Saturday, March 1, 2014

Thy Children Ever True

O Carleton, our alma mater,
We hail the maize and blue.
Thy name is ever dearest, 
Thy children ever true.
O Carleton, our alma mater
To thee we sing our praise.
To thee we FIGHT,
To thee we pledge
The strength of all our days.

This is a departure from my usual posts, but tonight I was torn between an emotional upheaval, and focusing on the data entry for school (it had to be in by midnight, no exception), plus prepping for my masters poster presentation for tomorrow. I glanced at twitter and facebook before entering data about what graphemes my students have mastered in the most non-user friendly data entry system ever when several posts by former Carleton classmates and friends caused me to pause.

Carleton was, and is, one of the closest and most meaningful communities of which I have ever been a part. I cannot even begin to describe the impact Carleton has been in shaping my life, and continuing to influence my life 4 years after graduation. February has been heartbreaking for the extended Carleton community in many ways. A wonderful, artistic, lively girl with whom I had the pleasure of running track with one season passed away because of a failed medical procedure. Three boys (class of 2015) just lost their lives in a car accident. The outpouring of support from the Carleton community just on social media, from those who knew those who died-and did not know at all, has been overwhelming. It reminds me--though I don't need, nor wish for a reminder in this tragic fashion, how lucky I am to be a part of the Carleton community. It always makes me sad that it is often in tragedy which brings out the best in people. I am thankful and touched in the ways it does, but we must try to keep up the connection and support alive and at the forefront when everything is rosy. And I feel a little guilty--that my life will continue on, relatively normal despite these tragedies. It's true I did not know these 3 boys, and no one would likely think any less of me had I not commented on these events or for carrying on as usual, but it's still hard to process and react to. As is any needless death--or even an expected death.

 A few months ago my grandfather passed away from Alzheimer's. A couple of weeks ago, a 3 year old in Napa lost his (her?) life, and lived in my school's neighborhood. A year or two ago, one of my students' younger sister passed away. Back in 5th grade we had kindergarten buddies and we read with them and did activities with them, and the following year I found out that the girl I was partnered with drowned in a public pool. Death is unavoidable, and while it is a part of life, it leaves a mark. It leaves a hole that can never quite be filled. I learned during my comps project (my comprehensive exercise, ie my senior thesis for my non-Carl readers) that there is a set-point of happiness theory, where, for example, if you win the lottery you experience a happiness boost. However, within two years you fall back to whatever your "set point" was before winning (some proof that money doesn't buy happiness). Only consistent effort--volunteering, exercising, counting your blessings, etc. can maintain a happiness boost. But it takes work. It's like one good workout won't lose you those extra pounds, or give you a six pack. Constant effort does. Nothing can change your set point, but for a few exceptions, one being that people who lose a spouse experience a decline in happiness, and never fully recover. So I'm not just being philosophical--death really does impact us greatly.

I'm looking forward to the point where the school I am teaching becomes like Carleton--when teachers collect money for a former colleague and I know this colleague. When I know the families, and when we talk about alumni, I know who we're talking about. I have been lucky this year to have been hired at a school that has a very strong, collaborative community. I still feel like a little bit of an outsider--but with time, that can fade, and while no community will impact me in the way that Carleton has (and continues to), I am drawn to close-knit communities. (I just mis-typed close-knit as close-knight. A Carleton freudian slip, for sure--Go Knights!)

Tonight, my thoughts are with Carleton.

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