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Four Years at the Mount

With the approach of World Youth Day, we asked our Mount students to write what they wish to teach or tell the youth of the world. We bid a fond farewell to Michael Kenney who will be transferring to the University of Notre Dame and welcome Shea Rowell as the new junior writer.

World Youth Day

August 2017

Life is short: live and love

Angela Tongohan
MSM Class of 2020

Just last October, I turned eighteen. Eighteen is a big year. Itís the first year where I am legally considered an adult. I can join the army, I can get a tattoo, I can buy a pack of cigarettes. I was exposed to a handful of opportunities and options that I did not have when I was younger.

However, eighteen felt no different from seventeen, or sixteen, or anything younger. At least, it didnít for me.

The truth of the matter is that age is just a number. And whether I be eighteen or anything under, I am still looked upon as young. I am young. Too young to understand the real problems going on in the world, at least, thatís what many in older generations (including my mother) believe.

And on some level, it is true. I am eighteen but I am still cared for by my parents. They pay my tuition; they pay for my car. They give me money for food, clothes, or anything else my brain may temporarily want. I have the lowest possible amount of responsibility, yet I still find ways to get frustrated or angry when things donít go my way.

Now, I am not saying that all eighteen-year-olds are going through the same experience. I am fully aware that there are many eighteen-year-olds that are forced to grow up and mature far before they are ready or should need to. But as someone who has enjoyed "adulthood" the same way as I have enjoyed childhood, I feel I have realized quite a few things about the world.

First things first: It is okay to be childish. Not in the sense of pettiness or baby-like actions, but rather in the way we enjoy life. It is okay to give importance to the small things, the seemingly insignificant things. Like enjoying ice cream or having dinner. I often look at my parents and realize that they are always so stressed. Stressed about everything, anything. So much so that even the things that should bring smiles to their faces are not enjoyed. Family drives on the way to our vacation hotel should be filled with laughter and singing but is more often filled with worried tones and glances at the clock as they try to reach check-in.

Slow down. Life is short. Just because you are an adult and have responsibilities does not mean that you have to be serious all the time. Itís okay to have fun. Enjoying life doesnít mean you arenít taking your responsibilities seriously anymore. It simply means you are enjoying everything youíve worked hard for.

The second thing Iíve realized is that I have a lot to learn. And that we never really stop learning. Millennials have been getting a lot of limelight for being lazy, inexperienced, and ignorant. Stereotypes of course, and an easy target for memes, but in reality there are people who actually believe those claims. Times have changed. Technology has become a prominent aspect of life. Children spend more time on their phones than they do outside. There is a definite generational difference between millennials and baby boomers. And I donít want to go into depth about which generation was better or anything like that. I just want to point out the positives about both generations.

Baby boomers have had better experience appreciating the little things in life. They have childhood memories filled with the excitement of playing outside and having fun with other children. And while it seems like technology has only cultivated a society where everyone is separate, and enables each individual person to exist in their own personalized technological world, there are some benefits.

The millennial generation is accustomed to a world far bigger than the people they are able to interact with in person. They are absorbed in a world that include people from all over the world, from different places and backgrounds. They have been taught to be more open to those who may be considered different because they have been exposed to different through the use of social media and the internet.

While it may be true that we millennials are painfully unaware of everyday problems, we are possibly the most involved in worldwide issues. Our Twitters and Facebooks are filled with constant news about world events, politics, and minority abuse.

As a young person, I urge for people to be more open. To be open to ideas that are not their own, and to try and understand points of views that they may not necessarily agree with. The world is so much more than what we see around us, so much bigger than what is going on in our own personal lives.

We should enjoy life. Fill it with laughter and happiness. Accept whomever, however they may be. Treat everyone with kindness and love because everyone is deserving. Life is short, and while many believe you only realize it when youíre old, Iíve realized it while I am still young.

I am thankful. Thankful for life and love and everything the Lord has blessed me with. And I hope that even as I get older, and experience my own problems; even when everything in life seems to be trying to pull me down and make me unhappy, that I am still able to buy an ice cream cone and smile.

Read other articles by Angela Tongohan


Drinking from glasses half full

Shea Rowell
MSM Class of 2019

My name is Shea Rowell, and I am the newest member of the Emmitsburg News-Journalís Four Years at the Mount column. I am a junior at the Mount, and I am pursuing majors in English and Music. I am so happy to join the ENJ team as a way to deepen my "real-world" experiences in my field of study, and to participate more fully with the town of Emmitsburg, which has become a second home to me since my first day on campus. Thank you all very much for the opportunityóIím so excited to be a part of the team!

The world today seems like a dark and dangerous place. With money to make, bills to pay, and deadlines to meet, the harsh realities of living surround us each day. In our lives, we may experience loss or sadness, brokenness or defeat. Looking at the world outside of our own lives can be equally dismal. Five minutes spent watching the news is enough to persuade most people to change the channel, for it reminds us each day of the horrors of our world: crimes against innocent people, disease outbreaks, wars abroad, and distrust of authority flood the news media. Scrolling down a social media news feed releases a torrent of disagreement and not-so-friendly debates. There seems to be more greed than love, more hatred than happiness. Negative messages are everywhere, and their influence is often enough to create a climate of hopelessness and despair. We ask ourselves, will the horrors ever stop? Will humans ever find peace?

These questions are difficult to answer, and impossible to do so with certainty. However, a message that the world needs to hear more than any other is that there is goodness in the world. In fact, there is good in everything if we are determined enough to find it. Each person who passes us on the street, each situation that faces us in our day contains some elements that are good. Finding goodness, broadly described as optimism, may be misconstrued as blindness to reality. However, optimism is far from ignorance. Instead it is a conscious choice. An optimist sees a situation as it is, and chooses to focus upon the positive things instead of the negative ones. They see the negativity, acknowledge it, and dedicate their energy instead to goodness.

This is all well and good, but seeing the goodness in a situation doesnít really change anything does it? Changing your attitude about a situation doesnít affect the situation itself. Instead, the positive change is in you. However, this can make a world of difference. Those who focus on negativity reflect it and pass it on to others. Those who see anger and focus on anger share it with others, when they could be sharing peace. Those who see hopelessness and choose to despair spread their despair to others, when they could be spreading hope. Those who see and focus on failure discourage themselves and others, when they could become a source of positive motivation and improvement. Peace, hope, and encouragement, among other positive motives, drive people on to do great things and to lead better lives. It is goodness which inspires change-makers and world-improvers. Goodness is powerful, but how do you find it?

Finding goodness in all situations requires a disciplined and open mind. There will always be challenges and losses that face us in our lives. However, the good lies within the way we transform them. Adversity and even suffering can be turned around into resilience and growth of character. Failure can be transformed into a fresh start. Loss can become renewal. Other people who challenge us give us the opportunity to defend what we value and even sometimes to reform our own perspectives. In this way, each difficulty we encounter is an opportunity to find the good and seize it. We are defined by the way we manage the challenges that come our way. Defeat is only for those who welcome it.

If finding the good in difficult situations is challenging, finding the good in people can be even more so. People make mistakes; weíre only human. And our humanity is what makes us good. It is easy to get caught up in ourselves and forget that others around us have passions, lives, obligations, and values that define and drive them as much as ours do us. Most people, within the context of their own lives and situations, are simply trying to make life better for themselves and their loved ones. The person on the other end of the political spectrum, while passionately opposing your values, is equally determined to use their vote to make the world a better place. The driver who cuts you off in traffic is just another person trying to get to their destination safely and on time. Each person, regardless of their mistakes and differences, is inherently good and deserving of respect. People aim for the standard they are held to by others. Treating people as if there is good in them can change the way you see them and even the way they see themselves. You never know how much a friendly smile, a forgiving word, or a caring conversation will mean.

However, sometimes no matter how hard we try, situations contain no goodness in themselves. Some tragedies are so great that optimism is out of place or even irreverent. In these situations, we have a responsibility to fulfill. Where there is no goodness to be found, we must create it. In the face of hatred we must show love and kindness. Where there is tragedy we must show solidarity and hope. Goodness can be created in actions big and small. Generous giving, words of encouragement, even a simple friendly smile can change someoneís day, or even someoneís life, for the better. The best part is, people do this all the time. In every negative situation, there are good people working to improve it. Where there is poverty, there are people showing charity. Where there is illness there are those who bring healing. Where there is division there are those who strive for unity. Even today, in a world which seems so broken and so divided, there is a reason to be happy, and a motive to continue trying to make things better. The world is so full of goodness that we donít have to look far to find it, and it is so in need of goodness that it is our duty as humans to create it ourselves.

Read other articles by Shea Rowell


To Whom it May Concern

Sarah Muir
Class of 2018

I presume to write to the youth of the world. A ridiculous endeavor to be sure since most of the populous get information by a combination of click-bait articles and summaries so there is a very small percentage that will read my words here. However, that has never stopped me from writing before and I see no reason why I should start now.

With the approach of World Youth Day, I offered this theme to these writers and found myself in a tight spot. I had nothing substantial to tell the youth of the world, I cannot offer sound advice to solve whatever problems they face or instruction on how the world works (mostly because I am still learning the ropes myself). I decided to share some general advice and hope that it helps someone.

To begin, the world has over seven billion people on it; seven billion people living and dying, experiencing heartache and heartbreak, love and hate, insurmountable joy and overwhelming loss. In this sea of humanity, you can often feel as though you have been set adrift, but this is never the case. I do not say this to belittle you or to compare your sufferings and triumphs against others in better or worse condition. I say this so that when the world closes in, when all is dark and it feels as though the air has left the room, I want you to know that you are not alone. Out of all those people there must be a handful that empathize with you and if they can continue, then so can you. I am not here to tell you that tomorrow you will wake up and all will be as it should, but I can tell you that sometimes itís okay to take the time you need and breathe.

The next few pieces of advice should be a bit easier and hopefully lighter. Firstly, read. I cannot stress this enough. For when the world seems like a terrifying place and there is no place of rest, a book can provide sanctuary. In reading we are gifted the ability to share not only information, but ideas, and dreams, and sometimes, if the story is very good, an entire cosmos. Daydream too, not to excess, but enough on which to live. For it is in books and dreaming we can survive even the most trying circumstances. Secondly, great friends are hard to come by and oft times we settle for second rate company. Never underestimate the power of a great friend when finding one my advice can be boiled down to three words; quality over quantity. However, if you manage to acquire both, you are lucky indeed. Thirdly, do not make the mistake of wasting your youth growing up.

To the youth of the world I say this; be gentle with yourself. The fact that you exist in the world should be celebrated with every breath. It is true that the world can often be a difficult and dangerous place, but do not let this make you timid and fearful. The mass and majesty of the world is tremendous, and I do not wish for you to be so frightened by the shadows that you do not see that there is far more beauty in it than viciousness. It may feel, at times, as though it is your duty to change the world, to take it by storm, and refashion it into a better place. Not only that, but it can become frustrating when it appears that nothing has changed. However, your obligation is not to change the entire world in one colossal move, but to alter those lives, those wonderfully small worlds, we touch every day.

If you remember none of the advice above, at least remember this. Remember that every human is a part of the same humanity, the same family and within this family they deserve to be treated with the upmost dignity and respect. Your duty is to those people you meet on the street, in class, on the bus home. They are effected by the world like you are, touched and handled by life which can be hard and, in turn, can make people hard. Do not let it do so to you and help others remember how soft they once were.

This means, of course you that you merit the same treatment, to be treated with the same courtesy, the same dignity and respect that you have afforded to others. It is impossible for me not to mention my faith in this, so I will leave you with the words of Saint Pope John Paul II, "You are a thought of God, you are a heartbeat of God. To say this is like saying that you have a value which in a sense is infinite, that you matter to God in your completely unique individuality."

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


Experience

Leanne Leary
MSM Class of 2017

In keeping with the spirit and theme of the upcoming World Youth Day, I spent some time brainstorming this month.

What do I want to tell or teach the world?

Well, as a recent graduate of the Mountís Secondary Education program, I am literally about to teach (some children of) the world, so Iíve spent some brainpower on this already, naturally.

I have my personal mantras, beliefs that hark back to Catholic teachings, and practices that come from a very small amount of experience.

On the same note, I have minimal experience in the "real" world, probably less than every single person reading this article.

At the conclusion of those rambling thoughts, I decided that experience is pretty much everything. Sure, I have my pretty theories, but without experience there is minimal credibility, practical application, or real reason to invest in that theory.

In the Army, experience is everything especially as a brand-new Second Lieutenant. I have a rank that tells the people around me I graduated college and deserve to be in a room, but the same rank essentially tells everyone around me that I donít know much about the Army. I will only have this rank for around eighteen months. After that, the gold bar will turn to black and with the simple switch of the Velcro patch, Iíll be expected to know (just a little) more.

At the same time, a senior enlisted man or woman next to me is expected to have both experience and expertise. Their rank tells me to trust that they do, but really it tells me they have put in the years and have lived and worked through things that I donít yet understand.

In this very simple example, I found that experience is pitted at the center of trust and respect in the Army. That has come to life over the last month at Ft. Lee.

My classmates and I came here, as a requirement, to learn about our field and get experience with supply methods, vehicles, weapons systems, and more. So far, much of what we have done has been what some may recognize as "death by PowerPoint." Most days have been spent in the classroom learning and practicing the basics Ė terms, ideas, etc. Quite honestly, we had all been growing extremely tired of the monotony and, though we love the air conditioned building, had been itching to get outside and practice.

This week, as a natural next step in this story, we finally got out into the field to get real experience in everything we had been learning. Our first task was relatively simple, creating and loading pallets onto a C17 Aircraft. We split up into our four squads and starting, for the first time, attempting to assemble these pallets. As it turns out, assembling them isnít really much of a task Ė assembling them correctly; however, with 11 people who had never seen it done, was a different story. Every step needed to be pre-planned and thought out. Every time a net was pulled over the top to secure the crates or a crate assembled, we needed to think ahead to transporting whatever we created, the way everything needed to be facing, which rings needed to be lined up where, etc., etc. To an experienced group, the task may be monotonous. To us, each move was calculated. After we got everything together the first time, we tore it down to do it once more.

The second time I may have done more watching than helping because (with this article topic already in my head) I saw something happening. This time, the moves were already calculated and the end result was already a picture in our minds. We didnít need to think about which way to lay a net on the ground, because we knew that the large rings hooked to the small hooks and crisscrossed at each corner. We had already seen it work and watched as the intricacies were taken apart step by step.

Again, Iím all about the simple examples this month, I saw experience in action.

I saw why my dainty ideas about how this could work flawlessly paled next to an experienced teacher.

Now, as I like to do every month, I took this small, simple example and applied it to the idea at hand.

I do want to tell the world what I believe and what I know. I want to teach what is right and what is kind. I want to live in the spirit of World Youth Day, but I want to put every part of that to practice along the way.

Every single day in my classroom I can teach lessons on the intricacies in literature because I have spent four years testing my ideas on just that. I wouldnít, however, attempt to stand in from of 30 teenagers and teach Irish poetry because I know nothing about it. I havenít studied it, or read it, or researched it. Before this week, similarly, I wouldnít stand in front of soldiers and preach my preferred way of assembling a palette.

My conclusion is relatively straightforward Ė I would like to share my beliefs with the world and influence people, but not before full understanding and practice. We shouldnít try to assemble a palette without practice and we shouldnít teach Irish poetry without ever reading a line. In the same light, we shouldnít make judgments or conclusions without understanding and experience. We shouldnít seek to impose our opinions on our neighbors without first spending time in the matter.

Experience is essential to full understanding, that is what the Army is teaching me and that is what I would like to share with the world.

Read other articles by Leanne Leary

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