Five Things That Happen When You Stop Working at Camp

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by Emily Frazell, class of 2017

I have been going to Camp Allen in Navasota, TX, since I was going into 4th grade, both as a camper and as a staff member - for those of you keeping track, that’s twelve summers... AKA a long dang time. The only things I’ve done longer than being a camp kid is being alive and being a student. However, this past summer I reluctantly pried myself away from that and had an internship in Austin, and found out what happens when you stop working at camp...

1. You miss your friends.

It’s really hard to go from living with 25+ of your closest friends for 3 months to working 8-5 in an office.

2. You can feel pretty left out.

This is pretty closely tied to number one, but when your friends keep posting fun pics from the summer it feels like a constant reminder that you aren’t there. You wonder if you would be having more fun if you were there with them.

Side note: don’t forget that one big problem with the internet is that people put their favorite pieces of themselves out there – Facebook posts don’t remind you how hard camp can be, just the fun happy things.

3. You GROW.

BUT! There is so much good to come from stepping away from camp too!

For me, camp was definitely in my comfort zone, and once I went elsewhere, I found out some cool things about myself. When you take a step out of what's familiar and who's familiar, you get to be more of your own person, or find out who that is! This summer was so cool for me because I realized that Emily is much more than just a camp kid. Once I had the guts to step away from camp, I was able to find a possible career path that I think could be empowering and uplifting for me. If I had stayed at camp again this summer I would never have found a passion for helping people through non-profit development.

Growth takes place when you push yourself out of your comfort zone. 

4. You realize the strength of your friendships.

Although I missed my camp friends dearly this summer, I also found that those relationships aren’t held together by the physical space that is camp. The relationships that are built at camp have Christ, and fun, and love as their foundation and those are three things that move with the people and aren’t just tied to the blob, or cabins, or lake.

5. You are forced to find God in new faces and places.

In a similar way that I realized that friendships aren’t tied just to camp, I realized that God isn’t just tied to camp. This summer was hard for me to get super connected spiritually when I’m so used to finding that at camp.  At camp, I saw God in the joy of the camper each days, in the bible studies we did each day and in the beautiful landscape. I was forced to look for God in the new people I was meeting every day at my internship and to hear his voice in their words of encouragement, which was an exciting challenge. This summer I saw God mostly in the faces of my coworkers and in the selfless ways they worked to serve the University.  I think it helped give me the confidence that similarly, when I graduate and leave this place—The ESC—I will be able to find these things as well even in new environments.

TL/DR: Camp is one of my favorite places in the world, but having the courage to leave for a bit can be really empowering and fruitful.

 

Summer Reflections: James Bell

In this blog post, senior James Bell shares his experience interning with NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center, which included witnessing a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center. 

As a child, everyone told me that I could do whatever I wanted in life, assuming that I worked hard and studied for my upcoming math test. Taking this to heart, I decided on my calling at just twelve years old while watching Star Trek: Enterprise (the 2001 show set before Captain Kirk’s time) – I wanted to design interplanetary spacecraft. 

As idealistic as that dream might have seemed at the time, given the outlook of the space program, I followed it blindly all the way through high school and into UT Austin, where I currently study Aerospace Engineering. Although I now know that Star Trek may never be a reality, I still love anything related to space and hope to one day become an engineer working on NASA’s next big deep space project. To my great surprise and pleasure, I was accepted in April for an internship at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center, where I started working in early June.

As a part of the internship program, NASA pays for interns to go and visit other centers to give us a better idea of possible jobs are available to us upon graduation. Typically, the visits are simply tours of the center by various employees who show us their jobs and the facilities they work in. So when I was told that our trip would include a rocket launch out of Kennedy Space Center, I was very excited. 

After a twelve hour bus ride, followed by a late night and early morning, the day of the launch arrived. The interns were bussed out for a tour of the vehicle assembly building before moving on to the launch viewing area. The rocket itself launched from across the bay about a mile away, and the launch tower was barely visible. Despite being just midmorning, the heat reflected onto the bleachers from the pavement and water was near unbearable, yet we stayed glued to our seats all the same. Finally, and without more than a one-minute warning, the rocket took off, slowly at first, then accelerating to the speed of sound and beyond. The air reverberated with the power of the fuel combusting and exploding out of the engine nozzles at supersonic speeds. We continued to watch as the vehicle turned, angled itself into the beginnings of a prograde orbit, and disappeared from sight.

Although the capability to reach outer space has existed for over half a century, to witness it in person has reinvigorated me to find newer and better ways to reach orbit and beyond. I know that I am blessed to have seen such an event, and I hope to one day take part in designing and launching missions, in exploring the universe that God has provided for us.

The Stigma of Vulnerability and Why it Can be a Beautiful Thing

By Kayla Blanchard

If you have ever seen Lizzie McGuire, you know the animated version of Lizzie who performs Lizzie’s inner dialogue. The animated version of Lizzie is how the real life Lizzie wants to react to what is happening in real time. She’s the one who screams and runs across the screen when something bad happens. I think we all have our own Lizzies, and like many Lizzies, mine tends to run when I am faced with vulnerability.  

So here’s my story of how I stopped running from vulnerability and finally embraced the practice of being seen. 

On the first day of my junior year of college, I wrote in my journal, “I want to take what I have learned over the years and apply it to my life. I want to feel worthy again.” I was overcome by shame, anxiety, and fear. The past few years had been rocky and I was desperate for a change. 

So I did what I did best. I pulled up a TED Talk and tried to find a little inspiration for the new semester.  

With little belief that I would find anything life changing, I came across Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” TED Talk. I can honestly say Brené Brown’s work changed my outlook on living wholly.

After watching the TED Talk, I immediately Googled “Vulnerability” and found this: “Vulnerability is the state of being open to injury, or appearing as if you are. It might be emotional, like admitting that you're in love with someone who might only like you as a friend, or it can be literal, like the vulnerability of a soccer goal that's unprotected by any defensive players.”

For the next few months I was fixated with  Brown’s work. I found that my take on vulnerability is when you are seen completely and fully for who you are. Vulnerability is when all your hidden struggles are out in the open for someone else to see and critique. It’s heavy, hot, uncomfortable and, scariest of all, unavoidable. 

The stigma with vulnerability is that it is portrayed as a weakness. Most people believe that being vulnerable is a call for help when one can no longer take care of oneself. Serious conditions include the belief that vulnerability is unacceptable or a form of egotism. We want to protect others and ourselves by keeping our struggles secret.

Being overly discreet is an acceptable but muted role that has formed in our society. In this century we are increasingly dependent and self–aware. As Brown states in her book, Daring Greatly, “we connect judgment with receiving help.” The idea of walking alone with our vulnerabilities is a heck of a lot more comfortable than sharing our struggles and being perceived as weak. There is a chance of withdrawal, judgment and loss of trust when sharing your story but the act of being discreet is the birthplace for disconnection. For many of us, disconnection is a form of protection. 

The problem with disconnection is that it leads us astray from our relationships. Brown believes that the opposite of disconnection, connection, is the link to all relationships and a wholehearted human experience. Connection is scary. It requires us to be fully seen and share the raw and ugly truth with someone else. But when it comes down to it, the first things you look for in someone else are their vulnerabilities. 

Although you are uncomfortable being vulnerable, you want to experience someone else’s vulnerabilities in order to feel less alone.

Oftentimes we hide our story with perfectionism, which is the most dangerous of all. We hide by having a perky personality, the hottest clothes, the best grades and tons of extra curricular activities. The practice of perfectionism leaves others on the outside wondering what it is like to be you. Being perfect does not make you beautiful or inviting, vulnerability does. Exposing your struggle to a friend is the core to connection and respect. Your story makes you human; your story makes you relatable. 

Being vulnerable is courageous. It’s scary and it’s a dive you don’t need to make every day. But when that person comes along that you want to connect with on a deep level, vulnerability is necessary. In Daring Greatly, Brown quotes author Margery Williams: “ Once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” This quote is the essence of true friendship. Choose to be vulnerable with those that matter, those that will be with you in the midst of your story and not try to fix you but simply sit there with you and say “this sucks but you’re okay.”

There is nothing more exhausting than walking around in fear, anxiety and pain. When something wrong happens to you, which something will, you will feel lonely and scared. Don’t allow yourself to sit alone when you need a hand. It will take some phenomenal courage to ask for help but it will be all the more worth it.

Not too long ago I experienced a heavy amount of vulnerability when I shared a secret with a close friend. In the moment, I was immersed in panic and fear. I had never been so uncomfortable and helpless in the face of someone I admired. But I knew I had to let myself be seen in order to rid the anxiety and get on with my day, heck, get on with my life.  

So what happened? My friend was there for me. She didn’t try to fix me or make me feel better. She was just there and listened. Not only is our friendship a lot stronger, but it’s also  a lot more real. My action encouraged her to be courageous, too. Another quote from Brown that I love is, “Vulnerability begets vulnerability.”

So what is vulnerability? It’s the feeling of your guts spilling out of your stomach. It’s when your own animated Lizzie starts running away. But it’s also the key to compassion, connection and worthiness. 

I will leave you with this: you have your own story and you get to decide what happens in the end.

Reflection from a Senior

Last week we heard about the impact of the Student Center on a freshman and today we hear about the impact of the Student Center on a recent graduate!

By Parkes Ousley    
    Throughout my pre-college years, my spirituality was my defining characteristic. When I was at school with friends, I was the religious kid, the one who cared. I was the one who went to church every week, twice a week, and the one who participated. I was one of the only Episcopalians.
    At home, I was just part of the machine, one of the cogs in its place, functioning like the rest. My dad was a priest, my mom a cradle Episcopalian, and my sister an avid Episcopalian as well. Our spirituality wasn’t just our own, but it was our families. It was shared between us, and united us. And as great as that sounds, and it was great, it left out one important piece of spirituality; the true feeling of ownership and personality.
    Before college, whether I was at school or with family, there seemed to be some slight disconnection, some unidentified pressure that inhibited my spiritual growth. At school, I held it back myself, sometimes knowingly and sometimes out of habit and subconscious fear of sharing my true feelings. My friends already showed inhibition around me enough as it was. They were scared of me and my ability to shame them. If only they knew I sought connection, not judgement, when I asked them about spirituality, lives at home, and their weekend activities.
    At home, of course, I was free to share faith, but my family’s close connection didn’t provide the struggle and conflict which is so good at stretching and growing people. I was met with challenging questions, but I was in such a safe and familiar space, with people that had always had all the answers, that I never wrestled as much as one needs to to take full ownership of their faith.
    Then came my move to Austin and my transition into the Episcopal Student Center. I was asked to be on the music team before I ever set foot in the building, and at first I decided not to, because I wanted to take a break from Church to try and give myself a way to struggle. I was searching for tension, and figured not having a church home may do that. Alas, I accepted the offer and jumped headfirst into the community. Man what a great, and lucky, opportunity.
    I found out very quickly that the ESC was the exact wrestling mat I’d been searching for for the past few years. I’d always been a (more or less) high church Episcopalian, and the first change was leading music with a guitar and piano, rather than following an organ and wondrous chorus. I quickly fell in love with the different style of service and began to more greatly appreciate the different parts of our service. The different way of worshipping showed me there is a lot more that makes our Church and service beautiful than just choirs and old language.
    I also quickly realized that I was surrounded by a ton of people my age. I’d always longed to be in a youth group, and finally in college, I found a community that consisted of people all right around my age. Not only did they have language and lifestyles that I could relate to, they also understood me at a higher level than the average aged Episcopalian could. I felt a little more connected. Not only that, but they were, and are, all great people with so much to love and share. Not only did I make great friends, I found great mentors. I know I learned a TON in college, but if you ask where I learned the most, I couldn’t tell you for sure if it was in the walls of my various classrooms on campus or in the walls of the church. I felt like every time I walked in on Sunday and Wednesday nights, and every random snack grab or study session in between, I became a dumpster of knowledge and information, where people would just unload a lifetime of thoughts, ideas, feelings, and their current test material. People studied by telling me what they learned. People asked me questions about class that I couldn’t answer, reminding me I needed to spend more time studying.
    Even greater than that knowledge though was the wealth of life I received. People taught me things that I can’t learn in class. They taught me to have fun. They taught me to lighten up. They taught me how to love, both others and myself. They taught me how to mess up and not take myself so seriously. They taught me more how women work, like so much more… They taught me that I can learn from anyone or anything. They taught me that I’m not at all perfect, not even close, but that it’s okay. They taught me that being smart isn’t just about getting A’s in classes and success isn’t defined by my parents, or society, or anyone else but me and what I desired. They taught me to take control of my path and set my sights on what I desired and put the pedal to the medal until I get there or realize I’m chasing the wrong thing. They taught me that depression is real and okay. And they taught me that it’s possible to recover, even when fighting an uphill battle. They taught me being Episcopalian is not something to hold back, not something to hide from friends or strangers for fear of being judged or avoided. They taught me that what really matters is how I love, and if I love deeply, nothing else really matters.
    The ESC provided in so many ways. They reinforced and challenged my faith. They asked tough, tough questions, some of which I still haven’t been able to answer. There were meaningful mission trips. There were pilgrimages. There was thoughtful discussion everywhere. They had food; snacks and meals and food for thought. There was coffee, and more coffee, and tea, and more coffee still. And just when we thought we had finally had all the coffee and snacks, more came. Endless caffeine and calories to keep us going through the long days and nights and hell weeks. There were homecooked meals provided twice a week, and leftovers for the following days. There was a computer room, a TV room, big couches for napping, bowl chairs for reckless napping, a “Fishbowl” for quiet discussion, a cry room, a closet for my instruments, and the most beautiful chapel for prayer, contemplation, singing loudly, and all our weekly spiritual practices.
    My faith is extremely stronger now than before I dove into this community. It’s much stronger than it would’ve been had I not decided to accept God’s call into this place. I have uncovered so much more than I thought I could in these past four years that flashed by my eyes. I have answered many questions, fought with demons I needed to fight, and begun to wrestle with those that I didn’t even know existed. I have learned about myself, about my faith, and about the great community around me. And while none of it is perfect, I wouldn’t want it to be. I have a newfound respect and value of the struggle, of the journey.
    Out of all the growth I experienced, I think the single greatest thing I got from the Student Center, the thing I’m most thankful for, is a true sense of self. I’m no longer a cog in a machine or an other. Whether I’m in a community that looks and sounds like me or in a place that doesn’t share my thoughts and beliefs, I feel unique. I feel special and worth something. I feel like I have something to offer. I feel whole.

I feel loved.

Senior Spotlight : Tezira Abe

Hometown: Angleton, Texas

Post-Grad Plans: law school beginning the fall of 2017

Favorite Food: breakfast tacos! I could eat them every day.

Personal Motto/Anthem: I've never really thought about this but a while back, Lindsey Limbaugh told me not to ever do anything I didn't want to and it's a pretty great rule to live by.

A memory from the ESC: I have't been around long so I don't have a ton of memories to draw from but I'd say I just love the feeling of showing up for a late night study session and having a bunch of really supportive people around!

Pro-Tip to new members of the community: build relationships with everyone at the ESC, especially Beth and Hannah, they're some of the most kind and thoughtful people I've met at Texas.

Senior Spotlight: Cara Beth Nichols

Hometown: Lampasas, Texas

Post-Grad Plans: Moving to Scotland in the fall to pursue a MSc in Social and Economic History from the University of Glasgow

Favorite Food: Queso. Pad Thai. P Terry's. A good steak.

Quote to live by: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." --Maya Angelou

Daily mantra: Be happy. Be chic.

A memory from the ESC: Sophomore year, Beyoncé's new album had just dropped around Thanksgiving. During hell week and finals, a bunch of us stayed in the TV room listening to it over and over again to relieve stress from school and our then Program Associate, Sammi, came in to ask "Is this the study room?" to which someone responded, "This is the Beyoncé room."  

Pro-Tip to new members of the community: Don't be afraid to totally immerse yourself in this community. Let the student center be your constant throughout college in seeking relief in the liturgy and comfort in these friendships.

Senior Spotlight: Alice Lazare

Hometown : Houston, TX!

Postgrad plans: Serving as a fellow with Life Together in Boston!! (An Episcopal Service Corps program... I couldn't get enough ESC in my life). Then grad school for clinical social work? Then a job? 

Favorite food: Pizza. Cake. Pasta. Almond milk. I really like food

Personal motto: "What do you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver 

ESC memory: The first time I spent time at the ESC ~socially~ we played apples to apples and I made a really stupid joke and people laughed at it and I felt all loved and happy. But I tried not to show it, because I had to be cool. But I was excited, and felt like I had friends at church!

Pro-tip for new members: Go hang out with Beth and Hannah, the best candy is by their office. And they are great. 

Senior Spotlight: Sara Cannon

Hometown: Arlington, TX

Post-grad plans: A job of some kind...somewhere...doing something? 

Favorite food: Queso! 

Personal Motto/Anthem: Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.

A memory from the ESC: It's the little things: tons of memories from late nights and weird afternoons, just hanging out and trying (or not really trying) to study. One time we raced on the rolling computer chairs; another time we had a dance party during finals week. Other memories: playing gnip-gnop, fruit snacks, pranking Beth and Hannah, and all the amazing trips we've taken.

Pro-tip to new members of the community: People really do hang out here all the time! Once I started showing up just for fun, that's when I really felt like I could make friendships and memories.

Senior Spotlight: Ali Sidoran

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Hometown: Seabrook, TX

Post-Grad Plans: The World Race! An 11 month mission trip to 11 different countries to remind people through hard work that God loves them. Eastern Europe-Southern Africa-Southeast Asia

Favorite Food: Coffee and sweet potato fries; just not together. 

Personal Motto: "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken". 

A memory from the ESC: My very first time at the ESC church service on Sunday, I brought my friend Kendall. Halfway through the service, we look at each other and say, "This feels like home", and I've been coming ever since. 

Pro-Tip to new members of the community: Don't be afraid to be weird. We're probably even weirder than you. 

Senior Spotlight : Becca Rigby

Homewtown: Dallas

Post-Grad Plans: a job?? Preferably one that leads to sense of purpose, happiness, and financial independence...yeah that sounds good! 

Favorite Food: SWEET POTATOES!

Personal Motto: "A number does not define you." (stolen from my high school French teacher, Madame Ferrara)

A memory from the ESC: OMEGA, ginp-gonp during finals week, DC immersion trip, and spreading joy while suppressing stress via visits from River

Pro-Tip to new members of the community: You get back what you put in--so challenge yourself to be vulnerable. It can be super uncomfortable but the community it builds is one of trust, reliability, and of course humor because we all need laughter!