People should become banter bloggers. When I got this job, I thought that it would be a way to make some extra money and an excuse to write something every week. I enjoy writing, but as a science major, I don’t get to write much that isn’t riddled with internal citations. Sometimes I cite things that I write in emails. These are, however, only two benefits to being a banter blogger. There are a lot of unexpected things that happened when I started putting more of my life online.

First of all, professors started reading my tweets. Since the college often retweets what I tweet using #bmcbanter, I would have professors referencing things I tweeted in conversation. For example, I may tweet about something funny my professor said in class, which the college will put on their campus weekly or Twitter account. Then, a little while later, I’ll get an email from a professor saying “I saw your tweet. I’m glad you enjoy how funny I am in class”.

Secondly, my parents find out more about what I am doing. I call my parents often enough, but sometimes I’ll leave some things out. If I write about my adventures on my blog, however, I’ll get a phone call the next day: “Marissa, why were you in New Jersey? How did you even get there? Why didn’t you visit Aunt Karen while you were there?” The blog pretty much allows everyone to keep tabs on me: parents, professors, even my coaches.

Finally, the point of a blog is that you have to have something to write about every week. The idea is that college students are interesting: we live in large buildings with a hundred other people our age pretty much unsupervised, the college spends a lot of time and effort putting on events for us that range from the academically stimulating keynote speaker to pure fun; like the free build-a-bear event (this one is like the real-world Hunger Games). A benefit of my blog is that I’ve started to take advantage of these things in order to have something to write about. The end of the week will roll around and I’ll realize that I’ve done nothing but got to class and practice. In this situation, I’ll decide to go to whatever event has been most publicized this week, take notes, and write a post. I’ve gone to some really cool events that I never would have without the pressure of making my life sound interesting on the internet.

1. Realize pre-registration is a month away.

2.  Promptly freak out and check the tri-college course guide. There are no classes on the tri-college course guide. Pre-registration is a month away, you are being too eager for senior year.

3. Check the tri-college course guide religiously every day until course listings arrive.

4. Make spreadsheets with 3 or 4 possible schedules.

5. Briefly entertain the idea of doing a thesis.

5  ½ . Immediately reject the idea of doing a thesis because you want to have fun your senior year.

6. Get caught up in work and completely forget about pre-registration.

7. Realize pre-registration is a week away.

8. Panic.

9. Hastily make an appointment with your major advisor to get your plan approved.

10. 1 day before your meeting, realize that you probably want to do a Praxis.

11. Hastily make a Praxis plan.

12. Meet with your major advisor and try to present yourself as a functioning human being that is actually not super overwhelmed.

13. Suddenly realize during your meeting that you are going to be a senior next year.

14. Panic.

15. Get caught up in work and completely forget about pre-registration.

16. Realize pre-registration is 1 day away.

17. Panic.

18. Hastily try to finalize your Praxis plan.

19. Have an awkward conversation with the receptionist in the Dean’s office because you have to get your Dean to sign your Praxis plan, but you are also too tired to form coherent questions.

20. Briefly reconsider the idea of thesising.

20 ½ . Instantly reject the idea of thesising.

21. Realize that everything is starting to fall into place at the last minute and you will probably have classes to go to during your senior year.

22. Realize that you are going to be a senior next year.

23. Panic.

I don’t know what happens after this.

One of the things that I love a lot is track. In fact, it is possible that “love” does not even sufficiently describe my feelings toward track. I compete in the heptathlon, and the heptathlon is something that I love, even though it literally runs me into the ground.

As with most things that people love, however, there is that one part of it that I do not love so much. Most heptathletes have that one event where they think “If I could just long jump twice and not do that thing, the heptathlon would be perfect”. For me, that thing is javelin. I do not love javelin.

Javelin looks really cool. When you do it, you get to throw a giant spear around and look like someone from the Hunger Games. Doing javelin is not so cool. It involves a lot of technique, and that is something that is acquired through a lot of practice. I compete in six other events and I have to go to classes though, so I do not have time to practice javelin all day. This is not conducive to being good at the javelin, which means that it is kind of hard to have fun throwing javelin. The days when I have to practice javelin are hard. It is hard for me to stay positive when I am doing things wrong, and I know that I am doing them wrong, but I am not able to fix them. Every time I try to focus on one aspect of my technique, everything falls apart. This makes me throw badly, and this makes my shoulder hurt. It also makes my heart hurt. I want so badly to be good at javelin. One of my favorite heptatletes, the Olympian Chantae McMillan, loves the javelin. I want to be good at the javelin like Chantae. The sad truth is that I am not. It’s hard for me to have a good attitude at practice, and that makes it hard not only for me, but also for my teammates.

I know that attitude is half the battle. In long jump, it’s something as simple as having a good attitude and having the pieces fall together, hitting the board just right and landing a good jump. If you have a bad attitude, you’re a hundred times more likely to foul out. I’ve hardly ever fouled when I have a good attitude going into the jump. I know that the same principle applies to javelin. I decided that I was going to have a good attitude if it killed me.

This is how Javelin Games was born. It’s not as scary/dangerous as it sounds. There are many safe games you can play during javelin practice that help you improve, stay focused, and most importantly of all, positive. My favorite Javelin Game is Leaf Javelin. There are two ends of the javelin. Both are pointy, but one is pointier, and this is the end that goes into the ground. In Leaf Javelin, you stab a bunch of dead leaves on the less pointy end of the javelin (the back end). Then, you throw the javelin like normal. If all of the leaves fall off the javelin during the throw, you win. An added bonus to this game is that there are leaves flying through the air all practice and it feels like fall again.

It’s a simple game, and it’s a little silly, but it makes javelin a lot more fun. Instead of spending practice looking longingly at the long jump pit, I am excited about javelin and ready to focus on the event at hand. I’ve written several times about the importance of focusing on the event that you’re competing in, and only that event, during the multi events, but this applies to practice as well. I can’t be thinking about how much I would rather be long jumping during javelin practice, because this will just make it harder to get better at javelin and make me dislike it even more. Javelin Games make javelin almost as fun as long jump. Almost.

This week I went to a public health talk. There was a keynote speaker, an exhibit, and several public health program recruiters, as well as Bryn Mawr students and advisors who have experience in that area. The keynote speaker, Cynthia Eyakuze (BMC ’94), spoke about her own path to the public health field after graduation from Bryn Mawr. For the first few years after graduation, she worked in lower-level positions in organizations that were doing things in the field of public health that she wanted to be a part of. Even though she was in lower level positions, she still got to be an important part of the missions of the companies with which she was involved because she spoke French. Eventually, she went for a degree in public health and then started to move up in the ranks, eventually becoming Director of the Women’s Rights Program at Open Society Foundations.

I am not going to apply to public health degree programs after Bryn Mawr. I want to apply to occupational therapy school. I went to a public health event because it is one of many things that I am interested in, and maybe down the line, I will decide to move into this field and use the skills that I learned from being in a hospital as a therapist to make a difference in this field. My conversations with the people at the event reinforced that this is possible. Very few of the people there took a straight path to public health. For many of the people I talked to, their path was very circuitous. An interest in people and a passion for health science can combine in a lot of different ways, and one of those ways is in a path to public health. It was encouraging to talk to people who were passionate about the same things that I am, and who have done many different things with that passion; things that I have not thought about doing and may never get the chance to try.

It made me glad that I go to a school where literally hundreds of options are open to me after graduation, and I just have to pick. People with my same degree go into a variety of different fields and do interesting and important things. People with different degrees from me go into the same field that I plan on going into but apply the skills of that field in a way that is unique to their specific background.

This year, I joined a club. While doing such a thing is not always advisable in your junior year, when you already have many commitments, challenging classes, and plans for the future to spend your time on, I decided that this particular club was worth it. I have joined the Body Image Council, a club dedicated to addressing body image issues on campus. I feel that these issues are very important to talk about and work on, because so many people have to battle with these issues in private for fear of being stigmatized and judged. I joined this club because I want to help make this a subject that people can freely talk about, if they want, without having to worry about these negative consequences.

I am writing about this now because this week is Body Positivity week, sponsored by the Body Image Council. There are a lot of events happening on campus, such as a free yoga class, a film screening, and clothes donations. Yesterday, I tabled for the event in the campus center to let people know about body positivity week. In addition to handing out informational flyers, our table had a huge piece of paper with the words “What do you love about your body?” on it. The idea was simple: people were invited to write the things they loved about their bodies on the paper. IT was a challenge for me. In order to get people to come over, you have to call out to random strangers and ask them if they want to write something they love about their bodies. I’m not all that outgoing, and people generally don’t like to be solicited.

When I initially called out to people they seemed wary. Unless Girl Scout cookies are involved, it’s hard to get people excited on a Monday. When they realized that they would get the chance to talk about what they loved about their bodies, they surprised me. People smiled. Lots of people came over and wrote on the poster. It turned out; people had a lot of things to say about their bodies. Some of them were simple, like “I like my eyes”, and some were a little more involved, like descriptions of the things that their bodies let them do. A lot of them walked away smiling, and it made me glad to be a part of this club.

There are many benefits to taking classes off campus. For example, you have access to a wider range of course offerings, you get to meet students from other schools, and you get to expand your knowledge of mainline traffic (that last one might be a drawback). There are, however, a few drawbacks, and I encountered one such challenge this past week. It turns out that not every school has spring break on the same week, and I found myself with two half spring breaks. One week, I didn’t have to go to my Villanova class, and the next week, I had spring break from all of my other classes but still had to attend class at Villanova. It essentially meant that I was staying on campus for a large part of spring break.

When you are on campus when most of the student body is not, there are two major challenges. The first is food; the dining halls are not open. The second is entertainment. With everyone gone, you and the few people on campus have to come up with creative ways to fill the hours that you would normally spend in class and doing homework. The food problem was surprisingly easy to solve. My friend has an apartment with a kitchen, so we got to spend much of our extra time cooking and baking to our heart’s content. One night, we even had blackberry-chocolate chip pancakes for dinner, with white chocolate chip brownie cookies for dessert. It was almost as good as a home cooked meal.

It wasn’t that hard to find fun things to do, either. My hellee and I caught up on a few of the movies we had been planning to watch. I introduced her to the gem that is Sweet Home Alabama, a thrilling romantic comedy set in the south, complete with two Civil War reenactors, a coon dog cemetery, several honky tonk bar scenes, and more country accents than she knew what to do with. The other big attraction was the King of Prussia mall, which is the biggest mall I have ever been to, and quite possibly the largest mall on the East Coast (the internet is undecided on this). This mall has over 400 stores, so there is a lot to do and see.

My personal favorite adventure around southeaster PA was to a place called the Baldwin book barn. It is a literal barn that is full of books and 1 cat. My hellee and I drove there on a rainy day, and spent hours in the unheated barn, listening to rain on the roof and perusing any book that caught our attention. I had read on Yelp that the barn had cats, so I went in search of them. After trekking through all five floors, most of which were unheated, and the fifth of which was rather rickety, I finally found a cat and several interesting books. Though it is a bit far from campus, it was a perfect spring break adventure.

This week, my brother came to visit. It was exciting because he got to see me compete in my conference championship, but the main reason for his visit was to go on college tours. Despite the fact that I still think of him as the cherub-cheeked 6 year old who let me paint his fingernails “Spiderman Red”, my little brother has grown into a tall, 17-year- old junior who is thinking about college.

Obviously my brother will not be considering Bryn Mawr. He’s actually been on the campus tour, but that was 3 years ago. Hearing him talk about his college visits brought me back to when I was deciding where to go to school. One of the main things that he talked about was food. This is high on the mind of any 17-year old male, but I’m pretty sure that the blueberries and yogurt that I had for breakfast on the morning of my overnight at Bryn Mawr were one of the huge pros on my list. The Haffner pizza was another big plus.

The other thing that my brother took away from his college tours was that dorm size was going to be a big selling point for him. I didn’t remember this being an issue for me when I was thinking about colleges, and I wondered why my brother would make this such a big deal. Then I remembered what had been special about my overnight at Bryn Mawr. Almost the entire time had been spent in the common room. I attended a hall tea, and then a couple of students and I watched a movie. The whole thing felt, in short, like a sleepover. I wanted to go to a school where it didn’t matter how big your room was because you’d spend most of your time outside of it. That’s been my experience at Bryn Mawr. I spend time in the common areas of the library or in the psychology house studying with my classmates, or unwinding with my friends over an episode of How I Met Your Mother in the common room. My freshman year, my best friend had a huge double and we all spent our study and hang out time in there. Even if I had a long week or I missed home cooked meals, there was always a little microcosm of home when I was with my buddies. It was the only place other than the common room where we could all spread out on the floor with our books and catch up on the weekend’s events while we studied. The advice I probably should have given my brother (other than that Bryn Mawr is the best!) is that if you go to a place where you get to be part of a special community, it doesn’t matter how big your dorm room is.

This has not been a good winter on the Mawr. Almost every day presents a new hazard: several inches of snow, just a few millimeters of black ice, freezing temperatures, piercing winds. On Sundays I face a very serious question: do I even go outside at all? I’m a New Englander and I can’t bear the thought of braving the conditions outside. I can only imagine how the Californians feel. The number of emails I have received cautioning me about how serious cold weather is exceeds the number of fingers and toes that I have. All this, and yet we haven’t had a single snow day.

narnia

Sometimes campus looks a little bit like Narnia

thomas insta

Most of the recent pictures on my phone look like I was just on the set of Game of Thrones, and even though campus is pretty in the snow, I prefer cherry blossoms.

tundra2

 

 

tea

The best cure for the cold: a trip to one of the many many coffee shops on the Main Line

 

tundra1

A few weeks ago I competed in my first pentathlon. A pent is just like a heptathlon, but it is contested during indoor track and has two fewer events. Over the course of one meet, I would compete in five track events, each one 20-30 minutes apart. That weekend, the rest of the team was at other meets, so I invited my friend who doesn’t know anything about track along with me. How I convinced her to spend 5 hours of her Friday at a track meet with me is beyond me, but she was happy to come.

The great thing about inviting someone who knows nothing about track to a meet is that they think everything you do is impressive, especially when you do everything. For example, she picked up my shot put (which weighs 8.8 pounds) and said, “This is so heavy. You throw this?!” It made me feel super hardcore.

The first event in the pentathlon is the hurdles. The race went off at 5:30, and my last race didn’t start until 8:30. The whole thing was 3 hours of warming up, competing, cooling down, and then warming up again. Even though it’s important to know how to prepare for each event without tiring yourself out, it is equally important to know how to eat. Even if I’m just sitting in class, I can’t go longer than 2 hours without eating, it just makes me hangry. During an athletic competition, that just gets magnified. Luckily, my mom had sent a loaf of pumpkin bread, so in between the high jump and shot put (the best time for eating), I had a slice. Or two.

photo credits to Jocelyn Martinez

photo credits to Jocelyn Martinez

The second to last event was the long jump, which is arguably one of my favorites. There’s nothing like getting sand all up in your uniform to spice up the night. But the feeling of jumping a really good jump is really cool. If you get everything right, you hit this point where you think “wait, I haven’t touched the ground yet. Where is the ground?” and right when you start to panic about finding the ground, the sand is right there and you have a really good mark. I didn’t find that really good mark in this particular meet, but that’s not really the point of the pentathlon. When you’ve already been competing for several hours it’s just about finishing.

There was one other thing about this meet that was special, other than it being my first pent. I knew before the meet that I had a shot at the school record. It was a pretty good mark; the athlete who held it was so famous for having one of the longest planking records that Coach had named a core lift after her. She is strong and fast, and it was going to be a tough record to break. By the end of the meet however, I had done it; I had my very own school record. A week later, I broke it again.

teammates

bonus photo taken after my second pentathlon with my high jump/sprints teammate

 

 

Nontombi Naomi Tutu was the keynote speaker for Black history month this year. Tutu grew up in South Africa while her father, Desmond Tutu, was enacting the changes in her country that made him famous. She now lives in the U.S. and has taught at several universities, runs a consulting business, and speaks at events like this.

I can’t say anything about her consulting or her teaching, but I can attest to the fact that she is a wonderful speaker. She has a way of using her words to bring out the candor in everything she spoke about, even if the subject was painful, and yet she spoke about these painful topics in a way that supported our discovery of them and allowed us to feel the full scope of what her truths meant.

There are several things that I got out of her speech. A point that she kept coming back to was the idea of stories and how they can be told in many different ways. She began with this idea, when she spent a while speaking on the idea of Black history month, and how important it is to look back at the history of Black people, but also how this history is inseparably intertwined with the history of the larger world. The study of Black history, listening to these stories and really hearing them, inevitably makes one realize that they are hearing the history of the world.

The reason for her focus on stories was not fully explained until the question and answer session, when an audience member asked about the ways in which the country of South Africa had gone about helping their citizens to heal from the psychological wounds of apartheid. Tutu explained that South Africa is working very hard to start and continue the process of storytelling. She emphasized the importance of telling a story with such enormous effects on the individual and the community not once, but several times. It is important for people’s stories to not only be told, but to be really and sincerely heard, many times, over long periods of time, for there to be healing. It was at this point that I realized the importance of all of the stories that she had told throughout the course of her speech.

One of the most powerful stories she told was about Eugene de Kock, a police officer who had committed so many atrocities under apartheid that he had been nicknamed “Prime Evil” by the press. His story, while terrible, is a story that must be told, and listened to, and understood, for the sake of confronting past atrocities and learning from them. It was at this point that Tutu spoke about what she had heard de Kock and other individuals who spoke before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission say. De Kock said that he had become like a split person during that time, that there were two of him; one who loved his family and was a member of his community, and one who killed and did terrible thing. As a psych major, I found this incredibly interesting. There have been many studies in the field, especially studies that came out of WWII and the world’s knowledge about the truths of the Holocaust, that try to find out how people do terrible things. It is an interesting question: how do humans do the inhumane? Right there in the word is why it is so hard for people to wrap their heads around the question: the inhumane is not human. Since we are human, it seems like it must be impossible to do something that defies the human-ness of others, or even ourselves. But it happens everywhere. By denying others their humanity, we deny our own humanity. Tutu’s words about de Kock, while they do not explain this, make it clear why this is such an imperative question to explore, for each and every one of us to confront. De Kock differentiated the person who loved from the person who killed, and only in this way was he able to continue to do what he did. Tutu said that she struggled with this, that this seemed like a bad explanation, that it was the easy way out. She then said that she realized that many of us, not to that degree, have parts of ourselves that we love, parts that love and care and are exceptional, but there are parts of us that we are not proud of. While de Kock may be an extreme example of this, it is important to remember how close those dark parts of us are to the rest of us. Tutu emphasized how easy it is to do something that creates that part. This is why de Kock’s story is necessary. Yes, the story of Nelson Mandela is necessary, but the story of de Kock is too. We all have capacity to be good and evil. We always have a choice to acknowledge the humanity in others, and thus cultivate the humanity in ourselves, or to disregard and destroy the humanity in others, and thus eradicate the humanity in ourselves. We have to deeply and thoughtfully listen to these stories to figure out how.

 

I would like to thank Sisterhood, the Bryn Mawr chapter of the NAACP and the Pensby Center, as well as everyone else who helped to organize this event.

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