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.

 

To the Cougars Who Need That Extra Push

Dear Student,

 
This is it. There are only about two more weeks left in the first semester and it sure can get hectic. You are making your last stretch to finish off the year on a high note. You are writing papers, studying into the morning hours and maybe even started drinking coffee. I am writing this to tell you to not slow down. The long nights and intense workload definitely isn’t fun but for what a college degree is worth in this world, it is something worth fighting for.

 

A college degree can open countless doors for you in the real world and could very well establish your future. Think about it; you made it to college. Not just a college, but a prestigious University. You worked pretty damn hard and made huge sacrifices to get here and giving up now would just tarnish everything that you have ever worked for.

 

I have noticed that some students, particularly fellow freshmen, second guessing their skills as a student. To those questioning their future, asking “What’s the point?”, it is quite simple. You are here for a reason. For my fellow Cougars who feel like they are struggling, just know that SXU saw something special in you when they accepted you. They saw potential. They saw you as not just a well-rounded student but somebody that can survive and thrive under pressure and become successful when it’s all said and done. They are giving you an opportunity to show everybody and yourself what you are capable of. Just last week, one of my professors told my class that she was proud of us. She said that some people don’t make it this far and for her to see us in the position that we are in really made her happy.

 

If you are questioning your future, I am personally telling you that you can do it. You should be proud of everything you have accomplished! If you have hit some rough spots in your college life, just know that it happens to everyone and you are not alone. You can never be successful without making mistakes. Trust me, it is all part of the plan. Take advantage of the tools here at school. The professors are always willing to help and you can go anywhere for assistance. Remember there is nothing wrong with getting some much needed help. Remember why you are here. I know you can do it. Take a deep breath, relax and have faith. You’ll be surprised of what you can accomplish if you give it 110%. This is your opportunity to make your mark and finish strong. Take full advantage of your chance to better yourself here at SXU. After all, “You don’t get another chance. Life is no Nintendo Game.” -Eminem

 

Believing in you,
Nicholas Vazquez

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.

Celebrating ‘Friendsgiving’

The holiday season is less than a week away and I feel as though no one is as excited as I am for it. Everyone has their own holiday traditions that they have with their friends and family. A few traditions that my family does for Thanksgiving is say grace before we eat. Christmas, we celebrate at my house which I love because all the leftovers are at my house, including all the homemade desserts, such as cake, pie, cannoli and even brownies. Food is the best part of the holidays with the family.

 

A Thanksgiving tradition my friends and I have is that we have “Friendsgiving.”
“Friendsgiving” is when you and a bunch of friends bring food, pot luck style, then just celebrate being together. What I love most about celebrating “Friendsgiving” is that everybody wants to be there — not because their parents forced them to come to the party. Everyone gives small gifts with a lot of thought behind them, and each gift usually has a small background of an inside joke that nobody but that friend can understand.

 

In all, the holidays have a few things in common that everyone can agree on which is spending time with loved ones, laughter and reminiscing about the memories made over the year. The winter holiday season is full of exciting feelings that are hard to be explained. The best way I could explain it is that it’s a celebration of loved ones. The coldest time of the year becomes the warmest time for people’s hearts.

Are You Thankful?

For us students here at SXU, we all have our feet on the gas pedal as we continue to stay focused in our classes. The final weeks of the 2016 school year are just upon us. For many students, including myself, many of our classes have some form of a final grade. It could be a test or even a paper. However, despite the amount of work and effort needed to finish the year off strong, I feel confident in my abilities to be successful this year and finish off the semester on a high note. As Thanksgiving approaches for all of us, it seems fitting to talk about the things that I am thankful for and how I was able to come this far in my life.

 

One of the most important things that I am thankful for is my family. Growing up, I was blessed to have a family that loved me enough to give me everything that they didn’t get as children. They made many sacrifices for me and my younger brothers and are still doing so today. They put a roof over our heads, food on our plates, and lots of love and support in everything that we do. One of the biggest sacrifices that my parents made for my brothers and I was putting us through a private high school and college education. Private education, as everyone knows, is not cheap. However, they felt as if the money would give us all a better opportunity to be taught by the best and be one step ahead in our lives. Not only has it prepared us to do just that, but I enjoy the environment and atmosphere of it all, especially in high school. I attended Saint Rita of Cascia in Chicago, and the memories I made there will last a lifetime. If it wasn’t for the sacrifices that my family had made, I honestly do not think I would be as successful or even as happy as I am today.

 

Along with my family, I can also never forget about the friends I have made throughout my life, especially within the past four years. High school allowed me to meet many new people and have numerous experiences that I will never forget. Going to an all-male high school was a blessing in disguise and the brotherhood that came along with it is something that cannot be replaced. For me, in addition to having a great family, it is also important to surround yourself with good people. Friends are a necessity in one’s life, and it is a good idea to always have people in your life who will be there for you. There have been many people in my life that have come and gone but the real friends that I have today are the ones that I still talk to and see today and they know who they are. With that said, I am thankful for them for riding with me throughout the years.

 

Lastly, I am thankful for the SXU experience. Coming from an all-male high school to SXU was definitely a transition. I have encountered different religions, cultures and ways of life that I had never experienced up close. I have noticed a strong sense of unity here at SXU as well. This school views everyone as equal, no matter religion, color or gender. Their core values of respect, excellence, compassion, service, hospitality, integrity, diversity and learning for life are illustrated each and every day. SXU has allowed me to expand my mind and appreciate all that this world gives us. It has made me a more respectful and appreciative person, and with that, I am definitely thankful.

 

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks to the people or things in our lives, showing appreciation for everything we have. I am blessed with a family, a house, good friends, and a great university education. There are many people in the world who have none of these things, and as the holidays approach, it is important to be appreciative for all the things we have, big or small. I highly encourage you all to use Thanksgiving to say thank you to all the people in your life that have had an impact in making you the person that you are today, even if you are no longer in touch with them. I promise you that that simple thank you will go a long way.

When It’s Cold Out

As if a hurricane was barring down on the quiet quad and the empty sidewalks, a raging torrent of wind blows through the empty campus. This week, we have finally experienced the beginnings of winter. While it has yet to snow here at Saint Xavier, the signs are obvious. People bundled up from head to toe wobble to class. Leaves are nearing the end of their time as they shrivel and fall. The once lush green grass has now begun to turn hay color, and the trees loom overhead as spooky skeletons of wood.

 

With temperatures in the 20s and 30s, there’s not much in the way of outdoorsy fun for your average college student. Ask around, and they’ll more often than not remark something along the lines of, “Go outside? You’re crazy?” Around this time of year, the school is a far cry from its usual bustling self. Picnics and leisurely walks along the picturesque campus are replaced with a quiet serenity with the howl of the wind. The shortening of the day has reduced. Gathering a large crowd for an outing can be a chore in itself, let alone in the height of a freezing November. And it is even harder when it involves freezing college students. If you’re planning an event at night, forget about it. A good o’ scoff will be the best you’d get if your event was unfortunately scheduled during a cold, windy late fall night. Nevertheless, the murmured shouting and cheering of a building in excitable energy staved off the cold night when Saint Xavier’s F.I.E.R.C.E. Anime Club was able to pull it with its semi-annual gaming tournament Friday night.

 

Each semester, the club, collaborating with the gaming clubs of Saint Xavier, hosts a night of nothing but video games. Games, like Mario Cart, Nintendo Smash, Mortal Kombat, and others, take center stage as dozens of people, students, from Saint Xavier and from other schools as well as non-students come for a common interest. In the Andrew Conference Center, dozens of people from as far as DePaul and UIC came to join their friends and fellow gamers for a night away from the stresses of schoolwork and enjoy a little peace in the cold night. There is an almost strange peace during the tournament.

 

In a few weeks, finals will take place and many of us students will no longer be playing video games but scrambling to finish any remaining projects and study for our finals tests. So for us, to take some time to just chill and play with our friends without a care in the world is priceless.

 

Community is a very important part of life here at Saint Xavier, especially for the cliques that are not traditionally considered “cool.” Call us what you will — nerds, geeks, losers – we live as we want, loving our hobbies and interests without a care of what others may say. And it is this mentality of self-worth and acceptance that allows for such gatherings to succeed. There is a form of comradery among us gamers to be able to come together and make jokes and references to things that only we know while the “normies” gawk in confusion. And while the rest of the residents are huddled in their dorms away from the cold, we were having a blast competing with each other in friendly and sometimes heated rivals but always in good fun. And when the event was over, fun was had, friendships were formed, and a rejuvenation left in its wake. Only now an anticipation of next semester’s game tournament lies in my heart. For when it’s cold out, there’s always a place to stay warm. But it’s always better with company.

Election Views from SXU

This year’s election, from start to finish, has been unlike any other election that we have ever seen. It was comical, odd and serious all at the same time. It was definitely the first time in a long time that schools and universities have paid so much attention to an election. Now, I’m not here to preach about my political views. I’m not here to push an agenda or reject another. I’m here to simply talk about the madness that was the 2016 Presidential Election and how it effected Saint Xavier.

 

There were many candidates at the beginning of this presidential campaign, however, only two became their party’s nominees and would lead the way to the most talked about presidential campaign in history — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. These two were as opposite as opposite can get. If one candidate supported a certain belief, the other believed the exact opposite. If one candidate talked trash, the other would retaliate with the same amount of smack talk. It was almost like watching two little kids fight. They both pointed their fingers at each other, both made some bold claims and even called each other names. It even got to the point where the two participated in a war of words over Twitter. TWITTER. However, despite all the games and antics that kept it so entertaining, the two candidates also brought some negativity within the country. America has become horrifically divided, and with that division came anger and sometimes violence. It has been all over the news and supporters for both candidates engaged in some pretty ugly behavior. Social media even became a hostile environment to talk about politics. Many immature Americans were exposed this year due to their childish behavior, and it really did sadden me to see the country I love look so divided. It seemed that everywhere I went, and every social media platform I went on, hostility from both sides followed. I did, however, catch a break when I went to school.

 

To be quite honest, I was extremely impressed with the way Saint Xavier handled this year’s election. The professors did a great job of not showing any bias toward a certain candidate. Even if the election were brought up in a class unrelated to politics, the professors would allow both sides to be heard. The student body was also very mature about the election. No ugly words were ever used between students, and if a debate began, it would be done so in the most civil way possible. I happened to catch a debate between two students in the diner and the way they carried themselves could not have been more civil. Both students were respectful of each other’s opinions, let each other talk and never engaged in hostile behavior. It just goes to show that even in a time where everybody is so divided, respect can be found in the smallest of places.

 

Of course, citizens will always have different opinions, it is inevitable. However, debating the right way is what is most important. Being calm, respectful and civil with one another are all important factors when debating over things such as politics, and so far, Saint Xavier has impressed me with the level of maturity throughout this election, through the faculty and staff and the student body. There are many other universities in the country who have failed to follow SXU’s example and they have become hostile environments for students. I hope, within these next few years, that the country and its people can learn how to get along with each other. Because after all, united we will stand, but divided we will fall.

Give ‘Hamilton’ a Shot

I have recently been completely obsessed with the Broadway musical “Hamilton” for the past week. I knew about the play but never gave it much thought, now I can’t stop thinking about it. The music had put me in such a great mood that it made me want to research more about not only the plays’ roots and influences but the history of the nation. It has gotten to the point where my roommates don’t know what to do with me anymore. As I am writing this blog post, I am listening to the album. I belt the show tunes in the shower, on my way to class, folding laundry, crafting. I have yet to even see the play!

 

It all started when I read an article online about Lin-Manuel Miranda who had created an album remixing all the songs in the hit show with popular artists (and a late-night talk show host) such as Usher, SIA, Queen Latifah, Chance the Rapper and Jimmy Fallon, to name a few. The single “It’s Quiet Uptown” performed by Kelly Clarkson was available to listen to. I heard the song and immediately loved it!. The lyrics were just too simple yet clever. I had wondered what the original Broadway song sounded like so I listened to it as well. The original song was great! After playing these versions 100 times, I decided I should most likely listen to the rest of the album. Best decision I ever made! The music score has heavy influences of Broadway mixed with R&B and hip hop. The songs had themes that pertained to social issues of today as well as discussing the history of our founding father Alexander Hamilton.

 

I highly recommend listening to this Broadway musical. “Hamilton” has received such great reviews and won so many awards and for good reason. It is influential, and this play’s popularity came at the perfect time considering the whole election season has ended. If you are sparked by curiosity to look up the history of our founding father to know what his life was life, he is in fact our nation’s first security who created the national bank.

 

I hope you are convinced to give it a listen to or even research more about the history of our nation; it’s very interesting. With that, I sign off.
- Amber

More than a Moment of Silence

Veterans hold a special and honored place in our society – and in most other societies. In our wars, regardless of their moral rightfulness or justification, these men and women have laid down their lives for the hallowed promise that the sacred homeland knows not the miasma of war and death. It is a tradition here at Saint Xavier to honor our veteran students with not just a moment of silence but by sitting down and listening to their stories. It is always a tragic day when the last veteran of a war passes away for with them goes any lasting insight into our past, for a people that forgets their history are lost and wayward. These men and women are remembered by the student body and the school itself as exemplars of those that strive for and commit one’s life to the endeavour of compassion and service. The aforementioned virtues are two of our core values of which this University holds its students responsible for. This vigor, the desire to serve with compassion is what defines and dictates what and how we conduct ourselves.

I come from a family with a long martial history with veterans on both sides of my family. There is a long irony in my family in relation to my own homeland, the United States. There is a strange back-and-forth service with and against the United States in my family. My paternal great-grandfather served in the Japanese navy as a fleet captain during the World War I on the side of the Entente, including the U.S. My paternal grandfather served in the Japanese army from 1937-1945 rising to the rank of major before his surrender at the conclusion of the Battle of Okinawa. On my mother’s side, my maternal grandfather fought against the French in Vietnam. Later during the Vietnam War, my father would serve as an Vietnamese interpreter and military police officer allied with the United States being the first of our family to step foot in the United States. And currently, many of my cousins and in-laws have served in the military of Vietnam. In my family, there is a sacred obligation passed down our family line to defend one’s homeland. Perhaps one day I will have to fulfill that most sacred of obligations. But I hope that such a fate doesn’t befall this country to bring about that obligation’s fulfillment. And perhaps it is this history of my family that has me hold a reverence for Veterans Day.

Like I said, the true tragedy of time is the losing of individual history. My father told me enough stories to fill 10 books which I shall pass on. My grandfather had a journal giving insight into the other side of the World War II, rarely if ever explored. He would constantly reiterate to his men as they fought for their country on the battlefields of the Pacific against the Americans certain values he held. In his last speech to his men before their surrender, he said, “We are human as much as they. We are a part of something grander than ourselves. We are loyal soldiers. But we are not unthinking fodder. We are men. They trust us to make the right decisions. And this is my decision.”

These values he held of compassion for his men that he would brand himself a coward in the eyes of his society to save the lives of his men are what every veteran that has served their country with honor holds, not just in the U.S. but every nation, love for one’s countryman. It is something that we’d be fools to forsake. It should not be the case that so many of our fellow citizens cast aside that value in the face of this uncertainty. In the fires of recent events in our country’s history, people have forgotten about what really matters – compassion and understanding. In these days in which division and rhetoric are used to hurt and lessen people, we need to come together and put our words into actions. If one dislikes the rhetoric of someone, instead of trying to snuff out their opinions and their right to speak, one should fulfill their own principles. In honor of those that served, we should not attempt to stifle the rights and liberties that so many before have given their lives in the defense of. So beyond a simple moment of silence, take the time to thank a veteran for their service. It doesn’t take much to give a little courtesy to those that chose to fight for us. It is more than just a moment of silence.

Top 3 Paranormal Locations I Want To Visit

There are many people in the world, such as myself, who have grown to love and enjoy horror movies. There is something about a chainsaw maniac, a machete-wielding madman or a man in a hockey mask that has me hooked. The rush of adrenaline, the “what happens next” feeling and jump-scare anticipation is somewhat addicting. Although there have been many horror movies that have brought chills to my spine, none have ever made me more paranoid about life than paranormal movies. The more realistic the movie, the more frightening it feels. Movies like “The Exorcist,” “The Haunting in Connecticut” and “The Amityville Horror” were all, supposedly, based off “true events.” Coming from an extremely religious family, I was told that these paranormal experiences are definitely possible and that there are certain locations in the world, specifically the United States, that are home to locations crawling with paranormal activity. Although some people might reject the idea of an afterlife, it is still interesting to hear about the experiences of others. With that said, here are my top three paranormal locations that I would love to visit (with some friends, of course):

Waverly Hills Sanatorium- Louisville, Kentucky

Deemed the most active paranormal location in the world, Waverly Hills Sanatorium opened its doors in 1926. Now, around this point in time, tuberculosis was a contagious and incurable disease. This hospital was supposed to be the most advanced medical facility to treat those with tuberculosis. Though some survived, many perished here as well. It is estimated that at least 160 people died here but not only due to tuberculosis. Many of these patients were used as test subjects for new experiments to try and fight the sickness. They went through hellish treatments, such as exposure to UV lights, removal of muscles and ribs, surgically implanted balloons in the lungs in for breathing purposes. A majority of these test subjects died during these experiments. All deceased bodies were sent down “The Chute”, a tunnel from the hospital leading to railroad tracks nearby. Because these bodies were never properly buried, it is said that their souls and spirits are still not at rest. By World War II, new medicines were created to treat tuberculosis, and in 1961, it closed its doors. However, it reopened a year later as a mental health facility. Throughout the years, the hospital saw numerous suicides occur by patients due to barbaric treatment of the doctors. It officially closed in 1982.

Gettysburg Battlefield- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

In one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, this battle took place for three whole days, from July 1-3, 1863. General Robert E. Lee felt confident that, because of his victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, he would have the edge and momentum in Gettysburg. However, it was a costly battle for both the Confederates and the Union. It is estimated that around 50,000 Americans lost their lives here in this open field. I would love to visit this location because of its historical value to the United States and because of its supposed astounding paranormal activity. Many people claim to still hear distant cannon shots and drums in the night. People have also claimed to see apparitions of soldiers with their bayonets and backpacks.

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery- Midlothian, Illinois

If you asked anybody from the South Side of Chicago where the most haunted place in the area is, they will tell you Bachelor’s Grove. The history of this place has many different stories. Opened in the mid 1800’s, this average-sized cemetery started off as your basic burial place for the deceased. However, over the years, it turned into a dumping ground for bodies for the Italian and Irish mafias. In the 1960’s, after it became abandoned, tombstones were smashed, spray painted and vandalized. The forest also grew in after years without landscaping and maintenance. Bodies are no longer buried here, and it has been like that for quite some time. However, that still does not stop people from coming to visit. This cemetery is home to many visitors, such as tourists, paranormal investigators and Satanic cults. These cults still practice in this cemetery to this day and can be validated through the remains of supposed animal sacrifices that are found deep in the forest of the cemetery. People who claim to have seen the cemetery’s paranormal activity witness almost the same things; ominous white and red glowing orbs, apparitions, a barn (reappearing and disappearing) and even old phantom cars from the early 1900s. Of course, not everybody has these experiences but I think it would be interesting to have seen some of these things with my own eyes.