Bracing Yourself for the Jump
The Senior Compass Series
“Where do you come from?”
This was the first question I was asked during my early days on the Hilltop upon my timid declaration as a transfer student. This question has come to define my Georgetown experience.
As someone with the unique honor of being a “double transfer,” first from Seton Hall University to Georgetown and then from the School of Nursing and Health Studies to the College, I have often sat in limbo. I had to rely on the power of my own gut instincts as the furrowed brow of a well-meaning friend asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to just stick with nursing?” I also listened to the concerns of my understanding, but not able to understand, mother proclaim, “Are you kidding me … another epiphany?”
Ray Bradbury’s words, “Jump and you will learn how to unfold your wings as you fall,” describes the trajectory of my time at Georgetown. My transfer from the NHS was a jump, and every experience since that moment has been a series of trial runs in discerning how best to spread my wings.
As I stood on the precipice of my jump, I visited upward of 20 professors in search of guidance and wisdom. That same semester, I was also pulled to the magnetism of our natural environment. The weight of unforeseen family tumult, underscored by normal, day-to-day student stress, dissipated on long runs in Rock Creek Park and other pockets of green.
My growing appreciation for the environment compelled me to visit the office hours of professor Laura Anderko, who specializes in environmental health. Anderko dispensed her wisdom by paraphrasing a children’s book about a lost bunny in search of his mother. The bunny asks the advice of other animals — some more helpful than others — but can reach his mother only by following his own nose, in trusting his own scent and instincts.
“What direction is your nose telling you to go in?” she asked me.
Two words resounded in my head: “Not nursing.”
I stepped off that precipitous cliff and left a path of clearly defined lines for one with considerably more squiggles. I chose to live outside of the boxes in which I, and others, had placed myself. I chose to follow my nose and to push myself in the direction toward which my scent was leading me.
Georgetown is a place with a lot of boxes — whether that be pre-med, or “Corpie” or “Hilltern” — and a lot of people trying to place you in them. My Georgetown experience, however, can be tracked in the boxes I have drawn for myself and in reveling in the question, “Where do you come from?”
The areas of my most formative growth have been outside the Hilltop — from the magic of my Alternative Breaks Program trips to the two grants that allowed me to travel to the West Coast. Among the dense evergreen forests, I was able to delve deeper into my interests in traditional ecological knowledge and solidarity with indigenous communities, with roots drawing back to my first ABP trip — the Native Roots trip to Cherokee and Lumberton, North Carolina.
Although my Georgetown experience has been far from conventional, it has pushed me to become the tree-loving, contemplative individual I am today. During my summer in Washington, I visited and learned the story of Mount Saint Helens, a volcano in the Cascades that erupted in 1980. The cataclysmic activity left the region void of any semblance of life for dozens of miles.
The focus now, 37 years later, is not on that initial destruction but rather on the revival of life that followed. Within a year of the catastrophe, prairie lupines were the first species to repopulate the pumice plain and carried with them nitrogen-fixing bacteria to turn the mountain’s nutrient-depleted soil into a usable form for all plants. Lupines kick-started the cycle of life and paved the way for other species to populate and thrive.
My experiences and teachings at Georgetown have gifted me with the proper nitrogen-fixing bacteria to store in my roots. I will carry the wisdom of my mentors and friends, the questions still unanswered from my most engaging classes and the Jesuit values of our school with me to enrich the soil of other locations. I will continue to be asked the question, “Where do you come from?” My resounding answer will always be Georgetown.