Ms. Cleary’s Classroom

mhagandefaultchristmasMichael Hagan ’15

Ms. Cleary took a long due breath
As the children ran out to play.
At last the recess bell had rung
On that mid-December day.

But timid footsteps Ms. Cleary heard
A few yards behind her back.
“Ms. Cleary” spoke a nervous voice
The voice belonged to Jack.

Now you all have met a Jack, I’m sure.
Maybe you yourself were one.
No difference did the child see
In the meanings of mischief and fun

Just Tuesday Jack had poured his glue
On little Chelsea’s chair.
October’s prank of similar sort
Had cost poor Billy some hair.

Even Ms. Cleary was wary of Jack,
What tricks he might have up his sleeve.
She looked at him sternly as firmly she asked,
“Yes, Jack. What do you need?”

“That story you read about Santa,” said Jack,
As nervously nearer he drew,
“Ms. Cleary, I need you to tell me, please,
Is it… how can it be true?

I read, Ms. Cleary, I read a lot.
I read in a book last week;
There’s billions of people alive in the world,
Too many to count or meet.

How do they all get presents from Santa?
How does he not forget some?
And also, Ms. Cleary, my cousin Jake says…
Says believing in Santa is dumb.”

That mischievous smirk that Jack always wore
Was gone, and tears on their way.
She knew to put a hand on his shoulder,
But knew not what to say.

She took a seat on the classroom rug
Bidding him sit as well.
Struck, she was, for never’d she seen
In a child so much of herself.

Remembering well a winter’s day
Some twenty years before,
Ms. Cleary recalled what she was taught
On Ms. Webster’s classroom floor.

“You are right, Jack,” Ms. Cleary said,
“It seems like it just can’t be true.
But it is,” she began to explain to the boy
Not a lie, but the truth that she knew.

“There is a Santa Claus,” she said,
“I know that it’s hard to believe,
But I’ve met him myself, I’ll never forget,”
She said lifting her hand from his sleeve.

“I wasn’t much older than you are now,
When I began to doubt.
But I met him, Jack, and that’s when I learned
What Santa is all about.

Now I don’t mean the man in red at the mall
You’re a smart boy; he’s just an act
I mean the real Santa, I met the real thing,
And I promise that you will too, Jack.

One day, maybe soon, you’ll meet Santa Claus
He may not look like you’ve heard.
But Jack, he’s real, like you and me
And when you meet him you’ll learn.

We don’t have to rush, the time will come
For you to meet Santa Claus,
But if you could today, what would you say
To him?” She asked and paused.

“I’d say,” the child began to speak,
“I’d say thank-you. Thank you a bunch!
What can I do to repay Santa Claus
When I meet him? He’s given so much!”

“Exactly,” spoke Ms. Cleary, “Nothing,
And Jack, that’s just it.
Can’t thank him enough; you can’t pay him back.
You can only accept the gift.

But part of that gift is a lesson, Jack
To remember as long as you live.
Expecting nothing in return
He teaches us to give.

There’s another part you’ll just have to learn
More than the rest, it’s true.
The most wonderful part of meeting Santa
Is learning how much he loves you.

You’re more like Santa than you think,
One day you’ll make miracles too.”
The two walked to the door, Jack’s grin lit up.
Like a bolt to the playground he flew.

A very merry Christmas and blessed New Year to you and your families. “God bless us, everyone.”

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Attention Seniors: Stop Freaking Out!

Guest Chat – Submitted 12/15/14

Dan Hogan ’13

It’s that time of the year again at Providence College where stockings hang over the fireplace in Slavin, a tree sits in the middle of the Great Hall in Ruane, Ray has holiday decorations making it seem a little less dismal, and the student body is freaking out about finals. As I’m standing in line at Dunkin waiting to get my first coffee for the day this reality is all too clear. It becomes even clearer as I overhear two seniors discussing their plans for the future, essentially freaking out waiting for Armageddon, aka Graduation Day. Yes, it’s the time for people to freak out about being one semester closer to graduation and for the senior class this is all too real. Seniors have one more semester left until they leave the PC bubble and enter into the real world. They have one more semester to “live it up” before total responsibility hits them in the face. They have one more semester to be able to go out on a weeknight and be able to still function the next day. They have one more semester to see and live with their best friends every day. In essence, they have one more semester until life ends, as they know it!

Well 2015, I have a message for you, STOP FREAKING OUT!!!!! Yes, it’s true come May you’re lives, as you know it are going to change. The people you met at Freshmen Orientation or walking around your floor are not going to be the next room over or two houses down. You won’t be able to put off a paper until the last minute and be able to easily get an A-. You won’t be able to go out four nights a week and still be able to function the next day. However, this does not mean life ends. In fact, it is only the beginning. Yes, I know it is a scary time for most of you not knowing what you are going to do after receiving your diploma while many of your friends may have jobs or internships already lined up. Yes, I know it is daunting for those of you who do have a job who may have to move to a place where you do not know anyone else. Yes, I know you do not want to leave your roommates or friends and want to spend as much time with them as possible. However, it is okay.

As Bob Marley once said, “Don’t worry about a thing,’Cause every little thing gonna be alright.” He speaks the truth. Throughout your first year out in the “real world”, you will experience many different emotions. You will be excited to be making money. You will be sad come September when you see people heading back to PC for another semester. You will be frustrated with your job or living with my parents and still be asking the question “What am I doing with my life?” You will step onto campus for Fake Alumni and Alumni Weekends wishing you could stay and wanting to tell the freshmen to go back to high school.

Your first year out of school will be one of the biggest learning experiences in your life and you will grow more in this year than any of your four years in Friartown. You will meet new people and keep in touch with the friends you want to keep in touch with. You will start thinking about going back to grad school to pursue a new career path or new opportunities within your company. You will want to travel and see new places you have never seen before because your responsibilities are still minimal. You can still go out and have a good time, but you won’t feel like going to a place with loud music, tons of people, where you drink out of a plastic cup every weekend.

So if you are freaking out about your life after college, relax. You have your entire life to ask, “What do I want to do?” Enjoy the present and have fun. Don’t stress too much. God Bless and Go Friars!

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.

Remembering Siobhán Ross

Ross-siobhan-WEB

“…She was a petite woman who drove motorcycles and loved adventure cycling. Her accent — she would speak about a cup of ‘cawfee’ — did not even hint at her love of English soccer and rugby, he said. And she insisted on riding her scooter, a Buddy International Saint Tropez 150, to work, whatever the weather.

‘She would always look for new things to try out to help the faculty be better teachers, to help the staff use the tools we have, and to foster student creativity,’ said Hauerwas. ‘But she always kept the focus on the people who were using that technology — supporting them, and making them feel capable and better about themselves whenever they had a problem with something. That was magic.'”  Read the full obituary at PC News

A memorial Mass will be celebrated in St. Dominic Chapel at Providence College on Friday, Dec. 5, at 11:35 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial donation in Siobhán’s name to the Providence Animal Rescue League

“No Justice, No Peace”

Cheesefest PictureGuest Chat – Eric Rivera, PC ’16

You may be wondering what happened outside your window last night. Why were a group of students walking around campus with signs and chanting “No Justice, No Peace”? Last night was another instance that showed me why Providence College is the best place in the world. Last night, the news came out that Darren Wilson, the officer that shot and killed Mike Brown, will not be indicted. Many people, including myself, were absolutely outraged because of this news. Personally, I was frustrated to the point where I needed to seclude myself. I use this as a method to fully reflect and try to process difficult information. This information was difficult for me to understand because I do not understand why somebody will not be going to trial for murdering another human being. After learning about the news I took a walk to the BMSA office where other students were talking about what had just occurred. While sitting in the office I received an email from one of my classmates and a fellow leader on campus, Kadene Pitter ’16, saying that there would be a peaceful protest starting on the Slavin Lawn at midnight. The time was exactly 11:30PM when I received the email. I read the email to the rest of the people in the room, and a rush of excitement ran through my veins. It was beautiful to see a student-run movement be organized in 30 minutes. We are creating our own voice in a society where it is so easy to feel like we are silenced.

I arrived to Slavin Lawn at midnight and saw a few students ready to march. I was skeptical due to a small showing of people and the lack of preparation but at 12:10, after setting a few ground rules, the small group of Providence College students began to march. “Black lives matter” and “No Justice, No Peace” rang through Slavin Lawn and the upper quad. The feeling of solidarity was beautiful. This feeling completely took over my body and made me forget about all of my nerves, fear, and hesitation. Seeing our group grow and hearing the chants get louder put me in awe. The way the small group materialized into a huge crowd of people walking for the same purpose was inspiring. This peaceful protest was an example of our PC students from all walks of life coming together for a cause. This was an amazing display of diversity and how our diverse group of people was able to put differences aside so that similarities could create something special. It is very easy to put yourself into a category based on your interests and who you feel comfortable around, but this protest took us all out of our comfort zones and brought us all together. We truly came together as a “Friar Family”.

This Friar Family kept walking around campus yelling chants such as, “Justice for Mike Brown” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”. We walked from Slavin to the chapel, then found ourselves walking in front of Guzman crossing Huxley Avenue onto lower campus, we then passed Davis, Bedford, and Suites, and eventually walked through the Fennell gates, and walked along Eaton Street going towards upper campus. Our group then walked back to the chapel, up towards Harkins Hall and eventually out of the main gate on River Avenue. From the main gate we walked up Eaton Street behind Al Mag and Ruane. Our March took a turn behind the library to head back to the quad where our protest concluded with a few words from the students that coordinated the event. Throughout these 40 minutes we were able to let our lights shine by standing together and expressing our opinions about an injustice that occurred last night. We stood in solidarity for the loss of Mike Brown. Today I am proud to be a Friar.

I’d like to thank Kadene Pitter and the others that set up this peaceful protest. You are amazing, and your initiative is something I envy. It isn’t easy to organize a group of people that are filled with anger and rage to peacefully display their emotions and opinions, but you were able to do so in a short amount of time and make this protest a huge success. Shout out to you. I would like to thank everybody that was a part of this protest and was able to help create a night that I will never forget. For everybody that is out there wondering where we go from here, I encourage you to stay positive. I know it’s hard to believe right now after this decision and many decisions in the pastm but as the chorus of Tupac’s famous song, Keep Ya Head Up goes, “Oh child, things are gonna get easier. Oh child, things will get brighter.” Enjoy your Thanksgiving breaks, tell your families you love them, and remain positive. Go Friars!


Eric Rivera junior from San Diego, CA. He is majoring in Political Science and minoring in Public Administration, Spanish, and Economics. He takes pride in being an RA, a devoted member of BMSA, and a student coordinator for the Horizons Retreat. Eric cares about creating community and promoting the Friar Family.  

“Someday” is Right Now


DefaultUncroppedMegan Grammatico ’15

I had a very thought-provoking conversation with a sophomore that I was working with in the Writing Center a few days ago. She was stressing about her study abroad application, due in a few short weeks, and she asked me if I had gone abroad. When I told her that I had spent some of the best months of my junior year (and my life, if we’re being honest) in Copenhagen, Denmark, her face fell a little. “Everyone keeps SAYING that,” she said, almost exasperatedly. “But there’s so much to worry about here—I’ll just travel someday when I’m older. I have to plan my classes and make my double major work and study for the LSAT and and and…” I listened, and nodded empathetically, and told her I understood, because I did. That girl, the freaked out one that has her life planned for the next five years, that makes a schedule broken down by hour because it’s the only way she can be absolutely sure not to drop any of the million-and-one-balls she has in the air at any given time—she was me. She was me, and she was stressed out and unhappy and so worried about planning her life that she was forgetting to actually live it. I wish I had had time to explain to her what living abroad had meant for me, how much it changed me, but the appointment ended, and I mumbled some tired cliché about seizing opportunities that present themselves, and we both headed off to the next thing on our to-do lists.

I thought about this girl all day, and all of the things that I wished I had said to her. I wish I had told her about the jumble of excitement and terror you feel when you wave goodbye to your sobbing mom and cheerfully waving dad at the airport gate. I wish I had told her about the feeling on that first morning, when you wake up confused because it’s five a.m and you’ve never woken up so early on your own and the snow is swirling outside and you’re so out of your element, out of your comfort zone, that you want to crawl back in bed for the day but the excited part of you insists on waking up, on getting started. I wish I had told her about buying a bike from a random Swiss graduate student, and learning to ride said bike in downtown Copenhagen traffic. I wish I had told her about the incredible friends you make; the visiting family parents that start to feel like your own parents, only better because they always seem to be refilling your wine glass. I wish so much that I had told her how empowering it is to plan a trip to a place you’ve only read about in books, to budget and figure out details and logistics and landmarks, only to wind up winging it, asking strangers for directions in badly accented French that you sort of remember from middle school, and sleeping on the floor of a one room flat with some of the best friends you’ll ever have. I wish I could have told her that map-reading is actually a pretty valuable life skill, that Wi-Fi is never to be taken for granted, that you absolutely can wear the exact same thing you wore yesterday, just as long as you change your scarf. I wish I had told her that you should do one thing every single day that terrifies you, even if it is jumping in the frozen ocean in the middle of February because that’s what the local people do.

On the plane ride home from Copenhagen, I read a quote that stuck with me. Terry Pratchett, the author of A Hat Full of Sky, says:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving”

Pratchett is right. Though I don’t live in Copenhagen anymore, and I don’t spend my weekends and exploring Europe, I try, everyday, to live the way that I did when I was all of those places. I think that you should try it too. Stop planning every second of everyday. Stop to notice sunsets, and resist the urge to Instagram them. Linger over meals to talk a little bit longer with people that love you. Do something scary, or do something brave, or do something you’ve always wanted to do but could never quite find the time. I can’t tell you what those things are. They’re different for everyone.

Most of all, most importantly, stop living for someday. We all do it; the conversation in our heads usually goes a little something like this “I’ll be happy once finals are over, or I finish this paper, or once I find a job for next year, or get accepted to graduate school or finally meet someone I really like—then I’ll have time to be happy”. Though I could have told the girl in the Writing Center hours of stories about the joys of living abroad, what I really wish I had told her is this: “someday” is right now. “Someday” is happening this very minute, not tomorrow or next week or next year. “Someday” is very quickly going to become yesterday, and what you can do right now is make sure it’s worth remembering.

52%: a Bazaar Opportunity

shoot3“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   -Genesis 1:28

Do you know what the most dangerous animal on the planet is? You. Yes you! Congratulations. We’re there! We did it! With the World Wildlife Foundation reporting that since 1970 humans have wiped out 52% of all wildlife on planet earth we can successfully say it has been subdued. As a recent article from The Telegraph describes, “Almost the entire decline is down to human activity, through habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, over-fishing and hunting.”

But of course the earth hasn’t been subdued. It has been inundated. It has been overwhelmed. And it is responding with unstable weather patterns and climate changes. This is climate chaos, and our dwindling biodiversity is leaving us at tremendous risk of a systems collapse. There is a reflexive nature to our actions in this world and the more we subjugate what’s wild around us the more precarious our own situation becomes.

You might think things are observably OK because you saw five or six squirrels on your way to your 1 o’clock class, but even those grey squirrels aren’t naturally occurring in this urban area and were put here by our ancestors to ease our spirits.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I can’t fall asleep, my mind preoccupied by the quandary of the human mission on earth. Certainly I am proud of my species – man which surpasses man – and of what we have accomplished. But I can’t help  interpreting these facts as a reflection of our skewed execution of the Genesis Model: rather than becoming stewards to creation we have become masters of disaster.

So I’ve hatched a plan, and I’m going to need your help. Over the next four days I will be collecting all of the clothes you no longer  want or need, and then on Saturday I’m going to sell them back to you. That’s right, this is the  Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar  and it’s an opportunity for our community to unite in an effort to challenge our own habits and protect the environment. At PC we spend quite a bit of money on new clothing and by shopping at corporate retailers which contributes to the destruction of the environment through industrial capitalism. This week I am asking you to donate your old clothes and shoes to me (but not coats – save those for a warm coat drive!) before Friday. Then, on Saturday, you are invited to come to the Bazaar at the Unity Center in Lower Slavin and shop through the clothing that our Friar Family has compiled. All proceeds will go to the World Wildlife Foundation. The Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar takes what has historically been an American method of coping with crisis (consumerism) and inverts its negative impact (if only for a day). Why not donate directly to folks in need? Well, in a sense you will be. Everything is connected, and the folks who are typically marginalized for socio-economic reasons are also the folks who are disproportionately at risk of experiencing the perils of climate chaos. Fight hunger, fight war, fight the (literally) rising tide. Go shopping on Saturday.

Oh, and you’ll have one more opportunity, and this is perhaps the most important part of all.

On Saturday, at the Bazaar, we’ll be kicking off a campaign to petition for the creation of a Council for Climate Change Preparedness at Providence College. As you know PC is doing wonderful things and we provide an invaluable service to the City of Providence and its residents. Every year we graduate brilliant young people who go out into the world to seek justice and good living. To achieve all of this we have had to increase our capacity through the development of the Ruane Center, the Smith Center, the Slavin Center, the Schneider Arena, the Ray Treacy Track. Indeed, these developments have allowed us to draw tomorrow’s leaders, writers and teachers through our doors, but building has a cost beyond the dollar amount: the carbon cost. While have some impressive bioswales for processing the storm-water from our parking lots, a solar panel on Slavin that powers some of its lights and a plethora of Hydration Stations around campus thanks to the efforts of Think Outside the Bottle and Student Congress, we don’t seem to have a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change. But our competition does: Holy Cross plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. 

If you were to do a web search for “Providence College and Sustainability” you get a link to a three paragraph page that talks about how we recycle on campus. Recycling is last in the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra because it is a least effective last resort option that comes with its own carbon cost. And while we will probably start composting next year this will only be in compliance with Rhode Island State Law. The Sustainable Endowments Institutes gathers information from academic institutions and compiles it into Green Report Cards. Providence college submitted our information to them in 2010 and the grade we received was a C- (Boston College and Holy Cross both boast B’s).

We need the creation of a Council for Climate Change Preparedness to advise our Board of Trustees in the making of every development decision and the creation of every strategic plan. It all goes back to that first responsibility God ever gave us in the book of Genesis, and who would we be as a Catholic institution if we didn’t give this reality some very specific attention? The folks at the top may not pay attention to this unless they believe it’s marketable, and they won’t believe it’s marketable unless the student body demonstrates interest. If you believe the Providence College should be a leader in Christian environmentalism come out on Saturday and show your interest by signing the petition. Join your friends at the Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar, where we’ll exchange threads, empower consumers and (maybe) save the planet.  It starts with 52% and a C-, and I think that’s a Bazaar opportunity.

The Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar will take place on Saturday, November 22nd from 12-5pm in the Balfour Unity Center of Lower Slavin. Please feel free to visit our website and follow us on twitter. If you would like to donate clothing contact the Organizer: msmith44@friars.providence.edu. 

Sources:

Sarah Knapton – The Telegraph 

Jason Bittle – Slate

The United Nations News Center

The College Sustainability Report Card

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

AbbyDefault

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

Fortune Telling in Chicago

shoot3I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the eerie circumstances of October 9th. I was visiting my partner in Chicago and we were walking down his street towards toward a promising night out. Allen was eagerly telling me about the friends he was making and how one was working on a doctoral thesis surrounding mysticism and fortune tellers. Apparently, her work explains, there is a direct correlation between the economic recession and folks deciding to visit psychics instead of therapists. We continued to walk, joking curiously about this practice and its authenticity.

From the darkness behind us a voiced called out, “Do you think it’s real?” We turned to find a woman by the corner who must have slipped our vision, her slight build listing against the support of her bicycle. She looked worried and determined but somehow temporary, as if the whirlwind of her life had just deposited her on that street corner for the moment we were crossing it. Her question had stopped us dead in our tracks.

“Fortune telling. Psychics. Is it all real?” she repeated. Her tone was earnest and emotional as if our response could change her world. We shrugged nervously, smiled and said we weren’t sure. She began to tell us her narrative of misfortune and I was transfixed. Months ago she had seen a psychic who told her that she was going to miscarry. She did. She was angry. She hadn’t believed the psychic but was now in the throes of violent uncertainty. Because her first pregnancy had ended the same way she wondered if the psychic had reached out to her friends to gather background information, but they all had denied involvement. We were speechless at this unexpected interaction and for a third time, desperately waiting for us to answer, she pleaded, “I’m asking you, is it real?”

On that street corner in Chicago the lenses of the universe aligned our lives with this woman’s. But to what end? We had nothing to offer her but empty words of solace. So we exchanged well-wishes and parted ways, leaving us in silence for the next few blocks. I felt hollow. For all of my Public Service training and friendly nature, I couldn’t summon an ounce of legitimate assistance for this person. I knew her only by her troubles. But that’s the thing; so had the fortune teller.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the practice, fortune telling doesn’t provide a service to people that sees them as a whole person (like traditional therapy). It sees them only by their fortunes and misfortunes, buy their successes and failures. It doesn’t help people focus on their assets and build themselves up by their strengths. A psychic doesn’t form a relationship with their customer in the same way that a therapist forms a relationship with their patient.

But deeper questions that arise from this interaction are, “What is useful information for us?” and, “What are the questions we seek answers to?” I suppose I can’t know that fortune telling isn’t real, but it made me think about all of the times in my life that I’ve put my trust in people to tell me what the future will bring. At one time or another we have all trusted experts to advise our biggest decisions.

Brittany Maynard, a woman with a terminal, incurable form of cancer ended her life yesterday. She had become a controversial figure under the national spotlight as someone seeking care under Oregon’s the Death with Dignity Act. There is someone very close to me who is wondering how much time is left. While we’ve been told by doctors that there’s “no crystal ball” (their actual words) they have still given us estimates in the form of months. But those haven’t always been correct and I am blessed that they haven’t. Because they were wrong I’ve been given a little more time with him. It is curious to be a human in a world of pleasure and suffering trying to strike a balance between living and dying – to understand the sadness of leaving those we love in this world to find the joy of going home to a God who waits for us. If I had met Brittany I would have been as tongue-tied as I was when I met the woman in Chicago.

I’m not writing this to finally answer the question of that woman in Chicago, or to say if I thought Brittany was wrong to die the way she chose to. What I am saying is this: that night I got to walk away with someone I loved knowing that life is worth living for as long as I can live it well, and also that this extra time with my father has been a miracle. Our lives are filled with crippling uncertainty and crisis, but living them is possible when we know that love makes us eternal. Right now I invite you to reach out to someone you love, because doing so is the only way to find the answers to the right questions. God bless you.

#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/