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A Time to Reflect

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By Carey Sentman, F&M Class of 2014

I  am happy to present these reflections from Carey Sentman '14, a Biology major with a minor in Medicine in Society, a former president of the Benjamin Rush Pre-health Honor Society, a teacher and tutor, and an active researcher in the field of public health.   As our third guest blogger on the F&M Health Professions Advising blog, Carey offers the unique perspective of  a soon-to-be graduate on the eve of her adventure in the world.  She writes about her four years at F&M as an experience that will have lifelong impact, and reminds us to reconnect with the mentors and teachers in our pasts.  Feel free to start a dialogue by commenting below (please note: it takes while for comments to appear).      – Glenn N. Cummings, PhD, Director of Health Professions Advising

Classes are over, grades are in, time to do some Spring-cleaning. Endless files cover my desktop screen. There’s the layout of the handbook I co-authored, drafts of emails, and session plans from supplemental instruction. Resumes fill the right side of the screen, titled for all different jobs. Along the middle of the screen sit a dozen images of chick embryos, SPSS files, and PowerPoint presentations. In a way cleaning it all up feels like a metaphor for what is really happening as my time at F&M comes to a close. Old drafts and notes go into their class folder. The screen shot of my spring schedule drops into the trash bin.

The process is similar to cleaning my room. You set out to simply organize and clean up, and end up taking a trip down memory lane, looking at old photos, playing with old toys, and trying on clothing that got stuck in the back of your closet.

What drives us to look at each photo, open each file and scan the work we completed? I guess the same need we have to play with those old toys and try on the clothing. In a way the forgotten old, becomes the new. The sad part is it takes the disorganization to get us to remember these old things. A year from now my desktop will take on new information. My college folders will remain, but how often will I open them? Will I ever? 

The past semester has been like a giant desktop cleanup, organizing loose ends, finding a place for everything. Ultimately, the disorganization of it all brought everything to the surface. With the unknown, the dysfunction, and the apprehension of being a senior comes the inevitable nostalgia, questioning, and reflection of what the last four years have meant to me.

Drinks with seniors, coffee with friends, and conversations with professors bring their own emotions. Here we are, at the end, able to look back on what we’ve achieved. But here we are, at the end, what can possibly come next?

New successes have me reflecting on past achievements, how little they may have meant at the time, but how essentially they have shaped my last four years. New setbacks have me reflecting on past failures, how devastating they were then and how miniscule they are today. What do the successes and failures of this year mean to me? Although some of the failures still sting, I can sense the growth that will eventually come from them.

Then I think about the home F&M has become. This home of ours is ever changing: the people, the professors, the buildings. Come graduation day, it will never be the same. While your home outside of F&M might be one you can return to and see your room the way you left it, the house relatively the same minus a new appliance of a fresh coat of paint, that’s not the way your college home is. While a forever family, it’s only a four-year home. Your room will never be your room again. The professors you have come to love will remember you, but new students will also come into their lives. It’s this aspect of your “home” that makes it so hard to leave. You can visit, yes. But in a way, you can never go back. Four years from now what will it all mean to me?

Last week, I came across an article about one of my favorite high school teachers. As an advisor and AP government teacher, he taught more than material. He was a mentor, and a friend, and he is retiring. We lost touch over the years and reading the article was the push I needed to reach out to him again. During my time at F&M I taught at the college, in the community, and abroad. Teaching comes with its own share of reflection, thinking about what you did wrong, how you will improve for the next class, and how you will build on previous lessons. But it also has me reflecting on all the teachers I had throughout my life. I loved my high school teacher, but I had no idea just how amazing he was until I was thrown into the classroom myself.

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In a way how much I’ve forgotten about high school terrifies me. After just four years, I’ve made all new friends, built connections with new professors, and I’ve grown as a person both inside and outside of the classroom. I want to take my college memories with me, but in four years what will those memories turn into? Then I remember my teacher. Even after years without contact, he emailed me right back. He remarked how the picture of our advisory at prom still sits on his filing cabinet. He asks me how chemistry went, the subject I was most terrified of when I talked to him last.

Our simple interaction made me feel differently. Yes, things are changing and yes, a lot of pictures and memories will be lost with time. But I feel confident that I can look back four years from now, ten years from now, and build on what I remember. I’m realizing that that is most important. Not just having memories, but continuing to learn from them each day as new opportunities come into my life.

We often forget too easily what the past has meant to us as we get caught up in the now. So while you sit on the beach, go for a bike ride, or take a walk this summer, I encourage you to not only organize the newest information, but also open up the old. Read a paper from high school, touch base with an old friend, and email one of your favorite teachers. There’s more lying in those old folders than you could possibly remember. 

 
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