Final Blogpost – Choosing Our Cause

The topics discussed in Global Health and the thoughts raised our Movement Matters blogposts throughout the semester leave a conflicted sensation in my mind as I look forward to the end of the semester, the Holiday break, and everything that goes along with Winter in Vermont and at Middlebury. My partner and I discussed at length the heightened awareness we experiences in relation to our bodies and physical activity, spurred by the original Bees movement matters class. As athletes, we were both constantly exposed to opportunities to feel the effects of movement on our mental and physical health and overall happiness. This has contributed to me developing a deeper understanding and passion for healthy nutrition, too. I know sublimity of an amazingly hard workout, and I’ve now realized that nutrition is one of the most important factors in being able to access this “runner’s high” more often. Through learning about nutrition deficiencies in class lectures, I am certainly more aware of the privilege I have. Giving my body what it needs to feel its best is never a question of accessibility here at Middlebury. And yet, while I hope that higher awareness has allowed me to be more empathetic with those who suffer daily from nutritional deficiencies, or any global health disease or issue for that matter, I know that my worst nutritional days are still miles ahead of billions of people in this world. I don’t know what it is like to be truly hungry, because I’ve never been placed in that situation. I’ve never known of the toll a chronic disease can take because I am protected through immunization and my illnesses always resolve in a few days. More importantly, while it is so easy for me to empathize with my classmates who are also busy finishing final essays and studying for final exams, I still find it difficult to empathize with those with “real problems”—the life-threatening ones, the ones that don’t disappear when we submit the final assignment and pack up for the holidays. Even when I’ve been most diligent about considering the world around me, I feel like I’ve come up short.

But, as we presented our elevator speeches on Tuesday, I realized the depth and breadth of the multitude of global health issues at stake in today’s world. There will never be a world without these problems, and so trying to empathize with each one of the harrowing stories or cruel mistreatments out there is impossible. What the class has given me, though, is a thorough look at the parts of the world that are so easy to ignore here at a private college in Middlebury, VT. Being exposed to these realities hasn’t always been easy, but I believe it is necessary. And in the process, I have found myself empathizing with some of the causes, and quite strongly at times. We can only make an impact on the world one step at a time, so really, we don’t need to have a broad empathy for everything, we really just need to have strong and sincere empathy with a single cause—and then choose to act on it.

Dogs and Good Listeners

I’ve enjoyed spending some time with my dog while home for Thanksgiving break. It’s been a really pleasant break, but I do remember moments from previous years when I wasn’t as happy with things, and how in those moments my dog was type of companion I needed. This week, I also read something that struck me as incredibly innovative and practical. I’ll include the article, but it was about dogs from animal shelters being brought into prisons. For a period of time, the inmates would train the dogs. The result would be that the inmates gained a new friend and a purpose, and the dogs would be better suited to go into homes. It’s a program that embodies the symbiotic relationship. It made me realize that dogs are sometimes the perfect friend because they are absolutely never judgmental. Sometimes, we all need a good listener.

Manchester VT: Outside Looking In

I met up with my mom yesterday on my way home from Middlebury for Thanksgiving Break. We planned to meet in Manchester VT, right on my route and only a 45 minute drive for her. It’s funny that I’ve been driving up and down VT for three years now and had never stopped in Manchester before yesterday. But after spending a few hours there shopping for a couple items on my desperately-overdue-purchases-to-make list and grabbing lunch, I was able to see why it didn’t have much appeal to me. Manchester is an anomaly; more shops per capita than any other town in VT, an unnatural coalition of wealth. But though it is located right in the middle of southern VT, it doesn’t feel like VT. I suppose people have said that about Middlebury, too, but at least we have a college that brings the place together; Manchester only has its shops. I sound critical because as I drove into Manchester along Route 30, I couldn’t help but notice all of the rundown houses and beat-up old cars and trucks. The disparity between the Armani Outlet Shop and the trailer home five minutes away was striking. At first I joked about the houses–what could these people possibly to do make any money? But then I thought about where I live, and how I can find rundown houses in the town over, and realized that maybe the people in the towns outside Manchester resent the materialistic world of tourists and outlets. Maybe they would rather live in their modest homes than shop in the Manchester stores. Maybe they are the truest Vermonters, no matter how much money they make.

Empathy (Paris)

I wanted to write this post yesterday, but I also wanted to give my thoughts the chance to settle regarding the recent events that occurred in Paris. As this exercise as is designed to heighten our awareness as it relates to empathy, there is  not more striking event that could have occurred during this “experiment” than the very real and horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. I know many others have written about Paris in this week’s posts, but as someone who tends to process things slowly, I wanted to be able to sift through all of the news and social media before determining my true feelings. In some ways, Paris could be marked down as yet another terrorist attack, just one of many. Why should I prioritize my sympathy for these deaths over those that occurred in Beirut? And as someone who experiences psychosocial numbing like the rest of us, I will admit that I do not feel any different about the 129 dead in Paris versus the 44 dead in Beirut. But what I do feel is fear. I feared for those I knew who lived or were in Paris at the time of the attacks. I feared that they would be one or two or three of the 129. I didn’t experience that same fear about Beirut, and that is because I do not know anyone there. It’s both saddening to me that I feel this way, but it also feels humanizing. We cannot empathize with everyone, but we can give our full empathy to those we know and care for. And if everyone has someone willing to give empathy to them, then we all do our part in helping the world heal after tragedies like these.

Here’s an article I found interesting, too.

Thoughts on Gratification

There is a new-ish acronym that has been circulating over the past year or two, and that is FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out.” I found myself excitedly anticipating winter this weekend as I ordered a few pieces of gear for skiing, and the weather reports of snow all over the west recently only fueled my desire for winter to come to Vermont. Thinking on this, though, I struggle with the fact that I cannot fully appreciate a beautiful, balmy first week of November simply because I know that elsewhere in the world there are winter conditions that I don’t have at the moment. And I don’t think that I’m alone here. It’s easy to blame FOMO on the immediate access and ever-presence of social media, but really, we need to look at ourselves and realize that the best type of gratification isn’t always the most instantaneous. I know that I’m really looking forward to skiing, and I also know that I’ll be even more psyched about it if I let my anticipation of the first big snowfall build up, so why can’t I just be happy with that? If I can’t, then I know I’m only decreasing my awareness of the present. So I’m challenging myself this week to work to accept delayed gratification over the superficiality of instant gratification. And who knows, maybe it will snow soon. For now, the blue skies and crisp fall air is just fine by me.

A Cow, A Poem

Here’s a poem that I wrote recently. I think it ties into the theme of awareness. It also attempts to come to a conjunction of physical, mental, and emotional experiences.


Autumn’s finest speckles

the old hillside on a day of rest,

and I sit a moment and watch

a cow in pasture nudging a hay bale.


Let’s go pick apples! you call to me,

and I lean back against the oak,

my spine finding a groove in the bark,

and pluck up a few stray acorns.


You don’t notice the cow—

too caught up in the way the veins

of falling leaves mirror those

tiny wrinkles on your palm,


and the way the breeze makes your hair

dance in the low afternoon sun.

I wait, for the telltale nip of cold

on my bare arms—


But it never comes. So I sit

and ponder you and the cow

And think to myself,

But why is it nudging the hay bale?

Driving Just to Drive

Last week my poetry professor raised a question from a line in a Lao-Tzu poem we were reading (“A good traveler has no fixed plans / and is not intent upon arriving”), and he asked the class, does anyone travel without a destination anymore? Although I agree that our current culture is incredibly goal-oriented, moving too fast to stop and notice the details, I was proud to respond that in fact I’d gone out on a drive with a friend the previous evening just to watch the sunset and take in the spectacular Vermont foliage. We accomplished nothing tangible, but the experience created by just driving and enjoying the beauty of the present moment and the subsequent discussion of the topic in class the next day made me realize that awareness doesn’t have to have a purpose–but it is absolutely necessary to feel complete.

Up I91

Driving back from Wesleyan to Middlebury this afternoon after our soccer match, I was aware of the difference that even a tiny change in latitude can make on the scenery rushing by our bus windows. Fall foliage has come late this year, and in Connecticut the changing colors were barely noticeable amidst commercialization. As we passed through Massachusetts, the leaves grew increasingly orange and red, but it wasn’t until Vermont that the picture-perfect scenery of fall that New England is so famous for began to rush past us in full display. I liked knowing that each mile we headed north, we were coming closer to Middlebury, my current home, and one of the most beautiful places to enjoy the fall season.


In one of my courses (not GH), we do a three-minute meditation at the beginning of each class. Meditation is something I’ve practiced only minimally, but it is something I enjoy doing. This three-minute meditation, however, is a recording that the professor plays from his phone, and the woman on the audio file says the same thing every time. In the beginning, I felt it was easy to follow the woman’s directions and put myself into a more relaxed state of awareness. Now we’ve met for a few weeks worth of classes, and I find myself wishing that the woman wasn’t speaking at all, because it would be easier for me to embrace the three minutes of silence and meditate in a way that’s best for me. What I’m trying to say is that meditation is about exploring the unknown inside your mind, and the predictability of the way we practice meditation in my class seems prohibitive.

Also, I’ll just post a song I’m into for fun each week. Here’s “Oceans” by John Butler.


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