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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Four Pillar Resolutions:  Discovery - Myself Within The Pages

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(1/2013) Itís been a fantastic year for all of us at Mount St. Maryís University. Itís been a year of late nights, early mornings and brand new experiences. After all of these things, the year has left us stronger and better. It certainly has been a year of valuable lessons (and weíve managed to survive yet another Mayan apocalypse!) and also a year filled with chances to consider the way we want to grow and the people we wish to become.

Iím speaking, of course, of resolutions, those promises that we make to ourselves in an effort to make a positive change in our lives. Many times we think about hitting the gym, dedicating ourselves more to work and less to procrastination, or eating healthier. This year however, I ask you to consider a resolution about discovery: learning more about yourself and the world around you. Iím talking about reading.

Reading may seem like an unimportant activity, but as our world continually seems to get smaller and smaller and the journey of progress moves on and on, the written word continually grows in value. Letters, books, and even tiny post-it notes given to us by someone we love and care for have inestimable worth. Despite this, the world of books is often a world overlooked by us, myself included. We have cell phones, social media, and emails. When we want to check on someoneís day, we shoot him or her a text, or post on his or her Facebook wall. Gone are the days when men and women would actually write something on a piece of paper and spend days waiting anxiously for a reply. If the day is dragging on and we find ourselves in need of something to do, the first thing we reach for is a television remote or an X-Box controller rather than a well-written text. Even when reading needs to be done for class or work, the advent of search engines has almost abolished the need to pick up a book. Thanks to Internet databases like EBSCOhost, and JSTOR, anyone can access top-notch literary analyses without putting a finger to the page. Not only that, but websites like SparkNotes and Wikipedia mean that a detailed summary of almost any piece of written work isnít far from our reach.

While these developments have proven incredibly useful to me as a student, they have also taken me away from the books that I love. I found myself at a crossroads earlier this year. I had two papers due on two towering pieces of literature, and there I was sitting at my table in the library with nothing but a computer in front of me. Sure, I had both texts on my computer, but I couldnít shake the feeling that I was completely disconnected from the words and meanings found in those books while staring at my monitor. To make it even worse, I was surrounded by an immense breadth of human knowledge housed on the shelves of our library and I realized that I hadnít read a single book that the great library had to offer me.

I closed my laptop took a deep breath from the stresses of paper writing and gave myself a moment to peruse the shelves, to run my hand across the spines of the books. The minute I picked one up and felt the comfortable weight in my hands, relishing in the sound of pages flipping, I realized that I was missing out on something integral to my existence. I spent 45 minutes completely isolated from the stresses of the Honors program, insulated by a shield of literature. In those 45 minutes, I learned about cutting edge agricultural research that was being done by university graduates. I was teleported from Emmitsburg, Maryland onto a raft hurtling down the Mississippi river with a young runaway. Without realizing it, I had experienced an incredible depth of adventure in such a short amount of time because of what I had read. It was at that moment that I realized how much I missed reading and how I was missing out on a chance to rediscover who I was in between the single space type.

Sadly, my work called to me and I wound up having to leave the warm embrace of those pages for the chill of plastic keys. Throughout the semester though, memories of the words I had left behind returned to me. One day I passed by the shelf of untouched books in my room and wondered if I should finally take the time to flop on my futon and ignore my TV for a few hours. I thought about reading one of the wonderful books to pass the time, and as archaic as it sounds, for fun! Finally, as I spent New Yearís Eve with my family and happily rang in 2013 with the ones I love, I made a resolution to hit the library and the bookstore rather than hit the gym.

Nostalgia benefits aside, being able to curl upstairs next to our bookshelf has provided me with a chance to discover, and in some cases rediscover things about myself that I had missed prior to my New Yearís resolution. A prime example of this quest for self-discovery has been my third time reading Joseph Conradís amazing novel Heart Of Darkness. After covering Heart of Darkness in my Modern Civilization class at the Mount, I realized how much I loved Conradís use of the English language. He can draw me into the plot of a novel while leaving me to find out what the characters and symbols in the story are meant to me. Moments like that have made me realize that I truly missed reading and the way a good book can make me feel on top of the world.

So this year, while youíre cleaning up after your New Yearís party wondering what it is youíll dedicate yourself to, keep this in mind: what really made this New Yearís resolution stick was my decision to take on what seemed like a monumental task in small increments. I devoted 30 minutes of each day to turning off all my electronics and sitting down with a good book. Think about sitting down for a moment, putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and letting your mind take you places youíve never been before. Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while? You may like what you find.

Read other articles by Kyle Ott