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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Environmental influences

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(5/2013) The environments we live in influence who we are and what we stand for. The locations we call home and our journeys to new areas shape the path of our lives. In many ways, the environments we become accustomed to also become accustomed to us. We mold the land as it molds us. Together, we each are reborn, reflecting the impact of the other as we pass through in stages.

Often it takes the removal of something in your life to reveal how much it truly meant to you. This was the case with my hometown. You see, I often took Annapolis for granted. I admired its beauty but I overlooked its individuality. I simply thought the landscape I saw every day existed everywhere. When asked, I say I am from Annapolis. This is the truth but at the same time, Annapolis is so much more than simply my origin. Annapolis is where my life began, literally and figuratively. It is where my schools, jobs, friends, and family have been and it is still where my heart is. I love Annapolis but I never took the time to reflect on the influence it has had on the young woman I am becoming.

Now, looking back on my life growing up in Annapolis, I see myself as a piece of sea glass. The most common type of sea glass comes from broken glass bottles discarded into the bay. The glass starts off in worthless, shattered pieces. After being tossed, tumbled, and turned on the waves created by local boats, all the sharp edges of the glass are removed. The bay spits the sea glass out onto the shorelines when it is satisfied that it has produced a valuable treasure. This is how my stage of finding myself was. I was tossed, tumbled, and turned by everything around me. The bay wrapped me in its arms and guided me on my path. It helped polish me and removed my jagged edges until it placed me back onto the shore with the insight I had needed. It didnít take long before I was ready to venture from those shores and start the next stage of my life.

I didnít expect that the east and west sides of Maryland would be so different from each other. I guess the uniting force is the extremely unpredictable weather, but that aside, the areas juxtapose each other. On one side, the major aspects of life revolve around the water whereas on the other side, life functions around the mountains and the land. I knew I was staying in Maryland for college so I didnít anticipate that my environment was going to change so drastically. After all, it is still the same state. Of course, I was wrong.

As I traveled northwest to the Mount on move-in day, I was alarmed by the lack of bridges and boat trailers in front yards. As I acknowledged the number of trucks without fishing pole racks I began to realize that my environment would not be the same one I was used to. Soon enough, mountains and acres of land filled every inch of the horizon. It then hit me that the bay wasnít coming with me to college. Truthfully, I hadnít even thought about it. I naively assumed that the bay would always surround me like it does on my peninsula. I suppose on a broader perspective it still did, but it definitely wasnít what I was used to. Nonetheless, I was anxious to see what this new setting would have in store for me.

The bay had started to teach me who I was, but I still didnít know what I stood for. Once again my environment became my greatest teacher. Where better to learn what you stand for than at the base of a mountain that has never moved? "Clearly," I thought to myself as I looked up at the mountain from our campus, "I have come to the right place."

As my life was repositioned below that mountain, I did begin to discover what I stand for. Firm and tough like the mountain, I learned to stand tall for what I consider to be right and for the validity in my thoughts. In fact, it seems that it is only in believing that we have a reason to stand at all. Our mountain itself stands for belief in faith.

Like a seed, I was planted at the base of our mountain. New knowledge, experiences, and opportunities as well as the wonderful people I have met have all nourished me. I have learned to continue to climb when I begin to slip. I have discovered that different paths often take you to the same place. It is through a greater understanding of all of this that I have begun to grow. Of course, this journey does not happen quickly. It takes time. Just like it takes time for a seed to grow into a plant. But, I have finally sprouted.

I think we often go through life without acknowledging the influence our environments have on shaping the way we live, learn, and grow. It seems to me that our environments have the power to make all the difference on how we go through the stages of our lives. As summer approaches and the promise of warm weather arises, marvel in natureís beauty all around you. Identify those elements of previous stages of life that have shaped you into the person you are. Maybe at times you too have been a broken piece of glass or merely a seed. But what are you now? If you are unsure, maybe you are still being tumbled with those waves or being nourished until you are as tough as a mountain. I believe that something can be taken away from every environment. Whether it is a lesson, a new way of living, or a deeper appreciation, our environments have a lot to teach us. But are we always willing to learn? Beauty surrounds us all. Is there something you have overlooked?

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen