READ

There are over 15 million volumes in the library at Harvard University, making it the largest college library. There are nearly 6 million volumes at my institution. On the shelves of these libraries are books by philosophers, professors, doctors, poets, historians, presidents, women, and men. Whenever I find myself walking through the stacks I’m usually browsing the shelves in search of a book for my class. In the process, I pass countless titles that I will most likely never pick up.

College is the only time that most people have the access to so many books. It’s a bookworm’s dream. The libraries are free, many of them open 24/7 (or at least very late), and cover every topic under the sun. Common sense would say “go to the library, read the books, learn as much as you can about everything you can.” If only this was so simple. I would love to be able to lose myself in the many scholarly works that adorn the shelves in my school’s libraries, but the truth is time will not allow it. Throughout the four to five years that a student spends in college, he/she will never read even one percent of the books available. Amid schoolwork, test preparation, and textbooks, there’s not enough time to read anything else. What good is this access when you don’t have the time to use it? I often walk through the library wondering what books are there and how much I could learn if only I could read some of those books instead of the books I’m reading for class.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it’s important to read the required texts for your class and that there is much to gain from them. I’m only pointing out the irony in going to college where professors and parents and mentors urge students to take advantage of their opportunity and study everything accessible to them, only to assign them work that allows them the time to do anything but explore the shelves. It would be great if we had a week or two to read as many books as we could. Of course, a lot of people wouldn’t use that time to read. Perhaps that’s why we have breaks and vacations: so we can go home and crack open a book.  There is always a way around a possible dilemma, and using my vacation better could be the answer to this one.

Still, I can’t help but dream about the many books I may never be able to read, sitting just yards away from my dorm room. It would break my heart to graduate from this university having never read anything but the books and articles assigned to me on a syllabus. In many ways this represents the great amount of knowledge that exists in the world, knowledge I will never begin to touch in my lifetime. There will always be things I don’t know, and I will always want to learn more. As long as the thirst for knowledge remains great, one will never truly be satisfied.

Let me know what you think about this bookish dilemma. What things do you wonder about and wish you had the time to study?

My Poetic Journey

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “Any word, every word in language, every circumstance, becomes poetic in the hands of a higher thought.” This is what I love about poetry—that words can become new simply by placing them in a fresh context or assigning them an unexpected meaning. I enrolled in a poetry course this past semester because I wanted to become a student of poetry. This art form has been a major part of my life since I began writing poems at age seven. My initial audience consisted of my parents and extended relatives who—although educated and capable of recognizing good literature—were biased. When I was around eleven or twelve and started reciting poems at local arts festivals my confidence grew. People who had never met me before expressed their excitement about what I wrote.

As I have grown older I wanted to tackle more difficult subject matter than the nature scenes and flowers I usually wrote about. I wanted to learn how to revise my poems to make them more refined. Most of all, I wanted to be a student of the art I longed to master. Writing poetry would never work well if I didn’t understand how to read it. So, I decided it was time to study it formally.

Over 16 weeks I read poets I had never heard about, learned the intricate auditory techniques of the written word, and work shopped my classmates’ poems. I also received valuable personal feedback from my professor—a published poet herself. Our class engaged in diverse, often spirited, discussions on poetry. I grew close to several of the students in my class with whom I would talk school, poetry, weekend adventures, and share food. And something else happened: my poetry improved.

My excitement for writing new poems is stronger than ever and I am eager to share my words with the world on the stage in campus open mics. Among the butterflies in my chest there is hope and confidence in my art. There are stories in my soul, waiting for poetic language to set them free.

26 Questions

One of the most complex and impossible questions to answer is just one word: Why. Why is the sky blue? Why is grass green? Why do we have to wait until Christmas for Santa to come? Why do bad things happen?

These are the kind of questions that the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting probably asked. Twenty kids who went to school on Friday excited about another day, another step closer to Christmas. Twenty kids who didn’t make it home.

These are the kind of questions that teachers, parents, and school officials tried to answer every day, including six heroic teachers and staff members who were also victims of last week’s tragic and brutal shooting.

These are the kind of questions that parents and teachers will no longer be able to answer because their children and students are gone. Friday left young and old, male and female, scarred and hurt by what they saw.

Today, many of us around the nation mourn the loss of 26 lives, 26 innocent sons, daughters, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, Americans. Today, we ask why. Why did this happen? Why would someone do this? Why couldn’t this have been stopped?

I wanted to take a moment to share my immense sorrow for this loss. With each passing day I continue to think about and pray for the families in Newtown: those who lost loved ones, those who survived, those who responded. As our country attempts to move forward and discussions of gun violence, mental health, and safety arise (as they should), I hope that we don’t allow this tragedy to prevent our children from enjoying their communities. I also hope more than anything that America decides today is the day to end this. We cannot afford to lose another child, wife, or brother to senseless, deranged violence.

Despite the politics and legal matters that must inevitably take place, don’t forget the victims of Newtown. Hold your children and your family closer this Christmas. Don’t forget those twenty children, and their bright smiles.

Benjamin Wheeler, 6 • Avielle Richman, 6 • Jessica Rekos, 6 • Caroline Previdi, 6 • Noah Pozner, 6 • Jack Pinto, 6 • Emilie Parker, 6 • Grace McDonnell, 7 • James Mattioli, 6 • Jesse Lewis, 6 • Chase Kowalski, 7 • Catherine Hubbard, 6 • Madeleine Hsu, 6 • Dylan Hockley, 6 • Ana Marquez-Greene, 6 • Josephine Gay, 7 • Olivia Engel, 6 • Daniel Barden, 7 • Charlotte Bacon, 6

Mary Sherlach, 56 • Lauren Rousseau, 30 • Anne Marie Murphy, 52 • Victoria Soto, 27 • Nancy Lanza, 52 • Dawn Hochsprung, 47 • Rachel Davino, 29

In Pursuit of Dreams

OlympicsThis past August, I wanted to write a really good article about the Olympics, because I spent two weeks of my life watching it. I wanted to discuss the excitement,  pride and dedication that goes into becoming an Olympian, for those who win gold and for those who make history, like Sarah Attar from Saudi Arabia. I wanted to write about gaining appreciation for little-known sports and for various nations and cultures. To sum up my experience in one sentence: I was inspired. Yeah, I know, nothing special or original about that statement. However, it’s true. The athletes didn’t just inspire me to work out or be healthy. They inspired me to work hard and to maintain my focus. They reminded me of the success that is found when you train hard for something you believe in. And that got me really excited about sophomore year.

The 2012 Olympics ended my first summer home from college. Last year, one of my professors told us that this summer would be very different from any summer we’d ever had before. She was right. I not only learned more about myself this past year, I also saw how much I have grown. I began to recall a part of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom where he wrote: “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find ways in which you yourself have altered.” That proved very true this summer as I returned to my home, my tiny town and peaceful abode away from college life. I realized how much I like people, and independence, and working. I realized I have ideas, thoughts, wit and laughter that other people appreciate. I realized that I must protect my ambition and my dreams if I want to find success.

studyDuring the fall semester I kept my academic plan close to heart and made a lot of changes in my study habits. Since completing the fall semester, I am proud to say this is my best academic semester so far, and I am excited about the spring (although I’m enjoying my time at home). God has blessed me with the best roommate I could ask for, a great dorm community, wonderful friends, and a supportive family. I could not go after my dreams without them. They encourage me, hold me accountable, and most of all, make my life exciting and fun to live. I’m very thankful for all of them.

Chasing a dream is not an easy journey because you often feel like you are behind and running out of time. However, when you catch the dream and hold it in your hand, there is no greater sense of satisfaction. I’m fighting for my dreams and keeping the faith that they will all come true, striving for excellence, one focused day at a time. Regardless of what your dream is, don’t give up on it.

For now, I have some time on my hands, time to read books, write blog posts, enjoy my family, and get ready for the second half of this year. Time flies when you’re busy and before you know it, I will be halfway through college. Whoa! Now that’s something to think about.

Helen

 
My great-grandmother hums,
filling all five rooms with musical notes—
“Almost heaven, West Virginia.”
I feel like the only company she has today.
 
She slices through running butter, crumbling crust,
and sweet-smelling apples that
avalanche down the plate, blistering yet irresistible.
 
She instinctively balances the searing heat with cool cream
the flavor of imported vanilla beans,
loading the vintage saucer until I feel its weight.
 
I swallow spoonful by spoonful,
memorizing each layer of this moment:
the syrupy taste,
the injured vinyl yellow chair,
her thin yet strong palms stroking the back of my hand,
the creak of the screen door giving way to the evening air…