the wonders of my world

Friday.9 days.

By my noon exam today, I had been studying for 24-hours with a 3 hour nap somewhere between 3:30-6:30am. Thus, I do not have much to talk about besides the cognitive decline in aging adults and case law. Except, this morning, my friend Greg sent me a fabulous TED talk.

This talk is the revelation that you can be believing fiercely in something your whole life and yet still be misguided, if you’re not believing in yourself: (ok, 15 minute study break, watch this).

“The most powerful thing in all this, it’s not that I didn’t achieve before then. Oh my God, I did. But I was believing in the wrong thing, because I wasn’t believing in me, really me, all the bits of me. All the bits of all of us. Do you know how much of us all pretend to be somebody we’re not? And you know what? When you really believe in yourself, it’s extraordinary what happens…. if you truly believe from the bottom of your heart, you can make change happen. And we need to make it happen, because every single one of us woman, man, gay, straight, disabled, perfect, normal, whatever, everyone of us must be the very best of ourselves.”

The very best of ourselves. I love it. Most of all, I love that Greg and I have been sharing TED talks and music and articles back and forth for years now. Thinking about this, it reminded me of the organization Playing for Change he introduced me to a couple years ago, 2009. It’s a beautiful initiative where, across the world, musicians play and sing for peace and unity, for music to bring people together across lines of difference, to stamp out hate and ignite positive and communal energy. One of my favorites (though I’d recommend spending a little while listening to all of them) is their version of Stand by Me:

No matter who you are, no matter where you go in your life, at some point, you’re going to need someone to stand by you.

So, that’s my inspiration for the day. But I also saw inspiration around me today: there was this beautiful moment this morning. It was early (that time when it’s still green and gray, soft and cool outside) and the sun was risen but not above the  trees yet so it was sending one beam though the wide glass windows into my room. My coffee mug was sitting on all my books with the heat rising off of it and the light was catching the heat as it rose under the Nepali prayer flags my little sister gave me. There, under all the colors of the flags and the mess of my school books, everything was serene … and it was one of those moments where it’s like, damn, life is beautiful and I’m glad I’m awake.

One thing that helps me stay noticing moments like this even in the midst of exam stress is the idea that no matter how much I have to do, I take care of me first and take care of my environment (minus sleep, I should probably do that more). It really helps to keep the metaphorical feng shui of my room intact and take long showers or get ready slowly. Advice: if you are stressed right now, stop for a second. Breathe. Tell yourself you got this. I didn’t do that enough in the past 4 years and I should have. So listen to me, as a senior. It helps :D

Even so, as I was taking time for “myself” to get ready, I actually was thinking a lot about what I had just been studying (guilty, it’s hard for me to make my mind take a break). In particular, capital punishment. I mentioned in my post yesterday that executioners get paid $150 per execution. But more personally, I was thinking about how when I was a kid, ending the death penalty was one of my passion projects. I remember a girl named Bernadette who served sandwiches at the homeless shelter with me when I was 8 or 9. She was a little older than me and she went with her parents to hold quiet vigils outside the prison whenever there was an execution. Secretly, I wanted to be like Bernadette (she was such a good, brilliant person in my eyes). So, when I was 10 or 11, I was corresponding with a man from our church who was on death row for murdering someone. Because he was a person, not because of his crime. I wrote him Christmas cards and he wrote me back. Maybe my letters were the light of his day sometimes. Did he deserve such light after killing someone? Everyone deserves life, at least, and dignity and respect. I think I had a lot more belief in the good in people those days. The death penalty is also how I met my college roommate–I was meeting Sister Helen Prejean my Senior year of high school after reading all her books, meeting Alan Gell (before he went to jail for rape in 2006, he actually was doing anti-death penalty work in NC), and seeing Dead Man Walking multiple times. Brittany Peterson (holla!) was there in line to meet Sister Helen and my mom starts chatting her up, finds out that she’s going to Carolina, and drags her over to meet me. “You don’t have a roommate, do you?” She asked. Brittany didn’t. We decided to talk some more and be roommates because I mean, nothing screams “awesome roommate” beside meeting them at an anti-death penalty talk.

Turns out we were amazing roommates. More than that, we’ve grown and had such amazing college careers together; I truly love and admire her and am so glad for the fact that we were both there that day. But the fact is, I find it so hard to believe how dramatically my life changed when I got to college. From capital punishment and amnesty for criminals to now, where the anti-violence work is what I turned to and have become known for! College definitely has shaped and transformed my life path. I was given a new passion when I got to Carolina; Carolina changed my life. It’s funny how studying capital punishment for my forensic psych class brought all those memories back. It’s also funny how I find it so hard to remember who I was before I got to college! Life goes in such unexpected ways, so I will just say, go with it! Let go and let your life sweep you off your feet in unexpected directions. Those new directions could end up shaping your world.

Speaking of shaping my world, I also have been quite obsessively listening to Adele during my study breaks and my favorite today is Hometown Glory… and it’s gotten me thinking about the concept of “hometown” itself, particularly Chapel Hill– Carolina– as I prepare to graduate and leave this place. And North Carolina in general since my family is moving away and I don’t know where I’m going to go from here. Home will be moving to New York but what is hometown?

“No and thank you, please Madam. I ain’t lost, just wandering,” Adele sings in that song. And that is how I feel somewhat. Not lost, just wandering. But as she says in that song, “Round my hometown, the people I’ve met, are the wonders of my world.” It doesn’t matter where you go in life or how much you are wandering, what you identify as “home” will be defined by the people you meet. They are the wonders of the world. People. It’s true. They define me and have made Chapel Hill, this hometown, such a blessed place to be a part of for 4 years. It doesn’t matter where I wander, I will have a home wherever I am surrounded by people as good and inspiring and amazing as I’ve been surrounded by here.

After all this thinking and studying this morning, I went to take my exam. This is the same class where for the midterm, I accidentally fell asleep on my notes right before it and I missed half the exam, ran there, took it in 30 minutes and — turns out– I made the same grade that I made today (thanks, scantron, for letting me know already). See? Nothing really is that important, yall. You can miss half an exam or show up on time and the end results are rarely what matters anyway. A few points, life, the end, either way, there are more important things than tests. You’ll do fine. Don’t stress.

Afterward, I popped by the LGBTQ Center lunch that was happening right beside Kenan because I saw Terri from a distance and went over to get a huge hug. The last time we talked, we were trying to organize a vigil for Quinn Matney and hate crimes. It was nice to see each other in sunnier circumstances. The day was beautiful today! I hope everyone made it outside for a little bit, despite exams.

After that, I went to take nap before my next exam (5pm) and I got a text from Lil Jake. Hug? he asks. I tell him I’m stressed and in my room but hug next week? This guy is the best person in the world.  He lit my day up even just with a text. Context: we’ve been friends for four years and our first year, he was the person I would talk to about everything. He knew my life story before even my suitemates or any of my friends, he was the first person to be there for me. We’d have long debates on the balcony about the Bible, our life paths, philosophies, everything; we’d walk across campus to class together, go to praise and worship. He likes to tell people, “Caroline Fish, yeah, I know that girl, she kissed me on the cheek our freshman year.” Because I did, I kissed him on the cheek under the mistletoe at Christmas. It’s been our favorite joke ever. This is our relationship: one time, a bird crapped on my head and he laughed; often, I would curl up on the blue chair in his dorm room and say things like, “I like the fetal position; I’m just going to curl up here and stay in the fetal position for the rest of my life.”  and he’d laugh and we’d play songs and lift each other up. Now, we try to grab lunches or coffee as much as we can and he sits and talks about how the women’s soccer team is hot or we end up in a debate about religion or we just share life together. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Sharing life together, here, at Carolina. Around my hometown, the people I’ve met, are the wonders of my world.

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