seasons

Coming from California, I have never actually seen snow fall. However, today was the first day I witnessed snow falling from the sky. My roommate and I sprinted outside in our flip flops and stood out there watching the snow fall to the ground. Even though it wasn’t “pretty” snow, it was an awesome moment for me. The beautiful leaves, the different temperatures, and the snow all make me appreciate Vermont’s true beauty.

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.

Acting I Monologues

This semester I am taking Acting I. The primary reason I signed up for the class was to fulfill my art credit; I did not really expect very much from it. The biggest surprise of the semester is that I am finding it to be a very impactful experience. This week, each person in the class had to prepare a one-minute monologue based on the prompt, “what do you want to say to someone who you have strong emotions for, but can’t.” This idea of voicing some of my most intimate and honest emotions and thoughts in front of a group of people that I barely know caused me quite a bit of anxiety. However, watching every one of my classmates share a small, honest, intimate, and often profound part of themselves was incredibly inspiring, and allowed me to do the same. This experience made me think a lot about the things that people choose to share and to not share. Not every monologue was happy, in fact, some showcased very negative emotions (including my own); it seems to me that these are the emotions and “issues” that usually get bottled up. I could relate to, and empathize with, each classmate, even if I had not personally experienced what they were talking about; furthermore, I deeply appreciated their abilities to share so honestly and openly. This experience has made me think a lot about how to utilize and enhance the skills of empathy, honesty, and thoughtfulness that made this in-class exercise so meaningful in my day-to-day life.

surrounding support

This past weekend, the volleyball team played Amherst and Williams at home. Even though it was pouring rain on Friday night, a significant amount of people still made their way across campus to the gym to support the team’s most important conference match. It was really special to see all the people that cared to support their fellow classmates and friends. This act of support truly allowed me to realize how important and special Middlebury’s community is because those who attended the game ultimately made those on the team feel large amounts of support. In my opinion, the crowd heavily influenced our win over Amherst!

 

Roommate empathy

Living in a two room double has taught me a lot about incorporating someone else’s schedule into your own life, and about being a respectful person. My roommate Anna (she is in this class and also is a bee!) and I have a great dynamic. It is wonderful to come back to Painter and unfailingly have a friend to chat about your day with. We had our first sort-of-fight-but-not-really-fight last night; I had a couple friends over that ended up staying and talking pretty late, and it turns out the wall between our rooms is much thinner than we had thought. Despite the fact that I kept her up until an ungodly hour, Anna and I were able to have a conversation and laugh about it. There are little ways in your day here to show empathy, and one of them is being understanding when your roommate has very chatty people who will not leave her room until a very late hour. What a pal.

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.

Calling Your Mom

Sometimes I realize that in the moment, I can easily make things far more dramatic than they seem.  In a school like Middlebury, often we balance 2,3,4, even 5 activities at once, trying to put 100% effort into all of them because we are young and motivated.  This week has been a whirlwind and I’ve realized that after running from practice to class to practice to the library, I haven’t even taken a second to process anything I have felt or done.  Today I did just this by sitting outside, drinking tea and calling my mom, recalling all the tough workouts and long nights in the library.  By taking a step back, I realized how much I have done in the past 5 days, but how little I have stopped to enjoy my success and share my news with someone I care about.  From now on, I think I am going to make calling home a Saturday tradition.

Be Yourself

One of the most common advice I get when interviewing is “Just be yourself”. It seems simple, right? I had an interview this past week and it was so interesting to be hyper aware of my actions and how I felt knowing people across the table were forming impressions of me, etc. No amount of “deep breaths” before really calms my butterflies before an interview, but one thing I did notice from this past interview is I end up mimicking their attitudes (they seemed super relaxed, so I became more casual and relaxed in my conversation as well as my tone/language). At the end of the day, these interviewers really want you to do well, and they were in your shoes before.

Midterm Tunnel Vision

We all know that feeling you get the week you have a midterm… or two… or three. Your shoulders tighten, daily routines seem strenuous, small inconveniences feel like colossal disturbances, and every ounce of extra time must be devoted to studying. During this time of cramming information, you seem to brainwash yourself, and you fail to the recognize your environment. It’s interesting how external pressures have such an impact on internal awareness.

This tunnel vision is one that I found myself subconsciously caught up in this past week. It’s shocking how in the span of just busy five days I was able to numb myself to every outside distraction except for my studies. Even though this “hell week” is now over, I’m surprised that I am currently unable to snap out of this tunnel vision trance.

Alone in Proctor

I am often struck by how activities that are entirely normal and standard in the broader context of life, can be unusual or uncomfortable here on campus. The example of this that I run into most often is eating meals alone. This is something that people, including myself, do all the time and don’t even think twice about in “normal” life. However, for some reason, walking into Proctor alone often provokes a lot of anxiety. Sitting down for a solo dining hall meal usually provokes the same thought process every time. First, I tell myself that this is a totally normal thing, no need to worry! Then, the pressure to pull out my phone or computer begins to build. Eventually, I cave, and stare at a screen for no real purpose while I eat. Why does this happen? Is it because I am uncomfortable with people seeing me alone? If this is the case, then why does pulling out the technology help soothe anxiety? Perhaps the root of it is that, in this place of high achievement and stress, I am most afraid of people thinking I am not being “busy” or “productive?”

Late night lib

I always find the middle three weeks of the semester to be the toughest. We’re beyond the initial weeks of intro and finally into the hardest topics of each class – the topics that require the most time. But were not quite in the last third of the semester where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and professors seem to be more understanding of work loads. Somehow, without fail, it seems as if all my assignments are due on the same day every semester. So when I’m spending another late night in the lib, dreading the 5:40 alarm I see on my phone, I contemplate giving up on the whole homework thing. I can see the people around me, visible stress on their faces. There’s a certain solidarity between people at 2 am, a mutual understanding. Its at these times I tend to focus on my breathing more. I swear deep breaths are the only thing that help me finish that last paper after officially being awake for 20 hours.

mirror neurons

I learned about these neurons that everyone has- called mirror neurons- that are supposedly the source of empathy in the brain. Here is how they work: if someone else smiles, the neurons in my brain that normally would cause me to smile start firing. In this way, you experience empathy by having the same processes go on in your brain that are going on in the other person’s brain. This is a really interesting concept to me because it means that you cannot truly understand how another person is feeling without experiencing it yourself (literally). This operates even on the most basic level (such as a smile as I mentioned before).

Noticings: Blood Moon

blood moon

This past Sunday (September 27th), two friends and I ventured out to the Middlebury Organic Garden around 10:30 PM to view the “Blood Moon”. A Blood Moon refers to the reddish glow to the Moon during a Total Lunar Eclipse when the Earth casts its shadow on a Full Moon and eclipses it. We walked over to the Organic Garden in the pitch black as my friend used a flashlight to navigate us. I remember looking down at the tiny stream of light in front of me and turning around to see Bihall, which was completely lit up and beautiful- it was striking to see such a prominent man-made formation among the rolling hills and grass. Once we reached the garden, we all laid down in the grass and looked up into the sky towards the moon. I was in awe of all the stars I saw, and it made me reflect on how lucky we are to go to school in Middlebury, Vermont where we are removed from “city life” and how we can experience nature without distractions or light pollution. I spent some time closing my eyes and slowly began to notice the ample amount of noise generated by our surrounding, even though my friends and I were completely silent: a brisk breeze running through the bushes, the leaves crinkling, slow “coos” from two birds. I encourage you all to observe and take in nature’s beauty, as our environment is also full of life and energy.

Eye Contact

Walking around campus I often notice how many people are looking down – either at their phones or even just at the ground. Whatever it is, its constantly avoiding eye contact with people you don’t know. Occasionally people look up to say hi to a friend or nod to an acquaintance, but we would never dare make eye contact with someone we don’t know. Even in the dining halls its the same. Nobody would sit down with people you don’t know, were constantly looking for the comfort of our own friends. Even if someone is sitting alone, they pull out a laptop or a reading to make it seem like they’re busy at work despite the fact that they may not be. It’s interesting to think about why we are so afraid of meeting someone new, or even just looking at them and offering a smile.

the little things

Sometimes we fail to take a step back and appreciate the simple things that others do for us. For instance, as I was walking back to my dorm carrying multiple packages through the pouring rain, someone saw me crossing the street and offered to help carry some of what I was holding. I’m not sure if he was headed in the same direction as I was, but he helped me carry the boxes all the way back to my building. He surely did not need to stop and help me, but without his help, I probably would have struggled to get everything back to my room intact. Sometimes I forget to stop and appreciate others’ help, specifically the simple things someone does for us. These simple things can end up meaning a whole lot more than what they seem.

Meditation

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.

 

Daily Connection

I always find it interesting to notice when it is and isn’t appropriate to say “hello” or wave to someone you recently met as you walk past. Middlebury College is a small school so I find myself passing these “awkward acquaintances” quite frequently. Some people seem very good at making connections with people they have only just met, whereas I often find it takes me a few introductions to make a connection with someone. I wonder what the root of this is? Does it depend on the person’s social skills or extraversion, the setting, the context in which they first met, or something else entirely?

Dance and Global Health

http://www.wvi.org/pressrelease/street-dancers-help-close-gap-global-health-inequality-outside-united

 

I found this article and concept related to utilizing dance and movement as a means of promoting global health initiatives really interesting. A chair with a ‘missing fourth leg’ represented how MDGs 4 and 5 (related to child and maternal health) have not been fulfilled, and how they are crucial to promoting a number of global health initiatives because they deal with the beginning of life and the subsequent formative years. Dancers demonstrated how they would stand in as the fourth leg and showed that there are a number of creative ways to solve a physical problem of a chair without a leg, much as there are myriad creative ways to solve a global problem like subpar child and maternal health.

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