends with people of different races and backgrounds, then why not with religion too?interfaithdialogue

An Uncertain Future

This week has been a long and busy time. With lots of homework and surprise midterms, on my account, thrown into the mix, it’s been exhausting. About a week ago, I received word via email of the increasingly suspect status of the MAP grant due to the political gridlock in Springfield. This has been going on for the past few months – these emails. They were mostly the same when it came to updates on the MAP grant, the situation down in Springfield, what Saint Xavier’s been doing to help out and what we as students can do. It’s amusing sometimes how often the school reminds us of their efforts toward correcting this problem that they themselves have no total control over the bureaucrats down in Springfield. It shows that they are aware of their students’ concern. I appreciate it. I know the school is trying its best. If I thought otherwise, I’d be more inclined to a negative view. They’re doing all they can, I believe. If they didn’t, they’d be saying goodbye to a third of its students and much of its core value of diversity with low-income students, like myself, being forced to drop out due to a lack of funds. With a significant percentage of schools that students can’t afford to attend, it becomes a big problem. I don’t want to see that happen here. I care too much about this school and the community it has created to see it happen. Despite this notion, at least, Saint Xavier University is faring better than other schools in the state. Realizing this, I feel concerned for my friends that are going to other schools. I wonder how they’re dealing with this crisis.

I know they are doing all they can to keep this school up and running. But this email that was sent to us on the MAP grant and how we’ll have to look for alternative options was a setback for myself and I know for a lot of students in my situation. From what I’ve heard from other students in my position, we’ll have to come up with the money, around $4,750 for myself. For myself, I was able to find an acceptable alternative by taking out a loan which will be replaced with the MAP grant if it comes back. How am I going to pay that back in that time period? And why should I? Why am I and other students of low-income families being forced to pay for a grant affirmed to us by the state? I know the school’s reasoning for the push. They can’t run this school if there’s no revenue. They have done all they’ve can and more to continue to fight for us and work with us to find an amicable end to this situation. However, for the state, I have no such reservations. The state’s shooting itself in the foot by putting the burden of paying the shadow left behind by the grant upon the backs of the most financially vulnerable. If we qualified for the MAP grant due to our low-income status, how does it make sense for that student to pay what is unpayable?

I am not confident in the measures that are being taken by the state and find them misguided. I don’t blame the school. I blame the incompetence in the state legislature to affirm the basic rights of its citizens to education. I blame them for not setting aside their differences and realizing that by removing a huge percentage of its student population, low-income and poor, from acquiring the skills to work in-demand jobs, the state will suffer in the long term. For us students, we need to become more active in this process. The legislative process does not, or at least should not work in a vacuum. There was a rally of students a few weeks ago to lobby for the MAP grant, although it was ultimately unsuccessful in encouraging the state to pass the MAP grant, Saint Xavier and other schools showed their commitment to their promise of education. We need to do the same and advocate for ourselves, too. I really want to remain here at Saint Xavier. My friends are here, my dream of becoming a teacher is here. But with these circumstances, the future is uncertain. But I know Saint Xavier is there for us, and we need to be there for ourselves.

Introspection: Time Passes

There’s something wonderful about the sound of wind. It makes me think. When a window’s open, there’s a feeling of the ocean waves, the reassuring feel of sound in the silence of the morning, the promise of time’s passing. The reason why I am saying this is because of this week’s introspection, time, more specifically, the passing of time. With Spring Break only a week away, I found it to be the perfect time to write about this. I can, at least, give my humble perspective in this matter that so affects us all in a society in which time truly is money. We often make the mistake that time will wait for us or that we’ll be able to catch up to it. But it doesn’t; we can’t. Time waits for no one, right? It keeps going. That’s an issue that we, as college students, deal with all the time. I bring this up because this week has been a hectic one. Taking eighteen credit hours can be a challenge, especially when you have work alongside it as well as hobbies and clubs. It’s frustrating and draining to deal with it every day. Balancing time to fulfill our academic needs with our social ones is something that we often times take as a one of another type of instance. We either have neglected our studies to be with those we care about. Or the inverse, we abandon our time with friends to keep up with our academics. I too suffer from this blight, seeing as six demanding classes plus work and my position as secretary of a club are always on my lap.

There is no need to remove yourself from your social life. Studying and working are only effective if you can maintain a balance. If you’re suffering from writer’s block, take it easy, chat with friends, don’t think about the writing. For me, doing that let’s the motivation return and makes writing easier after a nice break. Time is everything. You have to think about what matters more? Does this report that needs to be turned in tomorrow more important than you being there for your friend that just broke up with their significant other? I can’t say what is more salient because, like everything, context matters. Nuances in our lives alter our perspective to the point that absolutes absolutely don’t work anymore. But, there is a single true our there that I am confident in.

Time passes; it’s what happens during that time that matters. In one hour I could finish writing a paper. In that same hour, I could have call my mother and father, told them of my day and that I was fine and inquire of theirs. It’s all about priorities. They’re old. Their time is near its end and I can either wait for its passing or scramble frantically to take in as much of it as I can before it’s gone. It’s a hard thing to swallow, knowing that one day they’ll be gone and I will be left with only the ticking of a clock telling me the world’s moved on while I stand there. But what is to be done? Can I really continue on? Time’s going to pass and we can either lament and wallow on what we could have done or will do or we can just do it. I tend to try to do the latter.

Introduction and First Introspection

Before I get into what I want to talk about, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Chris Thach. I am, as of the 2015-2016 school year, a sophomore here at Saint Xavier University. I am an Art Secondary Education major and a resident student. My hobbies include: writing stories, playing video games, drawing and painting, fishkeeping, gardening, and remembering. I’ll get into detail on that last one in a little bit. Throughout my time on this blog, I will share my thoughts on topics that I would find relevant to students and young people and introspection onto aspects of my own life that others may find meaningful as well as various events and current news on things pertaining to the university, the world and myself. Now onto my first introspection on this blog.

I’d like to think I have it all planned out, at least when it comes to the outcome of my time here. Sometimes, I wish I would never leave and have my friends and I just chatting away in the diner until the end of time. But I know that cannot happen. Time never stops for anyone. In my limited time here, I expect a few things of myself and of the school. I have expectations to complete my education here and receive my teaching licensure and begin teaching art at the high school level or work somewhere in my field, the fine arts. However, life takes twists and turns and it would be naive of me to think everything will go as I wish it. My parents are old, as old as some of your grandparents. In fact it is safe to say that I was literally born in the wrong generation. They may be gone tomorrow or next week; I don’t know and that reality is taxing on a person. Time is an elusive fox that continues to evade me. It cannot be helped. But, what I can do is give myself a wide berth in case life throws a maelstrom against me. It’s not a matter of if they’ll occur but what can I do in response. What that entails is engraved into me from memories and whispers of a dead song that only I remember.

Memories are a hard thing to analyze. Was what I was remembering actually what happened? Or was it just me ciphering the least damaging bits? I don’t open up to people. I do, but like everyone else, you don’t tell everyone what you’re thinking. I simply laugh and tell him he’s being a, well you know, and needs to stop worrying. But the truth is there are things I just won’t talk about, even with family. There are moments in our lives that we take to our graves or, at least, do not discuss with people we will actually have to meet at least semi-frequently. It’s not a matter of trust or love but rather a protection. Humans have engrained in our brains a self-preservation mindset, the flight or fight instinct. For myself, my memories and thoughts that I refuse to share with familiars are not something overtly dangerous like situations of bodily harm or even mental trauma, in fact, they are universally pretty pleasant. Tiny moments of picking up a worm that wondered onto the washed out sidewalk and tossing him back into the grass or drinking that artificial cherry drink while father takes a leak at the edge of the biking trail. Those tiny moments, islands of timeless stability in the raging tempest of time are what I keep to myself. I do it because they are mine. They are lyrics to a dead song that only I remember. The genes we inherited were from our parents, our chances of illness are inherent. And those memories are ours alone. Our memories, how few and blank they may be are ours. So there no wonder we all keep a few to ourselves. That is why I like sitting alone and just remembering. We don’t have much and so the world keeps on spitting out lyrics for us to grab but be careful not to let go of your old ones because they were yours.
— Chris Thach