Tag Archives: personal growth

Introducing Emily!

Our new intern, Emily McCaul, will be with us for the duration of the upcoming summer. We are very excited to have her! Learn all about Emily, in her own words, from her sophomore year reflections below.

This past year at Virginia Tech was one filled with unthinkable opportunities, spontaneous travels, belly-hollowing fits of laughter, and tragically normal nights of Netflix-watching – because yes, Michael Scott truly is the man. Every day was different, sometimes stressful, yet always there were opportunities provided to smile with friends, drink good coffee, and contribute to a conversation with substance. It was a year of many firsts, some enjoyable, others less-than-bearable, but overall, it was a year of self-discovery.

In addition to my busy schedule as a sophomore at Virginia Tech with a double major in multimedia journalism and creative writing, I had a variety of experiences this year that contributed to my personal growth including:

I moved into my first apartment.

IMG_1303I received my first DSLR camera (it was a Canon, for some saucy specification and standard imagery), then my first tripod, and then my own Tascam recorder. And wow – had I ever truly felt like a journalist before that moment? It was questionable.

I covered a concert for Brad Paisley, Jenny & Tyler, and (my third concert for) Juxtaposition, one of the all-male, award-winning a cappella groups of Virginia Tech – the group is incredibly gifted, and I did shamelessly cry during their rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You.”

I also cried from stress, from heartache and from finals this year; I’m a college girl with a lot on her plate, like many of my other classmates, so I tell myself it’s justified.

I survived finals, aided by my lovely friends from Starbucks, Keurig, Mill Mountain, EspressOasis, Bollo’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Also, before you ask, yes, I do take coffee with my coffee.

I snapplaused to poetry in a safe place, and yes, I did love it.

IMG_3548I experienced New York City at Christmas, standing on top of Rockefeller Center in the middle of the night, with my sister and best friend.

I screamed over the madness that was a near upset in Met Life Stadium, four days before Christmas, as the undefeated Panthers nabbed three (unbelievable) points in overtime over the New York Giants – still cringing.

I applied for an internship with The New York Times during the first round of finals weeks, and two days later received an interview, then an offer to join the team as Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Representative.

I discovered a budding love for videography, which I fed through the creation of multiple, amateur videos of friends and promotional footage for the Times.

IMG_5334I learned to make time for the friendships that meant something to me, and without anticipating it, met a few new friends in the process.

I wrote an article that went viral over the time span of one weekend. It was about Disney Channel. I was not ashamed.

I got a bad hair cut, on a whim, and cried before reaching the car. I’ve since grown out the bad haircut, and it’s okay now.

I rode on a bus for 14 hours to Panama City where I got to play with steel wool on the beach at night, feet sinking into the sand, laughing into the warmth of the sparks, and tucking away the memory for future story telling.

I interviewed Paula Deen in Roanoke when she visited to promote her new furniture line at Grand Home Furnishings. She was incredibly sweet, and I was given the opportunity to share the story of how she overcame her struggle with agoraphobia.

I interviewed the New York Times’ best selling author, critically-acclaimed poet, Grammy nominee, and Virginia Tech professor, Nikki Giovanni, whose humble words of encouragement will forever imprint a perspective upon me I hope to share with others.

IMG_2483I met a boy in line at a coffee shop one night, impromptu and unexpected, who ended up sitting down and talking with me until the shop closed at midnight. That boy is now my boyfriend, and he is incredible.

I witnessed Elton John live in concert, belting out the high-pitched lyrics to Benny and the Jets with hundreds of other women.

I went kayaking for a few hours during the second round of finals week with my best friends, and it was one of the best few hours of my sophomore year.

I consumed far too many caramel cheesecake milkshakes from Cookout.

I watched my best friend graduate from Virginia Tech this spring, pick up her diploma, and hug me through tears and the daunting, ringing thought of ‘….wow, this is real, isn’t it?’

I received a phone call from a starstruck little sister who was named the valedictorian of her high school, of whom I am incredibly proud and look forward to attending school with next year at Virginia Tech, as a freshman in engineering.

IMG_3443And finally, this year I decided I was going to fulfill my dream of becoming a writer in New York City, who is proud of her work, changing lives for the better, and bringing a voice to the profound and voiceless people of today.

That’s what I did this year. It was a year of many firsts, some enjoyable, others less-than-bearable, but overall, it was a year of adventurous and unexpected self-discovery!

Stay tuned for more articles and memorable adventures from Emily this summer!

A Lesson From Long Lake

A year ago, I was given a gray t-shirt depicting two bears, a mother and baby, across the chest. They were printed in white, and the words “Long Lake” stretched beneath them like a path. It was a gift from my boyfriend, Robby, who visited me where I worked as a camp counselor. He had just returned from a trip to his family’s cabin on Long Lake’s shore. The lake is tucked safely away in Adirondack State Preserve, located in upstate New York.
As I unfolded the t-shirt, stories began to fly.
“You would love it there, Hannah,” he said. “My sisters and I went there all the time as kids. We used to pick blueberries from the bushes outside and my dad would make incredible pancakes.”
Long Lake sounded like something out of a fairy tale. Water so still that you could hear a far-off whisper, tiny islands with names like Pancake and Feather, chipmunks eating popcorn kernels right out of your hand.
“Next summer, we’ll go,” he said.
This past July, his statement came to fruition. We made the twelve-hour haul up to Long Lake with Robby’s three roommates. Toward the end of the drive, the air got cooler, the sky got brighter, and the tiny service bars on our phones began to drop.

IMG_0656“The cabin’s pretty isolated,” said Robby. “There’s no cell service or electricity.” He had said it before, but as buildings turned to houses and houses gave way to trees, the word “isolated” began to crystallize around us. I looked at my increasingly useless phone, realizing with a twinge of shame just how much time I let my world shrink to a five-and-a-half inch screen. Scrolling through Twitter and Youtube had become a go-to activity in between daily events. While I once painted or wrote or did yoga at random times during the day, I now found myself increasingly complacent, drawn into the hypnotic, humorous worlds behind the square-shaped apps. My battery was nearly dead, my laptop was back in Virginia, and I smiled calmly at the thought of being unplugged. Every few minutes, another phone would lose service and its owner would join the growing conversation.
A grocery trip and a boat ride later, we were floating up to the cabin in the suddenly-pouring rain. Two people jumped out of the boat and secured it to the dock with ropes, and the five of us ferried in backpacks, hiking boots, and cases of beer. When we were done, I walked back outside to look at where I would be living for a week. It was exactly as Robby had described. Wide planks of dark brown pinewood formed the walls of the cabin, and a green roof the color of aged copper stood in a high triangle. Simple, unadorned windows lined the sides of every wall, and a small deck wrapped around a corner. The entire thing was hidden shyly behind pine trees and blueberry bushes.
“What do you think?” Robby asked when I went back inside.
I smiled and said, “This place is perfect.”

IMG_0671And so began the delightful withdrawal from civilization. This particular group, excluding myself, was made up of video game enthusiasts. Gaming is used to bond and entertain, but also to fill the time in a way similar to what my iPhone had become. With zero access to anything electronic, the hours were filled with cooking, fishing, boat rides, and swinging in hammocks. It wasn’t until the fourth day there that I realized how much my lack of a cell phone had impacted me. It was the first time since our arrival that the weather had been anything but clear and sunny, and someone dusted off the board game “Risk.” I had never played Risk due to a deep and genuine loathing for strategic board games. I was handed dozens of tiny red pieces and told to learn as we went.
Playing a board game on a rainy day is an instance where I may frequently check out of the game and into my Twitter account, but I was left with no other option but fully engaging. I loved the game and almost won. Each person spent the whole time laughing and strategizing and pleading and making bets, as opposed to wasting significant chunks of attention on cell phone screens.

IMG_0657Conversations throughout that week were more meaningful, not split between a person and a device. With no alternative for distraction, we learned to really listen to each other, and creative outdoor activities replaced what would certainly be a Netflix binge for some. In a way, it was heartbreaking to see how different things could be without the widespread addiction to technology. It does not take a genius to distinguish between cyberspace and real life, but I required a brief withdrawal to observe the sheer power that my phone has over me.
Since that week of quiet water and leaping fish, stunning sunsets and group cooking efforts, I have tried to be less attached to my phone. My goal is to only go to it when I truly need to communicate with another person. When I find my eyes roaming automatically toward it, I try to catch myself. I breathe and picture a birch tree surrounded by blueberry bushes. It’s not always successful. It’s tough when I’m alone or when others around me are absorbed in screens of their own. However, my prayer is that people will collectively rediscover the value of human interaction, the value of silence, even boredom. Flicking off the screens gives me an incentive and venue for reflection, creativity, and friendship building. With this in mind, I pull on my Long Lake t-shirt and leave the phone at home.

 

Written by Hannah Bridges