Evening Serenade

Evening Serenade

Last week, I was sitting on the back steps of Tucker waiting for a ride to dinner with a friend, and enjoying the lull in campus activity that happens in the early evening as I waited. It was a little before 5:30. My reverie was interrupted by the loud blast of bagpipe horns coming from somewhere alarmingly close to me. I looked over to my right, and a young man (a student, I assume) was strolling over the grass between Tucker and Wren, playing his bagpipe absurdly loud without another care in the world.
Sometimes this school can be pretty weird, but it is always wonderful.

No Sleep Til Brooklyn

45 upperclassmen must have cheered this
at me during Opening Convocation, but it took a while for the concept
of no parental supervision to take root in my head.  You are the master
of your own fate in college, and the way you regulate your time
determines the results you yield (academically, socially, etc.).  I’d
say most W&M students achieve a pretty healthy balance between work
and play. There are some times, e.g. during mid-term or final exams,
when the work can outweigh the play. So every once in a while, I like
to tip the balance the other way.
The week after midterms, my
friend Sam had tickets to see The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As
dutiful W&M students, we thought it proper to make a pilgrimate to
see the show, and walk the hallowed ground of a W&M alum who made
it big.  Sam, Carrie, and I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and got on
the road out of Williamsburg by 6 am.   One McDonald’s pit stop,
several CDs, and 6 and 1/2 hours later, we were squeezing through the
Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan!  Carrie’s Kentucky license plate alerted
the impatient city drivers around us to the presence of out-of-towners,
and we eventually made it to a parking garage, only having been flicked
off about 14 times. We then spent another half hour tracking down a
tiny crack-in-the-wall restaurant called “Burrito Box,” which Sam had
sworn she’d seen somewhere in the scores of blocks we’d cruised
looking for parking.  Full from our authentic city meal, we strolled to
a public library to use the bathroom, where we were accosted in line by
a curious and possibly intoxicated local who wanted to know where we
were from.  We then left the public library.
After waiting in line at the corner of 11th and 52nd for 2.5ish
hours to guarantee our spots in the audience, we were ushered out of
the frigid NYC air and into The Daily Show studio. It was much smaller
than we’d imagined, and we waited eagerly until Jon Stewart (also much
smaller than we’d imagined) came out for a Q&A with the audience!
Carrie, Sam, and I were too shy to ask him a question, but we enjoyed
hearing him roast any audience member brave enough to try until the
beginning of the actual live show. The show itself (which featured
special guest John Meacham, editor of Newsweek) only took about
45 minutes to tape, and then we were out into the cold NYC night air.
We let Sam (who, being from D.C., is a much more gutsy city driver)
take us up to midtown to see another alum, a friend who works at the
U.S. Attorney’s Office. He gave us some cookies and cans of raspberry
soda to sustain us for the rest of the drive, and regretfully, we said
goodbye and started our drive out of New York City.
A lot of students from more metropolitan areas wonder if they’ll
be able to handle 4 years in the City of Williamsburg, better known for
its colonial charm than fast-paced nightlife.  I’ve found that
Williamsburg’s atmosphere makes it easier to focus on studies and
friends, and in turn, makes adventures into big cities more thrilling
when they happen.  Driving windows-down with friends through Times
Square, hundreds of miles from home, on a school night, was an
experience I’m not likely to forget soon.
We even sort of made it back in time for class the next day.

A Validating Chance Encounter

Every notable tragic hero has a tragic flaw.  Achilles had
that problematic heel.  Mine is a deathly love of maraschino cherries, and though I consider myself neither tragic nor a hero, it may be my undoing.
Or so I thought.
Once I found out that the SC dining hall had a side table
of dessert toppings for the frozen yogurt machine, I started bypassing
the ice cream itself to fill up little bowls with the beloved tiny, juicy red gems.  (That last bit was a metaphor for maraschino cherries, if you got lost for a second.)  Over this past summer in Williamsburg, I would get occasional cravings and pick them up
from a nearby grocery store, but they weren’t the same as those in the SC; namely, I completely lost the thrill of packing them into a cup and praying not to be seen by anyone I know.
What’s the point of this post, you ask? Maraschino cherries are a readily available product. One can find them in many places. So what is the conflict?
My unfortunate addiction has made me somewhat of a mockery to my friends. Any time I eat a meal on campus with someone who knows of my problem, s/he will say, “Oh aren’t you forgetting a bowl of maraschino cherries, Kelley?” or
“Hey Kelley, that’s a really healthy snack you have there,”  or
“Kelley, you’re disgusting.”
It doesn’t help that my only other W&M friend who shared this passion is now in the Peace Corps. While I admire her dedication to giving back to the community, it doesn’t help my cause that my only sympathizer is thousands of miles away in Tanzania.  After her departure, I thought I was doomed to live life as a social outcast. 
But lo! today in the SC, I walked casually by the toppings table to scope out the maraschino cherry situation (yes, there is a technique to it)  when I saw a girl shoveling them hurriedly into a styrofoam cup. I recognized the “please-don’t-let-anyone-see-this” look on her face, and accosted her with great joy–here she was, a living vindication for anyone who has ever taunted me for occasionally enjoying a snack almost entirely composted of sickeningly sweet, bright red sugar. 
We made eye contact and I said, “I thought I was
the only one.”  She said, “Me too.”  A match made in heaven.
Who knows if I will see her again. If our obsession continues, chances are I will run into her again one day, probably at the Student Health Center.  W&M is full of quirky people, and random moments of connection abound in this community.

'I Just Have a Lot of Feelings'

It’s three in the afternoon on the last day of work–the calm before the storm.
The last day has been surprisingly tame (excepting the 3-minute
group rendition of “Proud to be an American” in the basement hallway,
which was cut down in its prime by Dean Livingston’s announcement that
she could hear the noise in her office on the next floor up). Come
5:00, I’ll wash out the crusty oatmeal bowls that have been
accumulating in my office, wrap up the internship that has
exponentially increased my love of the College, and start the work on
It has been strange to see heightened levels of activity on campus
lately. The college is stirring again; people are arriving back in
town, formerly unlit windows in dorms brighten up at night. It makes me
a little sad. For a summer, rather than the frantically active place it
usually is, the College was a hallowed nook, an empty playground–we
had the place to ourselves. As senior year begins, relinquishing this
sense of total ownership will be difficult. Once everyone comes back,
the madness starts, and once the madness starts, senior year begins.
And after senior year–?
Working in the Admissions Office has been a glorious job, minus one
thing. In the lobby, it’s tough to overhear snatches of conversations
in which the dearest place in the world to you–where you’ve developed
as a person and a scholar for four years– is reduced to a commodity, a
few statistics and a price tag. I guess that’s the game we signed up to
play as the college process gets increasingly more competitive, but it
is heart-breaking to hear prospective students and their parents
completely ignoring the soul and the intangibles of William and Mary
sometimes. The thing I’ve enjoyed the most about giving tours is that I
am able to possess and to be the College, at least for an
hour (usually more like 1.5 because of my freakish verbosity), to make
sure people hear the whole story.
That idea of possession, and losing it once I graduate and move
away, has been on my mind a lot lately. I loved high school, but rarely
visit anymore. The place just doesn’t feel like mine. I ate lunch on a
bench by the Blair statue yesterday and wondered if a day would ever
come when I felt that way about William and Mary. It was a beautiful
day and the spot was so peaceful, and I sat there getting emotional and
just hoping it never happens that I have a chance to come back and pass
it up.
That’s enough of me waxing philosophical. For anyone who might’ve
scrolled down to the end to see when the hell this blog would stop,
here are some closing words. To any prospectives: make sure you talk to
students wherever you visit and don’t just go by the numbers when you
look for a college. You’re missing the most important part if you do.
To W&M alums: come back and visit. I firmly believe that you own a
piece of the school once you’ve been here, and don’t let years or
distance diminish your sense of ownership.

Above and Beyond

Just last week, I finished my last paper of junior year.
‘How is this possible?’ you might wonder. ‘You are less than three weeks away from the start of your senior year!’ 
Be that as it may, I stand by my initial statement. As bad as it
might make me sound, it is at least a testament to a wonderful and
compassionate professor–one of many I’ve had at W&M.
At the end of the spring semester during finals, the hard drive of
my computer finally sagged under the great weight of all the collegiate
papers and knowledge I’ve put on it (read: iTunes music and pictures).
I was mid-way through final papers for two upper-level English courses,
in addition to having more finals later in the week and some personal
stuff going on at home, so I was really overwhelmed.  I went to my
professor (who will remain nameless to protect her identity) and told
her my situation, and after she asked how I was handling the stress and
told me to take care of myself, she gave me an extension. She has
remained patient with me over the course of the summer as I’ve kept
writing the paper in baby installments (I thought I’d have it finished
by June–ha), checking on me via email to see how everything’s going.
My library book is overdue but the paper is finally complete, just in
time for the fall semester. I’m taking my senior seminar with this
professor, so I’ve finished my final essay just in time to start
writing more papers for her in a few weeks. (I’m sure she’s thrilled to hear that, too.)
As college has progressed, I’ve become more comfortable with putting
myself out there in class and getting to know professors. Even before
you realize it’s totally worth it to make the effort, though,
W&M faculty members are determined to make sure you’re not a
faceless name to them. My first lecture class of college, many moons
ago, it seems, was an intro Geology class with about 120 students. I
walked in on the first day with my roommate, terrified of the lecture
hall and all the “big kids” around me. My professor quickly dispelled
my fear of the lecture hall by coming around and shaking all of our
hands. As creepy as this might sound, she then took out her camera and
requested to take everyone’s picture holding a sheet of paper with
his/her name written on it. I left class amused, wondering what she
planned to do with the pictures. When I came back 2 days later for the
next lecture, she had all of our names memorized. That kind of
memorization is a feat I can barely accomplish for a graded Art History
exam, but my professor did it to make us feel at home.
W&M professors are always going above and beyond the call of duty.

Choose Your Own Adventure

When I’m asked what I love about W&M, a thousand disconnected
moments and experiences rush into my head. It’s impossible to translate
this influx of emotion into a logical response to that query. I
generally end up babbling about a thousand things I love; that babbling
generally includes summaries of experiences I’ve had across the
spectrum of my time at the College that summarize W&M’s
personality.  One such event is the Audio Adventure.
One night my sophomore year, I got a Facebook invitation to an event
put on by a performance art-esque group called The Collective, in which
a few of my friends were involved. This event, the “Audio Adventure,”
advertised an mp3 track on Facebook and directions to download it but
NOT LISTEN to any of the file until 10 pm on a random Wednesday night.
Intrigued, I borrowed a friend’s iPod and decided to try it out. On
that night, I pressed play at 10 pm (and, unbeknownst to me, along with
about 50 other students across campus) and was led on an hour-long
adventure around campus (based on the audio instructions on the mp3
file, which were also set to pump-up dance music), choosing a team to
run around with based on location, and finishing the night with a dance
party battle in the Sunken Gardens.
I left the Audio Adventure exhausted but thrilled, having made a
bunch of new random friends and having been impressed, once again, by
the lengths W&M students will go to to come up with things to do.
I talked to a friend in the Collective and helped with Audio
Adventure 2. This one was longer, required more audio recording and
about a month of planning, and adopted an unofficial “Legends of the
Hidden Temple” theme. I was the team leader of the Purple Parrots with
my friend Bryan; we ran around campus sprinting from site to site,
acting out events and watching the participants complete challenges.
By the time Audio Adventure 3 rolled around, the event had gained in
popularity. Over 250 people registered for the Facebook event and
participated. The energy and vibe were INCREDIBLE. The third adventure
included a video component, a mission control base, a rescue of a
victim, fake bomb defusion, and of course, dancing.
Audio Adventure, to me, captures the essence of W&M–spontaneous
creativity and a spirit of fun exude from the event as they do from the
campus community.

A Wrinkle in Time

Colonial people are people too.
I learned that the hard way one evening as I walked down Richmond
Road in an ankle-length pink gown, my breathing constricted by some
primitive, white, bosom-binding undergarment and my feet already ready
to explode from an equally-confining pair of buckled shoes.
The stares I got were epic. Even in Williamsburg, where colonial
reenactors are a dime a dozen and can be seen frequenting places from
WaWa to bowling alleys, people love to stare at colonial people. I
guess walking anachronisms just don’t grow old here. (See picture right–my friend Leigh and I before the shoot, with typical 1800-era
 I’m not even a regular. One of my friends worked for the Productions
office of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and I got lucky enough
to be an extra in a movie on the election of 1800. This is not an event
of which I had an extensive knowledge, but once I was informed that the
scene would culminate in an effigy-burning of John Adams, I was sold.
(Anytime you’re offered a chance to burn something in effigy, do it.)
I was outfitted from head to toe in colonial fashion, instructed to
act like a member of the hoity-toity Williamsburg gentry, and then
released to have fun with it. I probably won’t even make it into the
scene, but the hours of shouting colonial absurdities were certainly
worth it for the novelty.
Effigy Before Fire:

Effigy Mid-Burn:



Posted: 04 Jun 2008

have a problem with nostalgia, and am struck by attacks of nostalgia
more frequently than most. My only thought for the day is a walk down
memory lane to my very first night of college.
On the first night of orientation, a lot of kids from my dorm
(Taliaferro) went outside to play frisbee in the Sunken Gardens around
midnight. Due to my apparent inability to throw a frisbee without
injuring someone closeby, I soon sat out to watch the game and cheer. I
looked up, and the sky above the Sunken Gardens was strewn with the
widest, most unobstructed expanse of stars I’d seen in a long time. As
I sat there, a shooting star rocketed across the sky. As unbelievable
as it might sound, I had never seen a shooting star before my first
night at college, and I knew it was a sign that I was in the right
I ran up to my roommate on the field and pointed up. “DID YOU SEE
THAT?! A SHOOTING STAR!”  Then some guy I had never met walked up next
to me and wheezed, “Actually, a meteor shower for tonight has been
predicted for months. That’s probably what you saw.”
In retrospect, I look back on this incident as a metaphor for my
experience at William and Mary–me looking at the world in awe and
wonderment, and other people explaining to me why I’m an idiot.
I’m being (mostly) facetious. It is also a reminder of the wonderful
function W&M serves for so many–allowing people to understand the
beauty of the world around them as fully as possible.
But seriously, that kid was a killjoy.

A Room With(out) a View

To anyone who reads this before their first full-time job: the real world of work isn’t as daunting as you might think.
8-5 is a pretty serious shift to work everyday, so my sleeping
habits have had to adjust (read: become increasingly geriatric), but
it’s not the hard-knock life I envisioned. Marc, Carrie, and Marques
are all really cool and were great companions for the first week. Tom,
Katie, and Greg join us today, and Sam is coming in at some point to
shadow a tour! I will litter this first blog with secret tidbits of
advice on the off chance that anyone ever reads it: if you ever call
the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at William and Mary, make sure
your question isn’t really crazy. We are working the phones all day
down in the dungeon, and we will record your absurd inquiry in a
notable place on our bulletin board. For example, the College’s
official colors are green and gold, but forgive my arrogance in
assuming that it is probably permissible just to consider them green
and yellow instead of special-ordering GOLD M&M’s for your son or
daughter’s high school graduation party. Words to live by.
Aside from answering phones, we’ve been filling out data entry cards
for prospective students. When I get weary of the repetition or scared
of carpal tunnel, I put in my iPod earphones and try to type to the
beat to give myself something to think about other than peoples’
personal information, or how the compression of the median nerve in my
wrist while I’m typing fits impeccably with Wikipedia’s list of carpal
tunnel causes. I recently re-watched the “Safety Training” episode of The Office
where they learn about the health concerns associated with office jobs,
so I have carpal tunnel on the brain. It does get a little drafty down
in the interviewer dungeon, so a light cardigan or a space heater is
advisable.  I also heard computers can explode so I usually keep a hard
hat and goggles under my seat. Real world, I am ready for any office
dangers you throw at me.

Serv-ice, ice, baby

Before I say anything else, I’ll just get it out of the way and
address the white elephant in the room–you’re welcome for the Vanilla
Ice pun. Oh what’s that? You want to steal if and use it everywhere you
go? You totally can, it’s completely fine with me. Don’t even worry
about giving me credit for it.
I was just reflecting about another neat feature of office jobs:
business lunches. I had never been to one of those before Thursday
afternoon. Then Drew Stelljes, in the Office of Student Volunteer
Services (OSVS from here on out), asked if any students with experience
in service at the College would come talk to potential candidates for
the job of assistant director…over a tasty free lunch at a
Williamsburg deli. O brave new world, that hath such sandwiches in it!
I’ll admit it: initially, the most appealing part of this offer was
the free lunch at a tasty Williamsburg deli.  Once I was there, though,
and engaged with friends and peers in a discussion of the spirit of
service at W&M, and how to continue to enlarge and enliven it, I
was enthused and motivated.
College, in my mind, is an inherently selfish endeavor; perhaps not
“selfish” in a negative sense, but certainly self-focused. You’re here
to be edified, to improve your mind, to expand your sense of what’s
possible, and to gain skills to help you become legitimately employed
later in life. What’s more is that, at a state school like William and
Mary, you are here partially on taxpayer dollars, and often on your
parents’ hard-earned savings (a reality that frequently gives me guilt
spasms).  I’ve seen so many friends at other schools have the time of
their lives in college without giving a thought to the world outside
their campus limits; they got all the community service they needed
through National Honor Society or Key Club in high school, and decided
to call it quits there. That works for some people.
William and Mary students, on the other hand, seem never to remove
the pack of civic engagement and are always looking for ways to
incorporate service into their learning experiences. I am consistently
blown away by the amount of time my friends and fellow students spend
doing service–how engrained it is into their lifestyles. I tutor at a
local school, help with occasional projects around the Williamsburg
area when volunteers are needed, and have gone on two W&M-sponsored
international service trips (one to Mexico and one to Bequia), but I
often feel like there is more that I could do when I look at how busy
my peers stay with sustaining and creating service opportunities. The
OSVS helps create programs to highlight the educational aspects of
service as well, with service learning programs and forums.
Another thing I’m particularly proud of is W&M alums’ records of
service once they leave this place. So many people leave this College
to work for non-profits, serve in the Peace Corps, do unpaid research
that benefits others, or invest themselves in countless other career
fields that aren’t, well, the best-paying, but they don’t care.  I’m
sure it’s an issue the Development Office stresses over, because maybe
the selflessness of this community is part of the reason why this
school’s alumni funds always seem a little low.