Final Noticing

Discussing in class yesterday really made me realize the issues we have on campus. I found that when I sat down to write a blog post I was focused more on empathy and noticing the suffering of people around me, but in my daily life I rarely changed my way of thinking. I continued to almost block out my own troubles and shift my attention away from the suffering of those around me because it was easier than actually having to deal with something. Maybe its something that could be improved over time if you continued to really concentrate on noticing, but could one person noticing make a difference? How could you convince everyone else in the world to empathize in the same way if thats the only way to make real global change. As a college student, how much of it is our responsibility? I always try to make a difference in my own community first and just hope that everybody else will do the same and eventually the world will transform into a better place. But then I see terrorist attacks and immense human health suffering and I realize I am way to idealistic in my thinking. Its disheartening because I can only do so much for change. I can only hope that my noticing and effort to improve my surrounding will rub off on others, but who is to say if it will

final empathy post

My partner and I met up to reflect on what we observed and learned through this exercise. We decided that we both substantially noticed the little things throughout the day a whole lot more than we used to. Middlebury College is a very interesting place filled with amazing people and opportunities. This exercise truly helped me appreciate the small moments in life.

Final Blog Post

My partner and I met up the other day and talked about our empathy exercise. We discussed how we realized how the idea was to notice other people’s actions and observe other people. Instead we both felt we were drawn to notice a lot about ourselves. However, I felt I usually noticed not just myself but also it turned into a general awareness. I would think about what I was experiencing on my walk from my dorm to class. It was like I had become hypersensitive to the world around me, and how I interacted with complete strangers who I was walking past. I remember the exercise we did in the beginning of the year where we anonymously wrote something we struggled with on a piece of paper. Everyone in the class had all sorts of things going on that I would never be able to tell. When I thought about that I realized that this is true with everyone. I have no idea what is happening with the person who is waiting in line in front of me in Procter. This exercise made me really notice how I responded to people especially when they were complete strangers.

Global Health and Empathy: Final Post

Middlebury College is an interesting, engaging, and incredibly special place; I feel so fortunate to be a part of it. It is also a place where productivity is sometimes the ultimate goal and individual schedules and stresses take center stage. Empathy often takes the form of commiserating about work and academic pressure, but oftentimes other sources of emotional strain are left unacknowledged. It’s almost like we get into empathy “ruts,” where only certain things are acceptable to share and receive. I think this relates back to global health in the sense that there are always health issues that, whether it be locally or globally, garner a lot of attention and empathy for one reason or another, while there are others that never receive that same empathy and attention (typically because of some stigma they carry). This sounds like a huge and almost insurmountable global health challenge. What could possible cause global empathy tendencies to shift and grow? Well, I think it could start right here on campus. Just like some health topics are stigmatized worldwide, things like eating disorders, mental health, perceived personal short-comings, and doubt can feel like they carry a stigma on this campus. By opening up to people around us we can give and receive meaningful empathy. I believe that at any given moment everyone is fighting some sort of battle and comparing and contrasting does no good; the only way to heal, and to help heal others, whether it be halfway around the world or right down the hall, is to accept their battle as it is, without any alterations or explanations.

Community Awareness — Final Empathy Exercise

This issues discussed in Global Health this semester combined with a heightened awareness of my community that I have developed through writing weekly blog posts for “Movement Matters” have led me to form new opinions on problems that Middlebury students face and where those problems fit in on a global scale. Early in the semester, Pam asked us to anonymously write something that others might not know about us on a piece of paper. She later read those answers aloud, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of people that said they were depressed, had anxiety, or were struggling with body image. I remember thinking, “wow, I never would have guessed that SO many people who look so put-together are really struggling inside.” I carried this thought with me this fall as I began to focus more thoughtfully on my surroundings and the students that make up the Middlebury College community. Using our global health class as a random sample of college students, I figured that if that many people in one class had mental struggles, mental health must be a rampant issue on this campus. I kept that sentiment in mind when noticing other students going about their busy lives. We are trained in our society to display a high level of function and self-control, which is often just a façade. Underneath the many well-dressed, high-performing students are individuals who are struggling with something not visible from the surface. When viewed on a global scale next to infectious disease, violence, and malnutrition, these mental struggles may seem insignificant. However, it is undeniable that they have a large impact on our community. We spent all semester discussing global health issues, but before we can change the world, we need to able to empathize and understand our own community. Becoming aware of the issues within my community is a good first step.

Final Blog Post

It is with disbelief at how fast time went by and much reflection about the semester that I write this blog post.

After weeks of being both intentionally and unintentionally witnessing aspects of Middlebury, I have come to realize a few things about the human capacity of empathy as well as about feelings in general. I have compiled them into a list.

  1. People are afraid of burdening other people with their problems. They are afraid of inducing an unwanted empathy in their peers for fear of redistributing the heavy weight of personal emotional problems. However, these intensely empathetic conversations are the very ones that create strong interpersonal relationships.
  2. Reassuring touches on the shoulder go a long way. People I know who initiate casual physical touches in this way spread a feeling of warmth and comfort- physicality is a very tangible and effective form of relaying empathy.
  3. Unwavering eye contact is the best form of active and empathetic listening. People don’t do it enough, and they are always pleasantly surprised when you are very engaged in conversations.
  4. Smiling never hurt anybody.

These are some of the tangible observations I have made about manifestations of empathy this semester. I think it is important to think about not just feeling empathy, but a way to make the empathy active and productive.

I think that many, many people on this campus are quietly struggling with mental health. Therefore, I think there are numerous people who could empathize with each other, but these conversations are not being initiated. There is a fear of becoming vulnerable and a fear of exposing internal battles. However, this fear is impeding the potential for these wonderfully intimate personal relationships as I listed as #1. If we could break down these walls, by doing even little things like making more engaged eye contact or giving more meaningful touches in passing, this community could become a much more actively empathetic and supportive place.

I have discovered my new favorite form of empathy: beautifully written quotes. Often, it is hard to put words to feelings. Conveniently, this is exactly what famous authors specialize in. I love finding a line of poetry or an excerpt from a book that perfectly articulates the support or emotion that I would want to convey but cannot find the words myself. Authors are incredibly emotionally intelligent. It is both relieving and awe-inducing to realize, by reading these excerpts, that there are people existing in other places and at other times who felt the same things I am feeling today. That is the most tangible form of empathy I have encountered.

My observations of how empathy operates in humanity are only beginning. I think that these observations are the kind that grow and evolve throughout life. I have come to the conclusion that empathy is the means to a meaningful life. Life is short, life is hard, life is full of curveballs. The most grounding thing you can do for yourself, and for others, is realize that there are other people feeling the same feelings that you are. Feelings are the level at which every human can connect- and that is something that is incredibly valuable.


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.

Final Blog Post – Partner Exercise

Global Health has been somewhat of a struggle for me internally. It has been a fascinating class, but I often find myself feeling horrifically guilty that all I’m doing is sitting in class learning about all of these issues facing millions of people near me and far away, and sometimes that distracts me. I catch myself feeling guilty that I have so much and other people have so little, but also because people are inflicted with diseases that are a product of their environment or where they were born, over which they have little control. I spoke to my partner about this and she says she feels guilty sometimes, but she is more spurred to action than bogged down by thoughts similar to mine.

I also find myself feeling paralyzed by the extent of the issues people face and the fact that there is no easy solution; global health issues are costly to address and programs are difficult to implement. Sometimes I feel hopeless that these issues will ever be resolved, and alarmed that the worsening climate will exacerbate all of these health issues before they have a chance to be tackled. This guilt I think gets in the way of my ability to feel empathy, and I am aware that it is an unproductive emotional approach to these issues. Still, it’s hard to not feel guilty for all that you have and all that you don’t have (namely, negative structural and social determinants of health) when other people out there suffer.

Final Blog Post Part 2

As I finish this semester and reflect on this empathy exercise, I take my empathy observations to London this week. The main takeaway I observe is the acceptance of empathy is strongly shaped by our culture too. The British are often criticized as “too cold”, implying a lack of empathy towards others. On an unconscious level, one may have emotional reactions, yet one’s culture and environment may dictate the appropriateness to express these emotions. This in turn affects how empathetic one can be- I’ve noticed Americans tend to be more outgoing and engaged while British are more conservative and reserved. My partner and I talked about the ability to be empathetic by choice (beyond unconscious reaction) and it wasn’t until traveling that I noticed how important culture plays into this decision. Perhaps their acts of empathy are communicated more with action than verbally- now is that deemed more preferable? We also talked about the difficulties of reaction- culture and social norms are definitely key parts to driving this reaction and action of empathy as noticed across the pond.

Empathy from Both Sides in Dance

Over dinner, my partner and I met to discuss the result of our empathy exercise over the whole semester. In our discussion, we got back to the topic of dance performance.  Last night, I was performing in a dance show, and reflecting on the show, I realized how much I as a dancer react to the audience.  In a live performance, the audience is not just reacting to the dancers, as in the video we watched; the reaction goes both ways. Hearing the crowd come in got me excited, even though I couldn’t see them. I could feel the stillness of the room as we walked out on stage in the dark for our first dance, I could feel my smile grow as the audience cheered, I felt my brain shut off and my feet just take off the stage lights came on, I felt my confidence rise as I made eye contact with  my fellow dancers, I was surprised when the audience cheered for simple steps (they must have looked cool!), and I was affirmed when the audience cheered for parts of my choreography I was particularly proud of.

Through this example of reaction to dance as a witness and reaction to the observers as a dancer, I realized that empathy really goes both ways when it is strongest and most meaningful.  Sure, we can have some empathy for things we witness in a video or read about, but I think the truest empathy is when two people are together and each one is witnessing the other and the process is ongoing and two-way.  I think this can help explain why in global health we hear about or see videos of lots of horrible things far away, and do nothing, but we act when whoever is facing the problem is there with us in person.

Empathy and Poetry

As this is our last normal post before the final reflection, I want to share what empathy means to me. When I think of empathy and noticing, I think of the E. E. Cummings poem “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in].” For me, this poem makes me think of my mom and sister, the people for whom I experience the strongest and most consistent empathy. With everything going on on campus with finals ramping up, and the various shocking and painful crisis in the world recently (and not so recently), I have been thinking a lot about this poem; it helps me remember the positive aspects of human connection.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

the search for a study area in the library

You can tell the end of the semester is approaching because the library feels more crowded. I walked down on the first floor to sit in my usual spot, which had been taken. I then searched for another place, which made me procrastinate even more as I stopped and talked to the friends I passed. Eventually I find my place and notice all the people focused in on their work. Everyone has a ton of work, but everyone has an array of other things happening in their lives too that may be adding more unwanted stress.

Privilege Mindfulness

One of the ‘hot topics’ around campus centers around race relations, race sensitivity, and cultural appropriation. This is a conversation in which I want to participate, but feel that I can’t because I have not experienced the kind of subtle (or overt) discrimination people of color have, and I would not want to upset anyone by speaking without knowing exactly how it will affect others. Over break I was speaking with friends and family about the ‘Coddling of the American Mind’ article in the Atlantic a couple of months back and a more recent article published by an African American professor at Columbia, both of which mention that students in general need to be less sensitive about issues like the ones I mentioned above. I am struggling hard to assimilate both sides of this issue, and feel myself getting frustrated that there is no simple solution to race relations in this country that will benefit everyone. It is also frustrating to think that this lack of a simple solution applies to nearly all issues plaguing our society today, an issue that Global Health class has brought to the forefront of my mind. I know I will drive myself less crazy if I acccept this difficult truth, but right now I’m finding that difficult.

The future of global health

Sometimes I just google global health issues and switch to the news tab just to try and stay current on the issues facing the world today. I am inevitably overwhelmed by the gross amounts of inequity and the basic health issues the world faces, many of which we are immune to in the US. And then I read an article like this one:

The article discussed how environmental changes will impact poverty and malnutrition in the coming years if we keep the pace we are currently at. I can only imagine how worse off the developing countries will be if something is not done to curb the effects of environmental change. I then imagine myself 50 years in the future googling the same thing and I am disturbed by the news I fear I will face.

camel challenge reaction

After reading the daily updates from the camel group, I was intrigued by individuals’ reactions and strategy of how they used their allocated water supply. Although I realized the allotted amount of water was minimal, I did not realize how difficult it would be to keep track of each individual use of water. For example, it seemed very difficult to accommodate some water for the simple task of washing dishes or flushing the toilet. I was extremely impressed by the camel group’s completion of the task and their reactions made me realize how lucky we are to have easy access to water.

Thanksgiving Break

This Thanksgiving break truly allowed me to appreciate many things. I am from the West Coast and was able to go home to see my family and friends this past week. Upon talking to my different friends about their individual college experiences, I realized how special of a community Middlebury is. Even though I missed the city life, there were times throughout the break I really missed seeing my friends from MIDD  and spend time with my classmates. I am very thankful to have the opportunity to learn in such a unique place.

Airport Thoughts

I am from Colorado and was lucky enough to get to travel back home on Wednesday to celebrate Thanksgiving, and then return to Middlebury today (Sunday). Spending time in airports is always a great time for people watching. I am always struck by the fact that what we are all doing is awesome, but we go through it with blank faces. We are flying through the air in a metal tube! So cool! But I rarely think about this in the moment. I am usually busy trying to nap, counting down the minutes until I land, or staring at other peoples’ blank faces. I wonder how something so amazing has become so mundane and almost chore-like? It seems like if strangers should be able to connect over anything it should be over something as unique and exciting as  flying, but I haven’t found that to happen very often, or ever.

the empathy of poetry

I have started reading more poetry lately- particularly Mary Oliver. I started asking people if they have ever heard of her, and almost every person has said that Wild Geese is one of their favorite poems. Every time I reread this poem, I wonder about the underlying message that so many people seem to connect with.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


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.

Wrap Up

As I reflect with my partner, we both discussed our experience with practicing empathy- whether it is unconscious physical reactions to our environmental situations or emotional responses in reflecting on certain previous experiences/global news. We agreed that our main takeaway from this ongoing exercise is a growth in interpreting and reacting to situations on a variety of levels (physical, emotional, spiritual).I have been conscious about my reactions to immediate situations as well as my reactions to others’ reactions to events and experiences (which oftentimes influences and biases my interpretation). My reactions are often biased, which I recognize. My biggest goal from this exercise is to continue practicing unbiased empathy. This certainly has been difficult given the recent global news, but it is certainly a challenge for me which has caused me to open my perspective and understand all perspectives (not be quick to judge).

Empathy Wrap Up

In thinking about empathy and processing how I perceive other’s emotions this month, I feel better able to interpret my surroundings.  One of my big focuses this semester was trying to understand how empathy develops over the course of one’s lifetime.  Starting as children, we turn to our parents as models for how to act and feel.  They teach us how to be polite, how to share, and  how to respect the property and opinions of others.  I think it is of the utmost importance that we have this foundation as our habits as adolescents translate into our adult lives.  The basic principles of empathy are inherently present in some, however, we can always grow and continue to cultivate our understanding of what makes our peers, and ourselves, unique.  As a goal for the future, I want to keep asking my friends how they are and I want to be the best listener I can be.  Sometimes when we have other things on our minds, it is hard to fully hear another person.  However, this skill is invaluable and essential for maintaining fulfilling relationships.

Community Labels

This week I had a conversation with a friend who was been working at company X for the past two years. While it was lovely to catch up with her, I was surprised by how much she defined herself by the place she was working at. She would refer to herself as a “company name-ee” and talk about the firm in almost a cultish way. What I found interesting was she would talk about her friends working at other firms, and her body language would suggest that those firms were not on par as the one she was at. It made me wonder how much my behavior was shaped by my associations. In a way, I reflected on myself and the labels I’ve accrued (“Middkid”, etc). Do they create a barrier and implicit judgement on others who do not fit those labels?

Supportive or Offensive?

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 2.07.17 PM

But are you really? Changing your facebook profile picture may be a tribute and act of support to those who died or have been affective by the terrorist attacks in France, but adding the French flag to your profile may also be viewed as offensive. It emphasizes selective empathy and dehumanization of others. Why isn’t there a Lebanese flag option in support of the attacks in Beirut?




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.

Global and Online Response

This week I (and probably everyone on campus) have been bombarded by opinionated, online, post-Paris attacks bursts of information. The main thing that has surprised me is the extremeness of all of it. It all seems to follow a zero-sum mentality. In response, I have been trying to give a little extra attention to the “grey areas” in current events and in day-to-day life.

Globally Unaware

I recently saw an article on Facebook that Nigeria had banned FGM, although it turns out this actually happened back in June. When googling for the article so I could read more, I discovered that I was completely unaware these practices occurred outside Africa and the Middle east, where we learned they often exist. I saw articles about FGM in the UK, Ireland, across Europe, and in America. When reading an article about America I learned that FGM was only made illegal in 1996, and “vacation-cutting”, or taking children to another country to receive FGM, was only made illegal in 2013. Additionally, only 24 states have adopted their own version of the federal law. This just seemed almost unbelievable to me. We often see our own country as a place where these injustices never occur, but that level of unawareness is detrimental to stopping the violence that occurs within our own boundaries. I just always feel its important to take a look in the mirror before we go out an try to solve the inequities of the world.

A Nip in the Air

November, so far, has been abnormally warm. This is not to say I am not a fan of so-called ‘sweater weather’, but I was a little uneasy about the implications of this weather on climate change. Thankfully, for my peace of mind, the weather has cooled down. I find these moments walking outside to be very meditative in a way – I enjoy the sensation taking deep breaths of fresh, crisp, chilly air. I know that breathing meditation has been proven over and over to be beneficial for mental health (especially anxiety and depression), but usually I do not have the time or patience to sit down and focus on my inhales and exhales. However, as I walk up the hill from my house every morning (which is a struggle in its own right), it is nice to take my mind off of everything and take a few deep, cleansing breaths to try and center myself.

Turn it all off

Recently, my first year seminar professor challenged us to not use our phones or social media sites for 24 hours as an experiment, encouraging us to make more eye contact with people around us.  I was excited for this day without technology as I had a very positive experience this summer not using my phone for a full month when I was backpacking in Wyoming.  The day began with me setting my alarm for practice with my watch, a device I had not used since I had been in college.  Throughout the day, it was hard to coordinate where to meet my friends for lunch and how to get in touch with my teammates, however, the action of leaving my phone at home made me feel less caught up in responsibilities and better equipped to enjoy the present.  In class today, we talked about our experiences and everyone seemed to agree that their day was more engaging and meaningful when they weren’t distracted or worrying about their duties to technology.   In general at Middlebury, I found I have used social media sites less and I also take less pictures because 1) I am too busy and 2) I think my friends are far more interesting than the screen of my phone.

Colder Weather

Suddenly the temperature drops especially when the sun sets behind the mountains. Everyone walks quickly as they adjust to the colder temperature, and people are also bundled up. Slowly I realize I’m wearing more and more layers: coat, sweatshirt, hat, etc. As I sit in my room doing my homework I realized my window is open, and I can feel the chill coming in through the window. I enjoy the fresh air but put on a sweatshirt to keep at a comfortable temperature. Not only does the weather get colder, but it is dark earlier and earlier. When I walked out of my 4:05 today it seemed as though the sun was already setting. Winter is coming.

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.

Appreciating the “Little Things”

As work loads and consequently stress levels increase at Middlebury, it’s pretty easy to get sucked into “the grind”. Sometimes I find when I put my head down and push through hours and hours of work a night that I forget to recognize and appreciate the small accomplishments or little things around me that make me happy. Those “little things” suddenly seem insignificant in comparison to a looming paper or exam because I have my mind on the “big thing” — the relief of it being over. When I take the time to appreciate the little things… a nice shower, a good practice, a compliment from a teammate, a perfectly ripe apple, stepping on a crunchy leaf, setting a new personal record for hours spent in bihall (just kidding!), the difficult parts of being a college students seem less stressful. I’ll leave you with one of the best “little things” from today, a quote that I found on my tea bag this morning that brightened my day:

Live light,

travel light,

spread the light,

be the light.

“Bee” Present

Mindfulness– “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

I’m the type of person to have my live planned out, which adds a lot of stress to me. I’ve been working on being mindful this semester, and it has been a great experience. Absorbing my experiences without worriment and judgement has also made me open to more experiences, ultimately allowing me to step outside my normal habits and comfort zone. Join me in being more mindful as we reflect on our experiences with people day to day.


Online Mental Health

This is a link to an article about a new start-up company, Joyable, that “wants to end social anxiety.” Joyable uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help its clients overcome social anxiety via an accessible website and 1:1 “coaching.” This article caught my eye for a few reasons. First, I think it is super cool that someone has found a way to use the convenience and comfort of technology to address mental health. It also made me wonder how this new business model will effect the treatment and perception of mental health. For example, it is interesting that Joybale intentionally avoids calling their customers patients, will this become the new norm? I think it is great that this company is working to make mental health resources accessible and stigma-free for all, and I am curious to see how it develops.

social media empathy

In the wake of the horrible Paris attacks, social media has become an incredible source of worldwide empathy. People have the choice to temporarily change their profile picture to include an image of France’s flag. Statuses flood news feeds with articles and pledges of support for France. Facebook even created the option to be “marked safe” if you are someone who is currently living in Paris so that friends and family will know you are okay. The news about the attacks spread like wildfire, and I can’t help but think about how this age of technology has vastly increased our ability to feel global empathy (although some may beg the question- are technological shows of empathy truly empathetic?).

Popular Movements

Whenever a new controversy arises in the news, college students are very often the first to take part in generating national movements. Maybe its because of our undying need to create a better society for our future or our powerful connection with social media, regardless, college students love rallying together for a cause. Sometimes, these causes turn out to be empty promises of change (Kony 2012 anyone?) but sometimes I feel like we’re on the verge of something new. This past year and a half has seen radical changes in awareness within the racial discrimination movements. Colleges all over the country stood in solidarity yesterday, so it got me thinking. What do these movements actually do and how do outward portrayals of empathy help? I’m very aware that people experience empathy in different manners; some like to outwardly show their empathy and involvement in a movement by wearing certain colors, posting things on social media, holding meetings/protests, etc. Others prefer to feel their empathy in their own bodies, offering silent prayers or making a conscious effort to act in the way they want others to act in hopes that it will be passed on. I’ve always been curious which actually “works better” in terms of improving society. Is it even possible to reach the ears of every person with loud movements? Or will this turn people off from the cause? Is staying silent like ignoring the issue? Perhaps a combination of both would serve society better, or maybe people should stick to their guns and express empathy in whatever way they feel.


I sit in the lobby with headphones quietly blasting music, but I can still hear the people around me. I hear the crunching of granola from the girl across from me. I can hear the pencil scratching the paper. I hear someone talking to her mom on the phone complaining about work. Meanwhile, I have five hundred thoughts running through my mind.

The Human Experience

Thinking about empathy this week made me remember a movie I watched in high school called the Human Experience. It was a documentary that features two brothers going around the world and essentially living as the “other”. First, they live on the streets of NYC for a week in one of the harshest winters on record, then they travel to Peru and spend time in a orphanage and hospital, finding hope where they could not imagine hope to be, and finally they travel to Ghana to visit an outcast leper community. What these men did exemplifies empathy in a way that I could not even fathom. It explores human dignity and shows that even in what I would imagine to be the darkest of human experiences, there is still light.

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.

Small Team Comradery

As a diver, I am on the smallest team on the Middlebury Campus with an outstanding number of 3 students participating.  Even though we are only a trio, we still have our own coach and more boards than there are divers to practice on.  Not only am I lucky enough to be able to use Midd’s beautiful natatorium, but I also have teammates who encourage and support me both in and out of the pool.  Since I eat two meals a day with these people, it feels as if I know everything that goes on in their days (and they would say the same about mine).  People always ask me if I am sick of them, but the truth is that we even choose to spend extra time together, sometimes heading over to the library after practice or going to other sport’s events.  This week was the first week of our season, and I just wanted to give them a shout out for being the two very best people I could ask for as teammates.  We may be able to cheer as loud as the swimmers, but we still have a lot of spirit.

The Act of Presentation

Yesterday, I had to deliver a group presentation in my class with three other people. Usually, I’m pretty comfortable with my actions when I talk with peers and my professors. I noticed that yesterday when all attention is directed on me during a presentation, I tend to clam up…which is natural. I tried something different yesterday- I took ten seconds before the presentation to “ground myself”. Meaning, I stood in front of the room and consciously slowed my breathing and relaxed my muscles. Then, I scanned the room and tried to make eye contact with everyone to get a sense of who I was presenting to. This ten second act really helped me deliver a better presentation because I was present and had an easier time relating to the audience, and I encourage you all to do the same.

Different Habits

Yesterday I went to Ross Dining Hall for dinner which was weird because I almost always go to Proctor or Atwater. The most shocking part was that I felt like I hardly recognized any of the faces in there! It made me wonder how many other habits I have that keep me segregated from other students on campus. Middlebury College seems to be pretty self-selective in the sense that you probably have quite a bit in common with any given student just because, for some reason, you both chose to live and study in this place for four years. It was strange to think that perhaps the only reason I haven’t met someone who I could be great friends with is just because we have different dining, living, or studying preferences.

Cleaning my Room

Over the past several days (okay, weeks) the clutter in my room has piled up on my desk and been scattered on my floor. I realized that it was taking a real toll on my mental clarity and calmness – I would immediately feel stressed (thoughts included “oh gosh I need to attend to this now” “why have you not cleaned your room yet” “why are you so lazy”) and angry at myself for letting my room get into the state of disarray it was in. My room is also on the smaller side (96 square feet) so the assorted clothes and magazines and food containers would pile up and make me feel even more claustrophobic than I already had in such a tight space.

At 11:00 AM on Monday, I took out the trash, which led to a cleaning/organizing spree. Now my room is not perfectly neat, but it is in much better shape than it had been. I realize that the space I was inhabiting and its cleanliness/neatness had a real toll on my mental state because now when I come home to a neat(er) room, I feel happier and calmer and am able to wind down more easily.

Empathy vs Sympathy

I have been thinking a lot about the distinction between empathy and sympathy. I know empathy to mean the ability o really feel what another person is feeling. Sympathy, on the other hand, is the ability to understand what the other person is feeling and then exhibit the appropriate supportive response. I think that empathy is one of the greatest qualities possessed by humans, but I wonder if there are times when it would be more beneficial to have sympathy rather than empathy. Too much empathy could result in the dissolution of the individual and could result in a decline in self care. In this way, it can be good to practice sympathy as a form of self protection. On the other hand, there are many instances in this world when people are not motivated enough to help (as Singer would argue about global poverty), and in these cases more empathy is warranted. How should you toe the line between these two values, and in what situations should you choose to lean one way or the other?

fall dance performance

The work-in-progress showing truly made me realize the time and effort that goes into creating and perfecting individual performances. Even though this was only the second work-in-progress showing, all of the dancers did a stellar job. I was so amazed by certain performances’ synchronization and complexity. Observing these performances allowed me to understand the meaning behind particular movements, repetitions, and song and lighting selection. Great job to all performers and directors.

The Thrill of Eating Out in College

Until I came to college, I never realized what a privilege it really is to be able to enjoy a nice meal with friends and family at a restaurant.  As my days are structured around practices in the morning and at night, I am usually running around the dining hall putting whatever looks good on my plate and eating quickly in order to make it to practice.  While eating meals has become efficient for me, I don’t often enjoy them or eat slowly in order to enjoy the company of others.  This weekend, I went out for dinner twice and took my time, not worrying about when our food took longer to arrive than expected because the conversation was flowing and I was enjoying the environment of the restaurant.  It really is a treat to escape the Proctor rush every once and a while.

What would you do if you were not afraid of failure?

My friend asked me this question, and I had a hard time coming up with an answer. Oftentimes, we are so engrossed in activities (sports, extracurriculars, what’s the “right” activity to do to get to xyz) that we forget what makes us tick/what our passions are. Now what happens if our plans get disrupted? You get rejected from your dream job/partner or you don’t end up where you think you should be. What would you do amidst failure? I thought about her question for a long time, and eventually realized the answer for me is to pursue what I really love even if failure may occur or does occur. But with failure, Victor Hugo once wrote: “Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” Even as we grow and mature, and fail, we ought to keep our core strong and learn from our mistakes.

Skimping Out for Halloween

Halloween on a college campuses has become an excuse for girls to dress as promiscuously as possible and “blame” it on their costumes. Add the word “sexy” to an idea and you’ve got yourself a costume (e.g. sexy cat, sexy cop). While I’m certainly not opposed to having fun and wearing something a little skimpier or revealing, why can’t the goal be to look cute and creative? Looking sexy often ends up looking desperate.

Stress and Empathy

This week was very busy for me work-wise. I noticed that, because of the stress, I took less time to check-in with and talk to friends and people I trust. This is interesting to me because it seems that, in times of stress, empathy and support should become more important, not less. However, I think there is something about the way I handle stress that prompts me to recoil inward and “just get it done.” I wonder if big assignments and busy weeks would be less or more stressful if I tried to fight the urge to turn inward and, instead, focused empathetically outward. I have a hunch that it would significantly decrease stress and I am curious to try it the next time I have a big exam or something.


As I walk across campus I can’t help but notice all the costumes: cheerleader, spiderman, and even a banana. Not only do the costumes take up paths, but a full moon lights the sky creating creepy shadows. The scary shadow in the corner turns out to just be a tree, but I’m stills spooked. Halloweek is among us.

Musical Empathy

Driving by myself is one of the most therapeutic things I do, and I think that is largely in part because it provides the opportunity to listen to music without many distractions. As I was listening to music in my three hour drive home this weekend, I thought about how amazing it is that musicians are able to communicate complex feelings and experiences that most people can relate to. In this way, music is an incredibly powerful outlet for empathy.

Teaching Empathy

I think teaching empathy is one of the hardest tasks we have as caregivers, parents, and role-models in society.  I was recently reading an article on different strategies used in school settings to encourage empathetic sentiment in young children and found myself wondering how some are born with an inherent disposition to be more empathetic than others.  What constitutes an empathetic vs. a non-empathetic person and how can people be empathetic in some situations but not others?  One of the suggestions in the article for how to teach your child empathy was to encourage the child to formally address their feelings and the emotions of others in order to better recognize the subtleties of facial expressions and actions.  It’s very interesting to consider our first introductions to empathy and consider how empathy first plays a role in our early lives.


Its always weird how refreshed I feel when I leave campus for a weekend. I can return with a new sense of how to look at the environments around me. Things seems brighter, newer, and easier to handle. The leaves look more beautiful and the library less grim.

Home for the weekend

I drove down this weekend to visit my family in Boston for break. It was so nice to see my parents again, and I was able to talk with them about school and life beyond Middlebury. Talking with my mom really helped me grasp a different perspective and think beyond the stresses within the Middlebury Bubble. It’s so important to take a step back because oftentimes you lose sight of the macro picture of life. Oftentimes we focus on the negative, but it is just as important to focus on what we’re grateful for (we take those for granted). Now I’m practicing waking up every day and thinking about one thing I’m grateful for that day. It really helps to live me to live in the present and enjoy the small moments, especially when interacting and responding to others’ actions and thoughts.

helping others

This past weekend, I had the chance to visit my cousin in Boston. She showed me around the city and her favorite places she goes throughout the week. However, as we were walking around, I began to notice the immense amount of homeless living on the streets. In particular, I noticed a young man who asked for food rather than money. My cousin and I gave him our leftovers from dinner, and his face immediately lit up. Knowing that we improved someone’s day made us not only feel a lot better, but also made us realize that even the smallest acts of kindness can go a long way.

In the Spirit of Fall

I memorized this poem in second grade and recited it to my entire class. It was the first poem I ever had to memorize, and to this day, 14 years later, I still remember every line. Even though the poem is entitled “September”, I think it captures the essence of fall.

“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

–   John Updike, September

Sometimes when I need to get away from campus, I drive up to Breadloaf and just look at all the changing leaves. I find it hard to believe that in a few short weeks the leaves will all be gone and the mountains will instead be covered with snow. Its a little ominous to think about the leaves disappearing but I can’t help myself from thinking about their fleeting beauty. They live such short lives.

Noise Pollution in the Library

As I pondered what homework to tackle next, I noticed myself picking up on every little sound. One person is aggressively typing on their computer while their neighbor is scribbling down notes from a textbook. Another person is chomping on their gum while simultaneously jamming to their music that can be heard through their headphones. Across the room someone just fumbled their pencil. All of these people seem to be productive in their own ways, so now I feel I should start my next reading assignment and stay aware of my noise pollution in the library.

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?


This is one of my favorite poems and I think it relates very well to this theme of empathy:

Masks by Shel Silverstein

She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.

Recruit and Host

My room is a forced double and an extremely tight squeeze for my roommate and I plus all of our stuff, which is why I never imagined I would be chosen to host a recruit for my team.  There is simply no room for another person, however, despite this fact, I had the pleasure (and I mean this now that it is over) of hosting a prospective diver considering applying to Middlebury ED.  At first, I was unsure of how to handle this responsibility as I am a freshman and still figuring out how to handle my schedule and balance my activities.  I thought about all the things my recruit trip host did well and tried to emulate her actions; I took her on tours of buildings she wanted to see, asked her questions that weren’t about what other schools she was looking at, tried to explain the team I am a part of even though the season has not yet started, and listed my favorite things about Midd.  Although I was busy and had many obligations to fulfill this weekend, I’m really glad that I was given the opportunity to possibly influence someone’s decision to apply to the school I now consider home.  Even though she slept in a crack between my roommate and I’s bed, she woke up smiling and thanked me for my hospitality.  I am honored to feel like I have made an impact on someones initial experience of this welcoming campus.  Even if she doesn’t apply here, I feel that everyone deserves to see a school that they are interested in the best light possible.

Recruit and Host Dynamic

My room is a forced double and an extremely tight squeeze for my roommate and I plus all of our stuff, which is why I never imagined I would be chosen to host a recruit for my team.  There is simply no room for another person, however, despite this fact, I had the pleasure (and I mean this now that it is over) of hosting a prospective diver considering applying to Middlebury ED.  At first, I was unsure of how to handle this responsibility as I am a freshman and still figuring out how to handle my schedule and balance my activities.  I thought about all the things my recruit trip host did well and tried to emulate her actions; I took her on tours of buildings she wanted to see, asked her questions that weren’t about what other schools she was looking at, tried to explain the team I am a part of even though the season has not yet started, and listed my favorite things about Midd.  Although I was busy and had many obligations to fulfill this weekend, I’m really glad that I was given the opportunity to possibly influence someone’s decision to apply to the school I now consider home.  Even though she slept in a crack between my roommate and I’s bed, she woke up smiling and thanked me for my hospitality.  I am honored to feel like I have made an impact on someones initial experience of this welcoming campus.  Even if she doesn’t apply here, I feel that everyone deserves to see a school that they are interested in the best light possible.

Stress and Concentration

Over the past several weeks, I have noticed that when I need to focus most, I start bouncing one of my legs every so slightly. I am sure everyone has felt this, or at least been sitting at a table when one person’s bouncing leg beneath the table shakes the whole thing.  I am not typically a fidgety person, but I have noticed that I start this type of fidgeting in certain situations: when it’s late and I need to finish a paper, when I’m reading something that I need to read slowly in order to understand, when I am trying to do something quickly, and when I am getting tired.  I think my body almost uses this somewhat involuntary motion as a way to keep me awake and to keep my blood flowing.  Upon noticing that my body has this physical reaction, I have recently tried to use this to my advantage, like when I need to focus and get work done efficiently or keep up my energy when I am getting tired.  It works. Perhaps it’s all in my head that shaking my leg helps me focus, but isn’t what happens in our head related to our physical body’s function?

Reunion Weekend

This past homecoming weekend my friend and I hosted several alums from the class of 1994. We decided to take them around some parties to show them what the current social scene is like at Midd. It was so interesting to observe their reactions as they walked around the parties- mostly filled with confusion and disbelief. It reminded me of my first few weeks at Middlebury, where I’m sure I had the same reactions. It made me reflect on how these experiences are now considered the “norm” and how I’ve become numb to them.

The Last of the Garden

The first frost, the last of the garden. I was lucky enough to go home this weekend and savor the last kale leaves from the few remaining stalks in my family’s vegetable garden. I love the first “real” frost, the one where the ground really does freeze for the first time since last April. That cold, nippy feeling early in the morning, the frozen condensation crystals frozen on my window–all signs that winter is on its way. But as I welcome in my favorite season I already miss the sweetness of summer. As I sat down to what I’m sure will be my last kale salad from the garden until next summer, I found myself appreciating the hardiness of this vegetable and it’s ability to span the transition of seasons, the lone survivor in the garden.

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