By Bethany Christman
My mother’s call to my father went along the lines of “BRUCE, THE BABY IS POOPING BLUE!”
This was just a typical fall day; one of the rare days in fall that you can only dream of, and me being my mischievous self, had decided that today was the day to give my mother a heart attack.
I had the privilege of spending the previous day with my father. My dad was enlisted in the Army and was always away on weekends. I was a daddy’s girl. Anything my father did, I wanted to do, anywhere my father went, I wanted to go, and anything my father ate, I wanted to eat. My dad was eating what was soon to be my favorite fruit: blueberries. He did his parental job and introduced me to this magnificent fruit in, of course, a small amount, because that’s all that a baby should have. My dad made the mistake of leaving a pint of blueberries on the table, while he went back to making dinner that night. Being the sneaky and not-knowing-any-better child, I got a hold of these decadent, mouthwatering, delights, and ate every last one.
My father’s mistake was allowing me to have my first blueberry. The mystery is my favorite part because you never know when you are going to eat a pungent sour blueberry or a mushy, gushy, slightly flavorless blueberry. My father never realized that I ate them. He went to the refrigerator and got out the carton he thought he had yet to get out to eat, but he was puzzled by why there was one missing. The next morning he was on base for drills. That day I got to spend with my mom and give her the best gift, a nice and ripe dirty dipper. My dad had figured out what was wrong and how it had happened the moment the words somehow managed to come out of my mother’s mouth.
“That’s where they went.”
By Casey Young
The prosecutor was the first to call his witnesses, which took about three days. Every new person would start their testimony the same way by stating their name. If they were an investigator, forensic scientist, or medical examiner, that would be noted. Other witnesses for the prosecution included the nurse that Mr. Lake confessed to at the hospital, a family member, and a couple of others. After stating their relevance to the trail, they would be asked to identify the defendant. If they pointed or just said his name, they would be asked to describe his shirt or tie. The prosecutor would then note, “For the record, the witness has identified the defendant, Robert Lake.” Every time a question was answered, a new one would be asked. Even the most obvious answer had to be said out loud, as to not leave any questions lingering in the air.
As the trial went on, I found it hard to keep a straight face. The woman next to me, Juror 13, was an old gassy woman who had no shame in relieving herself. She was always fidgeting with a tissue, Tic Tac, or cough drop. There were some interactions between witnesses, lawyers, and judges that would make me bite my lip. Along with the lighter moments, there were also things I never thought I’d have to see, but had no choice.
Graphic crime scene, autopsy, and blood spatter were projected onto a screen about the size of a moving truck. If the picture was too gory or personal to be displayed in front of the entire court room, they would be approved (or disapproved) by the judge, who would them pass them to us, the jury, to look up close. Investigators testified to what happened and what they found at the scene, only based on fact. The most interesting interactions between what I refer to as the “hard-facts witnesses” came from the forensic analyst and the medical examiner.
The forensic analyst testified for what I assume was two or three hours. She mainly discussed the blood evidence found on the knives. In this case, there was one knife with a black handle and one with a brown handle. Both were swabbed for DNA and tested against Mr. Lake’s known DNA profile, and the victim, Latisha’s, profile. From her testimony, it became increasingly obvious that Latisha’s DNA was not on the handle of either knife, and that Mr. Lake’s was. The defense tried to claim the possibility of there being cross-contamination in the lab. While this was possible, the analyst told the jury it was highly improbable, not impossible. This was one of the first times I began to doubt the credibility of the “self-defense” theory.
The medical examiner was an older gentleman, who, in his career, had performed thousands of autopsies. He described the wounds to Latisha’s body, as well as the fatal one to her neck.
“Mr. (insert name), would you say that these injuries on Latisha are something you normally see?”
“Well, normally, I can’t stick my fingers through someone’s neck.” The medical examiner snickered, as did the judge.
While I was disgusted, I did see the humor and sass in his comment. The other piece of evidence that he presented was how there were keys found in Latisha’s hand, stuck from rigor mortis, in the exact position they were in when she passed away. This meant that she couldn’t have had a knife in her hand, according to the prosecutor.
Aside from this testimony, the prosecutor had a video analyst play back the security footage from block to block of Mr. Lake leaving his apartment, talking to a friend when he got off the elevator, and walking to the hospital following the murder. In all the footage we watched, he seemed relatively unphased, possibly in a state of shock, or not understanding the implications of his actions. We listened to a conversation of him on the phone, in prison, saying he wasn’t sorry it happened, but sorry she was dead. There was a character witness that claimed she wasn’t surprised that her neighbor had been found dead. She claimed that Lake was unstable and had threatened Latisha before. The defense tried to throw her testimony since the witness had been on a prescription that could have clouded her perception. While all this evidence did point to the verdict I had formed in my head, the defense still had to call their witnesses.
I was excited to hear an opposing story. I thought perhaps there was evidence that supported the self-defense theory, but I was disappointed. The defense called four witnesses and rested much sooner than I thought they should have. Two of the witnesses were Lake’s brothers, one his sister in law, and one came in the side door of the courtroom, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, in both ankle and hand cuffs.
Lake’s brothers and sister-in-law discussed their support for him, and all three told different versions of an incident that happened on Thanksgiving, just a month prior of Latisha’s death. While Latisha was cutting pie at Thanksgiving, Lake decided to try and steal a piece. Now, from the jumbled, blurry versions I collected, this is what I can speculate happened next: As Lake grabbed for some pie, Latisha waved a knife and said “don’t you even touch that pie, or I’ll kill you.” (Or something like that.)
“I hope they were eating tofurkey,” The judge muttered under his breath, proclaiming his vegetarianism. I laughed and was excited that he was a vegetarian, too. This one death threat, along with his family supporting the notion she had abusive tendencies were the only cause to support the self-defense. As for the convict? He was just a character witness, telling tales of how Lake would cry himself to sleep at night, regretting what happened.
Then came time for the craziest witness of all, Robert Lake himself. The prosecutor asked the general questions, then dug right in.
“Mr. Lake, would you say you were frustrated with Ms. Alzaid?”
“I wasn’t frustrated, I was disgusted.”
It was in that exact moment I decided that he was guilty.
“So, can you please tell the jurors about your attempted suicide following Latisha’s death?”
“Well, I tried cutting my throat and wrists, but it hurt too much. That’s when I decided to put a bag over my head. I just went to sleep, and I was pretty upset when I woke up. So, I decided to take a shower and walk to the VA to get help.”
“And why did you try to kill yourself?”
“I believe in an eye for an eye. If she was dead, I wanted to be dead, too. It was my fault she died, so I had to die.”
None of his testimony made him seem not-guilty and with each answer, he dug his grave a little bit deeper. At one point, the judge even rolled his eyes. How could this man have pleaded not-guilty? It made no sense, given what he was saying in court, under oath.
Closing statements were saved for the morning of the last day. The prosecutor re-spun the story of what happened and reminded us of all the evidence we had heard over the last two weeks. While some evidence was questionable, a key piece that was a deciding factor, for me, were the keys found in Latisha’s hand. If the defense was right about her charging him with two knifes, how could she carry a bundle of keys and stab Lake? There remained no reasonable doubt that he had done it, with intention and premeditation.
My opinion didn’t matter, though. I was just an alternate. During deliberation, myself and the other alternate were put into a separate room. We still weren’t allowed to talk about the trial, so we tried making small talk. Time drug on as I read a book, and got up and paced a few times. After about four hours, the jury had decided on a verdict. Alternate Juror 1 and myself were rushed into the court room before the twelve jurors. As the jury walked in, I noticed the other girl my age had puffy eyes and a red face. Panic set in as I thought for a moment that they could’ve come up not-guilty. I held my breath as the foreman of the jury stood up. She handed a sealed envelope to the bailiff, who handed it to the judge, and then back to the foreman.
“Ms. Foreman, did you, the jury, come to a decision in the case of Robert Lake versus The People in the charge of second degree murder?”
“Yes, your Honor, we did.”
“Would you please read the verdict.”
“In the case of Robert Lake versus The People, in the charge of second degree murder we find the defendant…” I sat at the edge of my seat, air not escaping me. “…Guilty.”
I sighed. Lake didn’t even flinch. His lawyer shook his hand as his fate was sealed. The judge thanked us for our service and excused us. Once we collected our things, we were taken in the elevator one last time. In the lobby of the state building, we were given the opportunity to speak to the lawyers. As they walked down the steps, I saw their personality for the first time.
“Oh yeah, Lake was actually accused of threatening his ex-girlfriend with two knives, but charges were dropped. We aren’t allowed to mention passed convictions in a trial, as it would introduce bias to the jury.”
My jaw dropped as the prosecutor let us in on a hidden fact. I wanted to be done with the trial, but I had one last question for the defense.
“So,” I asked the tall woman in heels, her curls framing her face, “do you think he’s guilty?”
The remaining jurors who had stayed looked at me wide-eyed. That was a taboo question I guess I wasn’t supposed to ask, but I wanted an answer. How could someone defend a man who was obviously guilty?
“Well, that’s my job as a lawyer. I must remain without bias and do everything I can to defend him. It is what I am paid for. My conscience, ethics, and opinion cannot taint what my job is. He’s actually a nice guy.”
“I see,” I said with obvious skepticism in my voice. I zipped up my coat and turned toward the door. I walked through the metal scanners one last time and walked to my car, three blocks away. I turned on my headset and called my dad.
“The trial is over now, so I can tell you. I couldn’t wait until I got home. Wait until you hear about my last two weeks.”
Casey is an Editor for The Apollos, you can read her bio here.
By Tiffany Clark
I didn’t recognize you as you laid numb in your eternal bed. Your eyes were closed, your hair short and blond. I laughed to myself, you were wearing your favorite red dress that late Grandpa got for you on your cruise. The very cruise that you and Grandpa said that you would never board. Ten years is how long you were apart from Grandpa. Every day was torture for you until last week, Tuesday, when you passed away in a dreamy sleep. Upon seeing your soul mate, you punched him in the arm with teary eyes and then embraced him with loving hugs and kisses. Now your souls fly on the wings of cardinals, past the atmosphere and into space where you circle around each other like bright binary stars.
I watched as my family and family friends shed tears at the sight of you, but although you are forever silent. Your nine children, thirty-two grandchildren, and thirty-five great grandchildren sit around giving out “love you,” reminiscing about memories, and talking about life. It’s hard to count the number of friends who walked into the room of your wake, as the respect is infinite. You almost show a small smile like this is what you wanted your sendoff to be like.
I sit in a dark room; watching a movie about a character struggling through life as it reflects back onto me. I feel like I spent the whole day in that funeral home watching a stranger sleep who didn’t look at all like my Grandma. I feel lost without you.
I meant to write to you a long time ago to thank you for all of things you have done for me, but all I was able to do was bow my head and say a prayer. I wonder if you and Grandpa are above the clouds living trouble less lives. Sometimes I’m drawn to the eternal peace with a selfish mind. I often wonder if I should continue studying this toxic environment when all I learn about is the evil humanity has done to itself, it’s earth, and our fellow species. Our solutions are simple and ineffective and “environmentalist” are to blame for shouting at youth who are locked away in their cell phones. I’ve enjoyed working for New York State Parks and Recreation, but I understand that in the web of environmental science, my career desires are the humble and naive primary consumer while wildlife technicians, chemists, and GIS positions are the tertiary Kings and Queens.
It’s hard to have hope for the future when a governmental dictator would ignore the United Nations concerns; strip apart the Environmental Protection Agency, disrespecting the air we breathe and the 2/3 of fresh water which we drain; even denying the existence of the word “science” which entails more than the environment. Still, Grandma, you were the one who encouraged me to go to Paul Smith’s college and I thank you for all the times you told me to cut the sob story because I also found a psychological escape. For as much as I like my privacy, when I’m on my own I consume my mind with judgmental thoughts. When I came to this campus, I felt more comfortable around people but no one can guarantee a friendship that last past school.
Sometimes, I feel that there were remnants of a desire to work for Parks from the memories we made. Some of the best that I’ve had are ones of the farm house. Going canoeing with Grandpa on the large pond and helping him feed the birds. Having sleepovers with my cousin at the house on weekends and playing story time, running around the yard, and breaking the two-person swing. I remember finding a huge jar of sugar behind the couch, how you’d make us Mickey Mouse pancakes in the morning, and how you’d let us drink ice tea before bed. I was blessed to have such loving grandparents.
After grandpa died there was no one who could replace a husband, and friend, who had a song for everyone in his family. After some years along came a curly haired poodle mix, named Scooter. That dog never left my grandmother’s side and would throw a childish fit when she left to run an errand or go out with a friend. He loved his toys and insisted that she’d play, barking if she didn’t. He’d leap up, like a cat, onto the back of the old couch and constantly lick my Grandma’s hands and arms, no matter how many times she’d laugh and push him away, saying “Scooter.” Whenever she’d lay down, Scooter was there beside her right up until she took her last breath. I always felt like Grandpa had sent Scooter from heaven to be with my Grandma until the moment that her soul left.
I sat on my bed and teared up. I had a pale blouse on and wore a dark skirt with woven flowers. I wore only concealer, like that would last past the tears. I didn’t feel right dressing up, your dead and gone, the church services and goodbyes were only an assurance to the ones who would sit there on the stiff benches, listening to the mournful songs with tissues locked in their hands. I didn’t want to feel “pretty,” it wasn’t right. I managed to wipe the tears from my cheeks and go downstairs. My father tried to comfort me but I ignored his love like he had ignored me in the past years, that you were still there to console us. I’ll that I could hope was that you and Grandpa were together in a world far beyond me.
Of course it was raining when we left the funeral home; it was slightly amusing because of you we were able to run the red lights. I remember our phone call, you told me that you had never gotten your license because you found it such a pain to turn right at red lights. It was a short distance to the church and as we got out of the car and walked towards the doors, all we heard was the dark gongs of the church bells in between our own footsteps. I clutched my mother’s hand as we followed the standard procedures of the mass; I knew she’d never recover from losing both her parents, so I hid my tears as she shed hers. Mom never got the chance to say goodbye to you in Florida. I could feel myself losing as I looked at the casket, I wiped puddles from my eyes but I told myself that I wouldn’t break down when my family stood on. I think Grandma wouldn’t want us to fall to our knees in a flood of tears. My cousins, aunt, and uncle enforced that as they gave their speeches.
When it came time for my uncle to talk, most of us had settled down. I sat there holding my mother’s hand for as long as she needed it. You’d be proud of how he told your story and I know in my heart that every word was true. He talked about how you served your society as a kind and generous nurse. I never knew that you had been head of your field, only that the transportation to your college was far and like so many students you had a professor who was as hot headed as they come. He mentioned the large family that you had opened your heart to, including our dear old uncle, great, and great great uncle Scooter. He made a joke about how he feared Scooter would inherit everything. Which the Priest jokingly said that he would afterwards. I wasn’t wearing the right kind of shoes as I stepped out of the car and into one of the many puddles at the swamped graveyard. We walked to another church to hear the rest of your send off before driving right up to your burial site. They laid you down beside Grandpa, as mom commented, “I hope that pile of dirt is not on Grandpa’s grave.” I was a bit amused, not that it would matter; you and Grandpa were already at rest and together in the Kingdom above the clouds. Each family member took a gladiola from a glass vase and walked it over to drop it onto your casket already in the ground. I felt a sense of comfort, your body was no longer divided by pain and finally you were with your eternal lover.
After the ceremony was done, our family drove to lunch. The restaurant overlooked the Niagara river. I joke at the table, saying that you had paid for our lunch, remembering the times that we ate together at the Silo and how you loved their sweet potato fries.
I laid on my side in bed and dripped tears from my eyes until my mother joined me closing the door behind her. “How can I know if her and Grandpa are together if I can’t see Grandma’s spirit. What if there’s nothing there for us after we struggle through life,” I whined through broken words. My mother told me that she had to believe that Grandpa and Grandma were together. She gave me the laminated card with Grandma’s picture and told me to hold it by my heart so it would hurt to fall asleep. She stroked my arm and said “We’ll be okay.”
Tiffany E.M. Clark is a Natural Resources and Conservation Management major from Ransomville, N.Y. Aside from writing poetry and stories, she has worked with New York State Parks and Recreation and Historical Preservation during the past years. She believes that educating the public about nature and historical areas, produces a beneficial social medium, which welcomes individuals to a universal nature.
By David Press
When I came home in May 2012, after graduating from Brooklyn College with my Masters in writing and literature, I had no job, but I knew that teaching was my only way to employment. I was a freelance writer most of my time in New York City, but it never led to a permanent job and those experiences drove me towards being a fiction writer, so I focused on that. And what do fiction writers do? They teach. So I put my energy into being a college professor. I wanted to come back to my hometown to create as a job. My friend Tim Brearton, a crime novelist, and I founded a company called ADK Mogul, which supplied a crew list for films shooting in the area. We made one short film and got people jobs on the sets of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and along with Aaron Woolf (director of King Corn), championed the Go Digital or Go Dark campaign that helped fund area movie theaters with expensive digital projectors.
I came to do the work I wanted to do that I couldn’t do in New York City – not with various odd jobs, and running around like a chicken with my head cut off. That included teaching. I would be one of thousands of English adjunct teachers with a hot off the press – sorry, not sorry – MFA. Small fish in a big pond with hundreds of small fish looking just like me, or however that analogy goes. In Lake Placid, I would be one of a handful of English teachers.
I was right. By July, I got an adjunct teaching job at North Country Community College. This led to another offer to be an eighth grade English teacher at National Sports Academy. In Lake Placid’s Starbucks, I sat down with Phil Taylor, Dean of the Commercial, Applied, and Liberal Arts Department at Paul Smith’s College. He offered me one 8 a.m. English 101 course. With three courses at NCCC and one at PSC there was no way I could teach at PSC, NCCC, and National Sports Academy; so I had to make a hard choice.
I turned down NSA out of not being comfortable teaching middle school. Turns out that was one of the best – if not the best – decisions I’ve ever made. NSA closed two years later because of low funding. I would have been out of a job.
But that’s not why it was one of the best choices I ever made. Taking that one 8 a.m. English course led to meeting my future wife – Meggan Frost. There was a small group of staff and contingent faculty, all in their late twenties and early thirties, and some new to the area. Meggan, Andy Kelly, Joe Orefice, Marina Potter, Kate Glenn, and myself would spend weekends at each other’s apartments. (I was still living with my parents – despite teaching four to five classes, I was not making enough to afford my own apartment.)
It wasn’t until after New Years 2012 that I thought about asking Meggan out. She played clarinet in a local band called Crackin’ Foxy. She has a background as a professional musician, and she read everything. Most of the girls I dated in my twenties were the opposite of me – in finance, architecture, and non-creative. So they saw my passion as a hobby, but Meggan was the first one who understood my creative drive.
Not just a talented and hardworking musician, Meggan is also a graphic designer who drew when she was young, and minored in creative writing at Ithaca College. She understands my desire to write is not related to my day job. There is not a day that goes by that her compassion, empathy, and sheer ability to do anything she puts her mind to that doesn’t wow me. As a mother, she is rippling with knowledge and love for our son Calvin. In our four years of a relationship she has spearheaded so many projects with our home. Coming with a Midwestern-do-it-yourself attitude we’ve ripped up carpet in the kitchen, repainted the back porch, painted the bedroom, gutted a useless barn door that doubled as a garage, and installed a wall and a door to the basement. She even Sawz-all’d[i] a murder closet in the basement. This amazing space had a shower, 1950s Christmas decorations, rat bones, and a Tijuana Bible. We installed a pellet stove, re-did the kitchen, and the upstairs bathroom, and restored a garden that was overrun with Snow on the Mountain (aka Bishop’s Weed. Thanks for your helpful information, Randall Swanson!)
If it was me, I would have dropped the good old New York credo: “Yah getta guy!” to do all that work. Instead, I’ve learned a lot about home improvement.
I asked Meg to marry me in this white house with red doors and huge two-lot yard. We brought our son Calvin home to this house.
All this, because we both took a risk and said yes to Paul Smith’s College. Meg moved twelve hours away from friends and family in Michigan. I returned home to live with my parents and do the work I’ve wanted to do since I was thirteen. So I said yes to a college who has students and majors way out of my liberal arts experience.
We’ve done incredible work. We’ve achieved the goals we wanted to achieve when we came here. Paul Smith’s College has enabled us to do these things – to become better, more empathic teachers and people. The college helped me build a teaching career: I teach freshman composition, where the beginning stages of leading an empathic life begins. Creative writing: where I build on that empathic, creative life while giving the lessons I’ve learned in the twenty-three years I’ve been learning to be a writer. Lessons from great teachers like Denny Wilkins, Bob Viscusi, Ben Lerner, Helen Phillips, and even Stephen King – indirectly from his book On Writing. In Art of Film, I teach the importance of creative collaboration – no one can be all things, because everyone needs support. Meggan and I do that for each other. You have to work together to have a rewarding personal life. Most of all in my comics class where I teach my first love. Writing comics helped boost this learning disabled kid to show that I can write, that I do have something to say, and no one has any right to say I can’t write because I’m quote-unquote disabled. Comics gave me confidence and I give that confidence back to students in that class. You can do any job if you have the skill of writing and telling a story. The core of any story is in a standard comic book panel description: who are the people in the panel? What are they doing? How do they feel and what are they saying?
It was in that class that I often get from students, “Why this class? It doesn’t really fit in here (at PSC).” That’s why I teach it, because it’s different from what others would teach here, because it doesn’t fit in, because I never fit in anywhere. And that’s why I’m not afraid to move to Bloomington, Indiana. It’s because of my comics class that I met Zack Rosenberg, a PSC hospitality alum who helped me put together my first graphic novel, Walden, co-written with a brilliant colleague Curt Stager. I can’t thank Zack and Curt and our artist Emilyann Cummings enough for helping me get my comics career started and letting me work with them.
Meggan and Calvin are the greatest personal gifts I’ve ever received from PSC; Walden the Graphic Novel is the greatest professional gift. The greatest gift of all is the five years here because I stepped way out of my comfort zone and became enriched by the personalities, stories, and experiences at this college. I’ve never had such an education in life and work than in these five years here.
Thanks to Andrew Andermatt, Rebi Romeo, and the Big Three – John Radigan, Bob Seidenstein, and Charlie Alexander. (Thanks for the binder idea! I’ve never been more organized in my life!) You all made me a better teacher. To Phil Taylor, Sarah Maroun, Eric Holmlund – who made me a full-time faculty member – to Karen Edwards, I would not be where I am today, or where I’m going without any of you.
Most of all, to my students from 2012 to 2017. There are 567 of you. Wow. You went on this ride with me, you helped me become a kinder, empathic person, and that is something that I can never repay fully. (Yes, I know, adverb. Let it go!) With these lessons, I feel comfortable moving onto the next chapter of the book of my life in Bloomington, Indiana.
I love you all.
I’ve never lived outside of the Tri-State area for a prolonged period of time. I’ll know nobody except for Meggan and Calvin when I’m there. This reminds me of the comic book Ex Machina #40, written by my favorite writer Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Tony Harris. In this comic, the creators of the comic book meet their creation – the fictional NYC Mayor Mitchell “The Great Machine” Hundred – when Hundred wants his official biography to be a graphic novel. Vaughan admits to his creation about his debate leaving New York City and moving with his girlfriend to California. He doesn’t want to abandon New York, move far away from his family. Hundred says to Vaughan, “If you’re not with your people a city is just a place. Los Angeles needs New Yorkers too.”
So I’m taking New York with me to Indiana.
One final note: Come out to the 2017 Lake Placid Film Forum where I am the faculty advisor for PSC’s film team. The Sleepless in Lake Placid Student Film Competition asks students from New York State college film programs to write, direct, and edit a short film in 24 hours. This is the first time there’s been a team from PSC, so come out and support us if you’re in the area. The student showcase is June 9 at 7 p.m. at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.
Thank you, again, for everything. If you want to stay in touch you can find me at davidpress.net, where you’ll find email and social media of your choice. Let me know if I can help any of you in anyway.
[i]. Yes, that is the first time that I can find that a major demolition tool has been used as a verb. DO NOT QUESTION IT. (Smiles. Walks away.)
David Press was an English Instructor at Paul Smith’s College, now he’s a dad and co-writer of WALDEN THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, a comic book adaptation of Dr. Curt Stager’s work on how climate change has affected Walden Pond. He and his family are moving to Bloomington, Indiana and can be found online at davidpress.net.
By Christina Barton
Dear Cathy Fuller,
I’ve been thinking about goodbyes a lot lately, as my senior year at Paul Smith’s College comes to a close. Goodbyes to a place that has become a home, friends who have become family, and a professor who has been a guiding light and a friend. Cathy Fuller is retiring (graduating with us as the Park Management majors have said) after many years of sharing her abundant knowledge and experience. Cathy has taught us so much – as well as so many other students – and we are honored to be her last. Over the last four years I have heard many of Cathy’s stories, ranging from Monmouth County Park to visitors leaving not so friendly messages in the lawn. However, one story of thanks from an old student of Cathy’s stood out to me. It made me ponder how people don’t say thank you enough, or show appreciation for those who have left such an impression on our lives. I wanted to show Cathy how much I appreciate her and all the knowledge she has passed down to me. What better way to do this then to listen to her advice and “write this down.” I have taken notes, I’ve written down what she said, and here it is.
Thank you, Cathy. Thank you for keeping us all awake in your 8 a.m. classes by telling us not to take selfies with bears. Thank you for sending us trampling through the woods come rain or shine, our time outside was our favorite part of class and made for the best memories. Building disastrous picnic tables that looked like shooting stands at the VIC. Laughing at us when we realized we choose a lean-to about a mile into the woods and would have to carry all the wood there. Thank you for the extra credit coloring sheets for when you knew about half of us needed every point we could get. Thank you for coming up with projects that had us outside, like canoeing to a plot of land to design our parks only to find that there was no way we were making it to the project site on time. Having us trace out the entire alphabet for our trail signs, even though we groaned and complained we weren’t five; this skill will come in handy when we have to make signs at the parks we manage. Thank you for all the advice that will likely get us through our careers, “Keep It Simple Stupid, and do as I say, not as I do.”
Cathy always kept it interesting, her stories were the best thing about the class. Like her tipping the canoe of some annoying student in her class. –Spencer Nolan
She had the best 8 a.m. class ever. You could walk in and there would be instant coffee and tea waiting for you. She has excellent stories, they were what kept the class interesting. –Katherine Nussbaumer
Your energy and easy banter with students made your classes. Whether it be telling a certain student to go away after he kept asking you the same question. With them saying something like “C’mon Cath. Cathy, how about you give me a B on all the assignments, we’ll call it good.” You know who you are. It was moments like these that still have me laughing. Your personality and the way you teach pushed more through my brain than any other class. You are truly an amazing teacher and person, and I am so blessed to have had you as a professor. As you go on to the next chapter in your life – whether it be GPS marking a trail in some obscure country or adventuring out west – I hope you remember all of us, your last Parks and Rec Class and remember to never take selfies with bears! Congratulations Cathy!
Christina Barton is a senior in the Parks and Conservation Management program. Her dream is to become a park manager and her life revolves around her horses.
“The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.” –Norman Cousins
There is nothing more destroying than feeling alone. Lost in this world, and drifting without sharing our experiences with someone. So, we tell stories, sharing them with family, peers, friends, and “friends.” We let experiences flow from our brains to our fingertips, then off into the internet. Hitting the “share” button, looking for validation in the moments of our lives. With each “like” we feel less alone. At least, that’s how I used to use social media. Up until I deleted all of my accounts, five months ago, looking for more genuine moments and relationships.
I have heard several arguments as to why not having social media is a bad idea. First, people have all their pictures saved onto Facebook. This was the case for me, too. There were hundreds of pictures I had online, but nowhere else. Facebook was the last of my social media to go, just because I had to save my pictures. It only took three hours for me to save seven years of photos onto a thumb drive. I can tell you, I haven’t looked at those photos once since I downloaded them.
Second, the argument that social media is the only way people keep in touch with people they don’t talk to often, or don’t see. While I can see the validity behind that argument, most people regularly talk to people that matter to them, do they not? I came to the realization that anyone I cared about, I talked to often, and that no one else really mattered. If someone really wanted to get in touch with me, it wouldn’t be hard to do. That may sound narcissistic, but dropping so much dead weight was a relief.
Third, most people use social media as a news source. I couldn’t even tell you the amount of times I saw false information and faulty news sources on my feed. If you are really involved with what is happening in the world, chances are, you already have websites you use (outside of social media) to gain information. I used to wake up and check the news apps on my phone as soon as I rolled out of bed, but now I’ve realized the value of lying still and just watching out my window for a few minutes as the world drifts by. I do readily keep up with world news, via apps, intellectual friends, and peers, but I find that it doesn’t consume my emotions like it used to.
This semester has been one of immense personal growth for me. I’d like to think that not having social media played a large role in that. Over the past months, I really have contemplated what social media meant to me and have come to a few conclusions. I used social media as a form of validation for everything in my life. I used it to feed my ego. If I went for a hike, posted a picture, and it didn’t get a lot of likes, I felt almost like it wasn’t worth it. If I posted a “selfie” and it didn’t get any likes, I didn’t feel pretty. Now I can tell you that I take less pictures. I only capture what I want to look at again and over the past five months I’ve taken exactly two “selfies.” Initially, it used to annoy me to see others taking snapchats instead of enjoying the life in front of their eyes, but I’ve come to realize that others might find value in it and I have no right to be judgmental.
I have also found that my friendships have become deeper and more valuable. I am no longer distracted by the extra people in my life. The ones who only talked to me because I was online. When I am spending time with my friends, I am not scrolling through my feeds and I feel more devoted and concentrated when I am around them. The pictures I take of them, the moments I have with them, mean so much to me. Maybe I didn’t notice before, but I am so grateful for everyone in my life.
I am exponentially less stressed. I can remember how it felt to send a snapchat to a friend or crush, seeing they opened it, and didn’t respond. It gave me a little bit of anxiety to feel so ignored. But now, I don’t have to worry about what my internet image is. I am me. A physical version of me, and nothing else. I am not worried about being cool or showing off. I don’t need social media to feed my ego. I don’t need it to reassure myself that events and moments in my life are amazing. I know they are incredible and I am so grateful for every second.
As for my future on the internet? I think I’ll stick to staying off social media. I love being able to share my story, in person, or through writing. It feels more genuine. There’s not the “Oh, yeah, I saw that on Facebook.” People only know what I tell them and somehow that is settling. I thought that deleting myself from the internet would make me feel more alone, but it has done the exact opposite. I feel more in the moment, aware, and connected to everything around me. Not needing to post, tweet, edit, and snap the moments in my life have allowed me to enjoy them more whole-heartedly. While I do not believe that signing off is for everyone, I think a break from it all is something that everyone can benefit from. With that, I hope you all take some time to disconnect so that you can reconnect with everything around you.
Casey Young is an Environmental Science major from Feura Bush, New York. She enjoys poetry, exploring the world, staring pensively into the distance, and cracking terrible jokes at the worst possible times.