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Four Years at the Mount

Another Year Under the Belt

Nineteen Going On Six

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." -Albert Einstein

(5/2016) As I reflect on my freshman year of college, I recognize a significant growth in my maturity, but in many ways, I have reconnected with the six year old version of myself. In particular, I have adjusted to college much as I learned to ride a bicycle. Let me explain what I mean...

Flashback and Iím six years old. Itís a breezy July afternoon, and the wind takes me where it may. Time and time again, I fall and remount my bicycle. My dad stands by the curb as I falter because I insist on mastering the skill on my own. I try again, wobbling at first, but this time catching speed. I drive my legs rhythmically, faster and faster until the spokes spin into a constant blur. "Be careful, Michael!" My dad shouts as I gain distance from him. Iím going too fast to care. I squeal with euphoria and pump one arm in the air, only to quickly clutch back onto the handlebar. "I did it, Dad! Iíll take on the world!"

But reality sets in. Iím an adult now -- or at least I try to be. My dad and I stand on the back steps of my new dorm, Sheridan Hall. We inch towards his car, jabbing at smalltalk. "Well itís a beautiful day," my dad starts. "This will be such an adventure for you." He tells me that he is proud of me and wraps me in a tight bearhug. As I slink back towards the dorm, he turns around to say, "You better tell your R.A. about your lightbulb thatís out." I nod, and he opens his car, "Oh and I put your notecards in that top drawer for you."

I wave and muster my cheeks into a smile. I know heís expressing the same concern and excitement he had for me when I learned to ride a bicycle. This time, however, Iím the one watching him drive off into the distance, and I realize that I will be taking on the world in a more independent way than ever before.

This year has reminded me that taking off the training wheels can be scary, but I only learn and grow when I am outside of my comfort zone. As a homebody, moving nearly five hundred miles away to a school full of unrecognizable faces was a good first step. I began the year by going on a pre-orientation camping trip designed for freshmen to become involved in campus life and to meet like minded individuals. Although I had gone "glamping" once as a child, camping and the glories of nature were relatively foreign to me. The trip was absolutely liberating. We woke up early to cook a rustic breakfast and embark on a rock climbing, canoeing, and caving excursions. We stayed up late, running around in the open field or telling stories around the campfire. By boldly stepping outside of my comfort zone with seven other new students, I began the school year on a positive note and felt empowered to continue stretching my limits. Shortly after the trip, I ran and was elected class president, began my journey in Division 1 athletics, and heavily invested myself in my academic courses. Each new role presented thrilling new opportunities. I continue to look for ways to serve in these capacities to the best of my ability, meet new people, and engage in new activities.

As with riding a bicycle, adjusting to my first year of college came with a fair share of trial and error. Inadvertently tie-dying my laundry taught me that whites and colors do not mix well. Oversleeping a class reminded me that I need to set multiple alarms on maximum volume in order to get up in the morning. Getting locked out of my dorm reminded me to never go anywhere without my room key. Nevertheless, these minor bumps and bruises have all been overcome with humor, resilience, and good company.

My family and faith have enabled me to steer a steady course. Unlike the stubborn little boy I once was who was so eager to independently master bicycle riding, I now appreciate the guidance I receive from my family and faith. Rather than perceiving it as a roadblock, my family has used our geographic distance as a platform to grow closer with daily phone calls, sporadic visits, and surprise packages in the mail. Additionally, the faith-based opportunities at the Mount, the second oldest Catholic university in the United States, have enabled me to thrive. I was fortunate to go on a pilgrimage to Philadelphia for Pope Francisí visit regarding the World Meeting of Families. Through my work at the National Shrine Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes, I have met pilgrims from all over the world and continually witness the awe-inspiring beauty associated with Catholicism. Going to mass with my classmates has been a source of profound fellowship and inspiration. Meeting weekly with a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary has been a further wealth of knowledge and guidance. Growing in my relationship with God and my family this year continually enlivens my journey and reminds me where I come from and where I seek to go.

My dad was absolutely right; this year has been such an adventure! My higher grade of independence, the outstanding Mount community, and the values that I have cultivated over the past nineteen years have enabled me to reconnect with the distinctive joy, vulnerability, and fearlessness I felt when I first mounted my bicycle at age six. As I round the bend towards sophomore year and foresee the towering responsibilities it holds, I believe more and more in the words I expressed as a fearless little boy, peddling fast towards the road ahead: "I did it, Dad! Iíll take on the world!"

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.