Homeless Love

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Abby Hevert, ’15

I have worked with homeless people since the beginning of September. In that time, I have worked tirelessly to find these people homes, especially amidst the gloomy and frigid weather that Rhode Island has given its residents. My clients struggle with many different things. Universally, they have experienced trauma, often starting in childhood and continuing on to their days in shelter or on the street. Until I started working with these people, I did not understand that homelessness in and of itself is traumatic. It is completely destabilizing and truly shakes people to their cores. It disrupts peace and removes certainty. Homelessness tests the strength of those who are subject to it by adding extra stressors: divorces, child custody issues, health problems, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and even monetary abuse. Therefore, the homeless try to find ways to cope. Yes, it is true that some may turn to different substances to try to ease their pain. And while many people may find this hard to believe, I am a witness to true beauty every day I go to work. This is because I get to see how unwavering, steadfast, and wonderful Homeless Love can truly be.

And yes, in some ways I am talking about romantic love. I have worked with couples who do not stop holding each other’s hands throughout the entire day. They steal kisses from one another when they think no one is watching. These couples still look at one another with adoring glances when they are standing in line for food stamps and have not showered in days. And while they do argue and disagree, they often are forced to put these differences aside because of the unique stressors they face. Suddenly, when they become homeless, the disagreements that most couples have about things like perceived insensitivity or jealousy become insignificant. These issues become petty because more important things take center stage. Basic needs become the priority as they merely try to survive in a world that constantly rejects them. When I asked one couple what keeps their love for one another so strong, they simply answered: “Being homeless is too hard to do without someone else. You just need a partner to help you get through this time in your life.”

Sometimes these partners come in less traditional forms. Often, older women will try to take younger women under their wings as they navigate the shelter system. They demonstrate a kind of motherly love and concern for the women who are young enough to be their daughters. Often, some unlikely pairs develop. One man with cognitive issues and mental delays may pair up with a big, strong, and well-functioning man, who protects the cognitively impaired one with a kind of brotherly love. Then there are the people who do not want, and believe that they do not need, anyone. However, despite their best attempts to keep others away, their homeless peers still make sure to invite them to go get meals at the local soup kitchen.

However, the truest form of Homeless Love can best be seen in the face of devastation. When one of their own dies, the homeless often rally with one another to mourn their deaths. Too often, the homeless may try to cut their misery short by taking their own lives or nursing their wounds with drugs that may cause their demise. And then, their homeless peers are forced to grieve the loss of their friends. This is partly done by candlelight vigils, performed to honor and preserve the dignity of all homeless lives. When the homeless die, they often do not have the monetary resources to hold proper funerals. And, so, they often die without proper recognition or anyone to claim them as their own. However, Homeless Love usually prevails as the departed person’s homeless friends gather to honor the life of someone who helped his or her peers simply get through homelessness. In a way, the homeless are all partners in the same journey toward peace and stability. Their devotion to one another does not die even in the wake of physical death.

And this, in my opinion, is what true love is all about. It is about loving each other, whether romantically or in the form of friendship, to the end in an unconditional way. It is not about giving of oneself and expecting something in return. It is, instead, a sweet offering of loyalty and companionship. It is not dressed up and does not insist on fancy dinners or extravagant gifts. It sustains us in the darkest of times. This kind of true love is happy with simple conversation, warm hugs, and words of encouragement. It is not proud or boastful; it is humble and quiet. Really, this life of ours, not only makes love look hard, but it makes it work hard. And again, this love can be demonstrated with our families, our friends, our colleagues, or significant others. It is not enough to show up; we must show our beloveds our whole selves, even if we do not look our best, did not get the job, or did not have money for the gift. Really, we must all strive for the kind of love that is bare, not the kind of love that is embellished.

We must strive for Homeless Love.

Make Gentle the Life of this World

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Abby Hevert, ’15

On April fourth 1968, a man died. The adjectives used to describe him could probably never accurately define the breadth of his impact or the depth of his life. He did not pass away peacefully, but instead was robbed of a life that helped to change, and is still changing, the social and political framework of the United States of America. Many people know him for a speech that he gave on another April day. It is often called the “I have a dream speech,” and Martin Luther King Junior delivered it. In it, he details his dreams for America and its youth: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…I have a dream today.

And while many people know and love this speech, they often do not reference another speech that is, in my opinion, one of the most eloquent addresses in American history, the speech that Robert Kennedy gave on the day that Martin Luther King Junior died. In it, he pleaded for peace, nonviolence, tolerance, and solidarity among all Americans in the wake of King’s death:

 So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love – a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke

….

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

The phrase “life of this world” always struck me as important. It implies that the world is not a place where we live; it is a place that lives and is affected by the actions of the people who populate it. It has a life of its own, and has stories of its own. We are all involved in a kind of plot where we climb the climaxes and stumble into its valleys. King even mentions these ups and downs in his speech:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight…

 And this is what the life of King did; it started to make his dream come true. This is the life well lived. It dreams extravagantly and works toward those dreams day and night. It is consumed by these dreams and must accomplish these dreams. And while many of us have many dreams, only some are these all-consuming kind of dreams that seem as though they are requirements for living instead of things in life that we would like to have. Sure, I dream of one day owning my own jeep wrangler and a house on the beach, but I must become a social worker who will help to heal the human spirit. One of my professors calls this phenomenon a kind of “internal musting:” actions that we must perform instead of actions that we think we should perform. Some people call it a calling and it can come in many forms. Maybe you are called to be a teacher or a lawyer or a banker. Perhaps you are meant to be a father or a mother. Maybe you are called to open a nonprofit or a foundation. Or maybe you are called to level the metaphorical playing field for all of America’s youth by working toward fairer governmental policies. No matter what this “musting” is, you must do it. Listen intently and make decisions accordingly.

And, yet, it is especially important that we all follow the same dream that Kennedy delineated in his speech. We must all work toward making “gentle the life of this world.” It is necessary that we use our gifts, with which we are all undoubtedly bestowed, to create straighter paths, lower mountains, and higher valleys. After all, we are all given one life and these collective lives make up the life of this world.

 So, we may as well tame the savageness of the human condition in the name of Martin Luther King Junior and all of the martyrs who have died to make the life of this world just a little more gentle.

P-Secrets

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert, ’15

A few weeks ago, I posted an article about a new social experiment at Providence College. I asked my PC peers to anonymously submit secrets to me so that we can all have a better understanding about who we really are, and not just who we pretend to be. I heard from many different students, and some of their secrets are presented in this article. These secrets display the unique struggles that we go through every day and, more importantly, the striking reality of our immense efforts to hide these troubles. PC is often thought to be a kind of “bubble” where we all live, safe from the evils of this world. And, while this is partly true, we all bring more to the metaphorical table than we probably realize. At this table sit those who struggle with self-hatred, family problems, and battles with addiction. Here at this table, sit those who disguise, hide, and pretend to be perfect.

One of our peers says this: “I am a typical, PC girl. Dress in J. Crew, drive a nice car, and have a great group of friends. One of my parents has a severe addiction problem, and I have been dealing with him/her going in and out of rehab/homelessness the last 18 years of my life.” She is not alone as many of her peers also have difficult family lives. One says: “I met my uncle for the first time months before he was sent to jail for murder.” Still more admit to secret divorces within their family, one senior admitting that his or her parents divorced two years ago, and that his or her friends still do not know. Our families can make us cry, and calling home is often difficult, either because of relationship issues or because of underlying abuses: “Every time my stepmom calls me, her words cut through me like a knife and I’m brought to tears.” Another one of your peers admits to the instability in her home. Her mother “verbally and physically abused [her] for 3 years and it took a broken arm, even after 8 police and Child Protective Services visits, to get [her] out of [her mother’s] custody.” Our siblings can even cause concern: “Manic depression consumes an otherwise happy sibling.” Sometimes, we just want to save ourselves and each other: “My father’s mental illness has torn my family apart everyday since I was in the fourth grade. I wish everyday I could save him.” Some of our families also do not share in the affluence that many of our PC peers demonstrate: “Last week, I checked my bank account and found that I had only $15 left. Many people at PC can joke around and call themselves ‘broke college students,’ but it’s a different story when you go to Alumni to get a sandwich and realize you can’t afford it.”

Often, though, we struggle with our own mental health issues. Too many of us struggle with actual and real self-hatred and self-discomfort. One of us says: “I set very high expectations for myself. When I don’t meet those expectations I purposely punish myself, like skipping a meal or not getting enough sleep.” We are very, very concerned about not only what we think of ourselves, but what others think of us: “I have to pretend to drink more than I actually can when I go out because I don’t know how to tell my friends about my anxiety disorder and medication.” This is partly because many of us have a preoccupation with pleasing others: “I can’t handle letting people down.” Unfortunately, sometimes these internal battles within ourselves lead us to extremes: “I’ve attempted suicide twice.” “Nobody can see the cuts…I go to counseling and even check myself into Butler [Hospital] when I feel unsafe. I want to be better but my biggest secret and my biggest fear is that I’ll always be unhappy and no amount of help will get me out of it.” We sometimes have illnesses that make us doubt ourselves and those around us: “I think I have an Anxiety Disorder but am too afraid to tell my parents because I think they will think I am being ‘over-dramatic.’” And, so, we do not tell each other. And, instead, we let our secrets morph into paralyzing doubt. Too many of us have trouble getting through every day activities because of these issues. Some of us even have complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and cannot get out of bed on certain days. Some of the people closest to us often do not understand the things that plague us: “My roommates always joke about what I eat and how I eat so specifically but they don’t know I eat so little because I’m still recovering from bulimia/ I’m still bulimic.”

We often compare ourselves to others: “I only got offered the job after someone else turned it down. Everyone else got their first pick on the first try. Now I don’t know if I want to work for someone where I wasn’t the first choice.” This idea of being a “first choice,” or any choice for that matter, afflicts many of us. A few peers confessed: “I am so scared of being alone.” In fact, some of think that if we have not yet been in a romantic relationship, then no one will ever want us: “I feel like I’m the only one of my friends who hasn’t dated someone or isn’t dating anybody in college. It makes me feel unwanted and alone.” Also, the people we love sometimes don’t necessarily love us back: “The person that I’ve had unrequited feelings for [during] the past two years is hooking up with my best friend who knows how I feel about her.” We get afraid of somehow falling behind the rest of our peers and that scares us as well. Some of us are embarrassed about our virginity: “I am still a virgin and I get scared that no one will ever want me because of it.” The idea of not fitting certain molds often disturbs us. A few people wrote that they are gay and they have not told a soul, for fear of what people may think. As a result, many people are living secret lives, caught between a desire to be accepted and a desire to be happy.

And this is the ultimate tragedy. Many of us consider happiness to be a “catch twenty-two.” We sometimes believe that we have to keep our secrets in order to be happy. I am here to tell you, finally, that this is not the case. I also am here to tell you that you are not alone. Find the safe people with whom you can have the tough conversations. If our secrets die with us, then we deprive the world our whole selves as we offer only our seemingly “best” parts. I hope that we can be more aware of not only our whole selves, but about the secret plights that others undergo. So, the next time I become frustrated with a friend, a family member, or a stranger, I vow to consider the possibility that the person may be experiencing something I cannot fathom. We all bring something concealed to our Providence College table- I promise that the next dish I bring will be a huge plate of acceptance and compassion. I hope you can bring some too.

I think we are all starving for it.

Tell Me Your Secrets, I’ll Tell You Who We Are

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Abby Hevert ’15

Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.  -Paul Tournier, Christian Physician & Psychotherapist

Sometimes, when I am walking around campus in between classes, I take a break from checking my phone and look up to see my Providence College peers. They are, on the surface, practically perfect. Scenes of thin, pretty girls clad in Hunter Boots and J Crew sweaters fill my eyes. Handsome boys in similar preppy or athletic fashion also pass by. Both genders talk about the quizzes coming up in their classes, the people they have been texting, the events coming up this weekend, and their respective club meetings this week. They have everything going for them. Most have been on sports teams in high school or took part in student council. Providence College students are, no doubt, successful people. However, I am also curious about what happens to us when we close the door to our dorm rooms. When we get the bad news. When we get rejected. When we embarrass ourselves. When we have to go see the doctor. When we get scared. When we have trouble paying our bills. When we can’t sleep. When we call home. When home calls us.

I have written, at this point, a few different articles on being imperfect and experimenting with failure. Many people have reached out to me, throughout the PC community, who have expressed the relief in realizing that there is at least one person in this world who shares one of their same fears. There is so much peace in realizing that we are not alone. Yes, we may still get hurt. But, at least we know that we get hurt together. We are not some exceptions to “the rule”; every human goes through hardship. The difficult part about hard times is that we sometimes convince ourselves that no one else is going through them as well. As a result, we bury our secrets inside of us. We decide to not tell anyone about the things that make us squirm, make us doubt ourselves, and make us lose sleep. And, so, what happens? The squirming continues, the doubt morphs into paralyzing shame, and the insomnia makes us sick. We begin to seclude ourselves and continue to cultivate this shame. After all, everyone has two stories. One people want you to know, and one they do not.

I am in the quest of finding out what is not so pretty about us, what makes us nervous, what makes us sad, what makes us disappointed, what makes us…us. After all, if we knew more about each other, our compassion for each other would increase exponentially. We would know just a little bit more about the lives our peers really live, and not just the ones they pretend to live. We could also feed our own souls by knowing at least one other heart in this world may beat with not-so-perfect vibrations as well. We could find other hearts that say to our hearts: “you are not alone.” Oh, these hearts exist. They exist in your dorm hallway. They exist in your economics class. They exist in the library. They exist at Providence College.

So, it is now that I ask my PC classmates: What is your second story? What is one thing that you would never want anyone to know? It is through the vehicle of this article that I ask you all to participate in a new movement called P-Secrets. Similar to the literary phenomenon “Post Secret” I am asking for anonymous submissions of secrets about yourself, and no one else. Comments will be censored for slanderous language about other people. This is not a time to confess anything to any one person in particular; it is a time to let a secret out into the world in order to promote the notion that “we are not alone.” These secrets will be submitted through an anonymous survey so that I will not even know the names of those who submit. It will be through this survey that I can compile a new article about the things we hide from each other for the sake of seeming perfect to one another. It will, hopefully, become one that we can all reference when we feel as though we are in this battle against ourselves by ourselves. After all, the battle at keeping our secrets has been long and hard. It is time to put down our armor and expose our hearts. The time, now, is for rest.

Now is the time for respite from the things that secretly plague us.

Follow the link to take part in P-Secrets:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JFYG7SB

#YesAllWomen but #NotAllMen

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

This past May, near the University of Santa Barbara in California, a shooting/stabbing rampage occurred, killing six students. The young man who killed these people will not be named here, for I believe that the name of the perpetrator is one that should not live on, in infamy or otherwise. The perpetrator had a vendetta for the “hottest sorority house” on the UCSB campus, which was filled with members who, allegedly, rejected his sexual advances. He, therefore, brought a gun and knife to the surrounding area of the school, which he did not attend, in order to “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blond slut,” of this particular sorority. The perpetrator ended up taking the lives of six people, four men and two women, before he took his own life.[1] Political discussions then filled news networks about gun control and gender-based violence. The familiar dialogue about misogyny was once again reignited, and a “hash tag” was developed for tweets about men who were, really, not bad men. #NotAllMen was trending on Twitter in defense of the good men who are respectful of women. A new hash tag, #YesAllWomen, was then developed to express that all women do experience sexism, the effects of misogyny, or harassment at some point in their lives. So, who is right? Is it true that not all men are really bad? Or do all women really experience the effects of sexism and misogyny? Well, since I identify as a woman, I guess I’ll start with my story.

Many days on my walk to work in London, a large group of men would yell at me.

“Here is the address to my bedroom. Hosting a party there on Saturday.”

“Where you going in such a hurry? Come back here.”

Well, I was going to work. I was going to work at a domestic violence and rape crisis center where I would take calls from women who were victims of the men who reduced their personhood to objects that they could use, hurt, and abuse. The irony of it all was stunning: I would tell women on the phone that their abuse shouldn’t be tolerated. And here I was, in a foreign city, unable to say anything to the men who disrespected me, albeit never physically abusing me, for fear that I would be hurt or kidnapped or raped. I would then spend hours of my day listening to stories of men who would do evil things to the women who trusted them. So, I do think that I can confirm that most, if not all, women do experience sexual harassment at some point in their lives. The #YesAllWomen hash tag, as far as I am concerned, does in fact capture the female demographic. One day while I was in London, one of my friends asked me: “does your job make you, like, hate men?”

My honest answer: “No. I mostly love men. Most guys are good guys.”

And I still stand by that statement. Too often, too many of us women talk about how “terrible” men can be. And yeah, men can be pretty terrible. They are definitely capable of doing awful things, and women are more likely to get abused, sexually and physically, than men. Those are the facts.[i] The men who perform the unthinkable do not need praise; they deserve defamation. But, do you know the group of guys who receive too little of our attention?

The good guys: they deserve our attention too.

I have lived a very blessed life and I have to say that I have never once been abused, threatened, or even pressured to do anything sexually, with which I was not comfortable. The men in my life are mostly stellar. My dad loves my mom and I more than anything; he believes in our abilities and loves to learn things from us. My brothers admire me and love to chat about music and politics with me because they respect my opinion. My male friends are incredible as well: they not only root for me, but they appreciate my sense of humor and my talents that stretch beyond the boundaries of our friendship. And, yeah, I do meet the occasional creep at a bar, but I have ten good men in my life to make up for the not-so-good ones who make the brief appearances. Men are there to laugh with me, to cheer me on, to teach me to be a better human, just like I can help them become better. As a heterosexual woman, I firmly believe that men can help me reach my full capacities as a person. We all need each other: men, women, transgendered people, and those who choose not to identify with gender. I am better because of every person in my life, I can promise you that.

And, to the women and girls who are reading this article who have endured abuse, hurt, and heartbreak from the men in their lives: I am truly sorry. Nothing can render your experiences null. You are survivors and those men do not deserve our acclaim. You, instead, deserve my respect, admiration, and enduring praise. It is completely understandable if you are skeptical of the gender that has caused you so much pain and it is not my place to persuade you; it is only my place to support you.

But to all of the great men out there, you deserve the attention more than the anomalies of your gender that do the dishonorable. So, to all of the standup guys: I raise my cup to you. I find faith in you. I support the #NotAllMen initiative as well because you have filled my life with so much joy and, so, I can also confirm that not all men are capable of murder, misogyny, or even blatant sexism.

Hell, I make mistakes every day. So does the rest of my gender. We really are all just imperfect humans trying to move forward. But most of us girls are good. Most people are good people, men included.

So, yeah: I love guys. Most guys are good guys.

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/24/justice/california-shooting-deaths/

[i] http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/statistics/

A Letter to Myself as a Freshman

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert, ’15

Dear Freshman Self,

Wow, so you are about to move into college. Those boxes have been packed, the dorm inventory has been placed into bins, and your books have been ordered. You just said goodbye to your childhood best friends last night with many tears and “remember whens.” Your senior year of high school is over and it is time to move onto the great unknown; it is time to move into college. Today is the day that you climb into your mom’s SUV, listen to your favorite Taylor Swift album, and distract yourself on the car ride over by talking about things like which detergent brands to buy. You pull in front of your freshmen dorm, overwhelmed by all of the people standing there, ready to start their independent lives. The check-in takes place and you move awkwardly about in your new dorm, trying to assemble all of the stubborn furniture you bought for your tiny room. Then it is time to say goodbye as you pull your sunglasses over your swollen eyes, saying to your parents: “Okay, I guess this is it. You guys can go now. I love you. I’ll be fine.” Your mom has her sunglasses on too as she pulls away from the college gates and goes home to look at your empty room, wondering where all the time has gone. You then pull open your desk drawer in your new dorm and read a note from your father. It says that these years will be important in many ways; these years will be good years. That is hard to believe as you attempt to navigate the days, weeks, and months ahead as a person who is just trying to make it through this crazy college experience unscathed.

And, here I am, three years later, entering senior year of college. I am here to tell you that these next years will be wonderful if you just do some of the following things. Learn from my good decisions; learn from my bad decisions. Always remember that other people are struggling right now; you just can’t see it happening with them just as they can’t see it happening with you. Other people are calling their moms from the freshmen dorm stairwells too. And, yes, they are also crying even though it looks like they have it all together. The hunt for a good friend group is not a race; good things are always better to wait for than fleeting and convenient things. You may just not meet these friends for a while. In the meantime, work on being happy. Try to do one thing a day that makes you feel peace. Go for a run or go for a walk. Call your best friend. And, for the love of God, try to stay off of Facebook. Comparing your progress to your old high school peers will not help. I can promise you that.

Please try something scary the first week of school. Go to that club meeting. Ask the nice girl from math class to hang out. Do not hesitate so much. If you think he’s cute and nice, then talk to him. Apply for the competitive job. Do not put yourself in the position of becoming a senior and wishing that you had done certain things. Please do not pull out the Common App just yet…try to bloom where you are planted rather than uprooting yourself. All good things take time and college is no exception. Have confidence in yourself and your ability—hell, you were chosen to attend this college for a reason. Try to look at the bigger scheme of things: maybe you have nothing to do this Wednesday night but it is merely one night out of the probable 28,000 ones that you will experience throughout your lifetime. A night in will not kill you.

These years are going to fly by. You will end your freshmen year wondering how you have managed to change so much in one year, and, all of the sudden, it will be a warm afternoon in August of 2014 and you will be getting ready to become a senior. In the blink of an eye, you will be three years older, maybe three years wiser, and most likely three times more wonderful. And, strangely enough, the moments that will stay with you the most will not be the big, giant, monumental ones. They will be these small moments of bliss, unveiled slowly by the collegiate narrative that becomes your life. The approximate 1,400 days that you will spend as a college student will be spent doing the things that challenge you, scare you, and comfort you. You will do things that you never thought possible; like swim in the Mediterranean and get an A in Economics. There will be nights that you will never forget and moments that you will try to not to remember.

There will be times when you feel dumb. There will be moments where your patience is tested. There will be days when you wish you were home, and days at home wishing you were at college. There will be disagreements and dilemmas. There will be celebrations. And, yes, there will be a day when you wake up, suddenly a senior. And on this day you will feel many things; gratitude, happiness, and some anxiety.

But, you will remember the moment when you put on your sunglasses and told your parents, “You guys can go now. I love you. I’ll be fine.” And, then, three years later, you will realize that your initial prediction was correct.

You will be fine, just fine.

Love,

Your Senior Self

No One Warns You About Your Twenties

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert, ’15

One night, I sat down with a really good friend at a really cool bar. We started to discuss our lives, and the paths that were taken, as well as not taken. There were some predictions made about how the next decade would unfold. After all, we are only twenty-one, and the major topic of most conversations these days is: “So what the hell is going to happen to me? How is next week going to go? How are these next five years going to go?” And, we discovered together that the questions should no longer be about what circumstances and opportunities will unfold, but rather which ones we create and how we react to them. After all, there is no magic recipe for the survival of your twenties– probably because no one’s experience is identical. No one warns you about your twenties.

My teenage years were different. They really did have a purpose as many of them were dedicated to getting into college. And now at age twenty-one, that dream has been realized. I go to college, traveled for four months, and am involved in the extracurriculars that make me feel satisfied. And, yet, I still have little idea where my life is headed next Tuesday, let alone next January or next year. Yes, I have professional goals that I am working toward, but these goals are not guarantees. I cannot bank on them. I am finally at the point in my life where there is more than one logical next step, whether it is pursuing graduate school, working after graduation, or even traveling or taking some time off. There are no longer voices telling me what to do. My voice is the only one that remains.

This life as a twenty-something is not always easy. It can get really tempting to compare our situations to not only each other, but to generations past. Yes, our parents may have gotten married earlier and secured careers faster. But, here we are, this generation of twenty-somethings who, quite frankly, may not have our sh*t together like we think we should. The pressure to be someone or pursue something will always exist for us, but I believe this tension is heightened in the decade that has usually been seen as the “make it or break it” time in a person’s life. Many of us may think that if we do not act now, today, and make plans to secure the things that will eventually bring us happiness, that this happiness will somehow slip through our fingers into an abyss of regret where no second chances exist. Sometimes we may get so preoccupied with the weeks, months, and years ahead that we forget that life as a twenty-something is pretty cool today, right now, in this moment.

Being in your twenties means that you are old enough to know how to do responsible things, like paying bills and building resumes, but young enough to screw up those tasks every day. To this day, I still do not know how to parallel park, however, I got really good at staying out late on Saturday nights in London. But here is the beauty of it: your twenties are the time to experiment with mistakes. Sure, we all have commitments to honor. But these mistakes, late nights and subsequently early mornings, regrets, and embarrassment are all apart of the decade that forms our innermost selves.

In some ways, I feel like I face major changes in my life nearly every day as a twenty-one year old. Life is not always stable at this age, but it sure is fun. I do not have many answers or solutions to the problems my friends and I face except to hold on, buckle up, and get ready for the next turn of events, as there inevitably will be one. Things and people change every day. Our lives are not static and that is the beauty of being a twenty-something. Yes, sometimes things may suck more than usual but our capacity to roll with the punches is what keeps us hanging on. Someone once told me to only worry about the things that will matter in five years. The same advice can also be applied to relationships: only worry about the people who stick it out during the next five years as well.

So all of you twenty-somethings out there: expect to not know what you are doing all of the time. I do not believe your twenties are your “make it or break it” decade. They are your “sometimes make it and sometimes break it” decade. And, no, no one warns you about your twenties. But maybe this is the way it should be. After all, this decade is all about discovery, good and bad. Perhaps the person who would warn you about the things to come in your twenties would act as a spoiler of a movie. I don’t know about you, but surprises are some of the best parts of my life. Turn the corner, hold your breath, and wait for the surprise. It may be good; it may be bad. The only way to find out is to trust that the corner is worth turning. So, take this day, this week, this month, this year and turn every corner you find. Hell, you only get ten years to be in your twenties. Do not waste a single day.

No one warns you about your twenties. But who would want to ruin the conclusion to your story anyway?

After all, I heard there’s an ending no one would expect.

There Comes a Time

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert, ’15

On Friday, I received an unusual message from my mother. She asked me to call her, if I could, and so I did. I got on the phone and it was my dad, telling me that my grandfather was dying. My grandfather was leaving the hospital and going back home after a terrifyingly short battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which deteriorates the body, sometimes in a very fast way. They were in the car headed to see him in his final days, and I was in Munich, Germany, halfway across the world with limited ways to change flights home and cancel travel to Austria, Croatia, and Switzerland. Every time I used my hostel’s phone, I only heard people who spoke German. I pleaded, in English, with the simplest of vocabulary: “change flight, please!” It was fruitless. The internet stopped working. I was stuck. So I did the one thing I could think to do: I called my brother.

Mark, my brother, picked up and talked to me about my grandfather. He and I then started to talk about how incredible it was that I was in Germany, my grandfather’s home country. It seemed to the both of us that it was almost poetic that I was in the place where my grandfather started while he was at his end. I cried and explained to my brother how devastated that I was that I could not say goodbye to Grandpa. I screamed, got frustrated, and cried “Mark, get me home! Right now! Get me home!” He, being the beautiful person that he is, said: “Abby. This is the world telling you that there is nothing you can do right now. I need you to go get a shower, talk to your friends, vent, say some prayers, get a beer, and walk around Munich for Grandpa. Breathe it in and then breathe it out for him. You are exactly where you should be. Let go. The universe is in control right now.” So, I took all of that advice. I walked down to the Glockenspiel (one of the most famous landmarks in Germany), said around fifty Hail Mary’s, and purchased a beer at a sketchy kebab place. I went back into my room and felt more at peace than ever. No plans had been made. My grandfather was still dying. I was still thousands of miles away from my family. And, yet, the peace I felt was more overwhelming than my stress. I surrendered to the universe. It was time for my grandfather to go home to his eternal one and it was time for me to go home to my temporary one in Massachusetts, leaving my time abroad. I knew that the universe would find a way for me to get home and it did. I flew home on Monday without any regrets or hard feelings. It was my time to go and so I trusted that the universe was leading me in the right direction. I realized that everyone has a time to leave; including my grandfather. He was at peace with his departure and so I was at peace with mine.

I came home on Monday and went to PC on Tuesday. There, I saw so many seniors. They were all telling me about their upcoming plans after graduation, or lack thereof. They were mostly unsure, mostly terrified, and mostly sad to be leaving PC. Of course, they are all still incredible. The class of 2014 is still amazing in every respect. They always made me feel welcomed, important, respected, and comforted. The seniors at Providence College are ones for the history books. They challenged each other and their school. They make differences, live completely, and enjoy their experiences at PC fully. They live their time at PC wholeheartedly. And, of course, with this commitment to live completely and fully comes a “catch twenty-two,” of sorts. When we invest ourselves in something or someone, we are at risk of being hurt when that something or someone goes away. Because I had endowed myself to my family, I was saddened at the passing of my grandfather. And because the seniors of Providence College have invested themselves completely in their school, they will also be saddened when it is their day to depart. Seniors, take a lesson from my grandfather. When he was asked how he was feeling when he was leaving this earth, he smiled and said “terrific.” He was devoted in life, reaped the benefits, and left feeling complete. And, so, even though it is difficult to do, I ask the class of 2014 to perhaps smile during these last few weeks, think back on your time, and be thankful that you were invested. When you get that diploma, I hope you do not say: “But I did not have enough time!” I hope, instead, you smile and say, fondly, “terrific.”

Because, after all, the time comes for all of us to depart. But, always remember, that with departures come new arrivals. Exits lead to entrances. Last days lead to first days. Good things lead to great things. Great things lead to better things. So, 2014, although your time is nearing for your departure, remember to surrender to the universe. There comes a time for all of us to leave. But there also comes a time for all of us to start anew, become better, and embark on the next adventure. It is all a part of this universal plan, you see. It is beyond us so surrender to it. It will not lead you astray, I promise you. It assigns us all a time to leave so that we can start something better.

So, 2014: I ask you to yield to the universe. After all, there always comes a time.

The PC Monologues

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

If I had to count on my hands the number of time I have heard: “But this is a CATHOLIC school” in response to different socially liberal initiatives at PC, I would have to grow five new sets of hands. Many students often get upset when the typical Catholic status quo is questioned at PC and I, being a fully disclosed social liberal, even have to say that this is warranted. PC is a Catholic school and I have to accept and respect the fact that it has the right to refuse certain events on campus. However, even though I am a practicing Catholic, I also believe in the institution of gay marriage, the freedom to divorce, and even the opportunity for women to become priests. Yet, I also am a sister, a daughter, a friend, a student, an employee, a Modern Family fan, a traveler, a Mid-Atlantic enthusiast, and a lover of Adele’s music. So yes, even though I am a faith-filled Catholic, I am also many other things. Just as I chose PC because I loved that I could actively practice my faith, I also chose it for its Social Work program, its sense of community, and even its fabulous gym. People often claim that PC is too homogenous and then some of us get upset with each other when we try to break the mold, perhaps even cause some controversy. And so, I am afraid that too many students are afraid to pursue avenues that are perhaps too different from the norm.

Nevertheless, this past week, a group of PC students did actually succeed in breaking the PC mold. These students put on the annual production of the “Vagina Monologues.” Although the show is not supported or funded by the college, it has become a tradition for students to put the show on and raise money for “V-Day,” a catalyst movement that encourages donations for women’s organizations as well as awareness about the realities of sexual violence. This year, the PC students donated the proceeds from the performances, held at the Avon Theatre, to the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island as well as the V-Day Organization. The actual performance comprises various stories that women experience with their vaginas. These stories range in context from childbirth, to sexual pleasure, to rape. In essence, the performance explores all facets of female sexuality as well as female biological capacities. It investigates the entire scope of the female reproductive system in a way that validates and sympathizes with the characters as well as educates the audience about the realities that cannot be silenced, concerning the positive and negative experiences that women have with their vaginas. Of course, the title alone, as well as some of the stories in the performance, do inspire some controversy, but that is to expected with any kind of work at the intersection of social activism and art.

And, no, this article is not a plea for PC to change its rule and host the Monologues. It is instead intended to praise the sheer courage of the students who focused on a part of their identities that does not exactly coincide with the conservatism that accompanies the identity of being students of a Catholic institution. Instead of waiting for approval from the school or simply giving up because of the difficulty involved in hosting a production that is not sponsored by PC, these young women decided to do something different: they rolled up their sleeves and made their own rules. Too often, PC students forget that the college does not have to be their only avenue for personal fulfillment or change. Although it is more convenient and, perhaps, more comforting to attend an institution that jives with all of our personal beliefs, it is unfortunately impossible for any organization to completely understand the wholes of any of our identities. So, although I believe it is our place to challenge our school to be better, it is also our responsibility to develop parts of ourselves that are outside of the PC mold. I am very proud to be a friar, but it is not my only identity. Being a PC student is not my only interest. This is why the organizers and performers of the Vagina Monologues deserve a huge “kudos” for their work on a piece of art that is not part of PC. They are fulfilling themselves as people and, perhaps most importantly, seeking to educate and raise money for a cause that speaks to them. They set an excellent example of putting the motto of PC into work: “transform yourself, transform society.”

You may never agree with the production of the Vagina Monologues. You may never believe in anything that challenges the social Catholic constructs of our school. This is just fine. I respect you, just as I expect that you should respect me. We are all different and we all can learn from each other: I fully believe that. However, no matter what you believe, it may be prudent to look to the group of PC students who put on the Monologues as an example. They cared about something and put into action a plan that both fulfilled their interests and helped a cause in which they believe. And while they did it without the approval of their school, they did it with focused eyes, open hearts, and hands stretched out to vulnerability. They took a chance and stayed true to themselves. So, no matter what your interest, remember to stay true to yourself. Challenge when necessary, listen, learn, talk, do not wait, be courageous, and be you.

 

After all, your own monologue is still a work in progress. It is not going to write itself, you know.

Ditch the Plan. Live the Dream.

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

I am a self-confessed planner, 99% of the time. Growing up, I always knew what I wanted in life and had created a plan to achieve it. In my third grade class, when everyone else wrote stories about their dogs and siblings during “author’s day,” I wrote a piece about my plan to become a therapist and receive my PhD at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in psychiatry. Don’t believe me? Ask my mother. At eighteen, I decided to attend Providence College. Since then, any sort of plan has been difficult to follow. I confess that, at times, I slip back into my third grade mentality and begin to plan out the next five years of my life. Unfortunately, I am too worried about time too much of the time. I am the girl who basically had a breakdown when I turned twenty because I was “halfway to forty.” However, since that birthday, I have tried to let go of the idea that plans are always necessary. And while it is not healthy to forsake obligations and walk aimlessly throughout life, sometimes, it is okay for me to ditch the plan and let life take me where it fancies.

Yes, plans can be useful. They can provide guidance and a means to a fulfilling end. The problem with some plans lies in their inflexibility. At age 21, I realize that it is okay for plans to be altered and that is absolutely appropriate that dreams change. If our dreams change, it means that we are changing and thus are fulfilling our most vital tasks as humans: responding to the call to live fully and happily. It is very important that we are always striving toward certain ends. This striving allows us to dare greatly and achieve our full potentials. However, rigid plans may force us to put unneeded pressure on ourselves as we view our lives as a list of things to do rather than stories unfolding. I now try to think of my life no longer as a plan, but as a kind of narrative, in medias res (or in the middle of things). I try not to devote much time to waiting for the villains to show up. They invariably will and I attempt every day to become more able to meet them at the door laughing when they do inevitably arrive.

I now understand that certain things do not need to happen at certain times. The beauty of living life in this way lies in the fact that it allows us to no longer put pressure on ourselves to become something by a certain time in order to fit a certain mold that was not molded by us. My right time to do something may not be your right time. Just as some babies walk before others, adults do things at different times. In fact, they do different things at different times. Our lives will never be identical. I now realize that my dreams are not plans and they are certainly not certain. And so, I plan to dream on, constantly. I plan to plan only when it is an original one to my life and has room built in for changes. After all, you want to hear the universe laugh? Tell it your plan. It has things in store for you that you would never guess. It has moments in store for you that you cannot fathom.

And while living life sensibly and always packing umbrellas for the rainstorms ahead may be quite practical and safe, it limits our time to have moments of true, uncertain, and perfectly unpredictable happiness. Just as the poet Nadine Stair says:

“You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day by day. Oh I’ve had my moments. And if I had to do it over again, I would have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of trying to live so many years ahead of each day.”

So, it is this planner’s solemn vow from now on to plan to have moments. I plan to have lots of moments where I am blissfully happy, lots of moments when I make other people feel peace, and lots of moments that provide me with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. I plan to have moments where I truly live. I plan on stringing these unprecedented moments into one life, the product of multiple failed plans and changing dreams. I cannot live my life by Mondays and Fridays and Januarys and Junes. I can only live my life by moments. After all, I only have, with certainty, one moment ahead of me at each instant.

So for all of you twenty-somethings out there: ditch the plan. Live the dream. You only have this moment.