When all the World is Frozen

My parents are science teachers and are currently sitting at home on their fourth consecutive snow day.

My parents don’t particularly like snow days because they sit at home with nothing to do but read mystery novels (which is always a great past time) and their make up days don’t occur until June, when it’s actually warm and sunny.

But do colleges have snow days?

After Monday, apparently YES.

My freshman year, we had Snowpocalypse 2011 near the beginning of the winter term. My freshman roommate Mariah Nawrot ’14 and I stayed up really late at night and watched the snow fall increasingly faster and faster out of the Newberry window and onto the quad area by the volleyball court, and we wondered for a long time if we’d have to trudge to class through the over one foot of snow that we got in just a few hours.

Classes were cancelled the next day for the first time in what seemed like a million years, but it was something like… forty-five. Or twenty-eight. I’ve heard good cases for both numbers.

So when school was cancelled on Monday due to excessive snow and frigid temperatures, I wasn’t too surprised. And of course, all my senior friends were pretty excited that we got to witness TWO snow days in our esteemed four years at this fine institution known as Alma College.

But what does one do during snow days? You don’t have class or sports commitments. What do you do when there’s nothing to do?

Well, I braved the two degree temperatures with Jimmy Scollin ’16, Tyler Larson ’16, and Adam Mossoian ’16 and we built a snow fort outside of Bruske using a frying pan as our shovel.

It was really cold and I didn’t have snow pants. But once you actually sit inside of your snow fort with another person, it’s only a little bit freezing.

Adam and I in the great Bruske snow fort of 2014.

Last year when we almost had a snow day but it didn’t snow quite that much, I had a pretty big snow ball fight on the PMA lawn with the brothers. We also witnessed some SAE brothers making a snow slide, which looked pretty awesome and pretty dangerous.

Nobody is venturing outside in the absolute frigidness that the Midwest has been plunged into, but yesterday I bundled up and walked downtown to the post office. I really don’t recommend walking a mile when it’s negative ten outside, but it could’ve been colder and my nose didn’t fall off.

When it’s this cold, nobody’s holding meetings or anything because nobody wants to go outside. But Active Minds had their first meeting of the semester last night and a bunch of new people showed up. My opening remarks as president of the organization were “Thank you all for braving the cold to stomp out mental health stigma because it’s REALLY COLD and I didn’t even want to come.”

Sometimes the world stops when everything is snowbound and cold, but some things, like working to end mental health stigma, are never frozen.

When it finally warms up to about twenty degrees, I expect to see you guys sunbathing on the Chapel lawn like normally happens during spring term. I’m sure some people will because it will feel that warm.

Stay safe and warm out there, Alma. And if you get bored in all the cold, you can always build a fort with a frying pan. Just wear the proper clothes so your nose doesn’t fall off.

The One and Only Festival of Carols.

Facebook statuses have started.

“SNOW!” “Time to listen to Christmas music!” “Christmas time!” “Christmas countdown!”

This was my Facebook status last night: “tired and needy college student seeks cuddle buddy after long choir rehearsals. i’ll pay you in cake.”

No joke. And my offer still stands. Hit me up

WAYYYYY back last year during the last week of fall term classes, I wrote about lugging my stuffed Simba around (he’s right next to me currently) and I talked about how during exam week I showed up in the music building in an oversized Christmas sweater and joined chorale.

I am still in chorale and am getting ready for my first and only Festival of Carols this weekend.

My Facebook status was posted last night at ten thirty at night. I was sitting in Heritage on the fifth tier of a seven level riser scheme, cradling my choir music, and trying not to fall asleep. I was very fortunate that I was sitting because another choir was singing. I honestly can’t remember if it was the world renowned Alma Choir (I call them Big Kid Choir) or the Glee Club. But it wasn’t me singing so I was sitting down and that was a big deal.

I did marching band in high school. It taught me one thing and that was “One more time” never means one more time. Ever.

Choir rehearsals are definitely having that vibe right now.

Chorale meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at twelve thirty in the chapel. We sing for a fifty minute class period. We’re about fifty-five members strong and we cover every single year range. We see the same people three times a week and sometimes that’s tiring.

Festival of Carols gives us (I like to think of it as  ”me” since I’m new to this whole thing) a chance to hang out with the other choirs.

I’m drinking all of it in.

For the past two weeks, we’ve been encouraged to go to the last half hour of Alma Choir rehearsal and sing with them. I went every single evening, except when I was in Washington DC. It was intimidating, but who wouldn’t be intimidated by the Alma Choir? A few girls in the Glee Club joined us and we dispersed ourselves among the choir veterans, loudly singing our Treble IV parts that differ from the Treble III’s and soaking up the glory of being in a really big choir.

This week, while we tirelessly get ready for Festival of Carols, all three choirs come together for a staggering eleven hours of rehearsal for chorale, eleven hours for Glee Club, and even more for the Alma Choir. I’m an English Major, not a math major, so I’m not going to figure their schedule out. But most of that time is spent with all three choirs together covering the seven tier riser scheme.

There’s something kind of impressive about all three choirs getting together and singing The First Noel, ya know?

And it’s fun.

Most people are saying, “Ugh, Festival rehearsal” but I’m that new kid that’s really annoying and full of childlike wonder. This is my first and only Festival as a singer. I’ve always been in the audience, and now I get to experience it. I just have the one time to do it before I leave in April, so I’m drinking everything in. I don’t mind the long rehearsals; I get to sing with the other choirs and see other people.

And I love singing. Stressed about exams? Sing. Stressed about projects? Sing. Stressed about life? Sing.

I’m not saying that the rehearsals aren’t tiring, however. Last night I almost fell asleep on my friend John. I kept myself focused by Snapchatting. Hashtag #festivalrehearsal.

All three Alma choirs are pretty awesome. We work pretty hard. And we put on a darn good Festival of Carols every year. So you should probably come to it.

Friday at eight, Saturday at eight, and Sunday at three in Heritage. Tickets are free if you’re a student, which is always a plus.

It also kind of sold out like, way back in October (which shows you that it’s kind of a big deal) but you can do what I did last year. Which is to show up five minutes before the show starts and take a ticket from someone who didn’t pick up their ticket. There’s always someone who gets a ticket and then never shows up. It’s okay to be that person that takes the extra tickets. I was that person for three years.

(Also, if you really can’t make it to any of the performances, you can watch the live stream Sunday afternoon on the portal. Technology! YAY!)

Changing the Conversation.

I just got back from Washington DC.

It was pretty awesome. I saw the Capitol, some awesome museums including the Holocaust Museum, hung out with a gigantic statue of Abraham Lincoln, and watched the sun set over the Mall.

I also ventured to Georgetown Cupcake, the bakery that the reality show DC cupcakes is set in, and let me tell you, there’s a reason that bakery has their own show. BEST. CUPCAKE. EVER.

But why did I venture to our nation’s great capital last week?

Active Minds 10th Mental Health Conference, that’s why!

I’ve posted in here about Active Minds before. I think it’s kind of a big deal, but I’m slightly biased because I’m the president of the organization.

If you don’t know what Active Minds is, here’s the quick run down: we’re the student mental health advocacy group on campus. We’re changing the conversation about mental health, first and foremost by starting the conversation. People don’t like to talk about mental health. We LOVE to talk about it, and we’re here to talk about it in a positive light. Not everyone has a mental health disorder (though 1 in 4 adults do have a mental health disorder) but everyone has mental health, and it’s time that we talk about it and stop the stigma associated with it.

And that was how we kicked off Active Minds National Conference: with a Stomp Out Stigma Walk.

Myself, Erica Beitel (’15), Jes Lawrence (’15) and Kayla Roy (’14) went to Washington DC to stomp out stigma and meet other college students from around the country that were all apart of Active Minds chapters and are just as passionate about mental health as we are.

From left: Erica, Kayla, myself, and Jes!

The conference took place on Georgetown University’s campus, and what a gorgeous campus it was. The conference kicked off with the Stomp Out Stigma Walk, where nearly six hundred student advocates marched through the campus wearing bibs that said 1,100 to commemorate the 1,100 college students that die by suicide each year. Active Minds staff members pointed us in the right direction and held mental health signs, my personal favorite saying, “Stigma causes shame, shame causes silence, silence hurts us all”.

After the stigma walk we dressed up and attended the awards dinner, with a keynote speaker that advocates for mental health in the US government with President Obama. It was a night full of good food with some kids from California who thought that DC was freezing. (It wasn’t. It was in the fifties and much better than Michigan.)

Saturday was a super full day full of ideas about fundraising, meeting people from all over the country, buying Active Minds stuff to support the national office, and going through the Expo. We presented on National Depression Screening Day, a day in October where you may have been approached in Saga by an Active Minds member asking if you wanted to take an anonymous depression screening survey. When I wasn’t telling interested students all about Alma and our program, I got a chance to go to other people’s tables and see what they were doing around the country to change the conversation about mental health.

The four of us went to different small presentations after the Expo: I went to one about campus publicity and member recruitment. Kayla went to the research side of mental health, and Jes went to one of Active Minds Inc’s bureau speakers. We all attended keynote speaker Stacy Pershall, who talked about her experience with borderline personality disorder and anorexia. She was so inspiring that I cried.

It was a whirlwind weekend of ordering in food to our hotel room, stomping out stigma, meeting new friends from other chapters, and writing down great ideas to bring to Alma. I kept remembering my freshman year at Alma when I realized that Active Minds was the student run mental health advocacy group on campus. I hadn’t realized that such a thing existed, and then I went to my first meeting my very first week of school. And here I am, president of Active Minds at Alma College and going to conferences to change the world.

One conversation can change a life. Changing a life can change the world.

It’s time for us to start talking about mental health.

(Active Minds meets on Wednesdays in SAC 104 from 6:30 to 7:00. Please come if you’re interested in joining the nationwide movement to change the conversation. We accept anyone and everyone.)

Being Overwhelmed is Overwhelming.

It’s getting to be that time in the semester.

This morning, while I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone in bed because I wasn’t quite committed to the idea of showering before class, I found a post from one of my residents that said something along the lines of, “Hey, seniors graduate in 164 days!”

Cue instant panic.

In class today I set up an appointment with my English Senior Seminar professor about my twenty page paper that’s due in less than a month. As I flipped through my planner, I realized that we only have a few more weeks left the semester.

And I am seriously stressed out.

It’s typical Alma fashion to talk about how much work we’re doing. I’m Emily and I’m involved in this organization! I plan this event! I have this huge long meeting on Thursday night! I’m taking this many credits!

Kind of like this.

I used to be one of those people. I’m trying to leave this mentality behind me. I’ve come to the conclusion that who I am as a person and who I am on this campus have nothing to do with how involved I am and how many credits I’m taking. It does not determine my value as a person.

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by all the credits that we take and all the things that we’re involved in.

But there’s so much more to being a college student than the credits we take, and there’s so much more to being a college student than all the activities we’re involved in.

There’s also the fact that you’re a person.

I’m going to admit that I’ve had a rough two weeks. It’s common knowledge among most people who know me that I have an anxiety disorder and sometimes it makes life difficult. Sometimes my anxiety stems from school work and extra curricular activities, and sometimes it doesn’t. The past two weeks it hasn’t stemmed from college, it’s just stemmed from me being a human being and dealing with personal stuff.

We all deal with personal stuff. And sometimes it’s really hard to deal with when you’re already overwhelmed from school work and all of your activities.

I’ve decided that it’s okay for me to take time for myself. I can allow some time to set aside for “me time”, where I don’t worry about my school work or my ridiculous amount of activities. Last weekend, instead of working on my senior thesis and one of my papers, I took a night in. I ate an entire box of shaped macaroni and cheese, Skyped with one of my best friends from home, and watched The Dark Knight Rises. I then made pumpkin cookies at midnight.

It made me feel a lot better.

I’m learning that you don’t always have to justify how you’re feeling to other people. If you feel like you can’t go to a meeting for whatever personal reason, you shouldn’t feel obligated to go. If something is making you unhappy, you have the right to let it go. You’re in college and you’re in control of your own life.

My mother is always telling me that your college years are your selfish years. You get to spend time exploring who you are and what you’re passionate about, and you only need to worry about yourself. You do whatever you need to do for you.

For me, that was holing up and watching Batman and snarfing macaroni.

It’s okay to take a step back and get your personal life in order. How can you be a college student if you feel like you can’t even be a person? These are things that my therapist asks me on a regular basis and I think that everyone should ask themselves.

College is overwhelming. Classes are overwhelming. Extra curriculars are overwhelming.

Being a person is overwhelming.

In the words of Kid President, “It’s confusing to be a person sometimes.” And that’s okay.

Don’t lose yourself toward the end of the semester. You’re a person and you’re important.

It’s Halloween Time.

It’s officially that time of year.

Pumpkin spice lattes. Falling leaves. Hocus Pocus is on every available TV channel, and you have to admit that it’s a true cinematic masterpiece.

It’s Halloween time.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Normally people are like, “Jeez, Emily, what about Christmas?” Christmas is great if you’re a person who celebrates Christmas, and not everyone does, which is cool. Not everyone celebrates Halloween, either.

I did the Wright Hall lobby bulletin board this month as part of my RA duties and I did Halloween traditions around the world. There is a little section devoted to France that says, “France doesn’t celebrate Halloween. Silly France.”

For me, Halloween is the one time of year that I can dress up like something that I’m not and I can run around and get candy and just generally be a little bit crazy. And I’m not kidding you when I say I went trick-or-treating until I was nineteen.

I don’t remember what I went as when I was nineteen (when I was eighteen I went as a cereal killer and I thought that was very clever) but I remember that there were some very confused parents when I rang the doorbell and expectantly held out a bag, waiting for candy.

Now that we’re all in college, it’s a little bit more difficult to carve pumpkins to put on your porch with your parents and to go trick-or-treating. But you can always dress up and have a great time anyway.

My costume this year, although I haven’t worn it yet, is Hipster Queen Lear. I will wear a prom dress, a crown, and a sign that says, “Chronologically speaking, my husband went mad before Hamlet.” (I already have the hipster glasses because, you know, I need glasses to see.)

English Major humor.

I didn’t do anything for Halloween last year and it made me very sad inside. So this year I decided that I was actually going to do stuff.

Emily Celebrates Halloween Part One: Phi Mu Alpha Horror Movie Night

On Saturday night I embarked on a great and perilous journey to the PMA house to watch my first EVER horror movie. A bunch of brothers went to Terror on 127 beforehand but I decided that since I don’t like to be scared, that I would hold up in my apartment and watch The Dark Knight Rises, which I totally did, by the way. I also made sure that there was someone at the PMA house that I could hide behind while I watched my first ever horror movie, which was… THE SHINING.

 

So that happened.

I actually really enjoyed The Shining, partly because my cuddle buddy held my hand and whispered everything that was about to happen so I didn’t cry. It also helped that it wasn’t a jump-scare movie, because I cannot handle jump scaring AT ALL. It was more of a psychologically scary movie than a physically I-need-to-hide-behind-my-hands-then-scream-then-wet-myself type of movie, which I almost think is worse when you’re done watching it, because I was pretty terrified of the Wright Hall hallway when I got back to my apartment. Fortunately, there were not any dead girls waiting for me by the second floor laundry room when I went to bed.

Emily Celebrates Halloween Part Two: Odd Foods and Hocus Pocus

Once a month, my RA staff has a fun night. On Monday we had our staff fun night that consisted of sitting in our Hall Director’s living room, watching Hocus Pocus (a true classic) and eating fried ice cream.

I have decided that fried ice cream looks, tastes, and feels like corn flakes. No one will convince me otherwise. But it was delicious and I ate all of it. My Hall Director also made us pumpkin pie bars, which were absolutely fabulous. And of course, we all watched Hocus Pocus, which if you haven’t seen it, you’re truly missing out on a masterpiece of film.

I mean, how could not enjoy a movie with witches like this?

And thus has been my celebration of Halloween 2013 so far.

Since I don’t normally go out on weekends, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to wear my Hipster Queen Lear costume of literary magnificence.

Maybe I’ll break tradition and grace the campus with my literary costuming. I think the world needs more literary humor.

Pets! Pets! Pets!

As an RA, I’m always hearing a discussion about pets somewhere.

Pets are good! Pets are great! Lots of people have pets at home that they miss! It’s great to have pets at school because they relieve stress! Pets! Pets! Pets!

There are also a lot of petitions that go around with things like, “Sign this if you want to be able to keep a bunny in your room!” and other things of the furry nature.

Although I am a huge fan of pets and what they do for morale, especially now that winter is coming, I am not a fan of the furry pet petitions because I am the person that the furry pet rules are protecting.

I happen to be highly allergic to fur, and believe me, it’s not fun.

So many of my friends have dogs, cats, what have you. My extended family does. I go to Thanksgiving dinner at my uncle’s house and five minutes inside, their dog and two cats have congregated on me and my mother (who is also allergic) and we’re popping allergy pills, puffing inhalers, and our eyes turn red and puffy and itchy and we seriously struggle to breathe with allergy induced asthma.

The Life and Times of Emily, Struggling to Breathe at Family Gatherings Since 1991.

It’s a serious problem for me. My best friends tend to have dogs. The person that I dated for my first two years at Alma had four dogs and believe me, going to his house to visit his parents was torture. My RA staff always has one day a year when we go to a petting zoo and I tend to pet everything I can that’s soft and furry, but the rest of the day is just a big inhaler puffing fest and I have to make sure I don’t touch any part of my body without washing my hands.

This makes it hard for me to have a pet that I can snuggle with at home. My brother has a tarantula, but she’s not exactly snuggling material. My parents don’t need a cuddly pet to snuggle with to be happy with their lives as high school teachers. But sometimes I just need to snuggle with something. I have a lot of stuffed animals and pent up rage when the therapy dogs come to the library and I can’t love on them.

So I looked into getting a college approved pet.

College approved pets are generally as follows: lizards under ten inches, fish that stay in tanks (why wouldn’t they stay in tanks?), turtles, tortoises, and probably hermit crabs.

What’s not approved? Tarantulas. Snakes. BIG lizards. Birds. And of course, anything with fur. (Unless it’s a certified therapy animal. Those are okay. Just make sure you’ve gone through all the therapy certification… stuff.)

So what did that leave me with? I’d already had two fish, Gabberdine and Starship Cruiser, both who had tragically died during the spring term to home move in May, and they had broken my heart. I legitimately cried when I flushed them down the toilet and my mom went around saying to people, “Be nice to Emily, her fish died today.”

So this year, after being fishless for nearly a year and needing a pet, I went to the pet store in Mount Pleasant and got myself a baby bearded dragon, who will keep me company for ten years. I named him Hamlet because, you know, I’m an English major and who hasn’t heard of Hamlet?

This is Hamlet. He’s under the ten inch regulation. In a year he’ll be really fat and two feet long and sit on the couch and watch Netflix with me while I’m crying my way through graduate school.

I suppose I’m writing about pets this week because as a slowly dying senior, I’m realizing how important pets are for your wellbeing while you’re at school. But it’s also important that our pets follow the college policy, no matter how stupid you think it is.

Because, you know, there are people like me that could actually die if you harbor a bunny in your room. (I mean, I probably won’t die. But asthma attacks are not fun and I enjoy having both of my eyes working, having a clear nose, and being able to breathe properly. I feel like most of us enjoy these things.)

If you have a cool campus approved pet, let me know. It can hang out with Hamlet. When I play him indie music he dances.

Library Life.

It’s not a secret that I live in the library. In fact, last semester, I was in the library until its closing time of one in the morning so consistently that my mother called me to ask if I’d joined Model UN without telling her.

No, I had not joined Model UN, nor do I plan to. Our Model UN team is more wonderful than I could ever describe, but it’s definitely not for me.

In my sorority, we have study hours that we need to attain each week. Sometimes they’re in the library, sometimes they’re at our house, sometimes they’re in the CSO or in SAC. How many hours we need to acquire each week is based on our current GPA. With my GPA, I need to attain one hour of studying per week.

The idea of being in the library only one hour per weeks is laughable. When I email our scholarship chairwoman about when I got my hour of studying in at my carrel, I think about all the different hours I could tell her. Three to four on Tuesday? Midnight to one on Thursday? The two hours I work on my senior thesis on Friday night because I don’t have a life? The choices seem endless.

A better question is… when am I not studying?

(All right, sometimes I catch up on my TV shows in the library. And I also have a very personal relationship with Netflix. So when Supernatural season 8 came out on Netflix you can bet your bottom dollar that I watched two episodes in the library where the internet is better than in my apartment.)

Library life sounds boring, right? I mean, who wants to be stuck inside studying in the library all day? You could be outside enjoying the fall weather while you study! (The problem I have with this theory is that my laptop screen is not UV resistant and then I can’t see anything. I’m also allergic to grass. And leaves. And outside stuff.)

But I would say that there are a lot of interesting things that happen in the library and quite frankly, I think they’re awesome.

I have a sticky note to-do list on my carrel, which happens to be the same one I’ve had for the past three years. There is a sticky note right at the center that says WRITE YOUR THESIS. The other day I came to find these two notes tacked onto it.

Obviously, someone wants me to spend all of my time on Tumblr and not doing my senior thesis.

A common argument against library studying is “the library is so bland!” And to that I say… DECORATION.

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As you can see, my carrel is quite personalized. This is for two reasons.

1. I want to feel at home while I’m sitting at the same desk for six hours.

2. If your carrel is covered in stuff like a mug that’s shaped like a chicken (my best purchase from Treasures EVER), nobody will sit at it when you don’t want them to.

The library is also a good place for friends. My English major senior thesis buddy Katelyn Gentner (’14) has a carrel behind me and we happen to work at a lot of the same times. Conversations like this ensue.

Me: I HATE EVERYTHING

Katelyn: HELP ME STUDY LATIN

Me: I DON’T KNOW LATIN

Katelyn: NEITHER DO I

And we can commiserate.

People that hang out in the library are also generally nice. I’ve come to my carrel after classes, ready to get down to business to defeat the Huns, and I’ve found some lovely little love notes.

For some reason, my friends in the English Honorary call me Dave.

Sometimes the library feels suffocating, like the time I spent seven hours at my carrel working on an annotated bibliography about Lolita. But most of the time, at least for me, going to the library is refreshing and I really feel like I can get down to it and get all my work done.

Even when my carrel looks like this.

Hopefully that never happens again.

A Senior and VERY Senior Homecoming.

It seems like everything right now is screaming HOMECOMING HOMECOMING HOMECOMING! And that’s probably because homecoming was last weekend and there were lots of festivities.

It was a very special homecoming for me for two reasons.

1. This was my last homecoming as an active Alma student. In April I will be walking across a stage to shake President Abernathy’s hand, and after that, every single homecoming is going to be an alum affair.

2. It was my mother’s 30th reunion from Alma.

My mom, Amy Anderson (’83) went to Alma with the intent of studying French but ended up with a biology major that led her to graduate school in Indiana, where she fortunately met my dad and had me and my brother. While at Alma she was a part of Alpha Theta which later became Gamma Phi Beta, my sorority, and she played on the field hockey team. My parents come to Alma a lot and every time they come, my mom always tells me how much Alma has changed but also how much has stayed exactly the same.

On Saturday, I took them on a tour of Saga 2.0 and I think my mom’s mouth hit the floor. My dad wasn’t that perturbed by it, but he went to Butler University. I sometimes wonder if he’s sad that my brother and I went to Alma and not to Butler (I at least applied) but he sees how happy we are here, and I think that’s enough for him.

While we ate lunch in the new Saga, my mom told me about what Saga was like when she went here in the eighties and how it was actually Saga and not Sodexo. There was only one main line and if you didn’t like what was in it, tough luck.

As a long-term vegetarian, that didn’t sound very appealing to me.

After lunch and a quick tour of the Gamma Phi Beta house where my mom lived for her last two years on campus as an undergrad, we went to the football game and cheered hard for the football players and the Kiltie Marching Band. I did marching band in high school and it’s always been near and dear to my heart. We screamed for our homecoming queen and king and lamented our loss in overtime. Then my parents took me and my brother (Aaron Hollenberg ’13) out to dinner at Pizza Sam’s, an Alma favorite. It was my brother’s first homecoming as an alum and it felt like he had never left.

After a nice dinner I had to get ready for my first and only homecoming choir concert. It wasn’t until halfway through my junior year that I realized that I missed music and I joined chorale, Alma’s second choir. I was particularly excited because we were singing The Circle of Life from The Lion King, and that happens to be my favorite movie of all time. Ask me about it sometime. (But seriously. When we got the music in class I burst into tears in front of the whole choir. I was that excited.)

It was a surreal experience, singing in the homecoming choir concert for the first and last time. I focused hard on not losing my voice as I sang Highland Cathedral over the sweet drone of the Alma bagpipes. I found my parents in the audience and they smiled at me as I sang the Alma Mater and it was very hard for me not to cry as I sang the alto line, “Alma! Alma! Sing of alma mater!” I watched my mom throughout the entire Alma Mater and it was then that I truly realized how deeply the roots of Alma go through my family.

My mother went to Alma from 1979-1984. My brother went to Alma from 2009-2013. I am going to Alma from 2010-2014. It’s not out of character for my mother to say in passing, “Well when your kids look at Alma” in general conversation.

Alma is truly a home. Even though my dad didn’t go to Alma, he makes the drive from Indiana to Michigan numerous times a year to watch us present at Honor’s Day, to hear me sing in the choir, to see me peform in The Vagina Monologues, to go on a whim when my mom asks him to because she misses home.

This was my last homecoming as a student, but it’s not my last homecoming. My mother is proof of that. All of the alumni who came into the choir, rose up, and sang the Alma Mater with us are proof of that.

Alma is with us forever.

Here’s a video of the Alma College Choirs singing The Circle of Life if you missed it.

(Video credit to Brendan Lodge’s (’14) Facebook. He’s also the soloist at the beginning AND he arranged the score. Also ten points if you can find me, which shouldn’t be that hard because I’m really awkward in the front row.)

Sometimes It’s Good to Get Off Campus.

We all love Alma College. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here. But sometimes we just need to get off campus.

This past weekend and at the beginning of this week, I spent more time off campus than on campus and it was quite re-energizing.

On Saturday afternoon I set off on an adventure with Adam Mossoian (’16) to Detroit to see one of my favorite bands in concert, Cold War Kids. I had excitedly bought the tickets months before and I had spent all summer counting down to Saturday. When it finally rolled around, together we took off for the great city of Detroit in my 15 year old minivan.

The concert was fantastic. We were ten feet away from the stage, the speakers made us half deaf, we met the opening band, I got a cool t-shirt, and a girl behind us almost lit my hair on fire. True story.

For me personally, there’s something magical about seeing my favorite bands live. I had been looking forward to seeing Cold War Kids live for months and months and it finally happened. And one of the best parts was that I was out of Alma and venturing to bigger places like Detroit. Adam and I also got on the wrong highway and got lost for a while, and that was part of the adventure too.

The day after the concert, Sunday, my RA staff and I took a staff fun day to Anderson and Girls, which is an exotic petting zoo, cider mill, and pumpkin patch. The weather was perfect; warm and sunny. We got on a wagon ride and waded through a pumpkin patch. Talon Morris (’14) and I rode a camel together. I petted a zebra and fed a donkey. All eleven of us fed some birds peanut butter and seeds. We had cider and doughnuts and I had my one and only caramel apple of the fall.

The entire afternoon was spent off campus in each other’s company just enjoying fall and everything that Michigan has to offer.

My RA staff! Can you find me?

 

 

Also, here’s a picture of me feeding the birds.

It was a big bird.

I think the best part about my adventure to Anderson and Girls was riding the camel. They have really fuzzy humps, if you wanted to know.

To complete my adventures off campus, my English 420 senior seminar had class at the cemetery on Tuesday. The thirteen of us and Dr. Vivian met in the Heritage Center parking lot and carpooled straight to the Alma cemetery across the river to hold class and discuss our latest book, Ironweed.

We spent twenty minutes walking reflectively among the graves and thinking about life and death. I sat on a gravestone and wrote a poem. I found small graves, large graves, graves with flowers, graves without. When we were done walking and reflecting, we sat at the entrance to the cemetery in a circle and discussed the book. My junior year, I had another class with Dr. Vivian that went to Wal-Mart and I thought about that a lot, that I had the chance to leave Alma’s campus for a class. On Tuesday, sitting outside in the sunshine and smelling the crisp fall air, reminded me of my spring term in England where we held class underneath the shade of York Minster Cathedral in York.

Sometimes you need to get off campus. You need a different perspective. You need to break out of what we call “the bubble”.

But we always come back.

Suicide Prevention Week 2013: It’s Time to Talk.

You probably saw the yellow flags in front of the library on Monday. You probably saw the yellow ribbons that were hung around campus. You probably heard about a suicide speaker that came to campus on Wednesday. You might’ve heard about QPR training.

I’m the culprit behind all that stuff.

I happen to be the president of an organization called Active Minds. Our slogan is “Changing the conversation about mental health” and that is exactly what we’re trying to do.

Active Minds is a student-run organization that holds campus-wide events for mental health advocacy. We want to talk about mental health and we want to talk about it in a positive light. We want to stomp out the negative stigma of mental health.

Did you know that one in four adults struggles with some aspect of mental health? That’s 350 students on this campus. And most of them aren’t getting the help that they need. Active Minds is here to talk about it and here to do something about it, and I couldn’t be more blessed to be the president of such a great organization with such caring and compassionate students.

We do monthly programming on a specific mental health issue. Some of our programming comes from Active Minds National Headquarters, which is situated in Washington, D.C. Suicide Prevention Week is a program that we put on every year in September because September is Suicide Prevention Month. (The rest of our programming is what our members feel passionate about and want to see addressed on campus.)

Suicide Prevention Week is pretty much the busiest week of my year, but it’s one of my favorites. It’s a week where I feel like I’m really reaching out to the campus and talking about things that are hard to talk about.

On Monday I woke up at six in the morning. I and two other members of Active Minds stuck 1,100 yellow flags in the ground to commemorate and give a visual representation of the 1,100 college students that die by suicide each year.

1,100 college students.

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Field of Flags 2013.

We call this event Field of Flags. We set up a table with Active Minds free stuff on it with a sign explaining what Field of Flags is. We talk about suicide prevention to anyone who stops by. We hand out our free stuff. (Active Minds is the KING of free stuff.) We have pins, silly putty, stickers, magnets, and suicide help packets. We’re out to educate.

On Tuesday night, a bunch of members got together in Newberry Lobby wearing black gear. We were armed with 100 posters that said “YOU ARE NOT ALONE,” 350 yellow ribbons to represent the 350 students on campus who struggle with mental health issues, 15 Active Minds meeting posters, a sheet to hang over the library railing, and rolls of tape.

We spent an hour covering the campus in the posters and ribbons.

Today we had a speaker come to campus to talk about his struggle with suicide and depression. He spoke of the importance of reaching out, of being compassionate, of talking about these issues.

And of course, we had a table of free stuff.

On Thursday we have QPR training, which stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. It’s a gatekeeper training on how to see the signs of suicide. When you see the signs of suicidal tendencies in someone, QPR teaches you how to approach the subject and how to get that person the help that they need. The training is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Smith Room in the library.

I’m very passionate about Active Minds and it is one of the best things that I do on campus. I do have to plug a little bit: we meet on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. in SAC 104. Meetings are never more than half an hour.

It’s the end of the Suicide Prevention Week 2013. We stuck 1,100 flags in the ground. We want to change that number.

It’s time to start talking.