March 4, 2014 by Skyler Paltell
I’m sitting behind the information desk at the Wren Building, one of the last students on campus as I prepare to head home tomorrow for Spring Break. Three prospective students were here a few minutes ago, and they asked me a question I hadn’t heard in a while—what made me choose William & Mary?
It’s something that has been on my mind often as I approach the end of my third year of college. For me, it was a gut feeling, mostly—one that is difficult to quantify. On tours, I make up an answer—I say it was the campus, the people, the small size, and all of these things are not wrong. But how to I quantify to a group of strangers that it was a combination of all these factors and something more, a sense that I belonged here, that I had been here before? In terms of higher education, William & Mary was The One, there was no other—I had other options, sure, but I felt like I was supposed to be here, it was serendipitous, and I was not wrong. Here, I have been challenged in ways I could not have anticipated, I have met inspiring and brilliant people I feel lucky to call my friends, I have walked in the same footprints as the greats who have come before me—Thomas Jefferson, Glen Close, Robert Gates. I am a small part of a vast legacy.
It was a feeling for me, subjective, ephemeral, but real all the same. It is the same look I see in the eyes of brides as they prepare to walk down the aisle of the Wren Chapel, the same happiness that radiates from friends who have just accepted offers from their dream jobs. It’s a certainty, a readiness for the next chapter.
I’m looking for the same feeling now as I prepare my resume for summer job searches, and later, my career search. I only wish that making these decisions was as easy as choosing William & Mary—how will I know what I’m supposed to do with my life? How will I know with whom, and where, I’m supposed to spend it? It’s a sobering realization—that I will leave, and others will take my place here, as I will find my own in the world beyond Williamsburg.
I think that I’ll know what I’m supposed to do, some day, but I remind myself that I still have some time. I have another year here, with the friends and the people I love best, and then perhaps I’ll spend a gap year working on a llama farm (or something.) I have time, and when I know where I’m heading after this, I’ll just know, the same way I knew I was meant to be here.
January 31, 2014 by Skyler Paltell
I walked in to Wawa last week with the intention of buying a coffee, and left instead with a coffee and a quarter life crisis. For the second time that week, the cashier was decidedly unimpressed when he asked what I was majoring in and I informed him I was studying English and Studio Art.
This hasn’t just happened at Wawa—it has happened at the Trader Joe’s in New Town, at parties, with the tourists I interact with at work. It would appear that a major in the humanities is an invitation for criticism, inspiring such comments as “What are you going to do with that?” and, “Are you going to be a teacher?” Never mind that I wrote sixty pages worth of papers last semester and created a six foot tall landscape drawing—I am deemed less impressive because my talents aren’t quite as desirable in the job market.
W&M is a liberal arts college, and thank goodness for that—here, there are just as many anthropology and philosophy majors as there are pre-med students. Here, it is not frowned upon to specialize in creative fields and the soft sciences, despite society’s disdain for non-STEM fields. Within the college bubble, I feel equally qualified for employment as any computer science major.
I have no doubt that the market is harder for humanities majors—it is an unforgiving work force, one where qualitative talents are overlooked in favor of quantitative skills. Even with a prestigious, $200,000 dollar degree, I can be sure to look forward to a competitive job market and a significant chance of unemployment. Despite the fact that I have worked hard, we have all worked hard, for those of us graduating with liberal arts majors, the market will be all the more uncertain.
Despite these difficulties, however, I do not regret my choice to pursue my passion. I struggle with math and science, I positively hate numbers—I will write you a haiku in 30 seconds flat, but give me a math problem and I am rendered incoherent. There is so much pressure to major in a financially stable field, one with a guaranteed paycheck, but for those of us without those skills, that option is simply nonexistent. I could no more major in computer science than I could climb Mount Everest in a swimsuit, because my brain simply is not circuited for numbers. Tell me to draw a pear—sure, I’ll draw you a pear, and it will be a good pear—my skills lie in the creative realm, and that does not make me any less intelligent than a math major.
This is why universities like William & Mary are essential, because for those of us with skills in the humanities, liberal arts colleges provide a supportive environment to explore our passions. A W&M economics major once told me, “we need to incentive the arts”—and it’s true. In a world with no English majors, no art minors, no sociology students, there would be no beauty and no novelty. Humanities majors, despite the stigma we face, are just as instrumental to society as STEM majors—our journey is just a little bit harder.
January 6, 2014 by Skyler Paltell
I almost fell off the sofa this morning when I checked my email and discovered a reminder to file for graduation.
How did I become a second semester junior so quickly? And how am I receiving this cruel reminder that I only have three semesters left? And most importantly, why am I receiving this notice when I still have three semesters left?
I’m twenty years old. I still like to watch SpongeBob on weekend mornings and eat ice cream out of the carton; I read Seventeen Magazine and my socks never match. I am in no way ready, or even close to being ready, to become a fully functioning, independent member of society. I’m positive that if I graduated right now, my inexperience at life would render me a menace to society.
The email was a reminder that college is merely another phase of life, the last phase of relative freedom, a transient experience that you’ll one day reflect on as the best days of your life. There will be life after William & Mary, though I can’t imagine it at all and have no idea what I’ll be doing with myself. I know that some day, eventually, I’ll have an apartment instead of a dorm; I’ll (hopefully) have a job, and have to deal with things like health insurance (what?) and pay my own bills. But these realities always seemed like a distant hypothetical, something far on the other side of four years of fun and friends and academics. Up until 11:06 this morning, my biggest concern was whether to buy the blue or the pink shirt from Victoria’s Secret. Now I’m realizing that I should probably be editing my resume and applying for summer internships instead. Hello, adulthood.
I know I’m not alone—I’m sure everyone who received the email this morning is having an identity crisis. The only people who are not panicking, I’m sure, are the parents—my parents were celebrating this winter break when they realized they only had to pay two more tuition bills. I wish I had something reassuring to say, but I’m as lost as the rest of us. I only know that each of us is innately driven, intelligent, and tenacious, and by the time graduation rolls around, our four years here will have prepared us, on some level, for what is beyond. The rest of it—our futures—is up to us.
December 10, 2013 by Skyler Paltell
Finals– two syllables that strike fear into the hearts of every TWAMP on campus, sending us running straight into the arms of Swem, or to Wawa to grab 24oz coffees. Those two weeks at the end of the semester when the campus shuts down, the College Delly goes quiet, and the Sunken Garden is empty, are some of the hardest and most trying weeks of the semester, but fear not, you’ll make it through finals intact and just in time for Winter Break.
For freshmen: This is your first round of finals at W&M, and you’ll probably want to go all out and partake in all of our crazy traditions, like trying to sleep in the library and pull consecutive all-nighters. Don’t do it. While finals are important, and you’ll want to do well, no grade is worth sacrificing your heath and well-being for. Don’t forget to take study breaks, laugh with friends, peruse Buzzfeed, and eat dinner. Domino’s delivers pizza to Swem, and they also take Flex, so there really isn’t a good reason to forget to eat. And remember, regardless of what your grades may ultimately be—it’s just one class, in one semester, in your first year of college. There will be many more chances to redeem a grade you weren’t happy with, and if you did well, don’t forget to celebrate! Go home, watch Netflix, and enjoy the holidays with your family as you prepare for next semester.
For upperclassmen: We’ll survive this finals period the same way we’ve survived the last two, four, or six. We know the drill by now, we know exactly when the therapy dogs will be on campus and we know to avoid Swem in favor of less crowded study venues. We have perfected the perfect balance of studying and procrastinating, maximizing our Facebook stalking and minimizing our sleep. We’ve been here before, we know finals aren’t fun, but we also know we’ll get through it more or less in one piece.
You can do it, guys. Don’t forget to live, laugh, breathe, and see Taylor Reveley at Yule Log this coming Saturday. Happy finals, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
November 14, 2013 by Skyler Paltell
As I’m sitting here in Swem for the fifth night in a row, procrastinating on a paper I should have started yesterday, I’m thinking about how quickly this semester has gone—it has been, undoubtedly, the best semester I have had thus far.
Junior year, with graduation becoming now more of an imminent event rather than a vague possibility (providing I pass art history), has forced me to consider my growth as a person during the past five semesters. In the past week alone, I’ve pushed my comfort zone, met some amazing people, been to the Career Center, and conquered a fear. I’ve seen the leaves change from green to gold and then fall, gleaming, to the brick paths; I’ve engaged in leaf fights and stayed out till 2 am on a Monday.
The things I have done, the experiences I have had this week, this month, this semester alone, would have been unimaginable before my time here at the College.
Two years ago, I was shy. I had acne, slept with a pillow pet, and I doubted my abilities. I was afraid to look people in the eye for fear that they would instantly recognize my insecurity, and I realize I was not the “perfect” shell I projected. I lost sight of myself for a while, jumping between groups of friends and various clubs until I found the people who would help me realize my potential when I could not.
This semester, something changed, something clicked—a missing puzzle piece fell into place, and suddenly, I became the person that I had wanted to be, but was too afraid to find. This semester, I am myself—I say awkward things, I laugh loudly, I break rules, I eat copious amounts of tater tots. I’m not afraid to be nonsensical, to say the things that I mean, to relinquish the death grip on my GPA and have some fun.
I have found, unsurprisingly, that being yourself does not mean that your friends will desert you—instead, they will come to know you better, to appreciate you for who you are, to see your genuineness as a gift and know that when you speak, you speak from your heart. This semester, I have comforted friends on their bad days, and been comforted by people who I never expected would reach out to me; I have failed a test, and I have accidentally killed my pet fish.
It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to accept that you are not perfect, that you are young, you are human, and the world is infinitely beautiful and terrifying. It’s okay to be teased, and to tease others, and its okay to allow yourself to be vulnerable. By putting yourself out there, you are taking a chance—but the rewards are innumerable. It takes too much energy to wear a mask, to hold tightly to a persona that does not allow the world to see you for who and what you are.
You are wonderful. This place–this college–is wonderful. We are a school filled with brilliant, quirky, driven people—just be yourself, and let it rip. There are people waiting to embrace you with open arms.
October 28, 2013 by Skyler Paltell
As almost every William & Mary student and alum knows, this weekend marked Homecoming 2013, that long-awaited event each year in which alums old and new flock back to the tree-lined serenity of campus. This year’s Homecoming was a landmark event for two reasons: 1. It marked the first homecoming game the Tribe has won since I have been a student here, and 2. There were no hurricanes, establishing 2013 as the first year I have not evacuated campus in advance of a hurricane. Both are exciting distinctions.
Homecoming this year was especially meaningful to me, as for the first time I was able to see returning alumni that I knew and recognized from previous years. My sorority welcomed back dozens of alumnae with our Homecoming Brunch on Saturday, allowing me the opportunity to reconnect with the sisters who helped make my first year in Greek Life so memorable. I was also able to reconnect with Natalie Applegate, former campus celebrity and my tour guide mentor freshman year.
It’s amazing to me to see how my friends have grown in their respective time away from the College, how their careers have changed them and how they themselves have made such an impact on my own college experience. Homecoming is a reminder that no matter how far life takes you away from William & Mary, there is one weekend each October when it’s still there, waiting for the return of the thousands of faces who came before us, our ancestors who helped to create the grooves in the brick staircases, the carved initials on trees, and whose class years line the Senior Walk on Old Campus. They return as recent graduates, as families, as elderly couples who crossed the Crim Dell Bridge holding hands so many decades ago
I have only one more Homecoming to spend here as a student, but I anticipate many more to come—many more visits to the ‘Burg, at first in solidarity—then perhaps with a spouse in tow, and maybe, many years from now, as the parent of a William & Mary student. One Tribe, One Family—for now, forever—hark upon the gale.
April 26, 2013 by Skyler Paltell
It’s that time of the year again: the last week of classes, the final push before the warmth and relative freedom of summer. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, here are twenty-five ways you know it’s the end of the Spring Semester:
- You begin to feel a weird attachment to your dorm room, even though it’s dingy and in the Units and you’ve absolutely hated it all year.
- You’re sick—you have some sort of cold, sinus infection or other respiratory illness courtesy of the Williamsburg pollen.
- You feel extremely nostalgic about everything, like the last meeting for that club you didn’t like, or your final AMP Late Nite trivia.
- You have a detailed, color-coded Swem schedule that documents how much time, down to the minute, you’ll be spending in Swem during finals week. Also, you have your study schedule organized and taped to the ceiling above your bed.
- You’re out of Flex, and you’ve been out of Flex since the beginning of April.
- You have at least one group presentation to give this week, and you’re running around trying to figure out what you own that is “business casual” that does not need to be ironed.
- Your bank account has been decimated by eight months worth of Wawa runs, and you’re trying to figure out how to buy gifts for all of your graduating friends with the $1.60 that is currently in your wallet.
- Your room needs to be cleaned. Because it’s not a successful semester if you don’t have weird stains on your floor and ceiling.
- You spend most of your time daydreaming about your amazing summer plans, most of which include working forty hours a week, with the occasional trip to the beach and 1,400 pages of War and Peace to read before Fall Semester.
- You’re panicked about finals.
- You’re excited about Finals Fun Week at Swem, because the therapy dogs are coming back. Also, Ben and Jerry’s—always Ben and Jerry’s.
- You’re regretting that you still haven’t talked to that gorgeous guy/girl in your Religion class.
- You can eat three free meals a day with all of the free pizza, bagels, and snacks available at end-of-the-semester meetings.
- You’re realizing you owe at least four people money and you should probably pay them back before finals.
- You’ve gotten a dozen summer storage flyers in your CSU in the last week.
- Qdoba knows your order by heart, because you’ve eaten there at least once a week for the course of the entire semester.
- Professors start warning you they don’t want any “shenanigans” on the last day of classes, and you had better be coherent and in class or else.
- Your professors cancel your Friday classes because they know there is nothing they can do to prevent shenanigans and general anarchy.
- You realize you should not have duct-taped your poster to the wall back in September, because when you try to take it down, you peel off half the paint on your wall.
- Your hall bathroom was finally cleaned for the first time all semester.
- You’re having a quarter-life crisis, and generally questioning your decisions, your future, and why you didn’t go to the Career Center more during the past year.
- You’ve been looking forward to Last Day of Classes since the first day of the semester.
- Your senior friends have been eating a lot of wine and cheese recently.
- You’re trying to stretch your clean laundry to the end of the semester, but you’ve been wearing the same pair of pants for a week.
- You have a restrictive hold on your account from all of the printing charges you’ve accumulated, but have somehow managed to avoid paying because eServices won’t take Visa.
February 12, 2013 by Skyler Paltell
Several weeks ago I wrote about my desire to have fun and enjoy the college experience, but this post addresses another side to college life—homesickness. I used to think that homesickness was just for college freshmen, and indeed, when you search it on Google, most of the information refers to first year college students. But when I entered my sophomore year and was still hit – hard – with the occasional wave of homesickness, I figured I couldn’t be the only one.
I was not the typical college freshman in regards to homesickness; I wasn’t stricken with a longing for the familiar until late in the fall semester. My best friend from home was paralyzed by homesickness for the first few weeks of freshman year, but recovered quickly. I, however, did not miss Baltimore until early November, and unfortunately, I haven’t been able to fully shake that feeling since. Ultimately, my love for this school and for the opportunities here have overruled my homesickness, since I spent last summer in Williamsburg and I will do so again this summer. But every so often, I’m bowled over with a longing for home, which usually corresponds to stressful periods in the semester and in my life.
I’m exceedingly lucky that I can get home with relative ease on the train, as I did this past weekend. It’s midterms, the stress was getting to me, I wasn’t sleeping—I took a mental health weekend and returned to Baltimore to see my family. I revisited my high school haunts, the Starbucks on York Road, the sushi place in the center of town. There truly is nothing like the comfort of your own room and Mom’s cooking to make life seem more manageable—sometimes adulthood, even the quasi-adulthood of the college years, can become overwhelming. But then the weekend was over, and I returned to school, and here I am feeling homesick again.
I have to remind myself that my childhood is over, for better or worse—I have gained independence, though I have lost the feeling of comfort and security that home brings. I’m not ignorant—I know I have outgrown home, the shoe doesn’t fit anymore—friends have moved away, my high school is closed to me, my little sister will soon be leaving for college herself. Eventually, my childhood home will be sold, and the tenuous portal to my past will truly be shut. Baltimore is a dead end. My future is here, in Williamsburg, in my classes, my friends, my job. My life is here. And I love it; I really do, but only most of the time. Sometimes, I need to be a child again, if only for a weekend, a moment, a fleeting sense of security.
Life is uncertain, the future is uncertain. Uncertainty can be terrifying. Therein lies the root of homesickness—the fear of the unknown, and the longing for familiarity. I expect to feel homesick at times throughout the entirety of my college years, and perhaps beyond, for I recognize that I have been given a great home. And though the definition of home may be blurred now—is home here, or in Baltimore? which address do I use?—I cling to the memories of my family, my childhood, and my house with the cat and the shutters and the picket fence. Though life keeps moving forward, it’s okay, sometimes, to look back. Homesickness isn’t just for freshmen.
February 1, 2013 by Skyler Paltell
“That one may walk in beauty, discover the serenity of the quiet moment, and dispel the shadows.”
So goes the quote on the plaque by the Crim Dell Bridge. It is true that the beauty of this campus is striking, from the banks of the Crim Dell, to the hiking trails around Matoaka and the facades of Washington and Tyler Halls. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here for two years already. It can be so easy to get caught up in the menial responsibilities of work, studying, and extracurricular activities. College life, like anything, has the ability to become monotonous.
My parents’ new mantra in regards to my college experience is to “have more fun”. They tell me not to get so caught up in schoolwork and bad days, because college lasts only so long before it becomes a memory. I find, already, that this is becoming true. While I have been chasing grades and writing resumes, time has been quietly slipping through its sieve. And so, my resolution for this semester and this year is to have more fun (#yolo), stress less, and celebrate the last months of my adolescence and my last years as a student.
Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by life and underwhelmed by leisure, I begin by remembering why I chose this college over thousands of other American universities. The principle reason was beauty. From the elegance of the cypher to the tree lined paths around the Sunken Garden, William & Mary is undeniably beautiful—even more so in the spring and fall. Beauty also lies within the majority of the students here, as I was reminded today when I dropped my credit cards and health insurance somewhere along Ukrop Way. I had only just realized their absence when a student (whom I recognized from a government class last year) pointed them out and began picking them up. I chose William & Mary for its beauty; I chose William & Mary because I believed I would grow, learn, and love more here than at any other campus.
Now I just need to ensure I don’t waste these years living to get through the week. Fun is of the utmost importance. This semester, I resolve to get coffee on the Terrace instead of at Swem. I resolve to streak the Sunken Garden, I resolve to stay up late for no reason, I want to make questionable decisions on a regular basis. I want to fall in love. I’ve spent my life being responsible, in tedious pursuit of good grades and prestigious internships. I have never been grounded, and I have never had detention. Never once, with the exception of emotional outbursts, have I acted like the teenager that I technically am.
I’m not saying I want to go crazy, but I want to live my life for me—for my enjoyment—and not for the societal standards to which I feel obligated to conform. I don’t want to let the days go by. Hence, YOLO—you only live once. You’re only in college once. This semester, I want to live it.
January 17, 2013 by Skyler Paltell
Rain. No new semester is complete without three consecutive days of rain. Frankly, I’m ready for it to either snow A LOT or just get on with spring already, since after Christmas I go into my annual seasonal depression. The space between January and March is the longest, grayest, coldest time of year, and my skin is so white that the lightest makeup shade at Walgreens is too dark. This is the time of year when I start enviously googling beaches and Facebook stalking my friends who go to college in Hawaii.
So in order to distract myself from the monsoon occurring outside my window, I’m going to remember that it is in fact the spring semester, and that means several things:
- Valentines Day: Personally, I look forward to this holiday because after the actual day is over, all of the chocolate at the Sexchange goes on sale, so I buy it all for myself and eat it alone in my room crying. Just kidding, usually I buy it and share it with a friend while we cry and watch the Notebook for the 100th time. Of course, if you are in a committed relationship, you can look forward to chocolate, roses, and romantic dinners at the Caf.
- Campus golf: One of the twampiest and most popular traditions on campus. Everyone dresses in costume and plays “golf” as a team—i.e. people try to hit tennis balls into buckets with golf clubs. It’s great fun and practically guaranteed that some hapless passerby will get hit in the face with a tennis ball while crossing the Sunken Garden. Sadly, I missed out on this last year, so I fully plan to participate this year!
- Spring break: Beach vacations. That is all.
- Last Day of Classes: Sun, giant inflatables on the Sunken Garden, and general mayhem. Nothing gets done in class and free food is abundant; this day pretty much embodies the #YOLO philosophy. Definitely a favorite of every student on campus, definitely a nightmare for the administration.
- King and Queen’s Ball: If you thought prom ended in high school, you’re wrong. Basically the best formal dance to have ever occurred in your years as a student; everyone gets all formal, and ten dollars gets you admission, catered food, dancing, and President Reveley. King and Queen’s is unquestionably better than my senior prom, and significantly less awkward.
I think this pretty much covers it. Whenever I think about transferring to the University of Hawaii, reminding myself of the good things to come this semester helps me maintain my sanity. It can’t be cold forever.
And on that note, fingers crossed for snow tomorrow … let’s make this a four-day weekend!