Fueled by his Erskine experience, Pete Savarese moves forward

Pete-with-secret-society-signs-cropIn 2016, Erskine’s Pete Savarese marched across the stage at commencement after a long journey through five years of college and seven surgeries. And he wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“I think for me, for my personality, I really needed a small school. I definitely needed an environment where I could know everyone,” he explains. He knows some people want a big school, but that was not for him.

“I would have been lost and only had a few friends. Instead I left school with eight or nine hundred friends!” he says. “Any time I am asked what made Erskine such a great place to be, I always have one answer—the people that make up the Erskine family.”

Considering this, he concludes, “I think the biggest advantage I received from Erskine is a mindset that every person counts, every person is valuable, and every person around you deserves your time and effort.”

Read the full story: » Fueled by his Erskine experience, graduate moves forward (Erskine News)

Fighting the Fear of Failure

“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

I’m pretty confident that Thomas Wayne’s encouragement to his son, the future hero of Gotham City, will be one of the major themes of this semester for me. It’s barely a week into the spring semester of my sophomore year, and I already feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Earlier, I was telling some friends that it feels as though the neat, orderly boxes inside my brain have been flipped over, and all of their contents are scattered around the floor of my brain.

messy-desk-cartoon-image

Feeling like this…

Today has been especially difficult. Every hour was slam-packed with classes, meetings, preparatory work, studying, teaching SI, and other responsibilities. I wasn’t able to spend more than 10 minutes in my room until right now, at 10:00 pm. Now, I am not trying to complain or be a self-proclaimed martyr of the difficulties of being a hardworking, involved student. I honestly love everything that I am a part of, and would be super unhappy to cut anything out of the semester. Dropping my Literature For Young Adults class was one of the hardest decisions that I have had to make so far.

My whole point is that I am finally starting to realize that it’s okay to not be a perfect student. I don’t have to have it all together. There are 600-something other students here who are all scrambling to get their lives together too, and that is nothing to feel ashamed or worthless about. Alternatively, I think that when people stop trying to hide their flaws, and instead depend on others for growth, a great potential for improvement is available. Mistakes happen. Success is never guaranteed. It is okay to not be perfect. Rather than being afraid of failing, I should be more afraid of being beaten by failure than of the act of failing, because failure is an inevitable part of life.

So when you fall, Rebecca, why do you fall?

So I can learn to pick myself up.

The Misadventures of a Scatter-Brained Sophomore

This story is a shout out to all the students who feel like they’re scrambling to just survive the endless world of tests, papers, and studying. I’m right there with you. This is only one of many accounts that shows how untogether my life truly is. Hopefully you’ll find a degree of encouragement and humor somewhere in this event.

My story begins at a table in Snappers, Erskine’s greasy, delicious substitute to the cafeteria. After a long day of classes and labs, my friends and I treated ourselves to some much-needed comfort fries. That was the last time I remembered seeing my wallet.

Flash forward to my room after dinner. My roommate and I had some time and energy to burn, so naturally we had a Disney dance party, where we discovered our ability to perform ballroom dancing in tight quarters. I was so excited about dancing that I threw my backpack and jacket onto my bed and leapt into action. After the dance party, we settled down into our normal studying routine.

The next morning, while I was rifling through my backpack for my student ID, I realized that my wallet was missing. Normally I would pack everything into my backpack the night before class, but I had stayed up so late studying that I went straight to bed without bothering to pack up my things. Obviously losing one’s wallet and all of its contents is kind of a big deal, so I started searching around campus as soon as I could. I tried to recall the last place I remembered holding my wallet, but of course that memory was blocked. Go figure.

My wallet hadn’t been put in any of Erskine’s lost and found boxes, so by this point, I was pretty freaked out. As I ran (and I mean literally ran) around the Erskine campus, hoping the wallet was somewhere in the grass, a horrifying thought entered my mind. What if I accidentally threw my wallet in the trash at Snappers while I was throwing away everybody’s trash? I immediately returned to Snappers and asked if I could dig through the trash, despite still being dressed up from having lunch with a prospective student. However, Sue, my friend who works at Snappers, wasn’t about to let me root around in the trash, and she voluntarily dug through three bags of trash before reporting that there was no way my wallet could be there.

With steadily increasing anxiety, I walked across campus to my room (by this time, I was out of breath from running) and proceeded to tear apart every inch of the room in search of the wallet. I tore everything off of my bed, ripped out all of the clothes in my dresser and wardrobe, and threw everything out of my desk. The wallet was nowhere to be found. A ray of inspiration hit me as I sat on the floor in despair. I remembered helping Daria carry clothes up from her car last night. Did I take my wallet with me for some odd reason? A new wind hit me and I sprinted out the door and down the hill to her car, but the wallet wasn’t underneath, nearby, or inside her van. As I walked up to my dorm room, I felt more discouraged and stressed than I had felt in a while. Losing a wallet seems like a small problem now, but it did was a tremendous toll on my emotions at the time. It’s extremely frustrating to not be able to find something that is lost. Then, when I walked through the door to my room, I saw it. My wallet had been hanging on a thumbtack on my corkboard this entire time.

This is proof that putting things away in their proper place is dangerous and wrong. Just kidding.

Long story short, my life is definitely not all together. I’m clumsy, forgetful, easily stressed, and my short-term memory is completely worthless. So how do I make it through each day’s problems and mistakes with a smile and the energy to face another day? God opens my eyes to see and give thanks for the everyday blessings and joys that can shine through the blunders. Today, God answered my desperate, freaked out prayers to simply find my wallet. He provided support from amazing friends like Sue, who cheerfully picked through trash in order to help me. That kind of love still overwhelms me. It’s such a huge relief that my weaknesses can be blessings in disguise by causing the strengths and goodness of others to shine out.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10

 

God’s Gift of Grace

It has been exactly two weeks since I left my home and entered a new life at Erskine. I haven’t quite gotten homesick yet, but there are a few things about my home that I didn’t start cherishing until I left. In fact, if someone asked me what the hardest thing about college has been so far, I wouldn’t say it’s been the workload or the classes or even the communal bathrooms. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things have taken a while to adjust to, but they definitely haven’t been the hardest thing to get used to. The biggest trial that I have had to overcome is the loneliness that comes from not being surrounded by the close friendships that I had at home. I’m not gonna lie. It’s hard to go to a college where you don’t know anyone, even if it’s only 30 minutes away. It’s hard to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to meet people while feeling pressured to find your best friend in the crowd. It’s hard to hold onto the hope that you will make lifelong friends even though you’re not as outgoing as others around you. 

I got so lonely and frustrated during the first few days. I mean, obviously you can’t rush into a close friendship. Friendships grow over time. But I just wanted one good friend with whom I could laugh and talk and be myself around. I prayed to God for days to either send me a friend like that or to give me the strength to keep my head up and continue to hope in His plan. Thankfully, He answered both prayers! He sent me an awesome girl by the name of Grace.

Isn't she a cutie? ;)

Isn’t she a cutie? 😉

She’s funny, crazy, wise, and really in love with God. We hit it off as soon as we started talking! At first, we bonded over the shared qualities of our boyfriends, but we soon progressed to becoming really good friends in a matter of hours and we’ve been inseparable ever since. Well, not really.. We aren’t always together. However, we try to eat meals together; we share two classes together; we even study together in the evenings!

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“Studying” = Sleeping and sad selfies

I’m so thankful for her. Her sweet spirit always warms my heart, plus she’s really fun to pick on! For example, we have this game at the cafeteria where we try to steal each other’s plate and take them to conveyor belt for the dirty dishes. I normally win, but I have a slight advantage, being a ninja and all. 

So in conclusion, I’ve been so blessed by God in several aspects of my life. However, the biggest blessing that He’s recently given me is the gift of Grace as a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing friend. I’m so excited to seeing what the future holds for us and our friendship. She might even convince me to give horseback riding a try! 

Living Lent: 22 years of gratitude and counting…

Wow!  Starting a blog series right before midterms week was poor timing on my apart.  I apologize for taking so long to start writing again!  I am not going to publicly admit how many days last week I napped in the Student Center rather than getting a proper night’s sleep.  This was one of my most overwhelming midterm weeks ever, especially considering that I had no midterms in St Andrews…

Speaking of St Andrews: I was in Paris, France, a year ago today! My, how the time has flown.  I miss so much about Europe and am looking forward to visiting again some day.

But on to my post for today.  A week ago I turned 22 (which feels sort of old when you live in a dorm full of 18- and 19-year-olds…) and despite my hectic and stressful week, so many little things along the way reminded me just how blessed I am.  Lent is a time of reflection, preparation, and gratitude, so today’s post is 22 things for which I am grateful.

1. Faith
I am grateful for my Faith in God, in His love and mercy.  I have faith and hope for forgiveness and salvation.  My faith has strengthened me and saved me in my darkest moments.  I have faith in people, in love, in goodness, in the future.  Faith is all-encompassing in life and the anchor for my soul.

One of my all-time favorite photos of the 3 of us! Me, Luke, and Aimee; photo taken by my other sister, Nicole

One of my all-time favorite photos of the 3 of us! Me, Luke, and Aimée; photo taken by my other sister, Nicole

family photo from Nicole's & Jeremy's wedding, June 2012

family photo from Nicole’s & Jeremy’s wedding, June 2012 (photo ©Marni Rothschild Pictures, LLC)

2. Family
We are by no means perfect, but my parents and siblings are my biggest support and encouragement.  I am so blessed to call my mom one of my best friends.  I appreciate [though I do not say it nearly enough] that I can sit and talk to my parents for hours about literally anything.  I am so grateful to have a little brother with Down syndrome.  Growing up with a special needs sibling has taught me countless valuable life lessons and given me a completely different outlook on life.  I know no one who embodies unconditional love the way that Luke does.

3. Erskine
Though originally I had no intention of going to Erskine (who wants to attend college where her sister goes?!), I am so glad that God led me here.  I have learned so much, been challenged in ways I never expected. made amazing friends, travelled so many fun places, gained valuable life lessons and mentors, and become more certain of the path which God desires me to follow.

4. St Andrews
St Andrews CastleJust as Erskine has shaped me and changed me for the better, my study abroad experience is probably the single experience of my life that has most helped me to realize who I am and gain confidence in myself.  I left last January knowing not a single person, and left 1 June with scores of great friends and countless life-changing experiences.  I have a stronger faith and a different perspective of the world from studying in Scotland and travelling around Europe.  Of course, I now have what feels like an insatiable desire for travel and adventure…I am so excited to see what my next opportunity will be!

5. Singing
I by no means have the best voice in the world, but I truly love singing and that voice that God DID give me has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in so many different choral ensembles, from my church choir to high school chorus and show choir to several groups at Erskine.  I am a veteran member of the Erskine Choraleers and have also sang with Bella Voce and the Chamber Singers.  I am grateful for the ministry that music provides in my personal life as well as the opportunity to use music as my ministry in church.

the finale pose from my sister's senior music project, "All That Jazz." (photo by Whitney Adkins)

the finale pose from my sister’s senior music project, “All That Jazz.” (photo by Whitney Adkins)

6. Dance

some of my SwingSoc family from St Andrews--such talented dancers from all across the UK & Europe! (photo by Henry Legg)

some of my SwingSoc family from St Andrews–such talented dancers from all across the UK & Europe! (photo by Henry Legg)

From the time I knew what one was, I wanted to be a ballerina.  When we played dress up as kids, 9 times out of 10 I wore the tutu.  When I was 6 or so years old, we hosted a French exchange student who taught me how to do a pirouette and I practiced until I was too dizzy to walk.  My family moved to SC when I was 8 years old, and within a year I started taking ballet lessons.  I continued for 6 or 7 years, even progressing to learning pointe (yes, dancing on your toes. yes, OUCH).  High school afforded me the opportunity to branch out and learn some different dance forms, as well as the art of singing AND dancing–a.k.a. show choir.  Since I’ve been in college, and especially since studying abroad, I have fallen in love with all things swing dance related: traditional, Charleston, lindy hop, blues…[Speaking of which, if you have never seen the I Charleston St Andrews that we in the St Andrews Swing Dance Society made last year, you should definitely watch it!]
Dance is a part of my heart, a part of who I am and how I relate to the world.  I am grateful for any and every opportunity to practice and share my love.

7. Theatre

with Tillary Blackman ('13) in Arsenic and Old Lace: possibly my favorite scene I've ever acted. (photo by Katie Putnam)

with Tillary Blackman (’13) in Arsenic and Old Lace: possibly my favorite scene I’ve ever acted. (photo by Katie Putnam)

No, I am not going to list every art form that I can possibly think of (though I am definitely grateful for all of them!).  Singing, dancing, and acting, though, are all art forms which I especially love.  I truly enjoy acting on stage, doing tech work or working back stage, and watching performances.  I love the challenge of learning a new character and bringing her/him/it to life, the challenge of improvisation, the chaos of tech week and opening night, the feeling of pride earned by a successful performance.  Long rehearsals test patience, energy, and relationships but ultimately strengthen all of these.  I know that my participation in theatre will only help me in my life.

8. Freedom
Sounds cheesy, or cliché, I know.  But how many countries actively persecute Christians? How many countries severely limit the rights of women?  Yes, we can sit here and debate the meaning and context of the word “freedom,” but I am grateful for the opportunities that growing up in the United States has afforded me.

9. Sleep
If college has taught me anything, it is the value of sleep.  I think back now to when I hated going to bed as a child, or when I used to wake up at 4AM and go to the basement to read or play by myself while everyone else slept.  The 22-year-old me wants to ask the 6-year-old me, “WHY?!”  It is so easy to make other things a higher priority than sleep, but it really is essential to proper functioning and good moods.  I truly am grateful for the times that I get a good/full night’s sleep.  Nap time, anyone…?

10. Food
Along the same lines, who doesn’t like food?  It’s delicious.  It’s satisfying.  It’s strengthening.  It makes you feel happy, body and soul.  Nothing says home and love like Mom’s home-cooked dinner.  Food is a common denominator of our social gatherings.  Food encompasses culture, tradition, seasons, memories, creativity (yeah, that art thing again…), nature, and love.  Though I cannot say that I love every food I have ever tried, food is definitely one of the ways I know for a fact that God loves us.

11. Social Media
“Aha! Another Facebook addict!”  I know you’re thinking it. Yes, you.  And perhaps I am slightly guilty as charged, though I’m working on it.  While realizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance, I do believe that most of these platforms can be very useful.  My primary use for Facebook is staying in contact with all of my friends from abroad and all over the United States.  We are using Pinterest as a common space to plan my sister’s bridal shower, and I use it to collect articles and information relevant to psychology and therapy.  I get the majority of my world news from Twitter.  Everything in moderation, but I really am grateful for these connections.

Odd place to stop for the day, but I’m halfway and this is quite a long post.  So…stay tuned tomorrow for part II! [I seem to like multi-part posts.]  Until then, I’d love some feedback!  Do you agree with some of the points that I made? Do you disagree with any? What are you most grateful for today?  What am I forgetting? How cute is my little brother? [Correct answer: the cutest!]

In Christ,
Christine

Living Lent: Ash Wednesday

+:-)     How cool is it that there is a ready-made emoticon for Ash Wednesday? (This twenty-first century student appreciates it at least.)

Today begins Lent, the season of preparation for Holy Week and the Easter season.  Erskine bonus: being surrounded by Christians means that I don’t often need to explain what Lent is, or why I currently have ashes on my forehead.  [Another Erskine bonus: being able to go to church with your professors!]  Many students here choose to give something up or make some sort of extra effort for the next 40 days, and I love hearing how creative they are.  It is a reminder of something my priest said in Mass this morning: God appreciates our thoughtfulness and our efforts, not perfection.  In my personal life, I can say that I seldom think about God from that perspective–I have a guilty conscience and ruminate on the countless ways I mess up and fail.  But God is our Father, our friend, our greatest supporter, and the truest and greatest giver of love.  As much as He does for us every second, He notices and appreciates gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness!

Though I am choosing to make sacrifices and/or changes in my personal life, I am not sharing the majority of those in the blog.  I am, however, undertaking a sort of project on the blog for Lent and I would love for you to follow along and be involved.  The series will be loosely based on Love Life Live Lent, and  I got the idea from a friend in St Andrews who is doing it this year for the second time.

I have discussed the idea with the communications department here (which supports this blog) and they are graciously providing me with support and guidance.  I will post updates daily (or as often as possible) about my projects, discussions, questions, and thoughts.  You will also get to read perspectives and thoughts from other members of the Erskine community, which may be a welcome change from my voice.  One of my intents of my Life Lent project is to encourage thought and discussion in our community, which includes you!  I welcome and ask for feedback, questions, and ideas.  I also want to preface by reiterating that I am Catholic, so many posts will likely include things about my personal faith perspective and traditions.  There will be many others, though.

This post may seem rather vague, but I want there to be some element of surprise regarding what I choose to do each day.  Though I may discuss personal projects I undertake or struggles I have, I have no intention of making this project about me.  I  hope to focus on community, faith, and perspective.  Please comment or contact me with any input, insight, or ideas you may have.

I will close today with a brief explanation of why Catholics (and others) receive ashes on this day each year.

The Christian tradition of the dies cinerum (day of ashes) began in the 800s AD but ashes have been used for repentance and penance for thousands of years in myriad cultures.  The ashes we use are the ashes of the palms we burn on Palm Sunday, sprinkled with holy water and blessed by four traditional prayers.  In the Old Testament, ashes are an outward sign of repentance (example: Daniel 9:3-6).  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a time of repentance, assessment, and a new beginning.  We have all heard something along the lines of, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), or “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  Ashes are a sign of physical death; our physical bodies may die, and we intend to die to our worldly desires, but we have the hope and faith of eternal life with God.

I am so grateful for a schedule that allowed me time to make it to Mass today!

I am so grateful for a schedule that allowed me time to make it to Mass today!

“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.”
[Psalm 51:10-11]

God bless you and keep you,
Christine

The Best Daddy in the Whole, Wide World!

Last week was one of the most difficult weeks of my entire life. A giant monster with sharp claws and a strong bite, formally known as the GRE, came down expectantly to attack me when I was least expecting it. The giant beast attacked from the right and the left throwing all sorts of touch math and vocabulary questions which I needed to overcome in order to save me life! Fortunately, I survived, although it was a rough 5 hour long battle which wore me out completely!

Taking the GRE was a CHALLENGING experience… I wrote an entire blog about it! (In case you wanted more details! 😛 )

This is the part of the story where my wonderful Daddy comes in. Knowing that I would have a hard time saying no to fun in Scotland to study, he told me that if I were to have absolutely no fun for a week before the GRE, and just study, he would take me and a few friends out to dinner. He tasked my roommate, Tiffany, with the task of ensuring that I was actually having no fun and reminding me to study for every possible second that I was awake. And Tiffany rose to the challenge! Every time I would start to talk on the phone, or text, or get comfortable in bed she would tell me that I looked like I was having too much fun and that I needed to get back to work, now!

The night before I took the GRE my daddy called me on Skype to wish me good luck and give me a few last tips before the test. After we chatted for a bit, he asked me if I had my suitcase nearby. And I think to myself, what on earth? What does my suitcase have to do with the price of tea in China??? I told him that it was on top of my wardrobe and pointed my camera at it. He asked me to get it down. I was really confused, and speculated that he had seen the mess all over my room while Skyping with me and wanted to remind me that I only have one suitcase to lug all of my stuff home…. But I got the suitcase!

But the inordinate amount of stuff lying all over my dorm room floor was not what my dad was trying to point out, at least not in that instance. He had me unzip the main compartment, unzip the inner lining, and look under the plastic on the side. And there, taped to the inside of my suitcase, was a one hundred-dollar bill! My dad had put it in there a week before I left for Scotland, as a surprise to remind me that he had been planning a surprise for me long in advance! He told me it was a present from him to reward me for all of my studying and to allow me to take a few friends out to dinner as a treat from him!

Naturally, I was quite excited! Can you imagine a daddy doing anything nicer for his daughter?? I quite happily scheduled a dinner date for Tiffany, Elisabeth, Naomi, and I because I love them, and I also REALLY APPRECIATED all of the hours they spent helping me to prepare for the big day!

Tiffany and Naomi were excited for dinner, too! :)

Tiffany and Naomi were excited for dinner, too! 🙂

And what a fantastic dinner we had! We all went to the grill house in town and ordered a delicious meals. Elisabeth and I ordered Mexican fajitas, which came out on hot plates still sizzling! (We knew they were coming before we could even see the waiter approaching…. Naomi announced, ~I hear your dinner coming!” and cracked us all up!) Naomi and Tiffany had delicious burgers and chips. And we all had a FANTASTIC TIME! This goes to show, I really do have the best daddy in the whole, wide world! ❤

We had such a FANTASTIC time!

We had such a FANTASTIC time!