‘Though years have fled and years shall flow’

My voice wavers during the Alma Mater, turning into my grandmother’s not-so-great singing voice I remember hearing during church services while growing up.

Think about Bradley. Think about those quotes that supposedly make you feel better about things being over. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Yeah. That crap. You paid thousands of dollars NOT TO CRY RIGHT NOW. So smile.

“WiTh mYrTle WrEAtH wE’ll DEcK thY bRoW,
bONA’s, oLd ST. BoNA’S.”

Remember when you were a junior in high school and your mom graduated in this very chapel? Think about that, Emily. She was smiling as she walked down the aisle. NOT crying. You’re FINE.

“The verdant leaves our love avow,
Bona’s, old ST. bONa’S.”

Okay, okay. Some of the other graduates around you aren’t singing. They kind of suck. Maybe they can’t find their programs? None of us actually learned this shit. You’re fine, Emily.

“Thy name was ever fair and bright:
We’ll keep it thus with memory’s light
And laud thy glorious Brown and White,
BONa’S, Ollld sT. BoNA’s.”

But seriously. WHAT THE HECK? I hadn’t planned to graduate this early. Haley, sitting two rows ahead of me with the purple-y hair…SHE’S ready. She’s been ready. She even said she felt bad for me because she commuted, so she doesn’t have the same connection to the school that I do. One more verse. One stanza away.

“Our HEaRts shAlL EVeR be thy shrine,
bONa’S, ollllLd St. BOnA’s.”

I remember coming in here and studying the stained glass windows for two different classes. One with Dr. Tate, and the other with Bob Donius. I think… Clare College is kind of a blur to me now. Thank goodness Denny had me take all those classes my freshman and sophomore years. I wish he were sitting right behind me instead of diagonally. He’d probably keep kicking my chair and distract me from the tears welling up in my eyes right now.

“Around thy name shall honor twine,
Bona’s, old St. Bona’s.”

When my freshman-year R.A. said this goes by way too fast, I honestly didn’t believe her. She said to take a lot of pictures. I hope I took enough pictures. 

E’er hallowed shall thy memory grow:
THOugH YeARs haVE FLeD AND yEaRS ShaLL fLoW”

Shit. Here come the tears.

“WiTHin OuR SOulS tHy LoVE sHalL gloWw
BOnA’S, oOooLLd ST. BoNa’sS”

"Done," said the alumna.
“Done,” said the alumna.

Crying in front of Plassmann Hall

10518857_824263050926992_6371536501199916685_nMy best friend here at school couldn’t believe it when I told her. Via text message, she whined and begged for me to stay.

“I’ll stay if you can pay for it for me,” I tried to compromise.

…she didn’t fall for that one.

Her response made me feel sick. It made me realize how much I’d miss out on. How much I’d miss my friends. How scary the real world is.

I pondered my predicament every day from the moment I noticed my degree audit’s tapped-out supply of credits. It took seeing a very expensive out-of-pocket cost on my student bill for me to see reason. I’ve always been a sensible person, much to my own chagrin. I knew what I needed to do, though I’d been in an impenetrable state of denial about it for months.

I told my friend Haley, a fellow December graduate, first.

“Congratulations, Emily!” was her response.

Wait… BACK UP, I thought.

I had expected her to tell me to stay, tell me to stick around and enjoy my senior year, tell me she didn’t want to graduate in December, either. But she didn’t.

I hesitantly told one of my roommates.

“I figured you would,” she said, referencing a conversation we’d had over the summer when I had first mentioned the possibility. “I would if I could.”

DON’T YOU WANT ME TO STAY?!?!? I wanted to scream. WHAT ABOUT ALL THE FUN SENIOR THINGS WE CAN’T DO TOGETHER NOW? WHAT ABOUT THE FACT SOMEONE ELSE WILL HAVE TO MOVE IN TO MY ROOM?!?

None of it seemed to faze her.

So I’m done letting it faze me.

I’m done standing in front of Plassmann Hall with tears rolling down my cheeks at 2 a.m. on a Saturday. My life isn’t over. On the contrary, it’s kind of beginning.

After applying online for December graduation and filling out how I want my name to appear on my diploma, I called my mom to tell her. Luckily (I guess), my dad was in the car with her.

They congratulated me. Told me they’re proud of me. Graduating early isn’t the crutch I’d formerly seen it as. If anything, it’s a boost, an advantage.

Then my parents dropped a bomb onto  my life.

A former reading whore discovers books again

The seventh Harry Potter book came out and I spent the day in the hammock at our then-campsite. It took me ten hours to read it in its entirety. A week later, I read it again.

In a time before I had a cellphone and my own personal computer(s), I read. A lot. I had a designated book backpack that I wore while riding my blue Huffy to the library. I read through many a Boxcar Children and Goosebumps. When teen fiction became relevant, I coasted through novels by Ann Brashares and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Lurlene McDaniel was another favorite, as was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I accrued library late fees, but either managed to pay them off or just avoided the library for awhile. The fish obviously weren’t biting on days I only brought home three books to read.

I won an award for reading the most books during sixth grade (52), but that part of me died when college classes began. I can tell you –– thanks to my Shelfari page –– I’ve only read 27 books in the three years I’ve been a metaphorical slave to schoolwork and story writing.

Now I’m trying to reignite my intense appreciation for books.

Screenshot 2014-05-18 18.09.22

Since Christmas, I’ve read seven: “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” “Divergent,” “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” “The Thank You Economy,” “Cartwheel,” “Thirteen Reasons Why” and “The Fault in our Stars.”

I’d like to read more.

My parents rarely said “No” when I shoved a book in their faces as a kid and asked them if they would buy it. Now I’ve applied the same rule to myself. If I want to read it, I’m going to order it on Amazon (I apologize to those lovely small, independent bookstores out there).

Last month, I ordered “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker and “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood. When I saw my professor’s newly published –– and first! –– novel in the school bookstore, I picked it up and purchased it without a second thought.

Screenshot 2014-05-18 18.09.53
Check out “Mapping Utah” in the middle there by Denny Wilkins. He’s been a huge influence on me in terms of personal and professional growth. Gosh that sounds fancy.

While Green’s novel did make me tear up, I think I’ve grown out of teen fiction. I obviously couldn’t relate to Hazel’s situation (though he did make it seem real) or her thoughts on dating and, well, boys. I’m past those awkward teenage years and don’t really care to relive them.

I’ve nearly finished Walker’s book full of characters who have positively sucked me in to their stories. I really liked the female protagonist in “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Atwood when I read it for my post-apocalyptic literature course, so I’m sure I’ll have no trouble with “The Blind Assassin.” It came from a recommendation made by the comedian Rob Delaney:

Screenshot 2014-05-18 18.21.31

 

People think I’m crazy when I say I don’t have time to watch TV. I’d rather pick up a book and continue from my bookmarked spot than try to follow the excessive cumulative shows on the tube.

All 5’2″ of me

The light is still on in the far-right room on the second floor of Townhouse 31 because Emily CANNOT sleep. And she just gave away WHERE she sleeps. Whoops. She’d make some potatoes to eat right now if she had any. Unfortunately, she threw her last bag of sprout-covered potatoes in the trash can last weekend during a spring-cleaning binge. New potatoes have yet to be purchased. Tsk tsk. I know.

Enough of this third-person shiite.

I was texting my friend who lives in Iowa, but he seems to have fallen asleep. So that’s fun.

I wrote in my journal already and couldn’t come up with any material for a poem, so there’s that.

Oh, and I updated a few things on this here portfolio blog in case you’d like to take a gander. I finally –– FINALLY! –– added a picture of myself. Seems that’s been on my to-do list for two years.

What else to do but to open my laptop and try to write something? I’ve done my fair share of Facebook and Twitter stalking tonight and have grown a tad bored. Not a lot is happening on Instagram either, though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised after seeing what hour I’ve reached in the early goddamn morning.

I guess this is what I get for loading myself with sleeping pills every night this week except tonight. I really thought I was tired enough to just roll over and conk out, but I stand, erm, lay, corrected.

I ran tonight. Yes, as in the past verb tense of “run.” Shocking, I know. I had some pent-up energy that needed to be released, and staring at Natty World notes for another second sure as hell wasn’t going to help things. I ran to the gym. I ran around the track a few times. I walked. I ran again. I skipped a song on my iPod. I managed to forego what could have been an awkward encounter and just flipped that group of people the bird instead. I never said I was nice. (They laughed at me, though…people don’t seem to expect shit like that to come from me in all my 5-foot-2-inch glory. Hmph.)

It felt great to experience physical pain instead of the emotional-bullshit kind. It felt great to breathe heavily –– though my lungs are seriously suffering now –– and work up a sweat. I also got what is to me a rare glimpse of gym culture. It’s fascinating, really. Men flooded the basketball courts for intramural games, hogged the weight-lifting equipment and women took up the cardio room. I just kept running. And walking. And skipping songs on my iPod. Oh, and rehydrating.

I’ve said this before, but I really mean it when I say it this time: I’m going to take some time to really focus on myself. 

My roommate doesn’t believe that I will, so I’m going to prove her wrong. I have text messages from friends who agree that it really would/will be beneficial for me:

“Just give it a few days and you’ll be back to feeling like the wonderful person you are all by yourself!” said one.

“You need to get back in touch with you and stop trying to please everyone and stop trying to fix people, hun,” said another.

“You definitely deserve time for yourself,” said a third.

So I’m going to keep running and exercising, in general. I came back home tonight high off endorphins and ready to go. Go do anything.

I got the summer internship I really wanted, have plans to get serious about road biking and, best of all, my parents, brothers and sister-in-law are all in good health.

I’m done stalking social networks and I’m especially done writing this post for the night. Good night/morning.

A brief meltdown at 3 a.m.

I felt my cheeks redden the more Tom talked.

Illustrator this, Illustrator that. Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop.

He showed me some of his own designs and a few projects he’d been working on, both for his internship and for his portfolio school classes. I sat and stared, mouth open, fist rammed into my cheek.

Wow, I realized, I SUCK. 

I know that’s not the initial reaction Tom wanted, but it’s the one I experienced. He showed me more, had me scroll around to build up my own ideas, taught me the basics of the infamous pen tool in Adobe Illustrator and then left the room.

In the meantime, I messed around on Illustrator and couldn’t figure it out. So, much to my chagrin, I tweeted this:

Screenshot 2014-03-12 02.22.00

I’ve been thrown into design projects since my junior year of high school when my then-English teacher requested I take over the position of yearbook editor for my senior year. Because I’m a masochist, I accepted without thinking (then proceeded to stay up late all summer, worrying about the 144 pages I had to fill). I knew nothing about design. Absolutely nothing. But, because I’m Emily, I worked at it, spending hours in my school’s computer lab, ultimately recruiting my mother to sit by me at home and proofread as I wrote names upon names upon names before submitting a page a minute before its due date. Phew. Deep breath.

I haven’t changed much in terms of procrastination –– I just submitted a newsletter that is due to debut today, as in Wednesday, March 12 today –– but shit, have I learned a lot in my three years here. Currently, some students in the Integrated Marketing Communications program here at Bona’s are working on their final book to give to the judges during their respective presentations. I’ve heard complaints (“How am I supposed to create this book when nobody taught me InDesign?”) and feel my colleagues’ pain. But still, I appeared at Bona’s curly haired and freckle faced in September of 2011, sat at one of the school’s iMacs and began learning the ins and outs of InDesign. With some help along the way –– though none from my oldest brother whom I’ve heard is actually quite the design guru –– I’ve come so, so far, though I still have a ways to go. Tom and the hotness of my cheeks that day reminded me of that.

So yeah, it sucks that St. Bonaventure doesn’t have a proper graphic design/desktop publishing program or even a class on it, for that matter. But nearly every computer is equipped with the software, leaving students absolutely no excuse for their failure to dabble around. Like I’ve written in nearly every cover letter I’ve submitted, “I’ve learned that versatility is the key to becoming an effective communicator.” I’m going to learn Illustrator. Just watch me.

…after I sleep and get a few other projects done. Oh, and after my neck stops hurting. I’ve been staring at these Apple computers far too often as of late.

Thoughts from one tiny corner of the universe

There are so many thoughts in my brain right now, tripping over each other, colliding into each other, grabbing and pulling at each other, fighting, rioting and screaming.

The pressure to write something on blackbyrd has crushed me for the past three years, once writing got hard. I tried to write something over the past two weeks. Then I tried again. I tried another time. I saved all three posts as drafts. Maybe I’ll open them up again someday and finish them. Maybe not. My struggles stem from credibility. The more credible one becomes as a writer, the harder it is to write and write well. I can’t produce crap; I can’t have any spelling or grammatical errors. One slip up and I’m a hypocrite. What a filthy word.

Until I really complete those drafts, here are brief synopses of each one:

Draft one: With the new strategic communications major here at St. Bonaventure University, plenty of my colleagues have begun writing on their own blogs. I know for a fact a fair few of them get more viewers in a day than I could ever begin to dream of. Thus, sessions of Emily doubting herself and her abilities are born. Does my writing suck? Am I boring? Should I jump on the bandwagon and promote myself more? Should I write about more interesting topics? Does anything I write even matter? 

The last one. Does anything even matter. That’s what hurts the most.

Blogging doesn't have to revolve around viewership.
Blogging doesn’t have to revolve around viewership.

Overwhelmed cannot even capture the emotions I feel when I think about how big the world is and how small I am. Fourteen-year-old Emily didn’t care when she registered this blog as “blackbyrd,” named after her obsession with The Beatles. She sat in her tiny corner of the world, typing away on her mother’s iMac. She didn’t even have a Facebook or a Twitter yet. Self promotion was seemingly nonexistent. She wrote about stupid shit. If she wanted to write it, she wrote it. And she didn’t care how many viewers she got; that’s not the reason why she wrote. She even stopped tagging posts during high school because –– get this –– she didn’t want people reading. Imagine that.

Viewership still isn’t  shouldn’t be my reason for writing.

There. That feels good to get off my chest.

Draft two: I love Miley Cyrus. I was her for Halloween last fall and I’d be her again in a heartbeat. What a public relations genius. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be her.

Okay, I lied. There is no Draft three, but here’s what it would have been: life is too short to let friends fall by the wayside. Sorry about the cliché.

I’m tired of friends fighting for stupid reasons. I’m tired of only hanging out with one or the other. Kiss and make up… please?

Finally, if there had been a Draft four, it probably would have been something about receiving constructive criticism and accepting it with grace instead of with anger and spite. But that’s just me.

Maybe the thoughts in my brain will quiet down enough now so I can sleep tonight. Such wishful thinking.

Make new friends, but keep the old

Karly, Nick and I sat in the front row of composition and critical thinking freshman year, but we didn’t really talk. Madison and Jordan sat in the second row. I didn’t really talk to them much, either. I rolled my eyes at their married-couple-esque arguing, instead.

I’m almost positive we all went from that class to another class together every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We still didn’t really talk.

I didn’t get out much freshman year. I had meets on the weekends, plus the cross country team provided built-in friends for me; I felt like I didn’t need anyone else.

I would never have foreseen close friendships with any of the aforementioned people.

Mado and me at a Yankees game last April.
Mado and me at a Yankees game last April.

Now, Madison’s my housemate and I  practically spend my weekends either at Karly’s house or texting Karly. Nick and I talk on a regular basis and, the last –– and only –– time Jordan visited when he actually had a free moment, he hugged me before he left.

You may find your supposed “group” freshman year, but that shit can change. Be open to it. Meet new people. Establish new connections. Don’t be that clique in the dining hall that always eats together. Mix it up. Say “hi” to people when you pass them. Be friendly.

Next semester’s new classes could mean a whole new set of friends to talk to and hang out with. A whole new house to go to and someone new to meet in the café for coffee. New conversations. New stories.

St. Bonaventure University is a family and we often forget to be kind to our brothers and sisters. I judged Karly, Nick, Madison and Jordan freshman year. I tossed them aside and disregarded any potential friendships. They’re the ones who reached out to me. I’m thankful for that outreach. Having them as friends has provided me with laughter, someone to seek advice from, deep conversations and, yes, hugs.

I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve changed. I’ve let people in whom I never saw myself opening up to. Most of all, I’ve learned how to be empathetic.

We lost a member of our Bonaventure family this past weekend. I didn’t know him; I’d only seen him around campus. But I’ll write it again: we lost a member of our family. In all the times I saw him walking around wearing a straight-brimmed hat, I never foresaw tragedy striking his life. I never knew what impact he might one day have on me and the rest of my family.

We gathered in the chapel tonight for a candlelight vigil. The beauty of it struck me. One flame ignites all of our candles. We’re in this together. 

He’ll always be remembered. He pushed us closer together as a family.

Let’s say “hi” to each other more often. Let’s be empathetic. Let’s embrace new relationships instead of shying away from them, sticking only to our comfort zones.

Karly and I have a hug planned for when we see each other tomorrow in class. Madison made me laugh hysterically tonight. Nick and I talked until 2 a.m. Jordan hasn’t been around recently, but that’s understandable.

Let it be.

Only a Bonnie would understand

There’s definitely something weird about St. Bonaventure University.

My family told me I’d love it. Dad said I’d meet the best friends of my life there and both Mom and Jordan knew I’d love my professors. I didn’t believe them. Instead, I dreaded the running I knew I’d be doing for its Division I cross country team more than anything.

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My co-workers are pretty great, too. : )

Since I am no longer on the team, I can’t even explain to you in words that would make sense just how ecstatic I am to go back to Bonas. Sure, I was excited last year to see my friends, but the then-upcoming cross country season formed a storm cloud over my head. I should have been in love with running for Bonaventure; I just wasn’t.

Now I can say I am absolutely infatuated with St. Bonaventure University. Take me home.

It’s the campus, the path by the Allegheny River, my colorful dorm room(s), the independence, and the friends I’ve made there. The Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication is full of my family, and I miss my classmates and professors terribly. It’s homemade Hickey soup, stealing an entire cheesecake from the dessert island on Sundays, crowded O.P. and Burton dance floors, consuming Mangia’s pizza, and complaining about Clare College (of which I only have one more class  — woot woot!).

It may just be a cult. My Twitter feed is flooded with friends tweeting countdowns to Bonas, not to mention those who may have just graduated and aren’t too happy about it:tweet

But that’s just how Bonas is. The rural setting leaves us with nothing really to do, so we get to know each other and become the best of friends. I see the same people on my way to classes every day and, even if I don’t know his/her name, I probably have a nickname to refer to him/her as.

I am positively itching to move in, decorate my room, settle into our townhouse, take a walk on the path and begin my first all-elective semester. My best friend (from Bonaventure, of course) and I talked last night about how we only have two years left and we need to enjoy it. I’m ready to begin enjoying it. My internship has been a fantastic experience, but I’m ready to go home.

I had to join in on the countdown, too.
I had to join in on the countdown, too.

My 6-second Vine loop

I’m not scared to be alone anymore.

I’ve found happiness in myself and I carry it with me on my evening bike rides and runs. I sit on benches, swing on swingsets and pedal through now-familiar neighborhoods.

My single room at Bonaventure, while a colorful space I sought solace in at times, became a lonely prison. I never went out and did anything on my own. I always had to have company. I always had to be in a group of friends. I felt like a lonely, boyfriend-less loser if I went to the dining hall alone after getting out of work at nine o’clock. I entered, I ate, I left. And when he found someone else, I felt even worse.

Being alone meant rethinking every decision I had made; everything I had done. Being alone meant a constant, 6-second Vine loop of things I wished I could take back and pictures I wished had never been taken.

College and the hunger for friends made me yearn for constant company and being “in the know.” I feared the thought of missing out on something or not knowing about an inside joke the next day. Now I’ve realized I just don’t care. 

I’ve been set free.

My group of friends here can hang out as much as they want to –– I don’t feel obligated to stick around like I normally would. It doesn’t bother me to be excluded from what they talk about. I have so much fun by myself that I feel like they’re the ones missing out. And I don’t feel bad for myself and I don’t feel even the slightest twinge of homesickness like I did my freshman year of college. I feel content. I feel happy. I’m seeing more, noticing more and experiencing more. I make time for friends and save time for myself. My hour-long breather at the end of the day consists of a bike ride with the sunset as its conclusion.

It helps knowing that, though I’m alone, it’s never complete solitude; the person who matters the most is always thinking about me.

The view from my favorite bench in the park.
The view from my favorite bench in the park.

It’s time

Some things take precedence over others.

For example, take my history class from this past semester. If it’s a requirement, chances are I don’t want to take the class (especially if it doesn’t apply to either of my majors). So, instead of paying attention, I sat in class with my laptop open, updating my cover letter(s) and redesigning my résumé. I still managed an A-. Landing a good internship for the summer meant more to me than getting an A.

This post is much like the one from a month ago regarding the end of my sophomore year, and yet it’s totally different. This time I’m on the edge of my childhood. While I haven’t acted or been treated like a child since maybe 15(?), this truly is it. It’s over.

It’s a pretty safe bet I won’t ever really live in this house ever again. A suitcase will replace the closet I used to pull outfits from.

And I think I’m ready.

These past few homework-free weeks have been good for me. I’ve lazed around, slept in, read and cooked a meal or two. But these carefree days can’t last. My days of rolling out of bed at noon and sipping coffee on the porch have met their end.

It’s time to get busy. It’s time to build my career and make connections. It’s time to utilize the degree I’m in the midst of earning.

I’m ready.