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Four Years at the Mount

Reflections on the closing of the year

My sophomore reflection

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019

(5/2017) May 12, 2017--My dad carries out the last few boxes, and I sling my backpack over my shoulder. Itís clichť, but true, that this year has flown by. As I head out the door, I notice a picture taped to the corner of my mirror. Itís a picture of my parents and me on move-in day. I looked tan, well rested, and--though only taken a few months ago--a lot younger. It makes me realize the obvious: my physical disposition says something about my mood and experiences. I glance in the mirror scope my current disposition. I wonder how my experiences have literally shaped me, how my mood has manifested itself over the course of this past year. If I could reflect on this past year by looking in the mirror, what would I see?

I suppose I should begin with my head. I worked really hard in school both semesters, and I also discovered three gray hairs last month. Coincidence? I think not. The library was my hermitage this past year. I overloaded with seven courses during the fall semester and six in the spring because I wanted to expose myself to a wide range of subjects. From foreign language, literature, and history to science, philosophy, and ROTC courses, each subject area deepened my understanding of and appreciation for the world around me. My professors have helped create some of my fondest memories. Whether meeting over a cup of coffee in the cafe or a completely red-inked paper draft in their offices, my professors have challenged me this year. Yet, like walking encyclopedias, they have made the course material enjoyable and alive: I felt as though I walked alongside characters like Sissy Jupe and William Darcy. I empathized with Primo Levi and imagined the millions of unspoken Holocaust narratives. I studied so intensively that I dreamt in Italian. I brought contemporary values into conversation with the timeless Platonic and Aristotelian works. I debated the efficacy of Brexit and digital humanities. I think about all the knowledge locked beneath my scalp, under my brown (and potentially graying) bushel of hair. Of course, my academic immersion this year was rigorous, but it was fun and rewarding ten times over.

I look down and, not unrelated to my two gray hairs, there are bags under my eyes. Howíd they get there? I earned them by late night paper writing, early morning swim practice, and a fair share of all-nighters. Yet, they donít solely represent "all work and no play." They remind me of the cafe karaoke and spontaneous game nights, conversations that twist the clock from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. in the blink of an eye, and nights my friends and I visited in Eucharistic Adoration together. One particular night in February comes to mind. While inclement weather halted school for the day, I spent practically all day studying in the library, and I began walking towards my dorm at about 12:30 a.m. I admired the snowmen scattered around campus, and I decided I wanted to make one in a prominent place on campus. I called one of my friends, and together, we formed a huddle of snowmen about a yard ahead of the doors of Bradley Hall, the main administrative building. We slapped chunks of snow into the bulky sides of the snowmen. We laughed and laughed and laughed at how ridiculous we must have seemed. We joked under the unsound logic that "maybe, if we build a snowman in front of Bradley, the faculty will enjoy it so much that they wonít hold classes the tomorrow." On my way to class the next morning, I noticed the snowman had been gently decapitated. The more I think about my experiences, the more I believe that I do not really have bags, just tinted grins beneath my eyelids.

I focus now on the rest of my body. My hands have callouses. They must be from our swim teamís weight lifting regimen. I had a blast swimming on the inaugural menís swim team, in large part because of my teammates. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other. For almost nine months, we trained ten times per week together, stayed on campus over breaks, travelled long bus rides, met for study sessions, and endured seemingly impossible workouts. I think about the week we spent training in Key Largo, our team dinners, and our bible studies. I think about the mornings we stood at the edge of the pool, bracing ourselves for an unforgivingly cold wake-up call, and the afternoons we read our coachesí lactate-threshold set and thought, "Thereís no way weíre making through that alive." But we did. We became faster, stronger, and better friends throughout the entire season.

I take a step back from the mirror. My backpack slouches from my shoulder to ground. I remember my three silver hairs. I recognize the grins under my eyes. I rub my calloused fingers together. Each feature allows an insight into my past experience, but my smile speaks the loudest and seems to summarize my year. It captures the other physical features like the ironic words in Kurt Vonnegutís Slaughterhouse-Five: "Everything was perfect and nothing hurt." With that, I walk out to my car and wonder what next year will look likeÖ

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.