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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year


Carolyn Shields
MSM Class of 2014

(5/2012) Change at the Mount? Iíd like to think that nothing can change this little university on the side of the mountain. I would like to believe that the only thing that changes are the students that walk on its campus for four years, but I would be wrong.

The Mount has definitely kept its charm, but itís so beautiful that I donít want a single finger to touch it. I think itís perfect as it is. If it were up to me, Iíd keep the rolling green fields as farmers from a hundred years ago made them. I wouldnít fill it with giant solar panels that collect energy for something. I would keep the rustic and worn down Honors Lounge where my dad used to have a beer at the bar with friends twenty years ago, and not convert it into another dorm for the ever growing number of freshmen. I wouldnít have converted Purcell which once had a fireplace and a carpet for cozy, winter afternoons into a club for half naked and letís say, not-sober kids to dance in. I would have kept the libraryóthe one place on campus where silence was welcomedójust that, silent.

But if thereís something I had to learn since coming here, itís that change is good. Jacques Philippe says in "Interior Freedom" that if we cease changing, if we cease growing, then we stop living. I want to dedicate the rest of this article to my oldest sister, Kathy, whoís going to receive her diploma and a lot of change in two weeks.

For those like me, change is normally something that I avoid. It can stem from choices that we must make, but more often than not it comes from something that leaves no choice. Oftentimes, according to this Philippe fellow, there are fundamental features in our lives that we never choose at all like our parents or our sex. And thereís something to be said about that. But Iím limited to a thousand words. The fear of change, for me at least, comes from my fear of making decisions.

But whatís great is to know that God has our interests in mind, Kathy. Heís not going to drastically change something that we canít live with or without. So we have to be open to Godís will, which is hard, obviously. Being receptive to His will is also kind of scary because we are afraid that Christ is going to whisper, "Great. Now that you are finally listening, I want you to go to the jungles of Africa and evangelize." But He wonít ask something of us that will make us forever miserable. "You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you" (Isaiah 43:4). Does that sound like a God who is going to ask us to live miserable lives forever? No, but we still need to trust Him because He knows what is best for us. We arenít all called to be heroes, missionaries, and warriors, but we are all called to be saints. A saint is the stuff of legends.

But I love moments when time ceases moving forward, and a midnight with friends is just that. When my friends have a dance party late at night and the guys in their ties form a brotherhood line and do the can-can. When at 2 a.m., we find ourselves at the Lincoln Diner in Gettysburg, rolling our eyes at the drunk woman hitting on our guy friends, and then minutes later they are slurping syrup from a spoon. When change is in the back of my mind and a choice is just something to be made down the road. And Kathy is right there next to me throughout it all.

But sheís graduating this month and is about to walk across a stage for the final time. It was a long journey for her, and my sister is leaving the Mount a completely different person than the one she entered it. Kathy has kept her laugh (though in sisterly mockery, I call it her cackle), and her faith has strengthened tremendously. Mostly our relationship has changed once we started sharing the same friends, and we still fall on each other as safety zones at parties or whatever, but our independence has grown enormously as well. Weíve each become our own woman.

I canít believe that after twenty-one years together, after all weíve been through, that she is about to start another bigger adventure without me. We had Daddy snuggle with us each Sunday night, and we stood on the front porch and cried together when we watched the same Daddy leave for Iraq. We suffered through miserable years of high school together, each putting on a false smile for the other to get the other one through it. I like how we are honest about school now, though, and genuinely love it, and how we went from twirling little girls in lacey dresses singing "God Bless the Outcasts," to her punching out half of my tooth, to super late nights out, to finding ourselves kissing the Blarney Stone, to recent license excitementÖall of this with change interwoven between.

Not many sisters go to the same college, but without her guidance through these two years Iíve had here I probably wouldnít have half the friends I do now. And these past two years together have been our best. I think the main way I made friends my first few months last year was by being associated with her. She was the one who nudged me out of my comfort zone. I donít tell her Iím thankful enough for even the dumbest of our memories.

Kathy, I could never be the oldest sister, not with all the careless things I do without considering others in my actions, but you are able to balance freedom and family, unlike me. Itís beautiful how much you care for us. Concerning your heart, remember Danteís words: "In His will is our peace." By submission, we are free. You donít need a diamond, and you donít need a life plan because the present moment is the point of time that touches eternity. Your knees are already worn, but keep pouring out your heart to Christ. People should be thoroughly honored to be your friend, to be a part of your life, and I donít know what I would have done if you werenít my voice for the years when I was petrified to whisper. Mostly, I love you.

Read other articles by Caroline Shields