Aug. 20, 2014

Fostering a campus of sincerity

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April 14, 2014

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As April marches on and the semester wraps up, the country song “Live Like You Were Dying,” by Tim McGraw has been increasingly on my mind. Determined to live out his last moments to the fullest, a man diagnosed with a terminal illness sings of approaching his remaining time on Earth not with denial or sadness, but with a newfound vigor and appreciation for life.

While I am not implying that seniors graduating from the College of William and Mary are like people with terminal illnesses, watching my incredible senior friends breathe in every last moment of college with grace and enthusiasm has reminded me of the finiteness of our time here. As a junior in denial about ever leaving this special place, I am inspired by my friends’ vivacity. I’m trying to embrace the limitation of my time here in the hopes that it will only saturate the experiences of each remaining moment.

We non-seniors are fortunate to live vicariously through our senior friends, reflecting on what we treasure most about the College so that we can more deeply enjoy those aspects we hold dear. There are countless features of this place that I know I’ll never find anywhere else: the serenity of sitting on the Sunken Garden by moonlight and the joy emanating from the Terrace on a gorgeous spring day.

But more than any tangible thing the College provides us, I want to more deeply cherish something less concrete — sharing a home with people who foster the perfect place to be our most vulnerable selves.

Feeling vulnerable is not generally something anyone craves, especially not the fiercely independent students who attend the College. I have had difficulty accepting my limitations and realizing it is okay to let people know what I am feeling, even if it isn’t always neat and pretty. So during our time here, I encourage us all to express our fallibility, our imperfections, our messy and complicated feelings — because if there is any place to let down your guard without fear, it is here. It is humbling to acknowledge our vulnerabilities, and it is from sharing our most raw, authentic moments with others that we grow stronger.

And that is the beautiful paradox of why I am continually in awe: The College brings together people who, through their compassion and care, preserve a space where we can unapologetically be our least polished, most true selves. Yet these same people also push us to be the best humans we can be, not in any “preachy” way, but simply through their shining examples. I don’t think I will ever be this close in proximity to such a high concentration of the rare type of people who have given so much of themselves to me when I’ve need it most: Friends who will skip classes to drive me off campus to clear my mind, visit my dorm with s’mores ingredients for a heart-to-heart, meet me for a series of coffee dates to provide sustained encouragement, or sit with me in lengthy silence, waiting with endless patience for me to give voice to thoughts I don’t feel brave enough to express aloud.

Through the non-judgmental kindness and selflessness shown to us at our most vulnerable moments here, we are moved to be more loving with others in our own lives. At the College, you will be on both ends of this beautiful cycle; you will be the person being supported and you will be someone’s source of strength. You should not feel guilty for telling others you have fallen, because at some point in this never- ending karmic exchange, you will be able to return the kindness and pick someone else up.

Email Andrea Aron-Schiavone at acaronschiavon@email.wm.edu.

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Andrea Aron-Schiavone

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