Erin in Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver

Erin Shields

Erin graduated from Carleton in November 2016. As of Fall 2017, she is attending UCLA law school on full scholarship. You can follow her final days as a Carleton student, starting with her semester abroad at Smith College (Massachusetts) here. 

April 12th 2016

It’s four a.m., if time can still be said to have any meaning—as of late, it has seemed, to you, to move by deadlines instead of hours, in fits and starts. You sit at your desk, which has developed a fortification of books around its outer border—

(“What even are those?” says your friend, a Criminology major, when you plop six ponderous tomes onto the café table.  It seems as if the earth itself rattles as they touch down, and you wonder, as a cloud of dust rises from the stack, if you have made a wise decision in unearthing these words. “I haven’t used a source that isn’t available online since I started my degree.” You tremble, eyes watering. These tears could be dust or sadness. You no longer know.)

Inside the walls of your book-prison, loose journal article print-outs have mixed with Tim Horton’s wrappers and post-it notes. The kettle is always on; your very sweat and tears of despair have become a caffeine concentrate. The computer holds a universe that is more real than the world around you; your body twists toward its bright blue light, as if asking for nourishment, or benediction. You can no longer recall the warm touch of the sun.

Somewhere amongst the blurring lines of your readings on postmodernism, you have become convinced that nothing is real—you are not real. Why are you writing? What are you writing? Hands move across the keyboard, but they no longer belong to you.

You enter a kind of fugue state; when you next look up, you find that the essay is done. You go to put on your coat, only to find that you are already in it. Outside, snow collects on the ground. You could have sworn it was spring, but perhaps you have woken up in a different time, a parallel universe.

As you move across the whitened plain, someone calls to you (is that your name that they shape with their foreign lips? You check the paper in your hand; perhaps it can tell you). You try to communicate—you have been on a journey, although you are not sure where you have been. The words in your hand must be sacrificed to a tower in the distance. This quest seems to have been given to you in a dream, or in another world; you vaguely recall that this person was there with you. You feel that you have not always been as you are now.

Your companion disappears. You go on.

A chill wind carries you to your destination. Inside the building, you press a button, and hope to be carried upward. You hear screams from the elevator shaft, but when the doors open, no one is there. Someone has written “this is the worst elevator” onto the ceiling. There are smudges beside the words. You do not know if it is blood.

You make it to your destination safely. Standing beside a small slot in the wall, you scan the pages in your hand, but don’t seem to remember writing the words on the page. You submit it anyway. There is no indication that the wall approves of your sacrifice.

Your quest is complete, but you feel no sense of relief, of resolution. You go back home; you are not sure if your books have rearranged themselves while you were away. From the corner of your eye, you seem to catch a strange glow emanating from under the front cover of one particularly audacious volume; you know this portal must be entered, but tomorrow, tomorrow. For now, you clear yourself a nesting-space amongst your papers, and close your eyes. The world goes dark. You are not sure you will wake up again. Your last thought is of a desperate hope: that there will indeed be a tomorrow, in a recognizable universe, with a recognizable you inside it.

February 20th 2016

Sweet Baby Jesus it’s cold.

It’s really not, I hear you say. But you know, or maybe you don’t know, that that judgement is so, so relative. You stand there, in your tee-shirt, telling me to man up because it could be so much worse—you are from a small town just north of here/a remote sphere of the Arctic/Winnipeg and you have seen winters and this is fine, just fine (this with an air of pride and a little trauma-induced madness lying just behind your widened eyes). I’m from Vancouver. If it snows in Vancouver, we all stare at the sky in wonderment, blessing the Gods of Precipitation that our grey rainy Christmas has been turned white—cue Bing Crosby. And then we shut down all the schools and cars line the ditches because we have no idea how to deal with the world below 0 degrees. And then, 24 hours after it fell, the snow melts.

I was the object of merciless teasing during my first winter here. I’m sure all of my whining was just adorable—what could be heard of it through multiple layers of scarves. I spent hours recounting the wonders of west coast winters to anyone who would listen (and when there was no one here left to bother, to my Mom, over text). How cute, this young’un, this naïve little Vancouverite. You know nothing, Jon Snow.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about this—my whole first year, “the beginning.” It’s disconcerting, because I’m not sure that I’m allowed to have this kind of weird, nostalgic glow about anything at this stage of my life. But the peculiar combination of coming back after an eight-month absence, eyes no longer accustomed to familiar sights, and the knowledge that this semester will be my last here—this makes me particularly prone to reflection.

My four years here—or three and two thirds, not over yet—seem both incredibly short and endless. It seems a lot has changed for such a short period of time—or maybe it isn’t really short, a fifth of my life span. I realize now, looking back, that when I first came to Carleton I was very set on orchestrating a particular kind of university experience for myself. It may not have been entirely conscious, but I had a plan. I have since been thoroughly derailed.

I don’t really talk to any of those people who made fun of my winter whining, anymore—they were all lovely people, to be sure, but I was testing out different versions of myself at the time. I also met my best friend in my first year. She kind of snuck into my life, while I was gathering feedback on different Erin-prototypes. She was a friend of my roommate who fell passionately in love with my bookshelf; I became her librarian, and our first exchanges were literary handoffs. One day she spotted a new copy of Crime and Punishment at the back of my shelf, the spine obviously and pitifully still pristine, uncracked; it turns out she too had a similarly untouched copy at home, and this—our lofty reading goals and dismaying lack of follow-through—is what sparked the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

(She has since read Crime and Punishment—the same copy that sat on my bookshelf first year. I still haven’t. The spine is now cracked, but not by my hands. I’M A DISAPPOINTMENT TO MY WHOLE DEPARTMENT AND I’M SO SORRY.)

And, as I’ve already discussed in earlier posts, English also snuck into my life while I was busy elsewhere. I was in Political Science, which I honestly thought would be a good fit for me—or maybe it was part of who I wanted to see myself as. My first year seminar in English crept up on me much the same way my strange little literary companion did—quietly asserting itself as my perfect match, and showing me who I was to be matched in such a way.

I am, four years down the line, just as likely to rehash the Vancouver/Ottawa comparison, in the depths of winter, disparaging and somewhat astonished. But I have also realized—this I whisper to you, a secret muttered under my breath—that I have come to like Ottawa. Not in the way of my first encounter with it, in the warm glow of newfound freedom, imagined burgeoning adulthood. There are streets I’m particularly fond of, coffee shops that I have come to rely and depend on, a grocery store that will be perpetually remembered with a kind of rosy cast, next to an apartment that I no longer live in—an apartment which, strangely enough, constituted a record for me, the longest continuous living arrangement I’ve ever had, though I stubbornly persisted in calling other places ‘home.’

And winter. There is something to be said for the blinding brightness of these winters—and the beautiful sunrises. Even freezing cold, hand (perhaps permanently?) iced to coffee thermos, questioning the forces that had me anywhere beyond bed at such an hour, I have been brought to a moment of breathless, lingering appreciation. Bright, clear cold. Not to mention a positive side effect, for an introvert, of our frigid temperatures: having a built-in icebreaker (—hah!). We may make fun of how often we talk about the weather, but there is something that I quite enjoy in the enactment of this cliché—the brief union of strangers, fellow humans slogging through a continual battle against the elements. (Except for you, in your tee-shirt, from the Maritimes, refusing to commiserate. “This is nothing,” you say.)

(The other thing that seems to bring people together in this way is the elevator situation in Dunton Tower. The communing of soldiers in the foxhole. Will these be our last moments?)

I think all of this is meant to be comforting—to you, but probably mostly for me, as I cast my eyes forward and the stone drops into the pit of my stomach. People ask me how I feel about graduating so soon, and I say, “Excited! And also terrified about being set loose on the real world”—laughing, to cover the uncomfortable excess of honesty in that declaration. I am excited. The world is full of possibilities. But I am terrified, because it is full of uncertainties. Flip sides of the same coin.

And maybe I will be casting more of my security blanket behind me as I take my next few steps forward—whatever I do next, it’ll be different, more difficult, more frustrating, more scary. But the best parts about my university experience have been all the ways I’ve gone off script. Very few things I planned turned out the way I wanted them to, and lots of things I couldn’t have planned have become so integral to my life that I can’t imagine having taken another path. And sometimes, like some bizarre form of environmental Stockholm Syndrome, you even come to appreciate the inhospitable beauty of a winter like this one. What do you have left to fear, when you’ve learned to appreciate the world at -25?

(And now, to lighten the mood, a graph, courtesy of Tumblr and Buzzfeed Canada. (Although please don’t actually stop complaining. I enjoy our winter-enduring elevator-smalltalk fellowship.))

December 11th, 2015

Messages From the (Not-Quite) Eye of the Storm

This time of year is not kind to students.

My birthday is in November. Two days after Halloween, actually, which made for wonderful themed parties when I was younger (my poor parents got very used to making food that looked like bloody limbs and finding ways to gently scare but not terrify the guests). Now it usually means that I have a round of essays due the next day and I’m so sleep deprived that I enter the next year of my life staring at the ceiling and laughing hysterically about something that is not in any way funny. And November turns into December all too quickly, midterms melding into finals seemingly without breath or reprieve.

Being a perfectionist (and maybe, just maybe a bit of an obnoxious overachiever) and having one semester at another university is a bit of a recipe for an Erin-shaped disaster. Be kind to yourself, the international students services office says to you, over and over again, as they attempt to prepare you for your departure. Take care of yourself. Go for a run and call your parents and eat your greens and stop punishing yourself for not being at 100% all the time.

YOU BETTER MAKE IT COUNT! Says my inner saboteur.

Let me share with you a little anecdote about how that is going, so far.

Imagine a pleasant Saturday afternoon. The leaves have fallen but the winter cold has descended lightly, the sun shining and glinting off the frost-iced grass. I have been trapped inside my beige box of a room since morning, trying to come to grips with Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (a journey which I embarked upon ready and willing to receive supreme truths, I swear, but the man has an unhealthy love of the comma.) It is at about 3:30—having paused my descent into punctuation-induced madness for a stretch break, coffee refill, and agenda check—that I find out that I do not, in fact, have a copy of the play I will have to have read for my (early morning) Monday class. (Having had two essays due the week previous, we will have to be lenient with me in regards to this belated realization.) This is cause for some muted embarrassment, but no great dismay—until, having walked across campus to the bookstore, I become aware of the fact that the campus bookstore closes at 3PM on Saturdays and isn’t open on Sundays.

Northampton is not like Ottawa. For all that I love its small town charm—independent bookstores and coffee shops, a quaint, brick-bedazzled “downtown” that reaches maybe 10 blocks—there are moments, like this one, where I miss access to things like Chapters. It is because of this (and yes, perhaps a generational expectation of and preference for the instantaneous), that I scurried first over to the internet to employ all of the Google-searching skills I have developed throughout the course of this degree to try to find a PDF version. It turns out, however, that unless you read Greek, it is very difficult to find a copy of Euripides’ The Bacchae online.

(There was a very brief moment when I wondered if I could possibly get anything out of Google-translating the whole document. Sleep deprivation, people, is not to be taken lightly.)

Sunday morning led me on a hunt through the second hand bookstores of Northampton—surely, I thought, surely someone who had taken this course before me (“Western Classics in Translation, Homer to Dante”: my professor admitted to us the other day that the course curriculum had been designed before the second world war and really hasn’t changed much at all since then)—surely someone had cast off a copy of this play, surely it was lurking on the bottom shelf somewhere, hidden behind a stack of Grisham novels.

(I am entirely sure that there are indeed a million copies of Euripides’ The Bacchae hiding in this town, in the bottom of $1 bins, and that the universe was just punishing me for my own stupidity.)

After not finding anything in the first couple of hours of my search, and having another essay due the following Tuesday, I finally had to give up. I was going to just have to go in—to my “the-best-thing-about-liberal-arts-college-is-the-class-sizes,” nowhere-to-run-nowhere-to-hide-the-professor-WILL-call-on-you, class of seven other students—armed with only Sparknotes and bravado.

Sunday night—actually, probably early Monday morning—is when I sat bolt upright in bed, the answer having been brought to me seemingly from a dream: The Library. That lovely old institution, open 7 AM – 11 PM, 7 days a week, a hall filled with books!

I actually managed to start and finish the play before my 9 AM class the next morning, but that is really not the point. The point is… the point is that I obviously have a limited amount of intelligence, and that I am (this being the only possible conclusion) a failure. I have failed at life. I no longer understand how to live in the real world, the world of tangible objects. I considered emailing the Killam foundation to ask if they would rescind my fellowship. I texted my parents and told them not to mourn for me when I die of the shame for having forgotten about libraries.

—so that is how the semester is going, so far.

All of that being said, it really is in the fury and rush of readings and assignments, alternating between despair and epiphany (and hysterical library-forgetting madness, coupled with the soul-destroying fatigue that takes away the ability to even move but for the mindless, involuntary swiping of thumb on phone screen, the mind empty but for what is placed there by the social media powers that be)—it is in the midst of this almost-done-yet-so-far-to-go academic whirlwind that my favourite part of the semester really starts. Deep in the anxiety pool, churning out pages of analysis by the hour, you can achieve a total, dream-like immersion, and all of a sudden: things start to connect.

What I mean is this. In my “Sound in Cinema” class, we have been talking recently about the voice, about lip-synching in film specifically, but as part of this discussion we read an article about the uniqueness of voices. We forget about this, because we are often so caught up in understanding the words being spoken that we don’t realize how much more than mere words arrives at our ears.

At the same time, in a class on language—entitled “Imagining Language,” which really means “strange things artists do with language and dead philosophers who had a few thoughts about why we communicate in the ways that we do”—I was reading Gottfried Herder’s “Essay on the Origin of Language,” which compares Hebrew and Ancient Greek. Because of its omission of written representation of vowel sounds, Herder argues that Hebrew is somehow more “alive”: the vowel is the living breath of a language, and Hebrew concedes, with this omission, that there is something in this living breath, the expression of the unique human voice, that eludes containment in representation.

And this then led me to a kind of epiphany in my vocal performance class—you are told constantly, in classical voice training, to sing through your vowels, to open up, to hide “ahs” in your “ees” and “oos,” and in light of my other classes, suddenly this lesson took on a new construction for me; I began to imagine breath and life and unique voice bouncing between consonants in my arias.

And then Aristophanes hiccupped his way out of the Symposium and out of my Western Classics course into a discussion on pre- and postlinguistic uses of the voice in my film class; meanwhile Alice Munro, the subject of my seminar class, forever manages to alight gently on every thought I’ve ever had, Dante and the voice and my Grandmother’s childhood. And it’s here that it happens: as every subject—every thought—begins to seep out of its own self-defined borders, I start to, in spite of myself, have a strange kind of fun.

In moments like this, it is like… I am standing on a platform, on a hill, and I am alone. There is music only I can hear but somehow I am in control, I am all powerful, with a flick of the wrist I coax fireworks out of the ether to burst into stars at strategic musical climaxes. I am concocting the greatest conspiracy theory of all time: it is all connected, don’t you see? And I feel like I am conducting the world. (It’s also somewhat like how I imagine Oprah felt giving everybody in the audience a car.)

—and then I forget how libraries work.

And of course, it should not be all that surprising to note that there are places where my courses overlap; moreover I know, having taken a few psychology and cognitive science courses, that seeing patterns where there are none is something the human brain just does, a cognitive bias. But it’s hard not to ascribe something more to this feeling—especially when it starts bleeding out of the academic sphere, becomes a kind of permanently altered brain-state where everything I learn from every corner of my life starts to connect and intertwine.

But there is a kind of naïve optimism afforded to BA students, right? And perhaps now I can take shelter under that expectation to wave my own little banner. The world has been a little hard to look at head-on, as of late, with Paris and San Bernardino and Syria and everywhere else, the list growing and changing by the hour. And so I think I’m going to make a choice here—I’ll decide that this feeling that I have is not the result of sleep deprivation or anxiety-induced hysteria or even cognitive bias. I’m going to decide that this is actually a kind of greater truth that I’ve discovered—that all of these lines we’re continually drawing in the sand are sometimes useful, maybe, but only ever as tools and not truths. You can’t separate ideas or disciplines or people quite so easily into categories; our differences do not cancel out our similarities, the connections that can be made if we let ourselves go there.  You will forgive me if, in my anxiety, I seem to have misplaced my tinfoil hat, because it seems to me that it is this—this connectedness, as I continue to say, for a lack of a better term—which seems to signify some kind of greater truth, a message from the universe transmitted to me from wherever I happen to look.

(And please. If you find an online copy of The Bacchae today—don’t tell me about it.)

October 25th, 2015

Mountain Day

Mountain Day.

The first time I hear this term, it is a gorgeous day—New England is beginning to hint at its famed fall colours, and the day warms gently from crisp morning to buttery soft afternoon sunshine—and everyone seems vaguely unhappy. I learn why in my after-lunch class, a timeslot I despise even more than the ever-feared 8:30 start time, because my eyelids inevitably start to droop and caffeine always manages to desert me in my time of need.

One of my classmates throws her bag onto the table across from me with a resounding whump before dramatically flinging herself into her seat and throwing her head onto the table as well (for good measure.) “I wanted it to be Mountain Dayyyy,” she says, desk-muffled.

“I heard it was supposed to be today, but the bells were broken so they couldn’t call it,” says the girl she walked in with (who sets herself down somewhat more delicately than her friend.)

The girl sitting next to me, who has been very quiet up until this point, now joins in.

“No, KMac”—that would be President Kathleen McCartney—“isn’t at school right now—she’s at a conference or something. That’s why.” This is said authoritatively enough to be quickly accepted as truth.

The dramatic one, head momentarily up off the table again, huffs at this. “They better call it soon.”

Another girl spies her chance to contribute; she chimes in, with a sadistic gleam in her eye. “My crew instructor told us that they used to never call it before the very end of October, and that President McCartney wants to start transitioning back to that!”


Mountain Day is a long-standing Smith College tradition. It is up to the President of the College to denote the “first real day of Fall” by ringing the bells in the quad at 7am, signalling a spontaneous day off for all students. Classes before 7 pm are cancelled, and students are expected to participate in fall-type events. There are buses running to a local apple orchard every 30 minutes; there are nature hikes, morning yoga on the hill with President McCartney. Some houses (residences) schedule their own events, like going to pumpkin patches. Smaller houses have baking parties.

Students at Smith are very vocal about their needs. The President lives on campus, and her house is often the site of demonstrations; this, among many other things, was what led to the College’s monumental policy change this year which allows anyone identifying as a woman, be they trans- or cisgender, to be accepted at Smith, a women’s-only college since its founding in 1871.

This year, they also gathered outside the President’s house to demand Mountain Day.

This is just one of the many things that manages to surprise me into remembering that I am not, dear Toto, in Kansas anymore. There are logistical things—inches, feet and miles, exchange rates, and I’ve come to accept the fact that Fahrenheit is just never going to mean anything to me without a conversion—but by and large, it’s easy to forget that I’m in a different country, in a world where my experiences don’t necessarily correlate to those of the people around me.

There are jokes I miss, about things like mistaking the words of the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school. I only remember I’m near New York on September 11, when the cafeteria workers are exchanging stories about where they were, what they were doing, who they were with 14 years ago. Imagine me, watching election results online too late at night on my computer with headphones in. I’m happy. I text my parents in exclamatory, caps-locked celebration. But in classes the next day I hear nothing about it, because it doesn’t register as being in any way important to the people around me. I do end up talking to a few very conscientious students about the election—the kind that dutifully read New York Times articles online every morning—and they listen to my ramblings with polite and kind-hearted disinterest.

In my personal experience, other students here either seem to hold no awareness or interest in Canada beyond a hazy impression of cold socialists, or they have an excited, strangely idealistic notion of us—Canada is a realm in which the bad things don’t happen, why can’t we be more like them? I have a lot of trouble with that last one, stuck between a feeling of overwhelming pride and an urge to walk around with Canadian newspapers, saying, “read this! And this one! Just look at all of our bad things!”

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” That’s the Proust quote that I crafted my Killam application’s personal statement around—not so original, I know, but I think it nicely sums up something that anyone who travels can attest to. What is more comforting than the realization that, no matter how much we love where we have come to, we are ready to go home, home to the place we were so eager to escape when we left? Or maybe we never feel this way; maybe we end up seeing our home-worlds with a clarity that is more unsettling.

Being here, I ask myself to be Canadian in a way that I do not feel is necessary at home, amongst other Canadians, and I ask myself to listen, pay attention. By doing this I learn. And I made an argument in that personal statement that I will reiterate here: I think literature teaches us how to do this—to dive into another world, into someone else’s head, to feel empathy and to learn about ourselves through analogy and contrast.

Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s Mountain Day, and there are fall leaves and apple pie.

September 29, 2015


I don’t think one can ever be fully mentally or emotionally prepared to throw oneself out of a plane.

For most of the week prior, I had repressed the reality of the upcoming jump; even when I began to, in spite of myself, imagine the moment of egress—ground, then not ground; solid, then air—nothing in my imaginings could have compared to the actual moment. And so, it felt very sudden: the wait on the ground lasted three hours, the climb to 10,000 feet in the tiny, rickety plane took eight minutes, the shuffle into position seemed to take an age, and yet, in the end, it is the smallest, tiniest fraction of a second that makes all the difference. In plane; not in plane.

And then: 30 seconds—30 of the longest seconds imaginable. Freefall.

Let me be clear: I am not the kind of person who jumps out of planes (even with a tandem jump instructor attached to my back, in charge of pulling the chute and generally getting me to the ground alive.) I am, by all accounts, a rather timid person, plagued by anxiety and fear.

However, ruminating upon my skydiving experience once the dust had settled and my heart started beating properly again, I also realized that the feeling of it—the jump—was not as unfamiliar as one would think.

When I arrived at Carleton, I thought I was going to major in Political Science. Officially I was “undeclared,” but I took all of the intro classes, poured over the list of required courses, planned the upcoming four years down to each elective. I did all of my readings, attended (most) of my lectures, and found a lot of the material very interesting. But in these classes I discovered a great evil, fated, I believed, to bring my doom, the ruination of my university career: tutorials, and the 10% of my grade devoted to my participation there.

And I couldn’t do it. Once, my very sweet and incredibly compassionate TA actually asked me to talk about what kind of coffee I was drinking, in an effort to get me to just say something, and even then I could barely stutter out two words with an apologetic smile (and, as if to rub it in, my one little utterance led the group into a lively debate on chain-versus-local and branding; shame on me for drinking Starbucks).

Amidst my various PoliSci intro courses, I had signed up for an English First Year Seminar. I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, and so it had only made sense. The reading list appealed to me, Rate My Professor approved my choice, and so it was done.

It was in this English class that I first offered an opinion in class. Revving up to raising my hand was much like the eight-minute plane ride up to 10,000 feet—my heart leapt to my throat, my stomach dropped, I actually, I am embarrassed to say, started shaking. And then my professor called upon me, and suddenly: not speaking… and then speaking.

Freefall is glorious. When I let myself think about the jump in the days, hours leading up to it, when I allowed myself to think about deriving any kind of enjoyment out of the experience, I thought I would like parachuting: gliding through the air, nothing but the gentle flap of the chute like a sail on a boat, surveying the world from 5,000 feet up, flying. But in actuality, freefall—that was the best part. It was thrilling; it was exhilarating. It stole the air out of my lungs and filled me with elation. It was monumental; it felt like freedom.

Speaking in class that first time was a lot like freefall. It was exhilarating, I found, to discover that I could actually string intelligent words together in a sentence. From there it was all parachute—I had gotten myself out of the plane and now it was time to leisurely enjoy the scenery. After class, high on 16th-century poetry, I walked from the classroom to the nearest available table and changed my major to English. I have never regretted the decision.

As an Arts major, I feel like we hear a lot about what an Arts degree can do for you; we feel the need to prove our practicality, prove that what we are doing is worthwhile. The determination we hear in these defences makes us feel like the opposition to this view must be fierce, even if we have never really had it delivered to us in explicit terms. And our defences are gorgeous. Olivia Polk, from whom I am inheriting this blog, quoted Margaret Mead in her opening piece last year, asserting that an Arts degree teaches you how to think, instead of what to think; I couldn’t agree more. There are so many amazing things I have learned in the course of my degree—university has been a whirlwind of new ideas, and studying literature in particular has been a constant and demanding exercise in perspective.

More than anything else, literature, and this degree, has pushed me out of planes. It has pushed me into professors’ office hours, into conversations with intimidatingly intelligent people, into entering my own creative writing into a short-story competition, into applying for a prestigious undergraduate fellowship I never dreamed I’d actually get; thanks to that last, I’m writing this in my room at Smith College, Massachusetts, across from the house where Sylvia Plath lived when she attended the college herself in the fifties. (Sometime next week, I plan to go look at original copies of her letters; they also have a collection of Virginia Woolf’s letters, in the library’s rare book room.)

What I found at Carleton, in the English Department, was something that I loved enough to challenge the limits I had, in fear, placed upon myself.

So, if I can offer a piece of advice, from whatever wisdom I may have gleaned from my small collection of life experiences thus far: take your leap, whatever form it may take. If there is something I hope everyone can experience during this period of our lives, it is the thrill of learning that you are capable of more than you thought.

(Although, a brief PSA: parachutes, real and figurative, are advised.)