Lessons from an Old Man to a Young Friend

The romantic inside of me grew about 10 sizes today. She’s been looking a little lean lately, since there hasn’t been much to feed her. Stories of bruised and broken hearts tend to wear away at her, diminishing her smile and sucking the rosiness from her cheeks. But today, she grew.

This is my second summer as an intern at a private museum, its contents owned by an elderly but still prominent local businessman with a true passion for American history that rivals my own. He seems to have done everything and met everyone, including starting his own nation-wide business, speaking to the United States Senate, building a hospital in Vietnam, opening a branch of his business in China, and orchestrating a million dollar fundraiser for a local food pantry. He is a bit demanding and it can be a challenge to fully follow his ideas, but over time he has come to call me his “lovely young friend,” even telling me once last summer that he regards me like a granddaughter. I thoroughly enjoy the one-on-one conversations that take place as he combs through the museum with me in tow, in search of a new project.  These encounters are rare, but I have come to crave the entertaining anecdotes and the irreplaceable wisdom that accompany them.  Today, as we came across an over-sized porfolio documenting his accomplishments with the hospital in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he asked me, “Would you say that I’ve had an interesting life?”

“Absolutely!!” I exclaimed. By my age, this man had served in the Korean War and was on the path to starting his own business. “I feel like I learn something new and interesting about you every day!”

We began to walk back toward his office. “Well,” he said pensively, putting his hand on my shoulder. At this point, I expected to hear the secrets to great success and prepared myself to take copious mental notes. “I couldn’t have done it without a wonderful wife.”

“From everything I’ve heard, she sounds like a wonderful woman,” I said with a smile as my heart began to melt.

“It’s all her…without her, none of this would have been possible.”

We walked in silence and then he addressed his secretary, customarily signaling the end to our conversation. I returned to my desk, tears forming in my eyes over such a beautiful testimony of true, everlasting adoration for one’s spouse. From all accounts that I’ve heard, she has never failed to stand by him, through genuine trials and his grand successes, and he clearly gushes over her when she comes up in conversation.

Throughout this internship, I’ve learned so much about American history. It’s a history major’s dream after all, to be paid to conduct historical research and write about it on a daily basis. Watching my boss’s business, I’ve learned the importance of networking and utilizing one’s connections. But today I came to realize that I’ve learned a lot more from watching the man behind it all, removed from the business and the museum. For you are never too successful, too old, too powerful, or too well-connected to not owe your success to those who support you. You are never above showing your gratitude for them. You must pursue your passions in every way possible, no matter how lofty such a goal may be. And you must always, always give back to the community who produced you and molded you into the person you are today. While the little romantic within me grew today, so did the woman she hides behind in really appreciating these lessons.

I Am Who I Am Because I Was Here

In one week, I will be headed back to the happiest place on earth.  No, not Disney World.  No, this place is less magical, though the way the Chapel looks on a snowy night seems like it’s right out of a picture book.  The magic is instead in how this place has helped me to grow and helped me to become the person I am today.  In reality, this is one place that at times hasn’t really been all that happy for me, but at the end of the day, when its name crosses my lips, an instant smile spreads across my face, and if you don’t cut me off right away, I will begin rambling about this place before you know what hit you.

Assumption College.

Most people outside of Massachusetts have  not heard of this small, Catholic school, located in New England’s second largest city of Worcester, MA.  ImageNestled in a picturesque neighborhood that would never give you the impression that you were indeed in a city, Assumption is a hidden gem and often overlooked for just how strong the education one receives from this place can be, as long as one is willing to make it so.  Growing up just 20 minutes away from the campus in a small, suburban town, I never imagined that I would end up somewhere so close, yet so different from what I was used to for what many people describe as the best four years of their lives.  But as I embarked on my college search, I was surprised to find how perfect it seemed to be for me.  It had everything I was looking for.

Over the years, it has captured every part of my heart.  It has given me dreams and helped me to achieve.  It has granted me irreplaceable friends, bestowed unforgettable memories, and taught me so much more than what is contained in the overpriced textbooks I buy from its bookstore.  I am who I am because of each experience I have had within the bounds of its campus.  From the Duck Pond to the dangerous shortcut trails, my residence halls to the classrooms I’ve spent hours in, every single part of the campus has made me who I am today.

Next Tuesday will be different.  Next Tuesday I will be going back after break for the last time.

I will have student leader training for the last time.  I am heading back for second semester of my senior year, and that scares me.  What’s more, I will be student teaching, a.k.a. working full time for free and not taking classes.  I will be thrust into the real world, while still living with the best roommmates in the world in a gorgeous on-campus apartment that would cost

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a fortune if located anywhere else.

I always marvel at how much each semester at this place changes me.  The nervous but excited 18-year-old freshman who first set foot in a small, secluded freshman dorm would not recognize the well-rounded and empowered 22-year-old senior who is about to start her life’s goal of teaching.  Heck, nevermind the 18-year-old version of me, the 21-year-old junior from last spring would not recognize the 22-year-old senior I am now.  It is truly amazing. An old friend who graduated from this same wonderful place two years ago called me today and asked, “Can you believe you’re a second semester senior now?”  I laughed and told him that I can’t even handle it, half-joking but half-serious as well.  I can’t believe that this journey will soon be over and that I will be moving on to the next chapter.

But when I pack up my bags and empty my room at home for the last time next week, I will do so with so much hope and a determination to make this last one count.  Graduating will be scary, but I know that I will be ready for it, personally, professionally, and spiritually.  No matter where the next chapter takes me, I know I will always carry Assumption in my heart.