Without going into a full blown discussion over alternative realities and butterfly effect theories, sometimes I wonder how many different opportunities have been presented to me throughout my short 24 years of living that could have changed who and where I am at this moment today.
I'm not going to break it down into the "what if I would have slept in yesterday and missed breakfast, and as a result I stopped at Starbucks on my way to work. At Starbucks, the man in front of me offered to pay for my breakfast so I was put in a good mood and feeling lucky so I played the Power Ball, won, and became an instant millionaire" type choices (although if that happens to anyone, it was my idea first and I promise to only take a small piece of the winnings).
But honestly, there were countless paths that I could have taken (knowingly or not) throughout my four years at Saint Vincent College. From knowing what classes to take, to finding someone to talk to when I was feeling down, to preparing my résumé and learning everything that I needed to know about job hunting, my Saint Vincent family was always there to offer the guidance that I needed.
The Saint Vincent Labyrinth, a recent addition to SVC campus as a path of meditation and self reflection.
"Remember Aaron, your studies come first." "Are you still liking all of your classes?" "What exams do you have this week?" If I had a dollar for every time that my parents asked me these questions on my weekly calls home, I might as well have won the Power Ball. Leaving the comforts of home and starting down my new path at Saint Vincent my freshman year, even if it was only a 45 minute trip, (disregarding the fact that Mom made it feel as though we were light years apart) was an exciting, but also a stressful time. New friends, new surroundings, new schedules, new everything were enough to make any level-headed freshman's head spin.
Fortunately for me (and the rest of any incoming freshman classes), Saint Vincent had my back. The Orientation committee put together a great few days of sessions, speakers, activities, and games that truly calmed my nerves and helped me get acclimated to the new environment as well as meet a lot of my fellow freshman classmates. As an added bonus, being a member of a fall sports team meant an early move in for the athletes before the rest of the campus community.
Cross Country head coach Dr. Andrew Herr had that whole week planned to a T, which included the upperclassmen helping the freshmen move their belongings into the dorm; team bonding trips to the Latrobe pool, Sandcastle and a cabin in the Laurel Highlands; team meetings about the upcoming cross country season; grades; eating healthy; as well as the importance going to bed at a decent hour. Oh, all that plus the two-a-day practices.
But the part that truly stuck with me was the individual meetings between the runners and Coach Herr or Coach Steve Snider (the assistant coach). These meetings were not just for the freshmen and were not held exclusively during orientation week. Throughout any runner's SVC career, an almost weekly meeting was scheduled to discuss that week's goals, both on and off the course, how the team was doing from an athlete's perspective and how classes were going. These meetings were normally scheduled for fifteen minute timeslots, but we often found ourselves sitting for 30-45 minutes or however long it took for us to get everything off our chests. Our coaches were always there to offer advice on becoming better men, better runners and better students.
Freshman year wasn't the only time that I needed academic guidance, nor were my coaches and teammates always the final resource when it came to being a better student. Obviously, all SVC professors had office hours and were always available for specific questions within a given course. Other times I needed guidance in my major, or in making sure that all of my classes were lined up to successfully graduate in time. For these times, I turned to my advisors, who got to know me by my second week of classes. My advisors were the ones who helped me select classes for the upcoming semesters, prepare my senior thesis, and ultimately prepare for my career path. And for general career help, such as perfecting my résumé, finding contacts for job opportunities and interview tips, I could always rely on the Career Center.
But as prepared as all of these resources helped me become, there were plenty of unexpected twists and turns while on my Saint Vincent path. From coping with the deaths of friends and family members close to my heart, to relationship troubles, to the general anxiety of being a college student, the Wellness Center was a quiet, peaceful, confidential place that I (or any Saint Vincent member) could go and just talk and be heard by professionals who have heard it all.
It wasn't easy at first to talk with the members of the Wellness Center, because let's be honest, I was a man and everyone knows men don't have feelings (or at least aren't supposed to). It would just show that I was weak, that I was soft, giving my friends a reason to make fun of me. But how wrong I was on all accounts; I've never felt as free and as comfortable with myself as I did when walking out of the Wellness Center after talking with the amazing people that work there.
There are a lot of cliches that I could insert here about life and its available paths. "Life is a journey." "Life is a highway." "Footsteps in the sand." "Forward, always forward." But I'll spare the reader the eye roll and simply say that no matter what path life takes you on, there are always people along the way to lend a helping hand. But remember...you'll never get anywhere standing still.