I stepped out of my car on move-in day wearing a peasant blouse and a frown. For those of you who know me, I try not to let my smiles curl downward unless the situation is dire. But, I suppose this day was one of those instances.
I was about to leave the comfort of the deep relationships that I built in high school and hurl myself head-first into a territory I could only hope I would love.
As my friends packed up their boundless ambitions and curious brains to Georgetown, MIT, Washington University and Bowdoin, I wondered the very moment I stepped in front of Sutowski Hall if I should take off running towards a more glamorous, “prestigious” destination. I felt that maybe I had made the wrong decision by staying close to home.
But, as I sit here nine months later writing as an editor for The Carroll News (that really happened?), I am entirely at peace with my decision to come to JCU.
Since I have fallen in love with the Jesuit ideals in less than a year, I think it is only right that I would do what any good Jesuit would do: reflect.
The first thing that John Carroll taught me this year is, as Frank Kafka says, to “follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” No, I do not mean tirelessly hunting for a formal date, but finding the things that make you the happiest and giving your life away to them. For me, I found solace with The Carroll News and involvement in service. But for others, passions equally important capture their hearts.
I learned that no interest is unworthy and no path worth ignoring. The most grievous fault one can make at John Carroll is to not explore what could potentially bring you purpose. If you would have told me a year ago that I would develop a passion for immigration reform, I would have laughed. But something told me to follow the call to Immokalee, Fla. – and luckily, I answered it. Without the courage John Carroll gave me to immerse myself in their world, I would have never come to understand the second lesson: the willingness to break your own heart.
It may seem dramatic, but John Carroll taught me to be vulnerable. In high school, I unknowingly locked my heart in a seemingly impenetrable cage. Like most of that age, I was in mid-bloom – acutely self-conscious and had the self-esteem only a microscope could find. In a small instance of courage, my attempts to lay my heart on the table for someone was achingly unsuccessful, and to shield myself from feeling that pain again, I meticulously crafted steely barriers.
My life since that point has been a constant battle in learning to shatter the barriers, and I have found that the only way to do that is give yourself to other human beings.
Maybe the very fact that I just admitted that my internal dialogue doesn’t always match my exterior outlandishness is an attempt at vulnerability, but I suppose that’s for you to decide. For me, my battle with invulnerability is about constantly breaking my heart in order to make room for more affection to grow. I am a firm believer in giving your life away to whatever tugs at your heart the strongest. And lately, I have realized the deep breaking of my heart that occurred in Immokalee is a wound I cannot ignore. When I opened myself to their intense love and pain of the people of Immokalee, it made me grow in ways that I could have never predicted.
The last thing that JCU has given me this year is a brilliant group of friends. Truly, no one can really get tired of being barraged with smiles while walking to class – even if its from people that you met only once. I don’t know about all of you, but I think that we’re all pretty great.
I won’t go on about the relationships I have cultivated, because I’m sure that everyone reading this has their own similar types of experiences. But to all of you that have made my year so full of love, thank you.
I know that my next three years have so much more to give me, and I am undoubtedly excited for the future.
If you happen to be a prospective student picking up a copy of The Carroll News this summer, know that all of these sentiments are nothing but genuine. If you choose to spend the next four years here, I can assure you that you will begin to find your purpose. Thanks for a great first year, John Carroll. If the rest of my time here will be even half the fun, I never want to leave.