After Eighteen

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We launched the After 18 series last fall, with a group of 2013 graduates who sent regular dispatches about their experiences in college, work, or travel. This year, we begin again with graduates from the class of 2014. We’re hearing first from Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz, a recent graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and a freshman at Harvard University. Nathaniel was an intern in the newsroom at The Times for eight months, and had been at Harvard (where he will be studying molecular biochemistry) for three days when he filed this dispatch.

“She’s skating in the next Olympics,” said one of the girls seated in the circle, pointing across the Yard at another incoming freshman. “And she’s performed piano in Carnegie Hall three times.” Other members of the circle murmured approval. One boy, a champion rower, added that this same prodigy had spent her summer in a prestigious Cambridge lab, working on cellular transport channels.

photo_1Throughout high school I had heard of these wunderkinds: seemingly mythical peers, out there, somewhere, conquering the world. Now, surrounded by them, I felt honored, but at the same time, intimidated. The boy on my left won the international science fair, twice. On my right, a girl from India, also on her way to the Olympics (for shooting).

Me? I write pretty sometimes.

I expected that. And I expect it will intensify when classes start in a few days, packed with some of the world’s sharpest students. What I didn’t anticipate was the diversity. In that circle of 11 incoming freshman in Harvard Yard, several are on full, financial, need-based scholarships; five are foreign citizens; and only two are white males. Those numbers hold roughly true across the entire class of almost 2,000. This is an astounding achievement in a country where 30 years ago higher education was dominated by rich, white, almost-always-Christian men.

I also didn’t comprehend the effect of social media on my incoming class. Instead of entering a campus full of strangers, like my parents or even freshmen from five years ago had done, I was met by dozens of students from all over the world who I had messaged or Skyped with regularly since December, students who I already considered friends before we had even met in person.

Five of us got frozen yogurt tonight (three ounces free with a student ID!) and sat in a courtyard just beyond the gates of the college. We listened to a street guitarist playing Bob Dylan and squeezed onto a bench beneath an array of mellow lighting. No one mentioned their international accolades or aid work or perfect SAT scores. Instead we noted the premature chill of the air and laughed again at jokes made months before, when we were still thousands of miles apart. Now together, we appreciated the momentary perfection: a few friends united for the first time, enjoying a simple, beautiful evening.

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Advice, thoughts and regrets from some members of the class of 2013, after a year away.

From left, Jacob Lawrence, Isabella Bennett, Erin Sullivan and Sarah Thompson — Photo by Michael Cummo

After 18 has been following the lives of four 2013 graduates as they made their way for the year after school — in college, developing a video game, traveling. This collection features the last dispatches from Jacob Lawrence, Sara Thompson, Erin Sullivan, and Bella Bennett. Next month, we’ll introduce the next After 18 group.

So, Summer is Finally Here!

By Jacob Lawrence

I’ve done it. I walked into my first year of college, independence and freedom and made it out the other side and best of all I did it all on my own! Okay, maybe not all on my own: there were the two or three calls home for some advice on living alone including how to properly do laundry. Also, thanks to my discovery of the amazing invention that is delivery food, there were about 15-20 calls home for money. But besides that it was all on my own.

Jacob Lawrence
Jacob Lawrence

Growing up, one of the most common things I had ever heard about college was that it’s where you “find yourself.” When I was young, the naïve me heard this and thought “but I’m not lost. How can you find yourself?” When I finally was old enough to understand what it meant I still didn’t pay it much mind. I was in high school and thought that I had already found who I was inside and out and I was comfortable and secure enough (as secure as a teenager with acne could be) to be happy with who I was. It has been a full year since I first set foot on campus during orientation; and as I think back to whom that Jacob was, the musician, student, and athlete who thought that he was already on top of the world, and compare him to the one who just finished school this year, I see two completely different people on two completely different paths.

As I think back to all the good times I have had over the last 10 months, I can really see how most of them, even the bad ones, have changed me and taught me important lessons that I can use to improve my life. For example life lesson #1: learn to budget your money. Take it from someone who is lucky enough to have the #1 ranked food service in the country, you will get sick of the food in your dining hall; not to mention there’s always a trip or a concert coming soon and if you call home to mom once every three days asking for money, she will eventually tell you “no.” So make sure that when those times come you’re financially prepared. Lesson #2 is that college is one of the only times where you are not only exposed to an infinite number of opportunities, but you can take advantage of them at your leisure. So in my opinion, you should join all the clubs and take all the trips you can to find what you really like. I personally found happiness in my fraternity. From youth groups to community service to sports teams I have always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, so a fraternity to me seemed like the best thing for me and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join one. I love my fraternity brothers and I would do anything for them.

So here I am, sitting at home on one of my rare days off from work and there are two things on my mind. The first is that working three jobs this summer is the worst idea by far that I have ever had in my life. And the second is all the awesome things that I have set up both socially and academically for myself this coming year. I have set my schedule with fun and engaging classes including a public speaking class which I’m super excited for, not to mention that I’m done with class at noon on Fridays!

In addition to excitement about my classes (which my mother and father will be happy to read about) I’m also planning snowboarding trips for the winter and my fraternity is planning a trip to Canada in the spring. I can say that without a doubt my freshman year was the best year of my life so far. But I think sophomore year and every year after this will be even better.

(Past dispatches here.)

Still 17

By Sara Thompson

(written in late June.)

Sarah Thompson
Sarah Thompson

I’ve been back on the Island for one month. I still don’t know what day it is. Nor did I really know in Portland. Though, in Portland it was wake up and go to class at 8 am, four days a week and then slave away in the studios for the next three and repeat. With self-discipline, I pulled off my overly ambitious projects while wandering Portland every now and then seeking a new coffee shop to spend hours in, reading about science of course.

On Island, my concept of the day is far worse. I know what day it is when my alarm goes off at 7:20 in the morning on Sundays. Sundays I show my work at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals. Starting in July, I’ll know what day it is twice because I’ll start showing my work on Thursdays.

Being back at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals and seeing everyone bright and ready to start the season is calming and refreshing. Dozens of warm, friendly artists came over to me to ask of my artistic adventure 3,000 miles away and especially to see my new pieces of jewelry from the new techniques I’ve learned while I was away.

The truth is that I only made two pieces of jewelry while I was away at Oregon College of Art and Craft. I had no new work at the Memorial Day shows. Modestly, I shared with the other artists that I’ve taken a big step in my metal career as I’ve begun to branch out into the world of sculptures. Some readers who have followed my writings I imagine are thinking, of course you make sculptures! On the other hand, the busy weeks of the festivals, I’m cranking out 15-50 pieces of one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry pieces. It’s a completely different change of pace. The new direction I am taking has caused me to reflect deeply on it, especially when I wrote the articles for this paper. The opportunity the MV Times has given me is extraordinary. This opportunity to write for After 18 (I’m still 17…) has allowed me to share with readers not just: “Oh, I go to art school.” Rather, “Here, I want to share with you my process: what I create, how I create it, and why I create my pieces.” My sculptures, in particular, are pieces that come from deep within me and resonate closely with me. They are both part of my artistic and intellectual nature that drives me to create and to learn about the universe around us. My sculptures have allowed me to marry those two natures to share with others to interact with them so that they appreciate my craft, but also learn something new. Writing these articles has allowed me to bring viewers along of the process, and hopefully, learn many new things or a different perspective.

For the summer, I am taking a break from my sculptures and fully throwing myself into my jewelry work. I missed making jewelry. I missed painting with molten glass enamel and creating hundreds of settings. My wrists may disagree, but it’s good to be settling back in. Arriving on Island, I wasn’t quite ready to start designing; I strongly believe that you cannot force creativity. I wasn’t ready. My summer project was to build a website. However, at my first Artisans festival this season, I was approached about wholesale orders.

Wholesale. Oh boy. More on that later.

Needless to say, I avoided jewelry and slaved on my website, sara-thompson-metalsmith.com.

I made something that’s not made out of metal. My website allows me to share with viewers both branches of my work — jewelry and sculptures — and have a shop built into the site. Viewers can learn about my enameling technique and handcrafted jewelry while seeing what drives my sculptures and how I made each one.

One part of the site that is being updated is my series section. A year ago I started a Black and White series. In this series, I am exploring the power of contrast. How does different amounts of black and white with the safety of grays affect the overall feeling of the piece. I enjoy this series the most, in addition to that I wear mostly black and white and that it is my best seller — some pieces sell off my neck!

Fast forwarding to this week, I finally felt creative, very creative, 18 hours straight of creativity (with only two cups of coffee, mind you.) After feeling not my greatest, I forced myself into my studio only emerging to get more mapp gas (gas for my enameling torch.) I ran out of mapp gas, twice. Within this creative Monday, I started two dozen pieces. My wrists were and are not happy. Tuesday followed with an overly productive day as I finished the last solderings on the settings, set the enameled pieces, and began the polishing process. It was only a 12-hour productive day.

My two new series are enameled-focused. Enamel is a kind of powdered glass that is fired to create a glossy surface of glass. I have nearly 200 colors, but I mostly use two dozen. Traditionally enameling is done in a kiln; however, I torch-fire mine. Torch-firing allows more variables to affect the glass. I enjoy torch-firing because I can then paint with the glass while it’s molten to create truly unique pieces. One new series, titled Growth, ecompasses single bright colors against a white background. The colors are swirling up from the bottom as if they’re growing vines.

My other series from the concerning overly productive Monday was a result of working with the enamel in a new way. I think I might glass this series Glass Pulling, though I’m not sure yet. I was literally pulling the glass. I began to ball up the enamel while it was molten and work with gravity to pull the enameling as if it were mozzarella cheese. This results in creating thin thread-like glass enamel that I then place onto the main enamel piece. It’s a difficult but is enticing me to trying glass blowing as soon as I can. (I wrote a research paper on the thermodynamics and molecular physics of glass blowing. I’m not sure if other art students loved it as much as I did.)

The last three days I have pushed out two dozen new pieces and it’s not even fourth of July yet, nut that will be the rest of my summer- happily creating in my studio and reading multiple books a week while upsetting my wrists. I’m settling back into my groove. I look forward to meeting new faces at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals and creating close customer relationships as I share with others my artistic processes.

I’m on the Vineyard until say August 31. August 31 is my last Artisan Festival for the season. Then I have to go back to Portland to start my second year in my BFA. I’ll be learning new metal techniques such as casting and electroforming while starting another studio concentration in wood working…because why not make functional art?

Past dispatches here.

Learned a lot

By Erin Sullivan

The past year has had its ups and downs, with Driftwood’s Kickstarter being fully funded, switching out artists, personal endeavors with moving and the (not so) shocking revelation that every college isn’t going to accept me simply because of my experience with game development so far…and in the end, I wouldn’t have done or wanted it any different.

Erin Sullivan
Erin Sullivan

I’ve learned a lot from my time outside of school, mostly life experiences — things you can’t really experience in the classroom or in a lecture hall. If I had been in school, I don’t think I would’ve picked up on a lot of those lessons, I probably would’ve been too distracted by classes and work and ignored the real problem, only to run into it again later on.

Driftwood, while helping me stay motivated and busy, which in a sense has kept me happy, has also made me equally frustrated and angry at times. Spending the past two years on it, and only having so little to show for it, at least in terms of how much of the game is actually completed, or how much art is done is unsettling to me. Although I’ve learned over the months that work that involves a lot of people will always take time, there’s a reason studios take months and months to get games done. Quality takes time.

But…things are getting better, both for the game and myself. This fall I’ll be attending Becker College majoring in Game Design, and my basic plan is to finish Driftwood during my first year of school, and work onwards, using my connections and friendships at the school to start another long-term project.

Driftwood itself has had a few changes, for the better, in the past few weeks. We’ve changed our artists, so we have a more consistent style; we’ve managed to acquire a background artist, which helps a lot with making the semi-fictional world the game takes place in more believable. (Basically Martha’s Vineyard in 10 or so years.) Simply put, the game takes place in a world where the Charter School has converted into a full boarding-high school, with dorms and all the like around the campus.

A fictional boarding school at the Charter School.
A fictional boarding school at the Charter School.

I recently attended the 2014 Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School graduation, and it made me realize how much time had really passed. Just a year ago I had been standing on that stage, and it didn’t feel nearly as long as a year, but…time is relative. It’s just a thing humans made up to calculate when the best time of year it would be to plant crops, or when they could hunt migratory animals that move about between winter and summer.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to get at is that “time” passes quickly. Each day rolls into a week, and each week rolls into a month, and eventually, a whole year has passed.

Use your time wisely, and enjoy yourself.

Nothing gold can stay

By Bella Bennett

The final dispatch!

One of my favorite (yet entirely un-optimistic) sentiments has always been Robert Frost’s “Nothing gold can stay.” This year it meant a multitude of things for me. While my year of travel and adventure looks glorious on paper, it’s been somewhat more turbulent in the family department. We’ve felt the heartbreak of both cancer and Alzheimer’s, and I’ve begun to understand how magical the gift of family is. It’s the worst thing in the world to be helpless when a loved one’s health is threatened.

Isabella Bennett
Isabella Bennett

Before I left last summer, a good friend of mine told me, “the struggle is real,” and Ben Dwane, you were too right. However, I’m learning now to pick my struggles, as they have a tendency to grow quickly in number — similar in my mind to a population of poisonous spiders, which undoubtedly reproduce more quickly than I’d like to imagine. Unfortunately most struggles can’t be squashed as a spider can, and I’ve learned instead to attempt to balance the struggles I face with moments of fun and joy. As my past articles have revealed, I’ve been very lucky with the amount of joyful memories I’ve made over the past year, and I’d say that for the time being, I’ve thankfully tipped the struggle scale towards happiness instead of despair.

The past year, however, has taught me that time is a thing to be cherished. I don’t mean time as a measure of length, but instead as a measure of significant moments. While I struggle to pretend that everything is normal as my grandmother, who is one of my most inspiring role models, now forgets my name, I realize that while I don’t have more time with the woman she once was, we did have many great moments in the past — reading and writing stories, exploring nature, and just being together — and those times were a beautiful gift. I hope that I will be able to find the value that I do in those memories, in present moments, and that I will remember to always be grateful for what I have in front of me at any instant. I hope that everyone will. While some things have deteriorated, other glorious things have begun, like the lives of my brand-new twin cousins Lilly and Mira, and every moment that I spend with them, I feel lucky, because through my grandmother’s illness, I have learned the value of the moment, and I cannot thank her enough for that realization.

Bella Bennett and her grandmother.
Bella Bennett and her grandmother.

The past year has been a big growing year for me (I went from 5’6½” to 5’6¾” !) In all seriousness, I feel that I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I think that honestly I’ve recognized quite a bit of this growth through writing, and through these excerpts into my life especially. Writing for The Times has been a very positive and productive experience for me, and I look forward to writing more articles throughout the rest of the summer. I hope that everyone has a summer full of family, sunshine, happiness, and love.

Year one comes to an end.

Bella, back in Italy after freshman year. — Photo by Brian Temple

After 18 is an ongoing series written by four graduates from the class of 2013. This week’s dispatch is the third from Bella Bennett, who attends Skidmore College. Bella studied in London during her first semester. She just finished her Freshman year at Skidmore’s main campus, in Saratoga Springs, NY. This was written on June 10.

I don’t think that I think like the majority of other people do. Planned things seem to sneak up on me. I am a day-to-day thinker. In fact, I am more of a thing-to-thing thinker. My journal is full of daily to do lists, and because I seem only to have the capacity to think about the events of the current day — and usually one at a time — none of these to-do lists are ever checked off. This was an okay strategy to get me through this past week of finals, but after my environmental studies final, I walked out of the classroom and back to my dorm (which I actually had the forethought to pack up at midnight the night before as a study break) and realized that I could actually leave at that very moment. It is really weird to walk into a room that you have lived in for an entire semester (for most everyone else it has been a year now, but again, I’m the one who spent freshman year in London) and see white walls where posters and tapestries used to hang. It’s eerie.

Venice, then back to the Vineyard.
Venice, then back to the Vineyard.

So as I was lugging the last of my belongings out to my car, I realized that I could make the last boat. Until that moment, I really hadn’t had a spare moment to consider coming home, and I became really excited. I had planned on staying at a friends’ house in Western Mass to break up the drive, but I finished my last final early, and contrary to common thought that the boat is an inconvenience, the thought of racing down to Woods Hole and catching the last ferry seemed a glorious adventure.

So after I threw a few final things into the back of my car, I left campus. That is a weird feeling on its own. I’ll likely never set foot in that room again, never live with my roommate again, never shower in that grey cage again. Bummer. Regardless, it’s a pretty jarring thought. So, being of the completely technology reliant generation, I typed “Martha’s Vineyard” into my GPS. “Martha’s Vineyard Ferry,” popped up, and I clicked on it and hit the road. Three hours into singing  along with the radio and glaring at rude drivers (most of whom also looked like college students) I got off at my designated exit.

But…this was not 495, this was exit 10A…to Rhode Island. My preset radio stations from home, which had only just started playing, began to fizzle into white noise, and subconsciously I began to wonder exactly which route I was taking. After about forty-five minutes of Rhode Island traffic and other fun things, I started to really doubt my choice of destination. When the GPS reported that I was ten minutes away from what was supposed to be Woods Hole, and I recognized nothing, I finally realized my mistake. I’d chosen the New Bedford fast ferry as my destination.

Awesome. Luckily, I still made the last boat!

After that roundabout journey, being home was incredible. But again, kind of jarring. It’s weird to finally learn how to live (and drive!) off Island, where there are two lanes on the majority of roads, and come back to meandering dirt roads. However, I only had two days to enjoy the beauty of the buds that were just beginning to burst into that soft green spring foliage that I so love. Saratoga had yet to even bud when I left, and the day I got home, I knew I’d miss my favorite seasonal activity; biking down from Chilmark through West Tisbury the day after all the leaves have come out. I love the first day, because each leaf is still so tender and soft, like a luna moth’s wing. However, I am not missing this glorious reality for anything short of amazing either.

I am currently back abroad. It’s been such a wild semester. When this series began, I wrote my first article from the sloping hills outside of Caccamo, Sicily. Now, I write to you from a hotel room in Venice; where water laps against the side of the building just two stories below, and the constant sound of boat traffic lulls me to sleep about six hours before I even consider turning in. The water is nothing like the clear, salty sea that sorrounds our beloved island, but the city is incredible.

I have only been here for two days, and already I feel both acquainted and attached to this city. I have also noticed something quite intriguing. As I am sure that you know, there are no cars in Venice. Not one. And, while pudgy Italians are quite rare, I have yet to see a single overweight local. I presume that these go hand in hand, thus providing me another reason (beyond my environmental enthusiasm, which I expressed in my last article) for me to ride my bike everywhere this summer. I know that I can feel contempt for the chains of bikers that line the sides of the roads in the summer (and never fail to make me late for everything) but nevertheless, lets all make a little pledge to be slightly less irritated in the future. Biking is good for the world and as we all know, for better or for worse, the waves of tourists swell larger each year, and we must be careful not to give our athletic visitors love taps as they explore our lush and endlessly beautiful home.

However, before the season really picks up, revel in the unwinding of the buds, the opening of the flowers, and the buzzing of our fantastic Bumble Bee population for me! In the mean time, I’ll attempt to uncover the secrets of Venice and I’ll be sure to let you in on a few in my next piece! A presto mi amici!

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Exploring the idea of space. — Sara Thompson

Sarah-Thompson-protraitAfter 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year.This week’s dispatch is from Sara Thompson, who writes from Portland, Oregon, where she is attending the Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC). This piece was written in mid-May.

It’s not what you think. Finals in art school are a funny thing. I don’t cram the night before to learn a whole semester’s worth of information to regurgitate on a timed two hour exam. Instead, I work on finals for three to five weeks in advance – five weeks of finals.

To put this in perspective: you’re going to work on these pieces for weeks and up to a hundred hours each and then the class is going to critique each one for half an hour. They’re going to discuss your craftsmanship, your concept, your ability to convey your ideas, your use of time while you defend your every choice. OCAC is among the more rigorous and respected art schools in Oregon which I did not first realize.

It’s not that bad actually. I love what I do. I’m lucky. I look forward going to class. Time flies by when I’m in the studio. (Granted, I don’t have a concept of time to begin with because I’m usually wrapped up in my mind and studio in my geeky microcosmos.) I choose to create pieces that I love and want to make to share with people. I want to engage viewers in my handcrafted and educational pieces. For two of my finals, I continued to combine science and art while in another I combined my metalsmithing and a personal conundrum.

For  my drawing final, I had to create a series. I haven’t talked to you about my relationship with 2D work aside from last time with my sketchbook. Honestly, I don’t enjoy drawing. I dread it. I’m the slowest in the class. Janice Frame, former drawing and painting teacher at MVRHS, saw my ability to slave and cater to my drawings for months and barely having the ability to finish half of the assignments. She respected my style and let me work my heart and hands out. College  – it’s not the same; however, I’ve found a way to cope – pointillism and stippling. Pointillism (color) and stippling (black and white) are techniques that use a repetition of dots to create images. Your brain from far away blends the dots together to create shading, shapes, and values. This tedious technique is how I cope with my drawing class. I do all my assignments in dots, yes dots with .25 to .5 mm micron pens. (Please try to picture actually how small that is. Smaller than the periods in this text.) I like to do dots, over and over, and over…. for hours. I chose to do my final series illustrating revolutionary mathematical and scientific equations showing a simple picture with the equations underneath. With  a black .25 mm micron pen, I worked on a five 11 x 14 inch series. (The brain prefers groups to be of odd numbers.) I wanted to take all the words out and just have the equation and a picture to show the viewer this is what the equation means. Underneath, I had an explanation of each one if the viewer wanted to learn more. All black and white with simple, clean line work.

Hypothetically, I was given four weeks to work on my metals final. What did I do? I avoided it to the point that not only pointillism was more appealing, but I became ahead in all my classes, except for metals. This is college, right? It had to do with words and I wasn’t too keen on dealing with designing a word assignment in the middle of my five week marathon of finals. The repercussion of my actions caused me to have to present my designs and create my piece in eight days. I had to find words that had at least three different meanings and then represent one literally or abstractly in the piece. After avoiding the words I found, I stared down my list. I settled on one word, but my mind was blank. I had no designs. I couldn’t picture, crystal clearly, what I was going to make. Over the next two days, I mulled over ideas — images — in my mind. I saw something. It became less and less foggy. I knew what I was going to create. I started the uphill part of the marathon.

Space: a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied; each of the four gaps between the five lines of a staff; the physical universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere; a mathematical concept generally regarded as a set of points having some specified structure.

I was going to create a container that had delicate musical notes on the side and a handle with a meteorite set in. Mathematicians represent 3D objects on what is called a complex graph. A complex graph has three axes – the normal x and y used in algebra plus a z axis, which cause the graph to go from 2D to 3D.

I etched a complex graph on the inside of my container. The corners of the container represent the points of where the mathematicians would find the solid (my container.) Then, there would also be space inside my container. On top of my container is a meteorite from space that I bought from Karen. As for my last definition, I created it to have two meanings. I created the grand staff to represent the spaces between the bars and some notes. As for the musical notes, I wanted those to mean something relating to space. I converted the golden ratio to musical notes. The golden ratio is 6.18033… This ratio is found everywhere in nature from the food we eat to the galaxies. (It’s famously found in the Fibonacci spiral and sequence. 1 + 1 = 2; 2 + 1 = 3; 3 +2 = 5….55 + 89 = 144; 144 : 89 = 1.6179.. The farther along the ratio is in the sequence, the more accurate it is to the golden ratio.)

For my 3D design final, I had to do a body extension project. The piece had to attach to the body, enhance the body, and stand alone as an art piece in addition to having a strong concept. I chose to create gauges through silversmithing, glass enameling, and to deal with a personal issue. Gauges, plugs, tunnels are larger than normal size holes commonly found in the ears, made through a process of stretching a healed ear piercing. My concept was to explore the idea of how people react to body modification with something that is handcrafted with a precious metal. I have gauges – ½ inch. Sometimes in a regular conversation, I’m talking to someone and they stare at my earrings and my gauges. Their facial expression changes and they proceed to treat me differently. Both on a good note and a bad note. I’ve made new friends, lined up custom work and I’ve had adults say I’m a bad influence and that I don’t have class. I wanted to handcraft something that’s one of a kind with sterling silver and my unique glass work to see how people would react with pre-judgmental views as my final.

Now that my finals are finished, I can relax and comfortably explore the city at my leasure. I plan on burying my head in all the science books I’ve been compulsively buying, and catching up on my weekly science magazines that I’m 13 weeks behind on. Two of my closest friends from the Island, Ben and Jillian, came to visit back in February and now are moving here in the upcoming weeks. It’s sad that I will only see them for a few days before I fly back East. It’s funny. I’m flying a red eye the night of the 22nd, probably arriving on Island mid afternoon on the 23rd and then next day I start doing the Vineyard Artisans Festivals up at the Old Grand Hall to sell my jewelry work for Memorial Day weekend, Sundays in June, and Sundays and Thursday in July and August. I’ll be jet-lagged, sleep deprived, and in a different timezone so come by and say hi.

It’s Over….Almost

Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish. — courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year. This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communication major with a minor in Spanish.

It’s spring time! You all know what that means: warm weather, shorts and tank tops (my personal favorite thing to wear), and students seem to shed their conventional anti-social and bitter personalities brought on by the cold weather like a chrysalis and suddenly everyone is a social butterfly. But wait there’s more. As every student 14 or older will tell you before you can officially break free from the shackles that is higher education there’s one last obstacle: Final Exams. And a high school final exam doesn’t compare at all to a college final exam. No matter if it is take-home or in class, the only good college final is no college final.

I have a couple of regular “pen and paper” exams to take care of but it seems this time the cards have also dealt me a take-home exam. At first I thought that this was awesome. That’s one less crowded, hot, windowless lecture hall that I didn’t have to show up to. And best of all I didn’t have to study! When I finally sat down with my laptop to take the exam I didn’t think it was so awesome. I figured that since I was such a great writer, and I have multiple A+ papers and three other articles in this newspaper — which I am being paid for — to prove it, that I could do some brief research and review of past materials for supporting evidence and then fudge my way through the rest. What had never crossed my mind was that since it is “open book” (I can use any notes and the textbook in order to answer the questions) that she can ask questions about super specific concepts and use terms which we had not covered since week two; and she had no reason to expect anything but the best. And you know what the best part was? As if she had read my mind and figured out what my plan was, each answer had to be 350 words or less! To put this into perspective, everything that you have read so far from the title to this sentence here is about 360 words.

“It’s impossible”, I thought as I read the first question. I had a paragraph’s worth of words to write an intelligent and thorough answer about how the problems plaguing our environment are also in fact social problems and, more specifically, how each environmental problem affects different social and racial groups around the world. Considering that problems regarding the environment, society or race by themselves is a topic big enough for me to write a book on, it goes without saying that I needed to painstakingly read as much of that textbook as I could in order to find the key points which tied the three together. For those of you who remember having to do those reading open response questions during the MCAS exams growing up it was the grown up version of those. Having to read over and over huge chapters of this textbook…what’s worse is that I couldn’t “mark-up” or highlight the book because I need the book to look as new as possible so the person or company buying it off of me in a week will give me the most money for it, which unfortunately won’t be anywhere near how much I paid for it. But that’s also another blog entry for another day. But after two cans of Monster Energy Drink, a large Domino’s pizza and a whopping six and a half hours in a small cubicle with no windows I finished all four questions. You heard me right. It took a high-school’s school day to finish four questions. Welcome to higher education.

As a former all-division sprinter in track and field (side note: none of you realize how much it kills me to say the word former but that’s a blog entry for another day) it’s easiest for me to look at my academics in terms of a 200-meter sprint. You are full of energy and excitement in the beginning and are convinced that you are going to do well. About a third of the way through the “race” you lose focus a bit worrying about what everyone else is doing. Then you gain focus at the halfway mark and are determined to finish up strong; not realizing just how exhausting that last 100 meters is going to be. Right about now I am at the final 20 meter mark: I am so close to the finish but I am exhausted and just want to quit but I know that I have to do everything in my power to finish strong and beat that final opponent. That opponent at this time is the deadlines which seem to keep stacking up. How am I managing, you ask? I’m leading this race, but let’s just say that I will be the first to jump for joy when I cross that finish line. It better be about 65 degrees and sunny when I come home. Fire up the truck pops! I see a nice spot on Norton Point, some grilled food and a soda in my immediate future.

Erin Sullivan, a 2013 graduate of the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, has turned a lifelong love of video games into a career. Now he's headed to college in the fall. — Photo by Eli Dagostino

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year.This week’s dispatch is the fourth from Erin Sullivan, who is working on a video game and contemplating his next move.

The past few weeks have been fairly busy for me, mostly with a mixture of college preparation for next fall and some large changes to Driftwood. This fall I’ll be attending Becker College in Worcester for Game Design, and I’m really excited to get back to school and to start from scratch again, I’m a goal based person, and only having a few potential goals (that are somewhat dependent on other people) here at home have had its toll on my motivation. So, being able to get back to a school setting and challenging myself would be nice.

In terms of Driftwood, we’ve recently switched a few roles around, moving an artist who wasn’t able to keep up with the workload to different duties and hiring a new artist and, a background artist, which will overall make the entirety of the project more professional and polished looking. I’m really happy about everything that’s been happening with the project, and next dispatch I hope to have a lot of pictures to showcase what’s been going on with it all.

But again, I want to thank everyone who’s supported me and my team for the past two years, since this May, on the 16th will be the two-year anniversary of the start of the project. It means the world to me that my friends, family, and random people I don’t even know on the Internet have supported me throughout my journey, especially my parents. Being an artist and a content creator is a major risk in terms of a profession, but I have faith that I’ll be successful and I’ll really be able to leave something behind me that’s memorable.

Being a content creator and an artist is one of the hardest things imaginable, at least in my eyes. The goal of someone who creates is to leave the person experiencing it with a definite memory, something they’ll always remember, even if only vaguely. Memories are the most important aspect to the human mind in the long run and being able to leave an impact on an individual’s memory, let alone their emotions, or their outlook on life is the biggest achievement a creator can obtain.

Human beings are delicate and very complex creatures; clearly showcased with how we separate ourselves from animals, or from the nature around us, when at the end of the day we’re all made out of the same atoms. All of the same elements and compounds in any mammal have ties to our own, yet…something about us is drastically different…

We have a memory, feelings, thoughts and a soul capable of fully expressing itself to others of our species. We can connect with each other, or with stories that we create. We love, cherish, fantasize…we have ambitions and goals, hopes and fears, we appreciate and at times, we obsess over some of the smallest, most meaningless things in the greater scheme of the entire existence of everything…but at the end of the day, the small quirks and aspects of everything we as a human do, is what make us so unique…

Each and every person on the planet is different and no person is the same. To be a successful artist, you have to find that small essence of individualism – you have to find what truly makes you…you.

After you’ve found yourself, you have to open yourself to the world…You must be prepared for negative criticism, ready for people to belittle and misinterpret your attempt at self expression. You’ve got to be ready for disgust, hatred, and ignorance, because all of this ties in along with our uniqueness as human beings. As perfect of creatures as we make ourselves out to be, we seem to try our best to prove the exact opposite with our bigotry and hypocrisy…

That’s why, I as an artist, a content creator, a writer, a producer, a developer, want to change people’s outlooks on life; I want to open their minds with stories that could potentially melt even the coldest of hearts. My dream, my unique lust as a human being is to be able to inspire, and to be remembered by at least one other person as someone who made the world a better place through what I love doing.

And at the end of the day, truly achieving that deep human connection – the only thing that potentially makes us any different than any other animal on the planet is the most difficult. Especially for a living.

Hopefully what I’ve said here has at least made you think a little about your own life, and possibly inspired you to follow your own unique dreams and aspirations.

Because, well, that’s what truly makes you, you.

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Running to save the planet, or at least big cats: Bella Bennett, center, with fellow Skidmore freshmen Melissa Flack (left) and Megan Macomber, before a run at the school's "Cheeta Chase," a 5K that raises money to help conserve tigers, panthers and cheetahs. — Courtesy Bella Bennett

After 18 is an ongoing series written by four graduates from the class of 2013. This week’s dispatch is the fourth from Bella Bennett, who attends Skidmore College. Bella studied in London during her first semester. She is now at Skidmore’s main campus, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

I’ve been taking environmental studies courses since I joined the Skidmore community in January, and I’ve finally begun to grasp the extent to which we as a race currently indulge in unsustainable practices.

It is not hard to see that we have evolved into a very consumerist society. How many options did you have when choosing what to wear today? When deciding what to eat for breakfast? Exactly. It is however, hard to oppose consumerism and endorse sustainable practices instead. This is predominantly because sustainable practices often cost more money than their unsustainable alternatives, or involve not taking part in an activity at all.

One sustainable practice is to simply buy and consume less than is considered normal. Think about it. Do you really need six grey tee-shirts? I know that I personally own way more things than I have purpose for. Unfortunately, I love my things. The problem is, what we consider to be a “normal amount” of things is actually obscenely disproportionate with what we need. It is way too easy to go into a store needing a new pair of pants and come out with two — and three pairs of socks and a sweater.

This is in part not our fault. Marketing, the key component of business (which I have learned a lot about in my intro to business class), relies on countless furtive strategies to convince us that we need just about every product out there. And when it’s done well, we tend believe it. How many unnecessary things do you own? When I look around my dorm room, which has limited space as it is, I see plenty of things that I have no real purpose for. I have five blankets for starters. Yes, this is Upstate New York, and yes this winter was nostril-freezingly cold, but I do not live in an igloo; I live in an overheated dorm room! In preparing for college, however, I bought a ton of things “just in case.” You never know what you might need. I love this statement. It is a complete enabler though, and I personally need to get as far away from it as possible in order to reduce the environmental impacts of my personal consumerism.

I’m going to push my embarrassment aside for a moment and be really honest about something that changed my view on my own lifestyle and lifestyle choices. One of the first assignments that I had in my environmental studies class was to use one of those online environmental footprint calculators and calculate my environmental impact. Going into it, I wasn’t all that worried. My house on the Vineyard is completely solar powered, and for the majority of the year we actually generate excess power, which goes back onto the grid, and gets used by — well — you, perhaps!

So knowing this, I figured I wasn’t doing too much damage.

I was obviously wrong. The results of my test were expressed in the number of Earths that it would take to support the entire human race if everyone gobbled up resources at the rate that I apparently do. I know that I am an extremely privileged human being (see my last article), but the image of four and three-quarters of a fifth world appearing on the computer screen really put me off of my bi-monthly trips to Walmart. That’s right: It would take 4.75 Earths to support the human race if everyone were as privileged (and as much of a consumer) as I am.

This is a titanic problem. Predominantly because we only have one Earth. And, the current level of resource degradation and depletion to meet the demands of our growing population is not sustainable in the least.

The worst thing about studying environmental studies is that I’m learning there is no singular, easy way to implement or solve anything.

Because of the complexity of the issue, my central plea is this: Please try to take into consideration the actual value of the things that you buy. The value in terms of the environmental costs, as well as how much the item actually means to you. I don’t care if it is that 99 cent trinket at Walmart, I still think that bothering to consider what it is that you want to support, and making conscious decisions about your own consumption is seriously important.

And hey, if you’re all about that 26-matching-tee-shirts-

lined-up-in-my-closet kind of life, then have at it, just be a love and consider what you do with them when you’re done. Red Cross, anyone? I apologize for sounding like a PSA and not even having any cool visuals, but this is what I am currently fixated on, and I think we all need to give it a whole lot more thought than we care to.

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Sarah-Thompson-protraitAfter 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year.This week’s dispatch is from Sara Thompson, who writes from Portland, Oregon, where she is attending the Oregon College of Art and Craft.

Sara-Thompson-orbital-hanging
In her last dispatch, Sara Thompson described how she made this atom out of nickel.

I want viewers to experience the moon in a different way. I want to take my work in a direction that warrants artistic appreciation and allows for scientific and educational inquiries through creating pieces that viewers can interact with. My atom was the start. Over the last few weeks, I have embarked to craft this new piece.

The moon is a celestial body that has been wandering the skies of our planet for as long as we can remember. We’ve been there. We traveled 239,000 miles; it’s the only place we’ve been aside from mother Earth. This lunar body, trapped in a gravitational dance and tug of war between the earth and the sun. It is slowly leaving our side at the rate of one and a half inches a year. The moon is something more than a gray crescent and sphere in the sky. We have seen the moon nearly every day for hundreds of thousands of years, but very few have been lucky to feel and experience it.

For this project in metals,  I needed to create an impression. I also wanted to continue my exploration of combining metalsmithing with science. I envisioned bringing this celestial body down to Earth.

The moon, like Earth, has craters and canyons thousands of meters deep. I wanted to create the impression of the lunar surface through recreating the moon’s landscape based on a topographic map. Viewers could have a multi-sensory experience — feeling the moon while looking at an etched photo — to create an experience of what one sees in the sky while running one’s fingers along the canyons and craters.

Close up perspective
Close up perspective

The way I created the topographic map of the moon was through a technique called chasing and repousse. Chasing and repousse is when an artist takes steel tools and hammers the tools into a flat sheet of metal to push it to a 3-D state which gives it volume. (Repousse: hammering from the backside to push the metal up; chasing: hammering the metal down from the front side to create finer detail.)

Doing a little bit of blacksmithing and forging, I shaped raw tool steel to meet the shapes and sizes I needed for the moon. After I formed them into the shape I needed, I heated and tempered them to make them extremely hard, so they could stand hundreds of hours of hammering. I also made a masonite dye form, which is a sandwich of one piece of wood, masonite (hardboard), the piece of metal (that will be the middle piece) and another piece of masonite. Then I drilled holes in all the layers to allow pins, which will keep it together.

Having all the tools I needed, I found a topographic map of the near side of the moon, the side we see. I was going to make the moon large enough to have a man’s hand fit around it comfortably. I didn’t want it too large because doing large scale metalsmithing is rather difficult, especially as a first year student. (My third year I get to make a teapot from a flat sheet of metal; that will something.) Anyway, I bought an 8 x 8 inch piece of 16-gauge (1.29mm) piece of copper. I calculated that the topography was going to be scaled to 1km = 4mm and 6 inches in diameter. You can think of it like sea level. Whatever is under sea level needs to be chased down while everything else above sea level needs to be pushed up from the back side. So at the highest elevation, I was pushing the metal up 16mm above sea level while not too far way, I was pushing and stretching the metal 16mm below sea level to create the craters we see on the moon.

Let’s put this in perspective. I was hammering a flat sheet of metal to have an overall distance of 32 mm. When you hammer metal, you make it thinner and harder. Well, I hammered my metal so much that I tore it open.

I tore my metal, twice.

Yes mother, I truly sit in front of a vise and hammer metal for hours. Then when I anneal this big piece of metal, I use two giant air compressor torches that weight about 15 pounds each. They’re kinda’ like mini flame throwers, to make the metal soft again so I can keep hammering it.

After a good 50 hours of hammering, I made a topographic map of the moon out of metal.

Sara Thompson's metal moon.
Sara Thompson’s metal moon.

This is going to get a little complicated. I’ll try to walk you through my creative process for this project, but I think a little differently. When I create pieces, I see them crystal clear in my mind. There is no sketchbook needed, no words need to be said… it’s a quiet process, all visual and only visual. It’s kind of like symbolism. Therefore, explaining my designs, how I make them, how I think, and simply why the hell I’m an artist who doesn’t use a sketchbook is difficult. I see them and then I bring them to life, sculptural, jewelry, and drawings included.

Figuring out and consulting this project with my professor, I had for the first time, someone respect my thinking process. It was an extraordinary moment. My professor said to me, “You have this unusual way of thinking, you just see it….and then you actually make it….. I trust you… just go, just go, and make it.”

So now, I had this….thing…the topographic map in a square piece of metal from the sandwich. I cut out the map and envisioned how I was going to create the rest of my piece. Remember, I needed to make an impression and a multi-sense experience. I was going to house the moon within a box. The box would have an opening. Viewers would be able to put their hand through red curtains in an opening of the box. Similar to how astronauts first went into the abyss of space. They have a subtle idea of that they’re getting into, but not really. Now back to the box. This box, it needed to be big enough to have the moon in it and also enough space to allow you to move your hand around in it while exploring the craters of the moon. I settled on having the box be 8 x 8 x 5 inches.

"I connected the sides of the box with nickel tabs and rivets."
“I connected the sides of the box with nickel tabs and rivets.”

I soon discovered that the box break did not make ninety degree angles and that my box was still too big, even after I cut it down to four inches in height. As a solution, I hand-folded the rest of the sides up. I had to gently hammer the sides up from a 30 to roughly 90 degree angle. This gave the box an imperfect character to it. I began to play with this characteristic of the box. I connected the sides of the box with nickel tabs and rivets, though the tabs weren’t 90 degree angles from the box break making them a little crooked. Then I ran into another problem, the only escutcheon pins (nails basically) I had were brassplated steel. The whole point of using these pins was to make my life a little bit easier. I was using the pins to rivet the nickel tabs to the box, 32 times. I riveted steel 32 times. It’s more difficult than it sounds, basically, using a steel hammer to spread steel…. it doesn’t work very well, but I did it somehow. (I will never have to rivet again as the other part of the agreement due to the nightmare of this.)

For the opening of the box, where you put your hand through, I made an addition of silky red curtains. I toyed with the idea of going to a theater or show and seeing those classic red, velvety curtains. One would put one’s hand through as one begins to the experience of the Moon. On top of the box, I riveted a hazy photo etching of the moon so that when viewers put their hands in the box, the craters on the photos match the metal surface inside.

My moon impression was almost done. With all of its charm and quirks, it reminded me of something old. Something that has been passed down from a grandparent, handmade and aged. I gave the box a black oxide and a 220 grit finish to mimic a worn, old box passed down paralleling the idea that the Moon and our relationship with the moon that has been dancing around us for billions of years and billions to come as we experience the moon in a new way.

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Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish. — courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year. This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communication major with a minor in Spanish.

The honeymoon is over….College is starting to feel like College

“The best four years of your life.” I have heard many people describe college differently over the last couple years but that seems to be the overall consensus of the best way to describe college in so few words. And for the last six months, I definitely would agree with them. Sure I have pulled a few all-nighters, I’ve gotten my heart broken a time or two but for the most part college life has been very good to me. However, they call it “higher education” for a reason and there are definitely some high expectations that come with it.

Looking back to the first few weeks after we had come back from winter recess, things were pretty normal. I was attending class as I normally did, I took notes about 98% of the time (I’m not perfect, I did doze off or watch Netflix once or twice in class). I was doing a good job of balancing my extra-curricular activities, my social life, and of course my studies. But little did I know I was in for a rude awakening.

It all started the Friday before the Valentine’s Day three day weekend. Everything was right in my life: I had a thriving social life, I was showing up to class on-time and well rested, momma had just put some more money in my bank account, and, best of all, for the first time in my life I had a special someone to spend Valentine’s Day and the rest of the weekend with and she was arriving in a couple hours. I arrived to Spanish class that day floating on cloud nine, and my teacher brought me right back to earth with only a simple sentence: “We are going to have a test on Tuesday.” Now I like to think of myself as a fairly good in Spanish. I am nowhere near being fluent, but I can speak and write with confidence. However, memorizing 50 different words and grammar rules is no easy task in English, let alone another language. Eventually class ended and while I wasn’t thrilled about having a test coming off of a three-day weekend (I mean who would be?) I wasn’t too worried.

Next I went to Biology which was my last class of the day. In 55 short minutes I could go back to my room and get it nice and clean for my big weekend. My Spanish test was still in the back of my mind, but like I said, I wasn’t going to let it ruin the weekend I had planned. I knew I’d find time to study. I always do. So as I’m sitting in class my instructor is going on about something plant-related while I was trying to take notes that I could use. I love animal biology, but there is something about plants that goes in one ear and out the other. Just as she is about to dismiss us for the weekend she announces that we will be having our first big exam — on TUESDAY! So now I had two tests coming up on the same day for two subjects which I find challenging. And I had no idea when I would be able to study for them. I looked down at my phone and found that it was too late to call her and cancel; she was halfway to school. It looked like I had no choice but to cram, much to my dismay.

I knew that there was nothing that I could do about it now. So I went on with my weekend. And while I did have a really fun time, in the back of my head the whole time I was thinking about studying for those tests. The good news is that I did find time to study, the bad news is that it was at 7PM the night before the tests.  I had less than 24 hours to study for two tests in two subjects which were not related by any stretch of the imagination. Needless to say, it was a long exhausting night and I knew the minute that I finished both tests that I had not done as well as I should have.

On top of that, my self-pity and a much-needed nap would have to wait because I was reminded by a classmate about a two-page sociology essay due the next day.  I eventually got the paper in on time and received a fairly good grade on it. Unfortunately for me this was only the beginning of a very academically demanding and stressful few weeks which wouldn’t end until spring break!

Between February 18th and March 7th my schedule averaged at least two tests and two papers due every week, in addition to chapter after chapter of supplemental readings online and primary readings in textbooks as well as smaller write-ups and responses to readings. This doesn’t include the week I missed just before spring break because of the flu.

While the physical work load itself is very large and the demands and expectations are high, I feel that the intangibles are what truly make the work near impossible. There are a lot of expectations for us college kids and the pressure is on us to do well for multiple reasons: the biggest being that our grades have a direct effect on our future career prospects. My dream is to go to UCLA, USC or possibly Harvard for graduate school, but one bad exam could dash all my hopes. Even if you look at the immediate future or the present,  the pressure is still there: I need to keep at least a 3.0 GPA in order to keep all my scholarships. I cannot even imagine what would happen if I were to lose my grants and scholarships. But I have a feeling it ends with me being back on Martha’s Vineyard for a little while longer.

Since I have been at school I have adopted a motto. This motto sums up everything that I have been told growing up about college, from the academic to the social. That motto is simply “college.” Admittedly this motto is very basic and ambiguous, but that’s why it works so well. I go to this motto when I am unsure about which decision I should make in a given situation: if I get dealt a good hand, I just say “college” and go about smiling. In this case I was dealt a very, very bad hand, which consisted of countless all-nighters, a lot of reading, pounds and pounds of junk food and a lot of energy shots. But nevertheless, I just chalked it up to “college,” and I took care of business.

Since I have been writing these [MVTimes] articles a lot of people have come up to me and my parents and made comments about my articles like: “Boy, he must be getting straight A’s for him to be doing all this partying and socializing,” or “Does he ever study? Or does he just socialize and party?” And to those folks I say: Thank you for reading my articles; rest assured it’s not all fun and games. College is starting to feel like college.

By the way, things didn’t work out between me and —-.

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— Photo courtesy of Bella Bennett

Bella Bennet 2013After 18 is an ongoing series written by four graduates from the class of 2013. This week’s dispatch is the third from Bella Bennett, who attends Skidmore College. Bella studied in London during her first semester. She is now at Skidmore’s main campus, in Saratoga Springs, NY.

You’d think that after midterms and break, there would be a sweet little lull in work to allow for reclamation, but that is not the case at Skidmore, where I go to college. Once your return from spring break, you better have your game face on, cause it’s go time. Four days ago it was spring break, yet today I was unyieldingly pelted with torrents of hail every time I ventured outdoors. It feels like the final stretch of the semester, but the end is nowhere in sight, nor is the end of winter. The work is piling up close to the two feet of snow still on the ground, and the pressure is mounting. And yet, we have six more weeks before finals. Can we take a deep breath for a moment? Of course not!

I continually consider the contrast between the obvious notion that college is an incredible opportunity, and the mindset that I so often succumb to, and just did, that there is too much, too hard, work. It’s not like constant manual labor or anything. Unless you play a sport, you’re only being asked to apply your mind, and for the most part you’re studying topics of your own choosing. So why do I complain?

College is so unlike any other arrangement; the environment is controlled, yet must also encourage growth through “independence,”  which in my opinion, you cannot truly find in a dorm full of double and triple rooms, nor in a dining hall with four star restaurant quality food always at your disposal, and especially not in a place where faculty will essentially do everything in their power to ensure your happiness and well-being. So why should we complain? This is better than living in a hotel with all of your friends (and more expensive!).  I see the paradox. I am aware that I live a privileged lifestyle, and yet I cannot figure out how to properly set aside time and do my work without a high level or stress. In London, this problem was slightly less obvious to me, because we had a lot more free time to explore the city. I miss free time!

I don’t know what it is about procrastination, but I think it’s almost safe to say that we are the procrastination generation. It is so ingrained in myself and to my knowledge, all of my peers. Obviously I know nothing of what it is like to live in another generation, but I do know that I thrive on that last minute I’m-done-for-if-I-don’t-finish-this feeling, and regardless of how my peers relate to it, we’ve all experienced that feeling way too many times more than we’d like to admit.

I think more than anything what I need to take away from college is time management skills. That furtive way that free time simply disappears and manages to eat up should-be-work-time in the process, completely baffles me. Regardless, I can already see many changes within myself from my first half-semester on campus (I spent my first semester of college in London). I’ve learned so much in such a short time; from gazillions of depressing facts about the environment that kind of make me want to go extinct like all of the species around us are, to how to project Google’s financial future, and even how to drive on roads with multiple lanes and stop lights! Bonus!

This is such a unique period of time for me. Even time itself has many new meanings! I stress about homework due tomorrow for example, but neglect a larger project due next week. Focusing day by day means that suddenly, next week has become tomorrow, and stress then becomes overdosing on coffee and possibly reverting to meditation  in order to complete the assignment before the sun rises and my Lion King Theme-song alarm goes off.

Retrospect has gained a whole new meaning for me as well, as I promise myself repeatedly to, “never get into such a compromised position again.” While finishing an essay and sprinting to class with it, I tell myself that editing is for yearbooks and trashy magazines. But as I walk into class, that notion always deflates and I’m left with the uncomfortable feeling that my strategy is very flawed.

As they say, the first step is admittance. (Or something vaguely like that…) I hope that by shedding light on my academic flaws I will be able to overcome them in the near future and then truly take advantage of the glorious freedom that college offers through unending opportunities. I can smell many nights of coffee guzzling in my future, but I can also smell that sweet victory of one night (hopefully soon) having a warm mug of Sleepytime tea and getting to bed early after a productive day’s work. You have to start somewhere with goals, and mine is most certainly to put more effort into my opportunities (which consist of school work but the word opportunity has a better, more enlightening connotation) sooner. In the meantime, it’s spring snowstorms, unnecessary stress, maybe a few sprints, and a whole lot of assignments for me!