Updated: Sep 20, 2018
This week I moved back in for what’ll be my last year at college. Moving in always feels like an adjustment. Life in Winooski, Vermont just moves differently than it does in Brooklyn. Whenever I’m at college, I feel like I move frantically and rushed, and I can leave some stuff behind. One of those things can be my Marist identity. My sense of direction, and the motivation behind what I’m doing. I’m doing all the same things, but sometimes I lose touch with the why, and I can get burnt out or exhausted because of it.
The place I’m most in touch with this is an easy answer: Esopus. A short time there reminds me of my place in the world, and how I strive to be a part of it. It helps me re-focus on my interactions with others. It fills me with hope and joy. I know I can be vulnerable there, that I’ll have the support. It’s the first place I remember feeling secure in being 100% myself, without fear of being put down or made fun of. There’s an energy there that isn’t in many other places.
Many other people feel similarly. After Molloy retreats, we joked about the “Esopus high”, and how short lasting it was. A weekend of time spent with people in a supportive atmosphere would do that. But the rest of the world isn’t the same way. It can feel more critical, as if our mistakes are bigger than they are. As if we’re living on a microscope slide.
Mr. Kelly, one of the many great English teachers of Molloy, asks his students to “bring it back to Queens” after they go to Esopus. The grounds of Esopus only go so far, and the world and the people in it need more places like it. It needs more places where people feel completely secure in their identity, where they feel supported to be at their best.
And it’s hard to bring the mindset back, at least for me. But why? The only difference is the place, really. It’s easy to fall back in to the rhythm of the world at large: keep your head down, don’t open up, just keep moving. Become jaded all over again, expect and accept criticism and judgement as the norms. And sometimes more than just keeping your head down, but actively participating in it too. It’s hard to push against that current.
Imagine Dragons’ song “Natural” puts it pretty well. (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BPfyhhv7-c) There’s a price for being open, there’s vulnerability. It’s easier to stand strong, rigid, stone-like. But we can’t sit around until something bigger than us changes the circumstances. We can’t afford to wait until the stars align for a perfect, easy moment. We need to take the risks to create more spaces like Esopus: caring, empathetic, supportive. We need to make ourselves vulnerable to hurt to make an impact.
I know I framed this in a pretty negative way. It seems like there’s a lot stacked against us. But really, I think we’re in a good place. Remember part of why we feel so great at Esopus. It’s the people we meet. I have a lot of hope for the world because of people I’ve seen that have the desire and ability to challenge the way things go in the world. So don’t lose hope. Just make sure that if you hope, you hope actively. That’s my challenge for you. It’s one thing to have hope and sit back and watch, but we need more people on the front lines. So try to create more spaces of support, and even if you aren’t extremely successful, the world will be the better for it.
I can’t say for sure if I’ve ever successfully brought it back to Queens, but this year, after a great, reflective time at camp, my goal is to bring it back to Winooski. And I don’t see why I can’t.