Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"An Incomprehensible Work Ethic," Wilson Pruitt

"An Incomprehensible Work Ethic"
Wilson Pruitt

My father Ron Pruitt grew up in a family that was never close to wealthy, barley scrapping by with a meager income. Ron was raised by a military sculpted father, Walter Pruitt, who was known in his small city as a very strict and firm man, giving him the nick name “Buster.” Buster was a strong believer in the importance of having a good work ethic to be able to succeed, but Buster was gone for most of my father’s youth, serving in the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant Colonel. Since his father was gone so much during his youth, one might believe there would be a lack of guidance towards Ron’s work ethic and discipline. Instead, his father’s absence made Ron the man of the house for much of his life. Ron recognized this and worked academically and supportively to be the perfect son for his mother. Ron did so by being a straight-A student for his entire school career and helping his mother raise all of his younger siblings.

Because Ron’s family was at a modest economic standing, it was an expectation that if any of the children in the family desired a non-necessity item, they had to purchase it with there own money. Therefore, once his father retired from the army to become a tobacco farmer, my father was quick to begin working by his side. Although Ron had a sizable amount of money for his age, he never spent money faultlessly; instead, he saved every penny he made working with his father. As a result of these developed disciplines, Ron was able to purchase a Mustang as his first car when he was seventeen with no financial help from either of his parents.

Despite working tirelessly in his job as a tobacco farmer, he was still able to keep up his straight-A status in school, leading to Ron’s receiving a full ride to the University of North Carolina undergraduate school. Being offered a full tuition scholarship was very significant for Ron’s family because without the financial assistance, they would have been unable to afford college altogether. My father continued demonstrating his strong work ethic at UNC, graduating with a 3.9 Grade Point Average. He did this by sacrificing his social life, not going to parties or sporting events, even though it was during Michael Jordan’s time playing for UNC.  Because of my father’s continued work ethic through undergraduate school, he received a full ride for medical school at Duke University. This step in his life made him not only the first person in his family to ever go to medical school but also the first person in his whole town to ever go to medical school.

Ron then graduated from Duke and did his residency at University of Alabama. He was so successful in medical school and took his residency so seriously that was automatically offered a position in a hospital as a Gastroenterologist. After many years of successful public medical practice, he was able to open his own private practice, a huge accomplishment for any doctor. Slowly, Ron became more and more well known in the medical world by his high number of successful surgeries, causing many companies to recognize his brilliant skill. These companies started sending him new technology for Gastric Surgeons, making him a medical frontier in Gastrological technology. He was even one the only doctors invited to be trained by the inventor of the flexible indo scope Dr. Herskowitz. In this training, he became one of the first physicians to perfect the use of this tool that is now used by every Gastroenterologist in the world. He was then amongst the first to perfect the usage of multiple tools that have been developed for this endoscope.

As time went on, because of my father’s earlier perfection of these tools, he became one of the most desired and respected doctors in gastroenterology, treating multiple extremely powerful clients and celebrities whom would fly from all parts of the world to be operated on by him. Because of his success with these powerful people, he was able to become the head of multiple different private practices at two different hospitals. In one of these hospitals, he has even had a client donate a half of a floor to one of his private practices that is known as the Nathanson Center.

Ron’s tireless work ethic has caused him to have the highest number of treated patients in world for Barrett’s Esophagus disease. This lead to him receiving Fellowship recognitions, achievement awards, Diplomatic Certifications, and he has even been asked to speak at multiple medical events. He was recognized as a Fellow from multiple different medical societies: The America Gastroenterological Association, American College Physicians, and the American College of Gastroenterology. Ron has also been awarded multiple different achievements from various medical associations:  The Poster of Distinction by Digestive Disease Week, the Glaxo Fellow Award by the Gastroenterological Association, and multiple Awards in Biliary Lithotripsy. As well, he has been diplomatically certified in the subspecialty of Gastroenterological and in the specialty of internal medicine. He has also been asked to speak or lead multiple different highly respected medical events ranging from award ceremonies to different medical discussions for TV and magazines. This has caused him to travel multiple times across the U.S. to give speeches and reviews that have been broadcasted to all of America. As a result of all of these honors, Consumers Guide to Doctors rated Ron Pruitt in the top 1 percentile of Gastroenterologists.

Ron does not only practice gastroenterology, but he is also a leading researcher in the effort to cure Hepatitis C. This disease is still not 100 percent curable, but hopefully with my father’s persistence, it will be solved. It is very common for people with this disease to contract it through heroin use. This might cause some to ask why would a man with such a work ethic have a desire to help people with none at all, throwing there life away with drugs. Well, he does this not because he pities people with less work ethic than him, but instead, he acts in an effort to help those that no one else desires to help. When entered into this study, the survival rate was at 15 percent, but in the past decade Ron and his fellow researchers have raised the survival rate to 75 percent. I even worked for my father over my summers in his research practice. During this time, I was able to witness and observe how his research company works and see how grateful these people are of my father’s goal. On my breaks, I would even get to go to my fathers Gastrological operations to witness my fathers incomprehensible skill and work ethic towards his job.

Ron is not only a renowned doctor in the United States, but he is also a highly respected professor and role model for foreign doctors and medical students. He is a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical School and often does guest speeches at multiple other schools around the country. At the same time, Ron spends his spare time taking multiple foreign doctors under his wing. He does this to aid future doctors in Europe who are skeptical about the payment they would receive compared to the cost of education required to become qualified.

His most recent understudy is a Latvian doctor who leads medical associations that fight for higher wages. He takes time out of his job to travel across the world, introducing his understudy and many others to multiple technology companies. He does this in the hopes that they will supply these doctors with the tools they need to be a successful gastroenterologists. If he is able to do this successfully, he pays for them to come stay with him for periods of time so that they can learn to use these tools in real life situations. His doing this is remarkable because in the medical field, doctors usually do not share sponsors or secrets of practice so that they will have an edge that causes more people will come to them. Instead, Ron feels that all should be able to have the same opportunities that he has acquired. Because of this belief, Ron is has been asked to speak at many different medical conventions and award ceremonies across foreign countries as well.

My father’s work ethic does not end when he leaves the hospital, as he still successfully raises a family. For a some time Ron was a single parent, which is hard enough in itself, but because it is very common for the wife to get the majority of custody, it is very hard for the father to even acquire joint custody. However, because of my father’s work ethic and desire to be a good parent, he fought for his right to joint custody regardless of the financial or emotional difficulty. Now, Ron is remarried and has two more children. Having three more members in his family forces him to have to work even harder to be a successful family leader. My father successfully raised me during my rebellious teen-age years while at the same time raising a dramatic sassy eight-year-old daughter and a stubborn rambunctious seven-year-old son whom he adopted from Russia.

This accomplishment of adopting a Russian son is remarkable because the process is made difficult by the Russian government only allowing children with disabilities to be adopted by Americans. Therefore, the orphanages often make false medical reports of disabilities so that Americans are allowed to adopt the children. For my brother, Max, they created the false medical report that he was born with holes in his heart, and the orphanage was not allowed to tell my father if it was true or not. My father took the chance and returned to Siberia once again to get Max. He knew that it was very possible that Max would have this problem or that he could be emotionally disabled because of the amount of alcoholism in the people’s culture. Ron didn’t care. He knew he would be able to work hard enough to raise Max no matter what the outcome was. In the midst of all of these efforts, my father was still able to successfully provide emotionally, physically, and financially for his wife Ann.

My father’s work ethic is incomprehensible and unmatched. Even though he was born into a life with a father that was gone during his youth, he was still able to discipline himself to become the successful man he is today. From his tireless work ethic, he became the first doctor from his hometown. The remarkable thing was that this never stopped. He continued to work tirelessly, becoming one of the most renowned and respected gastroenterologists in the world. His success in medicine led him to becoming one of the most decorated and awarded doctors in his field of practice. Astonishingly enough, Ron does not allow any of his success to go to his head, even hiding his awards in a closet. He never allows himself a break because in his mind, it is not a big deal to succeed. Even after succeeding so highly in his job, Ron keeps on succeeding as a father and a husband, raising his children with an unconditional love and guidance while providing for an extremely independent wife.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“The Vegetarian Times,” Cassi Starn

“The Vegetarian Times”
Cassi Starn

Becoming a vegetarian has caused me to alter my lifestyle through food choices, conversations with friends, and has helped me to become a healthier eater overall. About three years ago, deciding to give up eating animals seemed to be a very miniscule one at first, until I learned very quickly that it was in fact, not. I cannot say that I regret this decision, even with the strain from the lack of understanding by my family members it has caused and the fact that I am unable to eat the easy meals from fast food restaurants, because this change has become worth it to me through the ample amount of accomplishment I feel every time I turn down a greasy piece of fried meat. I can now see myself as making a difference and taking a stand against something that I do not believe in.

Gaining the courage to tell my family that I would not be eating the same meals they would be at dinner was very difficult for me because I did not know how they would respond. I was right to worry because I found there was more resistance to accept than an offer of support. Only my best friend Jennifer allowed herself from the start to recognize how happy this decision was making me and gave me her full support by only going to restaurants like Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Mellow Mushroom, which all had options for me eat that would accommodate my new lifestyle. Even when I spent the night at her house, she was determined to make foods like a pepperoni-free pizza, or cheesy pasta so that I would enjoy my stay.

After a while others began to come to terms with my being a vegetarian, such as my mother who will now make sure that when I eat dinner with them I always have something enjoyable on my plate. But still there are others, such as my dad, who states very often at the dinner table that he does not approve. I have found that the secret to not letting it bother me is to just ignore the statements altogether instead of adding to the fire and continuing the argument. With people who refuse to see any other ideas but their own as being right, there is no chance of changing their mind. In those situations, I quit trying to defend myself and dismiss the confrontational subject by moving on to a whole new topic that has nothing to do with the previous issue. But, even including the fact that I am surrounded by inconsiderate people who try to get me to change my ways, I still believe that the choice I made a while ago is absolutely worth all the trouble.

When I did feel the need to defend my positions, I tried my best to keep my cool and though I would love to turn more people into vegetarians like me, I do my best to not be too stubborn in the dispute, because I know how frustrating it can be when others are so persistent in their arguments with me, that I would never do it intentionally to anyone else.

I was not always this much of an animal lover and did at one point in my life eat meat on a daily basis. Looking back on a conversation I had in 9th grade with one of my close friends at lunch, I remember her telling me that she had just become a vegetarian and she was much happier and healthier now than ever before. I was very hard headed back then and said the same thing that I now get told by others who I have these similar conversations with, that there was no way I could manage that lifestyle because I loved meat too much to give it up. Now I understand I was wrong before and that I was much stronger than I once believed. That is why I know that anyone can take up this lifestyle because if I can do it, so can everyone else.

Grocery shopping was never an exciting process for me at first. I did not enjoy it because the excitement of having any choice in the world had been taken away. I would always stick to the usual, ordinary, meat free aisles, until one day I walked past a freezer section and noticed a ton of food for vegans and vegetarians. I finally had a chance to eat the same things I did before, just with different, shame free ingredients. Through a sufficient amount of taste testing and trial and error, I realized that just because something isn’t real, doesn’t mean that it isn’t any good. Though sometimes an acquired taste for a specific type of meal was necessary, I enjoyed most of the foods I tried for the first time, such as Tofurkey, chik potpie, soy hot dogs, and veggie ribs and burgers, which not only have creative names, but taste good enough to replace that of a McDonalds greasy meat burger with guilt on the side covered in mayonnaise. Looking back, I think that learning so late about the existence of the vegetarian meats turned out to be best for my situation. Through all that time of having no contact with any meat at all, I had nothing from memory to compare it to, so now if a chicken breast was placed in front of me, I would have no problem pushing it as far away as possible.

Every once in a while I would run into a disappointing flavor that would cause me to decide mid-bite that I would not waste my time, money, or taste buds on selecting that again. But, I do not let those random few discourage me, because there are so many other possibilities out there that are worth the time and effort to find, especially if there is an added bonus of not having taken part in the torture of an animal. The number one food that applies to is Tofu. My suggestion for first time triers is to not have this as the gateway meal to a vegetarian lifestyle, because it is a type of food that, if not prepared the correct way, will cause an unpleasant experience. In my opinion it is due to the sponge-like, tasteless qualities that make it so difficult to enjoy and might keep the beginner from continuing on this new adventure.

For as many years as I can remember, my mother has been obsessed with buying magazines. One day, I found that this worked to my advantage, when her much awaited list of offered subscriptions, arrived in the mail. On one of the pages she spotted a magazine that was specifically designed for the consumption of vegetarians. I was surprised and could not wait to get my first issue. It took about a month and a half to arrive and that was when I had my first of many issues of Vegetarian Times, begging me to flip through each and every page. Inside I found stories by people like me, who were very passionate about maintaining a vegetarian diet for reasons such as health, to support a friend or family member, or for the same reason as me, because of their love, and borderline obsession with animals. Many recipes were also included, and though I have yet to try any, they all looked to be quite appetizing.

I was aware that being healthy must not take the backburner and I should be careful to find out and apply to my diet the necessary adjustments in order to keep my body fit. The first thing I did was to consult with my doctor, who approved fully and told me of ways to keep healthy. She said that it was good I still had some contact with meat and calcium, since I still ate fish, eggs, and drank milk, but that I should take natural supplements to give me more of those substances since I was not consuming enough from the little bit I was having and suggested Calcium and Fish Oil pills. Right away I purchased what I needed and added them to my daily routine in the morning. Now, I am just as healthy, if not more than when I first started. I feel better about myself than I ever have before, because I know that I am working toward a goal and I love how I have found something that I can be so passionate about without having to worry that my health will take a loss for it.

Every once in a while I will pass by a piece of meat that for a moment I find myself craving, but I overcome it easily by thinking of the reasons why I started in the first place. My trick is that every time I see a tempting piece of meat I automatically picture in my mind the innocent animal of which it came from. The knowledge that it was once a part of the inside of a living, breathing creature is downright disturbing and morbid to me. I can only think of the horrifying slaughter that was performed to fill the stomachs of many people who could just as easily bite down on a piece of celery or go to the area where imitation food is sold that tastes just as good as the real stuff, but without animals being harmed in the making of it.

I have realized that nothing in life comes easy. Becoming a vegetarian is not an exception and it is important to know that to choose this new lifestyle is to be in it for the long haul. There will be many times when strength and ability to say no will be tested. I plan on being strong and keeping my mind on the main reasons that I have started this process in the beginning. Through this development, I feel as if in a way I am making a difference by not supporting the slaughter of an animal for my own benefit. I feel so much more satisfied and know that everyone else has the capability to make the same decision as I did many years ago and would recommend this new lifestyle for anyone with a feeling of compassion for those innocent animals around the world.

I didn’t realize how demanding my decision to become a vegetarian would be. I did not know that my meat-free lifelong commitment would be so trying, rough, frustrating, or so fulfilling, meaningful, and be the reason for my overall strength in the end. Altering the way I eat, think, and act in everyday situations such as in family gatherings and dining out for a birthday party has given me a new consciousness of those previously listed and often thought about results. I feel as if I am very lucky to have discovered such strength in a healthy vegetarian lifestyle and have gained compassion for the animals around me and become so attached to and feel like I have been given and added meaning to my life. I think that everyone should at least attempt giving up meat and trying the alternatives because they might be surprised at just how easy being a vegetarian can be.

“Journey to a Championship,” Anna Shea

“Journey to a Championship”
Anna Shea

Saturday morning, eight o’clock, twenty-eight degrees, seven team-mates on the starting line—quite a way to start the weekend. We set out from Darlington High School at six o’clock that morning, the boy’s and girl’s cross country teams, ready to run a good race, give our best effort, and see how we compared to the best teams in the state of Georgia. For some of us, State would be our last high school race ever, for others, just the beginning; but the girl’s team had one common goal—overcome the powerhouse that was First Presbyterian Day School and win the State Championship. A seasoned team, we had achieved a spot on the podium two years earlier when I was a sophomore for a fourth place finish, but that would not be good enough after all the work we put into the season this time around. We knew we were better than that and wanted to prove ourselves to the rest of the state.

By the time we made our way to the start line, we had no nerves left, but our adrenaline was through the roof. We had been training since June for this moment, and here November was; we had never been more ready. Six months in the making, no way we were going to let our opportunity slip away. The gun was fired, and the top two hundred girls in Georgia classification Single-A took off. Someone fell in the first one hundred meters though, so the gun was fired again for us to return to the start line. Everyone reorganized, then once again the gun was fired and we were off. Twenty-one minutes later our top five runners were done with the frost-covered 3.1-mile winding, hilly course. As I came across the finish line, I was thrilled to see all of our scoring team members in the chute with me. All of our top-five runners were in the top twenty-three in the race; things were looking good for the Darlington girls.

Flashback to three months earlier, the first week of classes in my senior year. We had competed in two races so far, and I had been first on the team in both. I was thrilled with my times and that my teammates were digging in to have every run be a new personal best. We had trained harder than ever that summer and were running faster than ever before. In the first week of school we did a trail run on the mountains behind Darlington. Going down one of the trails, I stepped on a root and rolled my ankle, tearing the majority of the ligaments and chipping off some bone. I was in a boot for the next two and a half months, only able to aqua-jog for an hour every day and cheer on the rest of the team at meets.

In addition to my injury, two of our other top-seven runners started experiencing dizzy spells and having seizures when they ran, putting us down by a total of three before we even progressed into the core of the season. As a team captain, I kept encouraging all the runners and watching them improve and thrive while I sat by and watched. By the time the boot came off there were only two weeks left in the season and two meets, Region and State. I was determined that I would at least make the cut to be one of our top seven runners so I could run in my last state meet, and I worked hard every day for those two weeks to get in as good shape as I could. I made the cut.

Within the first few weeks of school it seemed like our dreams of winning a state championship might be slipping away. Our coaches, Alan Parish, Kelly McDurmon, and Katie Ellis would never let us lose faith in each other. They worked with those of us who were unable to run to keep our spirits up, and created virtual meets to prove to everyone that we were fully capable of being the fastest team in the state if everyone had their best race on that cold morning in November. By the time we made our way to Carrollton, GA for state, each runner knew what time she would have to run, ranging from 20:30 to 21:30, for us to win.

While not a single team member made the top ten individually, we had five runners in the top twenty-five. First Presbyterian Day had the first and third place runners in the state, as well as another girl in the top twenty-five. Most spectators thought that First Pres had won the race by a landslide, but their last two runners were about a minute, or 20 places slower than their third place runner. This gap is what gave Darlington the upper hand. Even though we had a slower top-five average time and less impressive place finishes individually, we truly took advantage of the team aspect of cross country, working together to come up with a lower overall score than everyone else. Winning truly as a team in a largely individualized sport made winning state that year even sweeter and more meaningful for all of us.

Many of us had been running together and under Coach Parish for five years, since I was in seventh grade. Coach Parish told us at the beginning of the year that he had been looking forward to that year, when those of us who he coached in middle school would be juniors and seniors, for five years, since he had first seen our potential and team chemistry all those years before. His faith in us kept us motivated through the struggles of injuries and sickness, and made us learn to believe in each other wholeheartedly.

One obstacle that can often tear a team apart is competition for spots or roles on the team, whether that be first place runner, MVP, a position as a starter, or team captain. The incredible thing about the cross team that year was that everyone was so motivated and determined to win state that we had different people occupying different positions on the team every race. Rather than creating tension between team members though, we learned to be excited for each other when we got faster, even if that meant being overcome as first or second place runner. This competition and lack of position security encouraged us all to keep improving to try to move up the ladder or to regain a spot we had held previously, making us stronger individually and more importantly as a unit all the while. This competitive spirit and sense of unity no matter who was first or last is what brought our top five runners across the finish line within a span of thirty-six seconds, ultimately lifting us over the competition.

Of all of the experiences that I have had through competing in athletics, winning a cross country state championship with the team of girls we had that year has been by far the most memorable and significant. Having known all of the girls on the team but one since middle school and competing together for that long made winning state with them in my last high school race even more special and strengthened our bonds. Cross country is a unique sport in that as long as you continue making workouts more challenging and pushing yourself harder and ignoring the pain a body feels when it is pushed to the breaking point, there are really no limits to how much someone can improve. Almost everyone on the team set new personal records for the course at state that year, a traditionally very slow and challenging course—a true tribute to the value of hard work and determination.

After some of the excitement had cooled off a few weeks later a funny thought came up in regards to being state champions. A lot of people on the team, myself included, had people congratulate them on winning state, and then they would comment that they wished they had joined the cross-country team. I never thought much of the statement; who wouldn’t want a slice of the recognition and excitement that came with winning a state championship? The idea that someone suggested, though, was:

Do they really wish they had joined the cross-country team? Do they really wish they had gotten up at six in the morning to run every day in the summer and every Saturday during the school year as well as running every day after school?

Probably not. Sure, standing up in chapel and receiving a standing ovation when you present the trophy to the school, or wearing big state champion rings around campus are great, but that doesn’t just happen. In our case every person had to run six days a week for six months straight, certainly no cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination.

Our team journey to a championship was no different from that of any other dedicated athlete or team. Working hard for months, really years since middle school, for that one opportunity when everything would come together and all the hard work would pay off is just what it takes to achieve dreams. Henry Ford said it best when he stated, “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re probably right.” The first step to success is simply believing in yourself or your team, as the Darlington girls cross country team did that incredible morning in November 2010.

“Heath Who,” Gillian Scharf

“Heath Who”
Gillian Scharf

Heath, who builds legos to the sky
and asks who will hug him
who is sticks and twigs
who is calluses and protein shakes
whose hair is made of hay
is too distracted to come down today
who tells me he loves me
who tells me he misses me
whose big eyes are marbles
can't come play
stays in his room all night and day
is busy, shut the door
we feel like he doesn't live here anymore
is hiding so we won't see him there,
but his voice reminds us he's everywhere
is soft things, weapons and tan crocs
who laughs up and down, up and down,
and down again
is the constant that keeps a smile on my face
asking who will hug him?
Who will hug him, who?

“Pursuing the Past,” Caroline Mitchell

“Pursuing the Past”
Caroline Mitchell

I don’t know if my father has ever been happy in the present. Perhaps he was, before he and my mother divorced, but I was too young then to know whether or not someone was truly happy. For all the time I’ve known him, been aware enough to actually know him, he has always been looking back, dwelling on what his life once was. If he talks for any length of time, he will inevitably turn to his younger years, tales of scuba-diving in the Florida Keys, through caverns and reefs with my mother (before they were married for twenty-three years and then divorced); of finding junk cars with his brothers and fixing them. In our house, now, his scuba equipment sits quietly in his closet, and cars and trucks he plans to repair rust sullenly in our yard. He never has time for either now: his life is always in the way.

Perhaps he is where I inherited my nostalgic inclination from, if such characteristics are inheritable, or perhaps I learned it from him, if we are taking the theory of nurture over nature. When my life isn’t working properly, when I can’t manage the splintering pieces around me, I instinctively remember the earlier times, that were, in my mind, somehow better, where I think that I was happy. I imagine that everyone with memories does this at times, a sort of defense mechanism that allows us to believe that the world didn’t always feel so cruel. It is a bitter comfort, though, a “yearning for return to… some past period or irrevocable condition” (Cramer, 2010, p.23). Nostalgia can lead to despair at the knowledge that one can never return to that idealized time, and should be handled with care.

My penchant for nostalgia goes beyond mere overly-fond remembrances, though. In Cramer’s (2010) book on the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-creation group of which I am a member, he states that “[t]he SCA is nostalgic for the Middle Ages. It is this nostalgia, this sense that somehow the Middle Ages were a better time than the present, that is the most prominent feature of the SCA” (p. 23). This assertion brought to the front of my mind something I had always known, but not particularly considered: many of my passions are directly nostalgic. I wouldn’t say that I am trying to live in some time warp: modern rock is my first choice of music, I panic when I leave my cellphone at home, and I suffer from a mild internet addiction like most of my generation. But two of my most personal passions, the SCA and lolita fashion (a branch of neo-Victorian fashion), are steeped in, defined by, nostalgia.

Both of these interests are deeply historical and anachronistic. This is a given in the Society for Creative Anachronism: the entire purpose is to recreate and rediscover crafts, traditions, and aesthetics from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and, during events, to try to live an estimated version of medieval life. Participants wear historical garb, sleep in pavilion-style tents, and eat home-made feasts while watching tournament combat. SCA members indulge in idealized versions of the past, enacting a fantasy of a simpler life without modern technology, politics, or culture. This simplification, though not particularly accurate of the Middle Ages, provides a relief from the complexities and difficulties of modern life, allowing participants to take a break from the messiness of Mundanity (as the modern world is referred to in the SCA) and view life as a simpler construction, one that is also idealized into what participants believe the world should be (Cramer, 2010).

Lolita fashion naturally is not as extreme in its historicity as an organization dedicated to anachronism, but it also invokes earlier times as its defining aesthetic. The style relies heavily on influences from Victorian and Rococo era fashion, as well as vintage inspiration from the first half of the twentieth century. However, it also pulls on the nostalgic concept of childhood, from the style of the clothing—fluffy, knee-length skirts; puffed sleeves; the overall modesty—to the childhood themes used in some subsets of the fashion, such as candy, toys, and fairytale themes. Whether through eras of history or lifetime, the theme is nostalgia.  

Though nostalgic endeavors in and of themselves, both the SCA and lolita fashion also tie in with my nostalgia for my own past. None of the timeframes these endeavors are inspired by were within my lifetime, but both of them strongly resonate with my own idealized epoch of my life; when I was a child, before my parents divorced and before I knew my father was sad. My sisters and I would wear ancient clothes given to us from our grandmother, rescued from thrift stores or unusable donations to the shelter she worked at, and disappear into our woods. We would don gowns and become princesses escaping from evil step-mothers, or vintage dresses and become orphans searching for our families. Now, playing make-believe in the SCA, or wearing petticoats and lace in lolita, reminds me of that time, when I could run through the woods and not care if my dress was torn, because the world was infinite, and what does infinity care of ripped skirts? It is that freedom and limitlessness that my nostalgic hobbies are holding onto, that childish awareness that there is more to the world than what I am aware of. I want these thoughts and feelings, rooted in my past, to still be present in my current life.

I believe it is not vain to hold on to such ideas.  I don’t want to dwell on what I can never have again; I want to keep living the life I have imagined for myself. If it involves aspects that aren’t common today, that’s fine: I can get them for myself. As Lenehan says, “Each member of a post-modern culture is ‘free’ to draw upon the palette of experience that has been collected by their society and in an attitude of ‘do-it-yourself,’ construct the lifestyle that suits their tastes” (Cramer, 2010, p. 56). Even if what I want is no longer the norm, I don’t have to idly long for what is gone: I can recreate for myself, and with other like-minded people, what others have let fall by the wayside. I believe that there is nothing wrong with this kind of nostalgia, in which I know that I want something from the past, and I refuse to let go of it; as opposed to wishing I had something that is gone, and not living my own life for want of it. That is when nostalgia becomes dangerous, when we long for something and do nothing about it: when we let our passions linger in closets and rust in yards. I believe that as long as I am willing to chase after what I want from the past, then nostalgia is no different from any desire, be it for a career or possessions or a form of government. Nostalgia, like any desire, has some aspects that are attainable, and some that are not; but it is working towards our desires that reward us. As long as I keep working to create my ideal life, then I am moving to my future, not trapped in the past.


Cramer, M. A. (2010). Medieval fantasy as performance: The Society for Creative Anachronism and the current middle ages. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

“Blue is the True Color of Friendship,” Ben Lewis

“Blue is the True Color of Friendship”
Ben Lewis

I was reminded of my childhood while catching a re-run of baseball film, a classic tale of friends enjoying an endless summer, all united by the fear of a charming beast. Their brotherhood resembled that of mine. In my adolescence I too enjoyed the confidents of a classic suburban neighborhood. You know, the ones back in the good old days were innocence ran rampant. The area where everybody knew one another and chose to express a meaningless salutation every time one encountered another. I moved to a neighborhood like this in second grade, scared out of my mind.

Fortunately, I just was making a big deal out of nothing and soon without a doubt became part of a group all united by a gentle beast, a beast by the name of Blue. Instantly we all became best friends. Funny how that happens when you’re younger. I wish the ability to make friends instantaneously would be more common at an older age as it is for young children. Anyways, soon enough I wouldn’t do anything without them. The clan consisted of Kelly, Molly, Sammy, and Cory. The first three were siblings, which was surprising because they all got along really well with each other. Not many siblings can do that at such a young age.

My fondest memories of Blue and the gang are from the summer. Summer was our kingdom. We were unstoppable, invincible. Adrenaline was the main drug that we consistently sought after in our young age. Thinking back, we did many dangerous stunts that could have caused of much trauma. But, still to this day I believe the stunts were completely worth the risk.

Unfortunately, not all our stunts were successful. For example, out of utter boredom, we made a huge rope swing off a big magnolia tree next to a neighbor’s barn. Kelly and I were the daredevils of the group and we always tried to one up each other. I was on the losing end most of the time. My excuse back then was that he was one year older than me, which provided him with a more sufficient source of bravery. Nevertheless, he tried to do a back flip while still on the swing. The back flip attempt caused him to lose control and swing into the jagged corner of the barn. A chunk of flesh and a stream of blood was the outcome of the stunt. Hearing the screams of pain, Blue abandoned the curious looking deer poop and raced to the scene.

To our knowledge Blue’s tongue had extraordinary powers. The saliva that he produced counteracts the pain receptors and tends to heal any wound, no matter how serious it was. Blue then proceeded to lick profusely. If anybody had happened to walk by a dog ravenously digging his face into a gory wound of a young child most certainly would have been alarmed. After a struggle to wrestle Blue away from Kelly, the salvia had settled in and did its intended job.

Blue was the unspoken leader of our group. Blue held the bond of all our friendships. I am completely in love with dogs, especially this one. In a sense Blue was like our sensei and we were his apprentices. He knew more about the world than any of us could ever know. That’s why when his day finally came to leave this world it was the saddest day of my life.

When I was sixteen Blue became very ill and it was only a matter of time before he would pass. I was eating dinner when I received the call from Kelly informing me that Blue was about to be put to sleep. Scrambling to find my shoes, I jumped from the table, briefly informing my parents where I was headed. When I arrived he was already laid upon the table, as if he were being sacrificed to the gods. The magnificent black beast lay with only a huge bright white light positioned straight above him. The room reminded me of the torture rooms in the terrible horror movies that base their entertainment solely on gore.

Soon enough the lethal substance was injected into Blue and slowly he drifted off into a deep sleep dreaming god knows what. Hopefully this dream consisted of everything he loved such as squirrels, grass, poop, and the taste of human sweat. The killing of animals is much more upsetting to me than the death of humans. I believe the innocence of animals is what makes their death so much more nerve racking. I lost a friend that didn’t care how I dressed or the way I acted, all he wanted was to be happy and loving.

Beside him Molly stood crying uncontrollably. I wanted to caress her and let her know everything was going to be okay. Like I always do, I wimp out with the possibility to consolidate a beautiful girl. Also, I feared the look that I might get from her father, who was standing across the room. There’s never a good time to hit on a girl if her father is in the room.

Funny how my mind always switches to girls even in depressing times. I guess it’s the true guy in me. Beside my sudden hormonal convulsions I suddenly became aware that I was about to cry as well. Not me. No. There was no way I was going to cry in front of my friends. Till this day I still regret not letting the tears gush out of my eyes. I owed it to Blue to let others know how much he meant to me.

The sun outside the vet hospital was setting in the background. Ultimately providing the situation with a movie like ending to Blue’s life. Immediately exiting the building, we gingerly placed his body into the trunk and set off for the mountains. Kelly’s family owns a large territory in Tennessee that is situated on top of a mountain. This place was the agreed memorial spot of the great animal. The car ride was silent. I was fine with the silence because I had no clue what to say. I had a knack for trying to say a profound exclamation that would ease up the tension, but usually I screw up the speech by stuttering or just suggesting a reference in which nobody knew. My explanations for these mishaps are always that I was just too intelligent for others to understand, a misunderstood genius. Therefore, I saved the speech for myself, which I might add was very cleaver. Eventually, we arrived and proceeded to hoist Blue up to the top of the mountain.

The moment was glorious. The sun provided lighting that a cinematographer would die for. If only I had a camera and some knowledge on how to work a camera properly. Who knows how many people might have watched that video online. Maybe, I would have been the next up and coming director. For a minute I became overjoyed with this new sense of pride, but quickly deprived my mind of this notion for this was not the time or the place to start daydreaming. We buried Blue at the top of a cliff that overlooked our neighborhood. The view was magnificent.

At that moment, I looked around the circle that we had formed and became overwhelmed with emotions. Life seemed to stand still. I realized that time was precious and that nothing should be taken for granted. Soon we were all going to drift apart and start new lives and there was nothing we could do about it.  Our innocence was gone and we could never have it back. Maybe this bond that we developed would be destroyed with the passing of Blue because he was the glue that held us together. Like super glue to be more specific. I couldn’t let the notion go because I wanted the bond to last for all eternity. Growing up seems heartbreaking and I wish I could stay young forever. Life is long, but seems so short. So we stood, lost in our own thoughts till the sun went down leaving us standing in the dark night. We descended the mountain, blindly tripping over rocks till we reached the car.

Two years later I still remember the good times that my friends and I had with our beloved dog. Every year we go back up to that very spot and reminisce of the dog days, the days when nothing mattered. We were free from the societal norms and pressures to conform. I have come to the realization that Blue was not only our bond, but also our friendship. Our comradeship did not die that day. He stayed with us because true friendship cannot be broken. Even though all of us are several hundred miles apart we still stay in contact with one another. I like to think of the color blue as the true color of friendship.

"No Child Left Behind," Tyler Goodwin

"No Child Left Behind"
Tyler Goodwin

It’s hard to see a kid alone without their friends around. Well correction, their “friends” around. Children like this feel sad, alone, and even heartbroken. They at least want someone around them to play a game, someone to come go on adventures, someone to laugh with, at least someone just to keep them company. I was that child, and sometimes, I still feel like I am that child. Maybe it’s just an anxiety thing, or people are just as cruel as they seem. It’s not fun, and that one child may be strong and suck it up and find someone else to be around, or they may just go home and cry about. Alone. Quiet. In solitude. Somewhere where this child can go hide and be alone for a little while and personally cry. Just go and run away from the real world.

My parents understood what was wrong with me in my childhood. I was quiet strange, my parents wouldn’t always let me go to my friend’s house. They always had to come to my house, so I don’t get in trouble at another person’s house since I was the guest. Mom and Dad were just over-protective, I was the oldest child and they were terrified about every single little action I did because I was their little boy. I still am their little boy. Though, I’m in college now. College boys aren’t supposed to cry about not having friends or even “friends”, they are supposed to suck it up and just get over it. Well for a guy like me, it’s a little harsh and a little rough.

Now don’t get me wrong I at least had one friend, a best friend. Garrett Campbell was his name, his parents were my godparents and my parents were his godparents. So in some case or another we were like brothers in a sense. But here’s the one perk, Garrett lived all the way in Windsor, England. Kind of tough for a kid in the late 90s and early 2000s huh? Well, it was a little rough for us, but back then we would write letters to each other, send pictures of our houses, our pets and things we like to do; we would make a creation entirely of construction paper and send it to each other and we would each hang them up on our doors for keep-sakes so we can feel like our best friend, our brother, was right there, with us, all the time.

Things changed when I was about 10 years old, I got to visit Garrett more, two months over the summer. Garrett and I both started playing the French horn together at the London Conservatory of Music; the program occurred only in the summer since I couldn’t live there full time. So that made things a little better between our friendship, but back in the United States, during the school year, I didn’t really have much of anyone to talk to.

Besides my letters to Garrett, I hardly had anyone I went to school with, people I went to church with, the people I went to afterschool with, or even my own neighbors that lived down the street to be around. So yeah, life was quiet, life was peaceful in my house. No kids running around. At home it was just me, being quiet, in my room playing the Gameboy for hours on end, doing my homework, and did arts and crafts with my sister, and the occasion like any sibling relationship we would argue about nothing.

My sister was in the same situation as I was, she and I both were the outcasts in all of our schooling days. We both really didn’t have very many friends, people tried to avoid us, no one wanted to be our partner in school, no one wanted us on their team even though we were faster and had more stamina. Though, with the whole team thing my sister and I both had a disadvantage when it came to certain sports, she and I were both had very terrible eye sight. So yeah, we were both “nerds” as you would say we wore glasses, and we wore the high socks when we wore shorts. But come on, who didn’t dress like that in the 90s?

Not only was our “nerdom” the case of both of us being an outcast; it was the position our father was in at the time when we were little. My dad was the principal of the local high school when my sister and I were elementary school leading to when I finished middle school. Here’s what people would assume of us: 1. Megan, my sister, and I were both “goody-goody” children, we weren’t expected to do anything wrong and we were perfect in every single way. 2. Since our dad was a principle and our mom was a teacher, people automatically assumed that we were overly intelligent, that even if we got a question wrong it was as if the world was going to end. Finally 3: Since our parents worked in the school system every teacher knew us and who we were so if we had problems our parents would know in a heartbeat, and that would cause us controversies when we got home.

So here are the problems with this situation on us being “goody-goody” children. Kids would come up with these devious plots in order to get themselves out of trouble. Here they would commit the “crime” and then have my sister or I in the situation and blame the entire thing on us due to scenery and how they “dressed” us for this situation. For a while our teachers actually believed them and my sister and I would be scolded not only by our teachers but also our parents. With the second situation, well yes Megan and I both studied tremendously and we worked incredibly hard for our ages to well in our academics. Our parents would check up with our teachers to see how we’re doing academically, and even the slightest B+ or lower our parents would pull us aside after dinner and question us on what went wrong in that certain area. In my case, I wasn’t really the smartest person in my family, yes I still studied hard and I was at a good standing to prepare myself for my classes every day, but my biggest issue was that I am incredibly lazy. Always was and always will be. So there would be most days when I wouldn’t have my work prepared, and I wouldn’t be ready for the material outside of class. Coming into class the teacher would call on me to answer a certain question. Ninety-nine percent of the time I would understand what they were asking me and I would do the problem, or write a sentence in my head before I answer. But even the slightest bit of my answer would be wrong and there would be this huge gasp of wind from the rest of my classmates in shock and horror over what my response was. Normally, the teacher would give this odd look at the rest of the class then back at me in concern on what I had done wrong. A lot like at Furman, the teachers at my school cared about our students and they understood what it would be like as a student to prepare for all of the classes and all of the such work that we had to prepare each and every day. Most days on days like that, the teacher would pull me aside at the end of class, unlike what they do with the rest of the students, and question me on what went wrong, most of the time I would either say that I wasn’t prepared for the class work, or that I had completed the problem wrong on my homework through a very minor detail. But then the third situation rings in my head and I quickly apologize to my teacher over and over again begging them not to email my parents on what had happened that day.

My sister and I both hated how our parents were able to check on our grades through the District database or even come to our school and prepare a last minute conference with our teachers off in the blue. These types of things made us feel incredibly uncomfortable and would hurt us not only at home, but also at school. Walking down the halls I would hear “Tyler, your dad was at school today he went to go talk to Mrs. Turner.” Very rudely, the children in our school would mock us in a nyea-nyea tone “You got in trouble heh heh heh heh heh heh.”

It wasn’t our fault that we grew up in these situations. Everyone has gone through this type of experience at least once in their lifetime. Imagine going through this type of situation 3 or even 4 times a week. Every day someone would steal your lunch when you went up in front of the class. Every day at recess someone would hit you with a dodgeball, soccer ball, or even basketball. Every day someone would trip you on the playground or grab your swing to force you to go flying. My sister and I both had a very painful and rough childhood, everyone was rude, and everyone was harsh. It does sound like I am complaining but this is what actually happens to kids like my sister and I. Megan and I would come home after school and hide in our rooms, away from our parents and away from any distractions and just cry. I didn’t want this childhood, and neither did my sister, but the children we grew up with were harsh cruel and even painful.

High school was a little bit better, I found better friends from other elementary schools around the district. It made things a little bit better to at least talk to someone that had better interests with me. The only problems I had were the occasional taunts of being called gay. I mean yes I act the way I do because a majority of my high school and middle school careers I did hang out with a lot of girls. Then, of course being around people like them I will tend to act like them, but I did have a girlfriend, and I did go play paintball and such with a lot of my guy friends, but in those situations I know that they are jealous of me having friends they wish they had, and their only goal was to make me as miserable as possible, which didn’t bother me as much.

Looking back at the little kid on the playground by themselves, I remember that same childhood that they had and I don’t want them to experience the same thing my sister and I did. Though I also remembered that it did get better, and all the kid needs to do to at least talk to someone and get to know them a little bit more. Megan plays with our little cousins, at least the girls, and play tag, hide-and-seek, and even dress up, while I played with Legos and Lincoln Logs with the boys and played destruction games and childish, yet harmless, pranks on the girls. My sister and I work as a team, we help make other children have the childhood we didn’t have so they don’t have our experiences. So for that small child sitting by themselves, I would crouch down and ask them if they want to play. Instantly I see that boy or girl’s frown turn to a smile ready to go on their own adventure with someone who actually does want to be their friend. That way in the future years of their life they don’t feel like someone didn’t reach out to them, they can say that at least one person does care about them, and someone cared about the million reasons why they should be here.

"Treble Maker," Hannah Cox

"Treble Maker"
Hannah Cox

I remember the night. The wind was cold in the bleachers, with smoke smelling of hotdogs billowing past from the concessions stand. My fellow 8th grade band class and I sat to watch as the band marched on the crunchy field. The cacophony of instruments shined as the band glided across the field, their uniforms crisp and white against the slowly dying grass. As they performed, the show seemed effortless, the students moving through forms with practiced ease.

I was going to be in that band. If I had any doubts about staying, they were completely crushed that night. From the time I was eight, I had wanted to play something. My sister had a violin that she used to play in a symphony before we moved from Virginia. She never practiced and soon quit taking lessons. But whenever I could sneak a touch of her precious violin, I’d pretend I was a great musician, waiting for her own instrument.

The most I had done was listen to music and play theme songs of Harry Potter and cartoons on my little plastic piano. I wasn’t Mozart, but I was proud of being able to copy songs after practicing them. Granted, the songs usually consisted of the melody and nothing more, but at the age of ten, I thought my playing as a huge progress.

While growing up, my dad was a Commander in the Navy, an engineer. While he was serving, we moved everywhere: Rhode Island, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, and even Naples, Italy for three years. Unfortunately being three in Italy, the only memories I have are of trash on the roads, the egg smell of Mt. Vesuvius and visiting Pompeii with my grandparents.

When my father retired in 2004, we decided to go move to my mom’s hometown, Hickory, North Carolina. Moving around so much, our family had never lived in one house for more than four years at a time. That can be a little imposing on a child when trying to develop friendships. But since Dad retired, we were here for as long as we wanted. I wouldn’t have to make friends and lose them after only a few short years. I could make life-long relationships in Hickory. I was absolutely terrified.

I was so used to going through the stop and drop: picking up friends, being close for a few years, and then almost forgetting them whenever I moved. I don’t talk to anyone I knew then. Looking back, that fact depresses me, that I missed so many opportunities to keep friends. I vowed I would do my best to make friends here, friends that lasted beyond a few years.

Sixth Grade consisted of a cold and rusting playground, embarrassing elementary school adaptations of Treasure Island and Lewis and Clark, and where I was first introduced to the most common words in the state, such as ‘Y’all,” “Yes, Ma’am” or “Naw Sihr,” and drawing out any word for two or three unnecessary extra syllables.

But as the year went on, I met a small group of friends who weren’t exactly normal. Half of us were the lonely fat kids, some too tall for their age, a few with awkward faces they hadn’t grown into, one with a stutter and one who kept completely to herself unless the subject was about anime.

All of these students became future band and chorus members.

When we graduated to middle school, the group slowly fell apart, attracted to the infamous cliques. These cliques consisted of athletes, smart kids, unpopular kids, weird kids, and music kids. Out of the former group I was the only to stay out of cliques, wishing to make friends with more than a few people. Then one day, I found the haven for the strange: band.

Picking an instrument was probably the hardest choice a middle-schooler could make. I was attracted to the clarinet. Maybe because of the way they shined, or the big range, or maybe it was just because clarinets looked complicated enough to be interesting, but I knew I wanted to try that puzzling instrument. The entire class was awful the first few weeks of school, but progress followed to quickly build our confidence to be creative.

Band was basically a hangout, where hormone-driven children made funny sounds with big expensive instruments, which were little more than noisemakers to us. When playing another’s instrument proved too strong a temptation, like playing with the percussion equipment, we would be scolded and given practice time as punishment, but we would still mess around when the teacher had her back turned.

We first saw the Fred T. Foard Tiger Marching Band when we were in eighth grade and heard for the first time what band could be outside of playing “Hot Cross Buns.” That same year my eccentric no-nonsense band teacher, who was trying to organize a jazz band, introduced me to jazz.

She had approximately enough people for every part, but she wanted to incorporate a saxophone deeper than a tenor. Since it was roughly the same fingerings, I learned how to play within a few months. We were a horrible jazz band, but we weren’t terrible for being a first-year band experiment. How I loved the Bari-sax: it was a nice change from the clarinet, closely related, but different enough to play to keep band entertaining.

Freshman year of high school was an amazing change: more freedom in classes, a better attitude in every class, and more friendships than cliques. Foard was a very laid-back high school, with a large population of country students (the word redneck was banned from use after several fights ten years previous), and mostly a white school, but with a small population of black, Asian and Latino students. Everyone worked with each other with no real dilemmas to worry about.

At the same time I was in both bands in high school (jazz and symphonic), I dabbled in my church’s handbell team, our youth band and our youth’s choir. I took deep pride in being in so many music classes. Each one brought me a sense of belonging to a bigger group of friends, and groups that connected with each other. I rarely walked through church or school without greeting less than a few friends from one group or the other.

My older sister was in chorus at school while I was in band, and she was always trying to get me to try out for chorus during the two years we were together. I didn’t think I could manage band and chorus at the same time, with marching competitions and concerts to worry about. I also thought that if they sounded anything like my church youth choir then I could do without having to be the only one to sing out in yet another chorus. One year both spring band and chorus concerts were on the same day, and since it was my sister’s senior year, my parents went to her concert instead. I was always afraid that the concerts would be on the same day again, and I would disappoint one or the other. My sister kept insisting that chorus was well worth it, and that it was amazing beyond just a music class. Finally at the end of my sophomore year, I tried out for the Concert Choir class, almost certain that I wouldn’t be accepted in.

However, the Friday afternoon that the list came out, I was beyond shocked to see my name there.

The fall term started with Concert Choir, which was the middle level of chorus, Chorus 1 and 2 made for beginners, and Honors Ensemble for the elite and practiced choir students.

I was a leader in the alto section, mainly because sight-reading pieces in band for four years had helped me develop a strong ear. When I was absent for a band competition, the alto section literally fell apart, missing notes, rhythms and entries into the melody. Apparently I needed more challenging music to tackle, and the altos needed to learn to fend for themselves without relying on me. I was asked to move up to Honors Ensemble. I realized how hard chorus was, and just how much I loved being apart of it.

As the year passed, I got involved with chorus beyond what I thought possible, attending almost all performances outside of school, fundraisers, trips and more. Juggling band and chorus at the same time wasn’t as much of a chore as I had dreaded.

One afternoon when I was helping a friend with a song, I realized how much I wanted to work in music education. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be involved in band or chorus education, but I finally knew I wanted to be a teacher. I became involved with my church choir, conducting for Youth Sunday and eventually for the Youth choir itself. It became clear that I was leaning toward choir when I tried out for All-State choir and was the only alto to be accepted from my school, and was also voted for and accepted into my school’s Women’s Quartet my senior year.

Choir definitely wasn’t just a music class. Mr. Ousley, my director, had done a wonderful job in making his own program after the previous teacher had left Foard. Mr. Ousley made it based on how the students got along with each other, even if it meant that there was less time to work on the actual music. He had subtly created a family within the school. Every chorus member was part of the program, and they were connected throughout the school in every different program it offered.

He had made high school easier for students, offering a place to come to if they ever needed company or friends, and in that bond, that trust, that he created, the chorus program gave an effort to be more unified and to sing as one choir instead of singing for the individual.

When I realized what he had done for the school, it struck me how I wanted to do the same. To be able to influence young students in a positive, constructive way that was as much social as it was musical.

To grow from a mere child who didn’t make friends well, to being in a band setting with many different types of people, then being a part of a music family, I realized that growing up isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In growing up, we see changes in ourselves that might not have occurred if we hadn’t embraced our age, and experienced what could happen if we try new things.

Music changed my entire childhood. Instead of being the quiet student at the back, never talking to anyone, I was given an outlet. I finally knew I could excel at something, and had a place where I felt I belonged and could grow instead of struggling or merely existing. I found my artist’s canvas, I found my author’s typewriter and with music, I can show the world that I’m more than a student at the back of the class.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"The truth is…," Lauren Ziegler

"The truth is…"
Lauren Ziegler

A peanut among giants, the curly-haired girl weaves through her opponents until crashing into the last defender.  With a bang, she falls to the ground.  The referee flings a yellow card onto the field, and now the curly-haired girl has a free-kick.  Only a goalie between her and the goal.  She winds up to kick, the ball floats through the air, the goalie stretches out her arms, fingers kissing the ball, but the ball flies through. Goal! She has scored the game-winning goal and runs toward the bleachers where her family eagerly awaits her. 

With overwhelming happiness, the seven-year-old beams with excitement showing her missing front teeth.  Upon reaching her own cheering section composed of her mom, dad, brother, grandmom and granddad, and of course her Aunt Traci to take pictures of every moment, she is swarmed around like bees attracted to honey.  Through the group hug that then ensues, this small peanut feels whole because all that matters is the presence of her family.

“Be back by twelve,” yells her caring, but seemingly overprotective mom.
“OK. Whatever,” the teenage girl calls back, slamming the door behind her as she leaves for her friend’s house.

Why does she need me to be back at twelve?  It’s so early. I’m eighteen now. I think I deserve a little bit of respect.  The independent teenager cannot grasp the reason for the lack of freedom at home.

How did the change occur from a little, curly-haired girl to independent woman?  Why do we want to be released from our parents when we become teenagers, but our whole world is our mommy and our daddy when we are children?

College seems to be the much-needed transition for teenagers to fulfill their desire for freedom.  The transition has a little of everything: the good and the bad, the new and the familiar, and of course the friends who become our family, but each person’s response to the transition varies from overwhelming excitement to timid acceptance to utter disapproval.

When looking back at my initial transition from home to college, one word for me seemed to entirely envelop the change; every story, every distinct moment was awkward.  Now don’t misunderstand me. This was not a bad kind of awkward, but in fact, quite the opposite.

Finally the day I moved into Furman University, a place to call home for the next four years of my life.  Although my mom, my dad and I left our house later than anticipated, we were confident that we would arrive before the one o’clock deadline.  As we progressed towards Greenville, the new city to call home, Janel, my Freshman Advisor but also my best friend from high school, texted me: “When are you going to get here? Everyone is already moved in! Also you have to turn in your immunization papers before you can come to the dorm.”

I had postponed responding to the email that Furman had resent to me several times regarding my medical papers.  Since I waited until the day before I left to see a doctor, I carried these papers in hand to personally deliver to Furman University.

As we arrived on campus at quarter of one, I went to turn in these forms, but the infirmary was closed.  They were on lunch break until one-fifteen.

Ugh. Now I had to wait thirty minutes, and I’d be late to move in. What a great first day of school.  Once Mrs. Browne returned, I submitted the papers, but I was scolded. What the heck? I was in college where I was supposed to be free of adult supervision, and I was already being disciplined!  Although being reprimanded was far from comfortable, Mrs. Browne had a right to be angry for my late papers.  Once that was all over, my eyes slightly watering, I rushed over to Blackwell, my dorm, began the heavy lifting and forgot the unfortunate scolding.  Who knew I would be exercising by carrying all of my stuff up four flights of stairs.  Before I had completed unpacking, Mary and Janel, the Resident Assistant and Freshman Advisor, announced to everyone on the hall that the time had come for fun and games.  My heavy lifting was put on hold.

Our hall played the game Huggy Bear, a seemingly juvenile game.  As Mary yelled a number, we were supposed to form a group with that number of girls and hug each other.  Simple enough, right? Well, let the games begin.

Mary yelled, “Huggy Bear three.”

We hustled to find two other girls; my group succeeded.

Huggy Bear six.”

My group joined with a group near by because three and three is six. Weren’t we just so smart? Only Furman students could figure this game out!

Huggy Bear five.”

Now Mary made the game a little more difficult.  We had to consciously exclude someone from our group.  The turmoil within me built.  Deciding between my competitive nature with an overwhelming desire to win and a desire to be kind to ensure I make friends was a tough, yet manageable decision.  I decided on the making friends option.  As I willingly stepped out of the circle, I realized this game was definitely a great game to invade awkwardly into other’s personal space especially because I had only known these girls for a few minutes.  Although the game was strange, Huggy Bear was a fun way to become instantly more comfortable with these strangers who would become my friends.

With the introduction to college life, family life changed.  Although I will always be related to my family members, my hall became my new immediate family.  Games like Huggy Bear allowed us to mingle and to become social with one another.  Our sense of community built with every new group activity.  As we explored campus, we walked around wide-eyed, lost with no sense of direction, simply sticking together as freshmen seemed to do.  As we became acquainted with each other, a feeling of connection formed.  We began to change into a genuine family who would tend to each other’s needs; we would be there when someone needed a shoulder to cry on or help with studying.  This community of friendships that we were in the process of building helped us to become one big, happy family.  Or at least one that lived together despite our differences.

To create more friendships that first night, we met the boys that would be called our brother hall and the girls of our sister hall.  This encounter was made even more awkward when Mary tag lined the game, speed dating.  Basically how the game works was the two lucky guys entered a room where eight girls awaited them.  People introduced themselves, awkward silence, talked about where we are from, awkward silence yet again, giggled at the awkward silence, then discussed an original topic that one of the boys usually instigated.  So after the process happened two or three times, our group utilized our intelligent brains to avoid awkward silences.  We devised a way to make the game more fluid.

The two boys crossed the threshold and took a seat.  Then, we spoke in order of how we were sitting in the circle.

“Hi, I’m Madison from Columbia, SC, and I want to be a math major.”

My turn. “Hey! I’m Lauren from Hilton Head Island, SC. Undecided, but considering pursuing pre-health.”

Next. “Anna from Tennessee. Biology.”

“I’m Lily from Georgia, and I’m going to be a BioChem major”

“Caroline. I’m from Gastonia, NC. Undecided.”

“Hey, I’m Rachel from California and Biology major.”

“Hannah. North Carolina. Communications.”

“Sarah. South Carolina. Communications”

We finally gave the boys a chance to speak, and they answered the preliminary questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your major?  Then we had a small amount of time to get to know these strangers who may become our best friends.  Time’s up!


The next two guys entered the room, and we repeated the entire process until we had met everyone on our brother hall.  Why were we introduced into this uncomfortable situation when entering college, especially on the very first night?  Speed dating may not be necessary, but the dating was definitely helpful to meet a large number of people in a short amount of time. 

Since the RA (Residence Assistant) and FRAD (Freshman Advisor) kept us so busy, time flew by without a moment to miss home or feel home sick in my opinion.  Our lifestyles immediately changed into the busy and somewhat hectic lifestyle of college; Furman was transformed into home without notice.  Our new friends on our hall, the sister hall and the brother hall became our brothers and sisters who we would bicker with, but still love.  Our RA and FRAD became like our older siblings/ parental figures who were there to listen, to give us advice and to help with the adjustment.

But the toughest adjustment of all would be that I had to share a room with another person.  My personal, private living space to be shared with someone else.  Luckily, my roommate, Julia, seemed really cool.  The first night simply seemed like we were having a sleepover.  We talked about all the usual slumber party topics: friends, home, family, and of course, boys!  Then as the clock stuck two, we decided we should go to sleep.  Then next morning Julia seemed to have something on her mind.
“So,” Julia began, “I have a question for you.”

“Yea,” I replied, unsure of what she would say next.

“Do you—talk in your sleep?”

I laugh and reply, “Yes I do. Did I talk to you last night?”

“Ha ha, yea. You were mumbling, but then you asked, ‘Where are the towels?’”

I laughed harder. Wow! I hadn’t even had a chance to warn my new roommate about my sleep talking.  Hopefully, she wasn’t too afraid to be my roommate. Awkward situation? I thought ‘yes’!

Living with someone else in a dorm room was like sharing the room with your twin—your twin that you were meeting at camp for the first time as in The Parent Trap.  My roommate had actually become like the sister I never had.  We were beginning a new journey of our lives together, and I couldn’t wait for our many thrilling adventures in the future.  Although I have had several awkward moments since arriving at Furman University, this new Furman family made college seem like home. 


I no longer sprint up and down the soccer field as a little peanut, but I still weave through my opponents.  The difference is that my new opponents are my own fatal characteristics.  They battle against my discipline, my work ethic, and my desire for excellence.  With the independence I have found in college, I have had to become my own person. What I do now is my choice, and I must now decide what my future holds.  I may not be the shortest or littlest girl on the field, but I will always have massive obstacles in my way that I can only achieve through being a responsible young woman and having support from my Furman family.