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Four Years at the Mount

Why I chose this field

September 2015

The end of the sentence

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

"When I grow up . . ." has always been the constant companion to an ever changing second half. The end of this simple sentence has been reliant on my numerous flights of fancy that I have had throughout my life. One that I hold close to my heart is my love of books.

Even as a little girl, I was a voracious reader. My mother, who is also an avid fan of literature, encouraged me in my budding literary pursuits. We have always been reading buddies and when we would get a chance, we would swap plots, theories or opinions.

Growing up, I always favored books about wildlife and the great animal kingdom. This was coupled with my childhood crush on Steve Irwin; I believed that my future lay in the study of faunae. So there I was, six years old and wanting to be a veterinarian.

The years following, I discovered science and the joys of aquatic life and decided on marine biology as my next career choice. I was thirteen years old and in seventh grade when I discovered my aversion to blood and dissection and that led to the conclusion that maybe I should steer clear of the biological sciences. By this point, I thought maybe I should be a wildlife photographer for National Geographic.

Freshman year of high school I settled, somewhat reluctantly, on being a primary school teacher. I say reluctantly because I saw what teachers have to put up with on a daily basis and I knew I did not have the patience or passion to do that. I did not want to choose a career that I could not see myself doing sixty years (or more) down the road. I wanted to find something I was truly passionate for, something that would make me excited to go to work each day. It was with the help of my best friend and a few amazing English teachers I found myself on my current path towards an English major.

Funnily enough, it started in Algebra I, which was my least favorite of all my subjects, second only to gym class. My best friend, Kailey, and I started the age-old practice of passing notes (discreetly, of course). When we would run out of topics we would swap writing prompts. If neither of us finished by the end of the period, we would continue writing and exchange when they were finished. It was during these sessions I discovered my love for writing. We have always encouraged each other's writings, acting as readers, editors, and critics.

I found my fondness and appreciation for the written word grow when I was under the tutelage of some fantastic English teachers. The ones that spring to the forefront of my mind are Mrs. Bonnie Pratt and Mr. Samuel Cuthbert. Mrs. Pratt is a no nonsense woman with a penchant for dramatics and Mr. Cuthbert is a gentle literary man with an enthusiastic and creative insights. Overall, both are extremely unique individuals that compelled me to look at the text in a different light with a different point of view.

With Mrs. Pratt I covered the American writers and read the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was in this class I discovered the purpose writers place behind their words that, at times, transcend the mind of the reader. A writer places, not just any random word, but the perfect possible word to convey a meaning or an idea and, as readers, we seldom pay attention to them.

Let me explain. Think of several words that share the same meaning, for example, happy, joyful, and elated. They are all in some way related to each other, but they carry a different weight in our minds when we read them. If I was to say "She was happy," you would think that this fictional girl had a good day with decent weather and pleasant enough encounters. However, if I was to say, "She was elated." You would assume that something special happened today, outside of weather and small discoveries, something big that would evoke something outside of just happiness.

Looking back on what I have written, I find that I have somewhat digressed. So back to the subject at hand, which is now Mr. Cuthbert’s British Literature class. This class, I also happened to share with my dear, previously mentioned friend (and partner-in-covert note passing), Kailey. In his class we traversed the history of British literature and the English language from the Viking era though Shakespeare. We read works such as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Macbeth. He always emboldened us to look at the work differently. He taught us to approach it as not just text, but as a window through which we could see how people hundreds of years ago viewed humanity and how this view could connect one way of life with our own.

It is amazing what makes you decide what to be when you grow up, whether it is a person or experience. It might have been something that was insignificant to one person, but it now has completely and ineffably changed the course of your life. If you are one of those people that have found the ending to the sentence, think of the people and experiences that shaped it. If your one of the people that have not, do not worry, you are probably just waiting for something to offer the perfect punctuation.

For me, the end of my sentence was found in two lovely literature teachers, one word-wise companion, and a bookworm mother.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir

Finding comfort in the unknown

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

What do you want to do when you graduate?"

I think as undergraduate students we know this question a little too well, and for everybody out there who faces this question so often, I think we should work together to come up with different conversation starters. I’m kidding… sort of.

But seriously, my real answer is simply, I don’t know. I am starting my junior year, I declared my major

a year ago, I have an all-but-guaranteed career in the Army, and that question still causes way more stress than it should because honestly, I am just not sure what I want to do when I graduate.

What I do know is that, as stressful as it seems, I know it is a true blessing that I am not sure. I know that the reason why I am so unsure is because of the incredible variety of influences in my life – people, trips, experiences that have given me a passion for so many different things.

The best teachers I have ever had have all been English teachers and my mom taught me to love reading more than I love almost anything – hence the English and Education major. My time in Haiti has given me an absolute passion for missionary work and people all around the world. My contract with the Army gives me a minimum of four years to serve in a variety of fields before ever even needing to decide what my life will consist of.

My unparalleled desire for a law degree pushes me to apply for an Education Delay from the Army and go to law school. And finally, my indecisiveness leads me to the rambling nature of this article and my constant struggle in choosing a future career.

So back to the question, "what do I want to do when I graduate?" My typical answer is "I’m not sure yet," with a brief explanation, and the typical response is "well you have time," or "you have a lot of options," but the truth is that just does not ease my mind. There are still multiple careers that I am passionate about, multiple that pay well, multiple that would require some serious fundraising, and multiple that seem like the right thing to do, but I would like to explain more as to why. Even though it might sound like I am complaining or you might realize how stressed I am, this is all a blessing in disguise, a very, very good disguise, I might add.

I have had the absolute privilege of being exposed to the most inspiring people I could ask for. I have had the opportunity to travel to other countries and experience a much larger world than I could have ever dreamed existed from the comfort of my small town. I have seen the real difference that a single person can make by simply doing their job and engaging in what they love. I have been completely

torn apart at sights of devastation, only to realize that there are people placed in this world with the purpose of combatting all things poor and devastated. I have seen lives changed in a yearbook classroom, and minds opened in an English class. All in all, I have experience way more than I ever imagined I could in the short 20 years of my life and there is actually a comfort in knowing I can continue

to experience just as much and not be pinned down by a single career my whole life.

I believe the single person whose life and story offers me the most comfort in the unknown is someone who I have never even met – Dr. Paul Farmer. I first read Dr. Farmer’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains this past Christmas and have read it three times since. Dr. Farmer lived and continues to live a life that embodies the mantra "go with the flow." He is a medical anthropologist who serves an entire community in Haiti and is responsible for a revolution in the fight against TB around the world.

His works are incredible, but what makes him so inspiring to me is the way he has gone about everything in life. When he first went to Haiti and realized that this community needed help, he saw he would need a medical degree and so he got one. He then opened a clinic that changed the face of the dying community and when he was confronted with problem after problem, he adjusted himself until he found the solution.

When he started his research on TB and realized how affected other parts of the world were, he began to commute from country to country in order to better face the problem. He did this with a constant humility and simple desire to serve. Throughout his career, he never had a long-term plan, he took every day as it came, and he faced each one with grace and positivity, and he truly changed parts of this world forever.

I cannot be Dr. Paul Farmer for a lot of reasons: I would like to think the biggest reason is that I do not like blood, but that is probably not true. However, I can take his life and use it as a model for my own in different ways. I realize that my heart is already in multiple parts of this world and whether I will use a law degree, a teaching certificate, or a military career to do what I love, I know I will find a way to do it.

So, I still do not have an answer for the infamous "What do you want to do when you graduate?" question. Although that is scary and stressful and will probably cause a lot of tears over the next few years, I do know that there is an exhilarating and rewarding element to the unknown that I cannot wait to explore. Through the guidance of people, both in my personal life and those I can only read about, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that uncertainty is pretty common. I would not trade the passion

I have for so many things for a definite career plan, but I will probably still look pretty nervous every time I am asked about my life plan.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary

Occupational Therapy

Katie Powell
MSM Class of 2015

While I write this, I am defiantly staring at the piles around my room of items to be packed so that I can head off to school for my senior year. The inevitability of homework, readings, and syllabus week sends shivers down my spine. And yet, every year, I pack up my things and move away for nine months so that I can get a degree in health science, so I can go to another school, so I can get my degree in occupational therapy. It is not uncommon for me (or anyone for that matter) to reflect on their inspirations and reasons for choosing their career path while another daunting semester stares them in the face.

Before I get into what led me to my decision to choose occupational therapy as a career, I feel I must dispel some rumors. First of all: NO, occupational therapy is not where you go when you need help finding a new job. Also, it is not the same thing as physical therapy. And finally, it is not just "arts and crafts" time, although it can sometimes be presented as such.

Occupational therapy is the improvement of everyday tasks for individuals through the use of therapy and modifications, and in some cases, new equipment.

Oftentimes, occupational therapists must get innovative and really think outside the box in order to help their patients. Occupational therapists work with infants and geriatrics and everyone in between. The clientele is everywhere—in their own homes, elementary schools, hospitals, nursing homes… wherever clients go, occupational therapists go too!

The name comes from the fact that the therapy helps improve daily tasks, or "occupations" of normal living, and I guess they decided that occupational therapy had a better ring to it than "daily task therapy."

As of now, I am in the process of packing up to start my senior year at the Mount, and simultaneously applying for graduate programs so that I can wear yet another cap and gown three years from now. I guess the thrill of graduation just has not set in for me—I keep going back for more.

All of the work that goes into the application process had already set me thinking about what could have possibly convinced me that this was the way to go? I have spent many hours studying, observing, reviewing programs, contacting admissions counselors, vising schools, as well as spent hard-earned money in order to apply to these programs and find the best fit. What could it be about occupational therapy that has made me so determined, so dead-set that this is what my future holds?

Okay, pause. Before I really get into it, I have to give some background. I did not always want to do occupational therapy (shocker). In fact, freshman in high school Katie Powell was certain she would be a reporter. But then, junior in high school Katie Powell took Anatomy and Physiology, and she was certain she would be a physical therapist. And then, sophomore in college Katie Powell was told she might need physical therapy to rehab a shoulder injury.

It was upon listening to myself argue with the athletic trainer, claiming I would not to go to physical therapy, that I realized how poor of a fit that would be. In fact, I think I stated that I would "literally refuse" therapy—what kind of aspiring PT would refuse to go to PT?

At that time, I began reevaluating all of the choices I had made that had led to that point. Classic college sophomore, I know.

I considered switching my major to everything from business to anthropology, but I could not get away from the notion of helping people, around which I had always based my career choices.

When I was young, I went on a trip to Guatemala to help build a school. My fondest memories were spent carrying a little girl on my back up and down the stairs so that she could play with the other kids. After the trip I told my mom that I thought it was my calling to help everyone feel as if they belong (No, seriously, I am not making that up).

As a journalist I could inform the public, but it was not enough. As a physical therapist I could help heal injuries, but it had become devastatingly clear that my heart was not in it. I once read, "physical therapy teaches you to walk, but occupational therapy teaches you to dance," and ever since then I was captivated by the difference between the two. Walking is standard. Dancing is a talent. Dancing is special to an individual. To someone who grew up dancing, and lost that ability, its return would feel like welcoming home an old friend.

I learned that occupational therapy restores in people things that everyone takes for granted—their normalcy, their independence, and their dignity. I am dazzled by the weight that those gifts hold. I well up with pride imagining my first client successfully graduating therapy. My hands shake as if I am meeting a celebrity when in the presence of current occupational therapists.

I do not know if one could gather this from reading my articles, but I am a high-energy and highly creative person. I do not do things half way, and I like to keep them interesting, yet efficient. I am one of those people coming up with really odd-looking solutions to problems, such as tying my shoes together so they don’t get lost, using paper clips to secure my chargers to my nightstand, and tying a string to the light in my room so that it hangs low enough for me to reach it. Again, I am serious—the string has probably been there for eight years and now I don’t think it can come untied. Anyway, upon realizing that occupational therapy is a field that is all about coming up with creative solutions to everyday problems, it was like seeing your childhood home after years of being away. I had never felt so at peace, but at the same time so overwhelmed with joy, that there was the perfect career for me. Instantly I knew that I had to do everything I could to become an occupational therapist.

During this past spring, I had the privilege of observing an occupational therapist working in an elementary school. She told me honestly about the trouble she goes through with regular classroom teachers and superiors, budget constraints and parents, and everything in between. I know her intent was to show me what the job truthfully consisted of, and I appreciated that immensely. She told me she hoped she had not frightened me away from the career. I told her that as I watched those kids every day, whether they left screaming "I hate OT" or "I love OT," I could not help but feel that their lives would one day be better because of their occupational therapist. What more can one ask for in a career, than to end both good days and bad with a feeling that you have bettered the future?

Read other articles by Katie Powell

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