April 1, 2013 by Admission Ambassador
Though I may not be singing about them during a storm while dancing through curtains as the governess of seven children, here are a few of my favorite things:
- Finding a bobby pin. They are literally EVERYWHERE. Except when you’re out to dinner or in class or at the gym and those few hairs slip out. This is when you can never seem to find one. And then, there in the depths of your wallet or backpack, you find it. Kelley: 1, World: 0.
- An old ratty t-shirt. Everyone has one. That t-shirt that you’ve had since you were in braces sitting in ninth grade biology. You can hardly even see the writing on it anymore and you don’t have a clue how it doesn’t have a single hole in it. What a trooper. It’s been with you through homecomings, proms, regional track meets, mission trips, and still not a single patch needs sewing. Mine is an old W&M shirt I stole from my mama, who I think stole it from her brother back in the day. Talk about against all odds.
- Tacos. I don’t even know what to add to that. I get so happy when I know I’m going to a Mexican place for lunch or dinner, something that happens far more than my arteries would like. Honestly though, have you ever seen someone angry in a Mexican restaurant? But life is short, so I’ll eat the taco(s).
Sometimes it’s the little things in life we have to stop and remember. There are the obvious things like travel, and freshly cut grass and old friends that we all love, but I think it’s important to count the little victories we have every day. That way when your test didn’t go so well, or that 10% chance of rain actually happens, you can simply remember your favorite things, and then it won’t feel so bad.
April 1, 2013 by Laura Manzano
All my life I’ve been raised as part of a very Catholic family, in the best possible way. In today’s world, I suppose it’s hard for a lot of people to hear the word “Catholic” and make positive associations. But in retrospect, I can say with confidence that some of the best memories of my childhood came as a result of the faith I was raised around. I went to Catholic elementary and middle schools the years I was not home schooled, and it’s only in coming to college that I have found a community as supportive as the one I had when I was in 5th grade, during those formative years when happy songs about loving Jesus really got stuck in your head forever. In my relatively short life, I have seen my parents to be a prime example of all the good that living a life in a particular faith has to offer. They have raised me and my four siblings, I like to believe, in such a way that promotes the many positive aspects of our religious convictions – teaching us to be honest people, to treat others with the same love and generosity of family, and most importantly, I think, to be mindful and conscious of the world we live in and the people that live in it with us.
I guess it was a combination of those things (and a masochistic penchant for brutal physical activity before the sun rises) that drove my older brother Michael to join the military. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point for the same four years that hundreds of thousands of 18-22 year-old students attended “normal” college, where skipping class is totally a thing we can do, and weekends are spent drinking really bad beer from plastic cups at awkward parties like life was definitely meant to be. Almost a year after his West Point graduation, I was lucky enough to attend his graduation from Ranger School, as it conveniently coincided with this past spring break. Ranger School is one of the hardest there is – my family and I were virtually unable to communicate with my brother for 9 weeks, while he was out doing all those cool army things you see in commercials, just without sleep and food and, you know, toilet paper and stuff. Michael talked to us a lot about his experience – the good, the bad, the enlightening. He told me the second phase, in the mountains of Dahlonega, Georgia, was the hardest thing he’s ever done.
The next morning, on the pull-out sofa bed in the hotel, I had one of those existential life crises that always come at the worst times. I realized that I only really think about the men and women that serve in our military as frequently as I do because my brother is one of them. Because honestly, what reason would I ever have to otherwise? My daily life is almost completely unaffected by the war we’ve been a part of for practically half the time I’ve been alive. I’m not living in World War II era America, where things like sugar was rationed, tires and gas were often unavailable to operate cars, and women even gave up stockings and leggings. (Could you imagine? A life without leggings?!) But that’s what life was then – it was a matter of accepted sacrifice, and it was all accepted in the name of patriotism, for the good of others.
During my weekly 4:00 AM crisis, I often find myself thinking of the super constricting and inclusive bubble I’m in here at “normal” college. The life I’m living right now is for me. Everything I’m studying, every email I’m sending, every move I’m making is for my own personal gain: for my career, for the family I hope to have, for wherever I hope to live, for my future. It’s paralyzing and frustrating, coming to the realization that so many people like my brother make sacrifices and live the unique lives they do because they are living not for themselves, but for others, just as my parents stressed to me throughout my life, by both their teaching and their example.
My perspective on the Catholic faith in which I was raised has changed a bit since coming to college, as perspectives on so many other things tend to do upon entering a new phase in one’s life, filled with new people and new experiences. But I think one aspect of my religious beliefs that has remained the same, if not strengthened by my talks with my brother, is the notion of sacrifice. I made the decision to give up alcohol this lenten season, and it’s definitely been a tough one. Hanging out with the friends on the weekends generally leads to at least one polite refusal and certainly a short explanation. The whole concept behind giving up something for lent is a symbolic gesture – deriving from the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent suffering in the desert, likely without modern comforts like toilet paper and cocktails after a stressful week of tests and papers. I suppose my religious ties to this sacrificial tradition served as my initial catalyst, but if I’m being completely honest, my real motivation comes from people like my brother and people like my parents – people who sacrifice something every day, people who compromise their lives without a second thought. Because in the three years I’ve been in college, I’ve never really had to live that way, even a little bit, and that kind of makes me feel selfish, and that kind of makes me feel angry.
I suppose in giving up alcohol, I’m not really benefiting anyone other than myself. So in reality, maybe this process is actually achieving the opposite of what I had intended to do. But there’s a part of me, after these forty days have come and gone, that still believes that the act of simply “living without” helps to gain yet another new perspective. It has certainly helped me to see past the insular lifestyle I’m a part of now – the world that is greater and bigger than just myself and my classes and my own future. Obviously, it’s no one’s fault in particular – that’s just the way college is. But who’s to say that’s all it has to be? I’m definitely not trying to preach here, or say “hey everyone, you should be more like me,” because goodness, if everyone on this earth were like me, there’d be no way sports could exist, and government leaders would make significant decisions based on how happy or sad they were that day. But in making such a simple sacrifice, a part of me has changed in a way I definitely didn’t expect – the kind of change that I’d argue is just as important to one’s college experience as drinking those bad beers at those awkward parties. Maybe even a little bit more important. But only a little bit.
March 19, 2013 by Admission Ambassador
There are many intangible things in life that bring happiness: a pull-through parking spot, your favorite song coming on the radio, and finding money in random places. Similarly, for me there are three really simple objects in life that somehow just make me ridiculously happy (so if you need some happiness I suggest investing in any of the following)!!!
- Balloons: Ever since I was an itsy bitsy I have LOVED BALLOONS. There are so many colors and so many sizes, plus don’t even get me started on balloon animals or balloon hats!! In addition, seriously who couldn’t entertain themselves (or small children) for at least three hours with balloons, they are the perfect distraction no matter the circumstance!
- Bubble wrap: Yes, it keeps fragile items safe while shipping, but did you know that bubble wrap is also AMAZINGLY ENTERTAINING!? Competitions to pop as many bubbles as fast as possible are always good for multiple laughs. Plus, bubble wrap is a GREAT stress reliever! If you’re frustrated and need to decrease your frustration just pop some bubble wrap!
- Play-doh: Just like balloons, the colors are what make play-doh wonderful! You can also mold and shape it in so many different ways to make so many different things. Do you want to make a venomous snake or try to get fancy and make a giraffe—your mind is the only thing that limits you with play-doh! Just give me some play-doh and ill be entertained for hours upon hours!
SO there they are! Three things to play with that will definitely make you smile. And yes, you may now think that I am an eight-year-old child—and honestly I would not disagree with the statement at all. COME ON… wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we were all eight-year-old children at heart?
February 19, 2013 by Madelyn Smith
One of my favorite songs goes, “There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears…”
I often wonder what the future holds, but feel liberated by the fact that I will never know. Like great theorists and intellectuals who have come before me I can postulate about the state of the world years from now and hope that I will be accurate in my attempts to explain the future, but in actuality the best I can do is guess. Through discussing and hypothesizing our thoughts about the future, I believe that we can take preventative measures sooner rather than later to understand the human species and our place in this world. These ideas are no use in the time capsule of my own computer, so I will share them with you.
By 2063 we will have an advance understanding of medicine with a cure for cancer, AIDS and HIV. Cloning, blood analysis and other accomplishments will have been made in this world, however the ramifications of modern medicine will be great, potentially creating diseases that cannot be cured. The primary health concerns will be carpal tunnel, arthritis, vision problems and hearing defects as a result of the many hours behind a computer typing away and staring at a screen and listening to music at high volume.
Violence will take new shape. States will not be invested in war the same way that we are today, because in 2063 human capital will be of little value to war. The crux of war will be man-made machines such as drones that will be so advanced that they will require little operational skill or ability. The tactic of self-sacrifice through suicide bombing or plane-crashing will be archaic and the spread of lethal diseases and chemical will be our greatest fears. Terrorism will be more advanced and networked in many areas all over the world. By 2063 North Korea will have tried to detonate a bomb on the United States, but failed in their attempts to blow up the country. As a result of this catastrophe the international community will understand the severity of nuclear weapons and will agree to thwart all nuclear programs. An international government will be established between countries where states are self-policing and mutually accountable to one another. The United States will not be the hegemon that it is today.
By 2063 we will have had our first woman president and potentially our first homosexual president. In fact, it is possible that democracy will be re-imagined entirely to be more accommodating of our 21st century needs. The term globalization will no longer exist because the world will be so inter-connected that there will be no need to explain this phenomena. English will still be the language of the world, but increasingly more people will speak Mandarin and Spanish.
Due to population control families will be limited to two children in developed countries. Alternative sources of energy will be discovered, likely in the form of a natural resource that currently exists but that has not been discovered for this purpose. To combat water issues someone will create a water filtration system that will allow individuals to rapidly purify salt water to utilize the 71% water on earth. This will not be sustainable, but will be necessary for survival. Further, someone will invent a filter system for the shower that allows you to only use 5-10 gallons per shower. The system will be replaced with new water once annually.
Education will not exist in the traditional sense, but will be primarily online using websites such as Coursera. Students will spend the majority of their time participating in online classrooms with students from all over the world, and then meeting periodically in person with students in their local area. It is possible that by the year 2063 students will have holograms of themselves that will sit around the table in a virtual room to share ideas and information with one another. Questions about ethics will arise as developers create brain chips that allow someone to access computer databases full of information simply by thinking about them. Peoples’ perception of themselves and their identity will not be tied to a specific country, but rather the people that they are surrounded by in their living communities.
I realize that this is a somewhat pessimistic view of the world and where will be 50 years from now. My hope is that despite these dramatic developments and advancements, humanity will unite to create a more peaceful world. That people will be more actively engaged citizens collaborating together to eradicate social issues and reduce divides across politics and opinions. Who knows, maybe we can create a world with no more tears, no more lies and no more fears.
December 28, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
If I had just one wish it would be this:
I wish I could sit down and have the most beautiful meal you have ever seen in a dining hall with a 3 year old Maddy, a 6 year old Maddy, 8 year old me, 12, year old Maddy, and so on until the present day Maddy. I would sit at the head of the table and ask myself questions about my thoughts on the world, on my passions, my life goals, my ambitions and dreams at each stage of my life. I would sit and look around the table seeing the effects of time and change. I would likely envy the innocence of my little self, and say a prayer over the middle school Maddy for all of her insecurities. I would celebrate my accomplishments of the years, and cry alongside of the younger versions of me for the different struggles that I am facing at each of these stages of life. I would listen to my stories intently focusing on the detail taking myself back to those moments in life that were so sweet. The future Maddy would be standing just on the other side of the door waiting her turn to enter, listening through the walls and waiting for the moment when she too can join the table. Occasionally she gets to peak into the room as the servers open and close the door. She has a flash back into the past for just a moment before the door closes again and she is back in the future moment.
I wonder if the little Maddy would be proud? Would she look at me and celebrate the person that I have become; would she want to be me when she grows up? Or would she look at me and think that I’ve disappointed her because I didn’t do all that I was capable of? Whenever I doubt what I’m doing or where I’m going I think back on whether or not she would be proud of the person that I have become. I hope that she would look on me in awe and wonder impressed by all that I have accomplished and curious to know how I got there.
Time is an interesting phenomenon that continues running forward despite how hard you try to stop it. Regardless of whether or not I want it to, May 2013 will come, I will graduate from William & Mary and my life will continue moving forward. So, my hope for you is that you embrace it. Appreciate the moment where you are, here and now and don’t wait for something to happen; create the moment yourself. If you want to take a risk, embrace it. If love is what you seek, chase it. If your heart calls you to serve, do it. If you are pushed out of your comfort zone, enjoy it. If you’re broken, fix it. I do believe that you write your part in the story you create, but the little girl in me secretly likes to believe in wishes. If wishes inspire dreams and dreams do come true – for this New Year, what would you wish?
December 5, 2012 by Drew Stelljes
Often saying grace gets wrapped up in the To Whom or For What and then many people abandon the activity. In my estimation it’s not about whom I am speaking with that’s important. It’s instead about hearing more than saying.
The funny thing about saying grace is that you actually do not need to say anything. The essence of grace is so uncomplicated: just your breath, moving a miraculous engine in a circular and repetitive motion.
It is when we are silent, that the sounds of life take over. What a gift it is to hear the sounds of our world. At first, we hear the sounds of the heater, the clicking of a pencil, the rattle of feet. We may hear the whisper of a cool breeze or the chatter of friends in the distance. We hear, always the rhythmic sound of our breath, and when in silence, the repetitive circular motion of inhaling and exhaling slows, our body less encumbered by the stress of our daily life. And then, we may begin to hear, again, after a long absence, the sounds of grace, of ordinary goodness, of gladness, of extraordinary appreciation that is indistinguishable from gratitude. This is grace.
This is a particularly tough time of year. Life is busy. People are expecting a lot. Deadlines invade our freedom to be our best selves. In this time of loud noises, I wish that each of our students will hear grace.
November 13, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
It dawned on me a few days ago the importance of sharing your love language. I was sitting in the middle of a crowded cafe watching old couples, young students, children and families interact. Conversation flowed easily for some, more forced for others, but together this sea of voices created a melody that served as soft background music to my lame attempts at studying. In a quick glance scanning the room, I was able to recognize multiple gestures of love; the way that he leaned in close to hear her Halloween story, the look the little boy gave his father as he reached to grab his hand, the giddy talk of the two girls sitting in the corner who sent laughter echoing throughout the café, and the romantic gaze between the couple who looked into one another’s eyes as they enjoyed a late afternoon coffee. As I carried away busily typing my paper and furiously scribbling notes from my textbook I looked up to catch the eye of an older gentleman sitting in the corner of the room. He politely smiled and turned back to his book. It was such a simple gesture, but so unexpected and genuine that I nearly got up out of my seat to thank him. Over the next ½ hour I watched people come and go from the café each of them passing by the old man, without a second glance. I can only imagine his story, all that he has experienced in his life, and it is likely that I will never know. But as I observed the hustle and bustle of the café I noticed something special about him. Periodically, he would stop, look up from his book, make eye contact with someone, smile the most genuine smile I have ever seen, and then turn back down to his book. He clearly understood the power of a smile. The language of love. Love language is something that we often overlook, but I think is truly necessary to share and to spread…
They say that there are five official love languages that drive our interactions with one another; words of affirmation, quality time, giving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Each individual has a love language they speak and receive, perpetuating positive feelings and encouraging love. Take a moment to stop and consider what language you speak. Kind words. Meaningful cards. Thoughtful presents. Endless time. A heartfelt hug. Volunteering to help. What ways do you like to receive? A pat on the back. Help completing a project. A warm plate of cookies. An ear to hear your woes. Someone telling you you’re good enough. What makes you smile?
I believe in the goodness of people. In a world where color means beauty and class is just a word. I believe in a world where love is a universal language that can be understood across seas and beyond boundaries. I believe that emotions are the common thread between us all, and love, or lack thereof, defines those feelings. In this world, you decide your part. You have the power to tear others apart or build people up with your words, actions and thoughts. What amazes me is why anyone would ever choose the former. Ultimately, there’s no way to “love right” the important thing is that you’re doing it; you are loving and living every day trying to share it; your love language.
September 25, 2012 by Melody Porter
Last week, I achieved a goal that has been nagging at my to-do list since I first saw a figure gliding down the James River last summer on a surf-board looking thing: I signed up for a Stand-Up Paddle lesson. After 150 short minutes on the water with a paddle in my hands and a board under my feet, I freely use the acronym, SUP, like I know what I’m doing. I also have seen and appreciated lots of parallels to how SUP relates to my life in general. Please allow me to share.
1) You’re going to fall off your board.
Well, if you’re the other four people in my group SUP lesson, you won’t. But if you’re me, you will fall in. Twice. I was the only kid in my ballet class to be denied pointe shoes when the time came, and those balance issues have followed me to present day. Thing is, if you like being in the water like I do, falling off isn’t so bad – you get to swim! And that stinky life jacket you’re wearing finally has a purpose.
Obvious metaphor here: we all bring our own difficulties and shortcomings to life, and sometimes may get derailed from what we had hoped or expected to do. But the fall can bring a shift, and a chance to show that you have the gumption to get up again. (Even if the instructor has to hang back with you and coach you through it.)
2) When you lose your balance, put your paddle in the water.
When I felt wobbly, I was tempted to use my paddle as a balance bar, as if I were up on the high wire in a sparkly unitard. The counter-intuitive thing about SUP is that putting your paddle in the water and pushing forward even before you fully have your balance helps you find your balance. Sort of like how you accelerate mid-curve while driving a windy road, to help pull you out of it.
It occurred to me that a lot of times, when we’re feeling uncertain about what’s coming up for us, we’re tempted to pull back and brace a bit for whatever may be coming. SUP reminds me that staying in the thick of things and trusting the river to work with you will make it easier to gain your footing.
3) Every once in a while, shift.
Because I had fallen off my board twice already, I was pretty frozen into position once I did gain my balance. It wasn’t until about an hour down the river, though, that I realized how frozen I was. My toes were cramping, all curled up and anxious. Our instructor encouraged us to shift a bit – move this foot forward, this foot to the side. And as much as I doubted my ability to do so while remaining upright, I went for it. Water eased over the side of the board, I swiveled my hips a little, and pushed my paddle back into the classic j-stroke.
Comfort tempts us to settle in to routines and patterns, whether that’s hanging out with the same people, studying the same thing even if it doesn’t really feel like us anymore or thinking about things and other people the same way we always have. Not only is it relieving to let go of something that can be cramp-inducing; it is refreshing to let the water of the shift roll over us as the river proves its trustiness in holding us up.
4) When you have your balance, take your paddle out of the water.
As much as being fully upright on that board made me feel connected to ancient river travel (and maybe made me feel a little bit awesome), my most serene moment on the river was when I took my paddle out of the water. I eased down to a kneel, and then onto my back, stretching the length of my board. My peripheral vision was full from horizon to horizon with water, trees, sky, birds, sky, trees and water again. A couple of huge flocks of Canada geese cut through the muted pastel sunset, and the wind shook the leaves, making the trees look like they had gotten a chill.
For those of us who like to get the most we can out of our little lives, it’s hard not to have our paddles in the water – or our eyes on our to-do lists and our calendars full – all the time. But as someone who can’t resist saying yes to every challenge, I’ve learned in spite of myself that our lives aren’t full if they don’t have some emptiness in them, too. Space to rest, to listen, to let openness bring potential and renewal that would have been overlooked had I not taken my paddle out for a stroke or two.
September 19, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
Years from now you’ll look back on this moment and smile. You’ll smile because you’ll realize what you have created. You’ll smile for the many lives that you’ve touched and the impact you’ve made. You’ll smile with gratitude and thanks in your heart, grateful for the people in your life who have helped shape you.
You might not realize it now, but someday you’ll look back and smile on all of those times you were scared of what the future would hold. You’ll smile thinking about those fears and understand that you ended up exactly where you need to be. You’ll smile thinking of the many innocent memories and reminisce on the days when you weren’t responsible for anyone other than yourself. Maybe you’ll still be alone, but you’ll smile knowing that you wouldn’t have done it differently. When you look back on these times you’ll smile when you remember your awkward moments and greatest achievements. You’ll smile at the many things that have changed and likely the many things that have remained. You’ll smile at the vistas you can remember and the world that you have experienced. You’ll smile for your loved ones and the ones who lost touch, imagining their lives and their happy moments. You’ll smile for the days when you would sleep until 1pm without a worry in the world. You’ll smile for the times you just skimmed by and the times you worked your hardest. You’ll smile for the peace you’ll find in your heart when you realize that you’re smiling and then… You’ll smile again.
September 11, 2012 by Madelyn Smith
If I could tell you one thing in a 100 words…
Life comes around once, and your decisions dictate your journey… There are two things that you can control in life; what comes out of your mouth and how you interact with people – your emotions and reactions. These two things make up the essence of who you are, define you and the legacy that you will leave behind. You are… Unique. Bold. Curious. Passionate. Honest. Genuine. Open. Caring. Intellectual. Compassionate. Driven. Contemplative. Adaptive. Searching. Loving. Longing. Aspiring. Choose to… Explore. Create. Imagine. Dream. Commit. Learn. Read. Contemplate. Dance. Laugh. Love.