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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

Once upon a time

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(5/2015) He waited until the sun had set to make his approach. The thick line of ancient pines, and the rugged lines of the cliff shielded his progress from prying eyes. He hoped that such precautions would allow him to gain at least some sort of advantage over a far more experienced opponent. Every step up the rock strewn path brought him closer and closer to the mouth of the cave, and to his intended target. From where he lurked, he could make out the faint light of a cooking fire.

"Good," he thought to himself.

The ambient light and the gentle pop of the wood in the flames would help to mask his presence even more. Step by painfully taken step he crept over loose pebbles and tiny sticks that could betray his position at any moment. Such were the sacrifices that needed to be made. In order for him to win this fight, every advantage, from his choice in weapon to the heaviness of his breath, had to be carefully managed. After he had lived an eternity between each of the steps, he reached the edge of the cave wall, keeping his body just barely out of the opening. Gently he raised his tool of choice: a long wooden stick with a paint-soaked rag wrapped around the end.

In a swirl of energy and excitement he rounded the corner and brought the paint stick down in a tremendous arc, sending crashing against a bundle of twigs. Before he could utter a word of surprise, the familiar sensation of paint oozing down his back shoulder registered in his brain.

"Looks like your cooking dinner again tonight."

He turned and looked at his master, an elderly woman in her early 70s.

"Yeah, I guess so."

He grumbled before reaching for the pot next to the sizzling coals.

. . .

The above experience is of course, fictional (although those who know me will easily make out the feisty visage of my English advisor Dr. Hinds in the character of the mentor), however it is indicative of my experience. More times than not in my time at Mount Iíve found myself playing the role of the precocious apprentice, possessed by a great deal of enthusiasm but lacking the finesse that comes at the price of time and effort. After four years, Iím happy to say that while I donít think I quite hold a candle to the people that have gotten me this far, I could certainly do them proud.

Thatís one of the things that has begun to resonate with me more and more as my time at Mount St. Maryís winds down and I start to look beyond the mountain. Maybe itís that Iíve been writing a book on games with Dr. Murry and weíre actually presenting our work to schools, news stations, and (hopefully soon) publishing houses. Perhaps itís the fact that Iím working with Dr. Dudley in the English department to create a paper that delves into the finer points of horror fiction and HP Lovecraftís role in philosophy. Or it could be that this past weekend Dr. Hinds actually met my girlfriend of two and half years and gave her that "thanks for putting up with him" smile. It occurs to me more and more that without these people and more in my life, I donít think I would be anywhere close to the person I am today. Kyle Ott at 18 was a scared young man with a mop top haircut, an infinite love for Frisbee and sandwiches, and an unbridled sense of enthusiasm. Kyle Ott at 22 is a slightly less young man whose hair has been cut as close to his scalp as possible, whose love of sandwiches continues unabated, and whose enthusiasm has been tempered and molded by the lessons of his teachers and peers. At some point I stopped trying to be something I couldnít and started listening to the people that I wanted to emulate. As a freshman I was going to be a writer; as a senior Iím looking into a career in board and card game design and going to graduate school for online journalism. And the weirdest part is? All of me, both the man I am now, and the person I was then, is at peace with my path. That kind of emotional Zen doesnít simply come from within, but rather from a confidence forged throughout dozens of lessons with teachers whose intelligence and poise brings out a desire to surpass them (although I doubt I ever will).

All of these reflections are tempered by the realization that at some point, my masters of the craft, my Mister Miyagis, the Mickeys to my Rocky Balboa, all sat in my shoes. There had to have been a time when Dr. Mitra, the Mountís resident master-at-making-Kyle-want-to-dedicate-his-life-to-studying-Indian-Literature (itís a working title but Iím sure it will be official soon), was a student just like me. And knowing that means that at some point I will make the transition from the student who is just growing into their knowledge and talent, into the teacher who is comfortable not only with their own abilities but also with their role in the world. In my head I can see myself poking fun of some big-dreaming freshmanís poor scheduling practices the way that Dr. Hinds did (and continues to do) to mine.

If there is one thing that I can impart after four years of writing, one kernel of wisdom for my readers to glean from my countless foibles and numerous misadventures, it is this: cherish your mentors, and cherish the cycle through which you become a mentor for the next generation. They will learn from you, as you have learned from others. Iím Kyle Ott, and for the last time as an undergraduate student, wonít you sit and read for a while?

. . .

The sun set as she made her approach. After hours of waiting in the bushes for the ideal conditions, she emerged. Speed. Speed would be the key to her success. There was no way that she could get the drop on her opponent with planning. He was too patient, his ears to keen. Within moments his senses would ferret her out and he would, as he had done dozens of times before, find her and bring her dreams of victory to a crashing halt.

Instead she took the fight to him. In the back of her mind she was sure that her youthful vigor, coupled with the spring in her muscles, would give her the edge needed to overcome her foe.

A dim light swayed in front of her eyes as she dashed forward in a break-neck charge. It was the campfire, placed in the middle of a clearing. She cursed herself silently for her course of action. The position of the fire all but ensured that he would be able to see her coming from any direction. However it was too late now. She had already alerted him to her presence, her eyes had adjusted to the dark, and she was fully committed to her plan. Step by step she hurtled towards the light, knowing that he would be there. The faster she moved the harder it would be for him to catchÖ

She felt the gooey "slap" of paint colliding with her stomach and shoulder, just as she reached the outer circle of light.

"Your approach was sloppy, your form poor. Letís hope your cooking outpaces your skills."

He wheezed a little as he laughed at his own joke. It was hard to imagine 80 years being packed into the lean old fram.

"Master."

She groaned in frustration, tossing the paint stick on the ground.

"How did you get so good?"

He squatted by the campfire and looked to her, his smile becoming sad, his eyes becoming dreamy as he recalled the rapid frustrations and gradual success of his youth.

"I cooked a lot of dinners."

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