Finding Wisdom - Colleen Mason

Finding Wisdom
Colleen Mason
Some thoughts and reflections from the year:
Chapter One. Introductions
I’m Colleen. We aren’t close yet so I’ll let you know a little something about myself. I like Rubik’s cubes, Pink Floyd and Beethoven. I love long naps on the beach but I love mojitos even more. I’m weird in the I-really-like-that-band-that-you-probably–think-was-just-ok kind of way. The reason I came to Sacred Heart University was to fence – and it’s probably the best and the worst thing I’ve ever done to myself. My first job was a camp counselor; it taught me that I don’t ever want to ever be a teacher. My motto in life is “Don’t bash it until you try it.”
In July of 2011 I was in a car crash while driving back home from work. There weren’t any life-threatening injuries but I had a hard time dealing with the emotional trauma. For weeks afterwards I had nightmares where I relived that feeling of crashing into that truck. It’s a terrible sensation, the powerless feeling of being unable to stop yourself from slamming into another car. It’s like being on a roller coaster – no matter how much you scream you just keep on going. And no one will stop the ride to let you off, because it would ruin the fun for everyone else. When I had a similar accident months later I just swore off cars altogether.
Chapter Two: Those Sword Things
Fencing is a pretty big deal in my life. But for those you don’t know, fencing is pretty much a religion. Once you start fencing, everything in your life suddenly changes. Every interaction with people, technology, and music, pretty much anything can be translated into fencing terms once you get immersed into the sport.
What I love about fencing is making that perfect hit, taking a perfect step. It’s the perfection in the movement. I crave those moments when you can feel the beauty of perfect action and reaction.
Fencing is the reason I am at Sacred Heart University. The team works hard. We start training the day we arrive at SHU and don’t stop until there’s only a few weeks left of school. Everyone on the team is super close and we all end up knowing way too much about each other by the time the season is over.
 It’s exactly like a giant family.
Chapter Three. September
Before the car accident I used to think that when I died, I would want to go out looking death in the face. That’s why every time I crossed a road I would stare down the drivers of those cars who are waiting for you to cross. In the back of my head I was always thinking that they did not have their foot down on the break hard enough and they would run me over.
Two weeks after the accident I came back to school. The move back to Bridgeport could have not have come sooner. I was getting antsy back at home. I was missing my friends at school; friends at home were starting to get dull in comparison. I especially could not wait to move into a new apartment, where I would have my own room and live with people I actually liked.
Sacred Heart University is a little school trying to act like a giant monster. It’s all noise and construction, all doctors and professors running around with meetings and tests and machines buzzing and students talking. It’s hard to find a quiet place to sit and think. Everyone is always trying to do something. The change from slow-home life to fast pace-university time is a shocker. But you get over it eventually.
That first meeting with your old friends is the best. These are the people who know you. The ones who you really live with, your pseudo family who has seen grow up at college.
Chapter Four. November
Gordon is one of my best friends at Sacred Heart. We get along like two peas in a pod. I could tell you stories about the crazy things Gordon and I have done over the years. But one of the craziest adventures happened during a cold September weekend when we drove up to Massachusetts to his cousin Shana’s Tupac memorial party.
 A party as high class as this had a dress code; guests were asked to wear an appropriate ghetto or gangsta outfit. To take care of this, Gordon and me put on as much bling as we could find, drew fake tattoos on each other, dyed his beard gold and spray-painted my hair pink. We brought our posse; Mike and Casey came to party. They were also appropriately attired. We represented with pride. Our gang looked so good.
Bandanas, wife beaters and grills were everywhere at the party. In the corner sat a modest table set with pictures of Tupac and simple offerings – some CDs, a few chains and some dollar bills. His music graced the air. The atmosphere of the party was chill and well, let’s be honest, there were a bunch of old people there. A lot of them were nearing thirty. And they were crowding the dance floor. It was cool for a while, but us young folks started to get antsy. There is only so much h’orderves can do before a bunch of kids have to move on and do something else.
Chapter Five. Repercussions
The evil side of being an athlete reared its ugly head and spat in my face early in September. It started off simply enough. I started having a little more soreness and being a little extra tired after practice. By the end of November I had lost the feeling in my left hand and had these horrible stabbing pains in my shoulder. Turns out my body hates fencing and the nerves in my shoulder were getting pinched because of tendonitis and muscle spasms. This developed into weeks and months of rehab. 
With two years of collegiate competing and eight years total training, I was pretty much sitting on a ticking bomb. When your body betrays you things get dark. I’m not claiming to be some kind of suffering martyr or anything, but pain gives you perspective. Some things are hard to do, others become impossible. When people see that you’re in pain they feel bad for you. Which is so nice. But it gets old fast.Fencing has become something that was once great but now is terrible.
Chapter Six. Apple Liberation
Gordon, me, Mike and Casey had reached a breaking point at the Tupac memorial party. Casey was drunk, Mike was getting to a point where he should stop drinking. We all hopped into the car and left the party and drove to an apple orchard. Now, long story short, there were actually two apple orchards. One was owned by a great guy, John Castles – been there for years, a real pillar of the community. The other was operated by a real jerk, Tom McCauley. Who was doing everything possible to run Mr. Castles into the ground.
Earlier in the day I had enjoyed apples from Mr. Castle’s orchard. And by gum, those were the best apples I ever had. Just like that I became personally invested in this dire struggle between good and evil.
Now, McCauley was an extremely obnoxious advertiser of his orchard. All up and down the street he had placed horribly worded and misspelled signs saying “Free Apples Drops,” to draw people to his orchard.
To do right by the community we stole one of McCauley’s signs. We sent Casey out there to grab the sign, but for some reason she found it impossible to remove from the ground. Upon later investigation, we learned she had been trying to pull out a stop sign. Escape was compromised by a cop sighting, but he only waved at us as he drove by.
I am proud to say that McCauley’s now holds a place of dishonor in my room.
Chapter Seven. Death of the Old Year
                Gordon and I aren’t friends any more.
You bet there is that awkward, oh I see we’re in the same hallway but I’m just going to smile and nod, situation going on.
                 I want to blame my shoulder, because that sparked the whole situation. After months of being treated like a porcelain doll I couldn’t handle one more person treating me like I was a delicate flower. I couldn’t handle the frustration of constantly being looked at as something broken so I locked him out. The friendship was shut down.
                Things escalated. Words were said. Feelings of betrayal, abandonment. Lots of emotions going on. Lots of anger and frustration. The person that I thought was my friend didn’t really turn out to be the person I thought he was.
                Moving on.
Chapter Eight. March. Done. Freedom.
                 When the fencing season is finally over it is like coming back from summer vacation. You see all your friends again, get involved with activities and go stir crazy from lack of having anything to do. It’s a great time of year to do new things – weather gets nice, you hear about what people are thinking about doing with themselves over the summer, and you start thinking about where you’re going to find yourself in the next couple of months.
                I found myself wandering over to where the philosophers are. Boy! Are they wild; those thinkers in the administration building are a breed apart. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to imagine your hand as an elegant dancer? Have you ever contemplated what it would feel like to choose to save one human life over five? It’s all new words, all new complicated Greek terms and all these crazy philosophers contemplating human experience. One simple phrase like “All is One” can mean so much. It’s a whole other realm of experience.
                Anyway, for someone who doesn’t get a lot of free time it is so nice to meet people who don’t know anything about fencing or anything about me. And it’s just as awesome to play the mental games that come with philosophy. It’s literally a breath of fresh air.
                New thoughts, new faces. All this wonderful potential for new things to happen.
Chapter Nine. April
A while ago my mentor, Doug, told that you could change a person’s day just by smiling at a stranger.
Early November my friend Tory took me on what she calls a “rage drive.” It’s when she goes out late at night and just drives on the road because sometimes the world is too much. Tory told me a lot of things that night. She told me about how her friend had raped her when she was drunk and she had screamed out and no one heard her. About how she had no money left for school. She told me about her alcohol and drug addictions, and how she had broken them but how she never stops thinking about it. She told me how the suicide of her friend kills her every day. She told me that she planned to kill herself when her dad died.
Tory is a tiny person; she stands barely over five feet. She has dark hair and dark eyes. She wears glasses. She is someone who is hard to notice in a crowd.
Later that week she told me that if I hadn’t gone with her, if I hadn’t listened to her, she would have tried to kill herself.
                Then one day I heard that someone I used to know killed himself.
 Chapter Ten. The Ending
                Here I am, finishing up the semester. The lays days loom overhead. Summer is here. It will be good to get away. Do something else for a little.
                Looking at this year I really saw how some things come to an end: friendships, dreams. It’s not bad, but getting blindsided by it will shock a person. You can’t know people for they change. They fight being pinned down by the assumptions we make about them.
                I think that it is important not to dwell on things that can’t be changed. It’s better to let some things go then to hold on to what’s not working. In the end you must laugh with the good times otherwise it all gets too dark too quick.
Ahead is senior year. And after that, who knows.


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