The following post is written by staff member, Jesse Saperstein. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
As the old and tired cliché goes, “Time really flies.” It seems like yesterday I had my first days within the College Experience Program (CEP) last July and was listening to reasonable complaints about the brutal summer from the CEP students who are currently thriving in the Transitions Program. Now we are preparing for the relentless march of the Holiday Season as well as the inevitable highs and lows. For the freshmen students this will be their first extend ed visit at home and then they will have to rise to the challenge of switching gears to complete the rest of the semester.
The staff and students had their Thanksgiving Party last Thursday evening that was catered for staff, alumni, the Transitions program, and of course…the current CEP students. One of the countless things I like about the College Experience Program (CEP) is how alumni and Transitions students are always welcome to visit for events or just to drop by even though they have already moved forward to other things. Other college programs have occasional events that are specifically catered to alumni and those who consistently keep in touch are eventually handed the message that their presence is no longer appropriate. But this is not a reality at the CEP program because the alumni are always welcome even as we work tirelessly to help current students.
On last Thursday, everything and everyone came together in one colossal celebration within the house of 1020 Madison Avenue. It was also an opportunity to observe their progress and skills they have learned with our occasional guidance. Like the crew of a ship, they quickly banded together to clean the entire house that was already fairly spotless due to the nightly chores. The students cooked various meals from scratch instead of buying cooked mashed potatoes at Price Chopper that many people are guilty of doing to make the Holidays a little less stressful. The fruits of their labors were observed during this celebration. I think back to the start of the semester when there would have been numerous complaints and personality clashes as the transition inevitably hits everyone like a thunderbolt. There was none of this on Thursday, and I am confident the students will be able to deal with the challenges of the Holiday Season. There are a lot of happy expectations about this blessed tradition and the grass is often greener on the other side…only sometimes it’s not. It will always help to be prepared for any challenges that will occur during this long weekend.
My advice to the students is the following:
- It is critical to always have momentum even during times of relaxation and festivity. The best analogy I have to describe momentum is that of a sprinter who continues running instead of coming to an abrupt halt inches past the finish line. He or she continues while savoring the moment and making it a little bit easier to start the next race shortly afterwards. The skills you have been learning in the program must not also take a five-day vacation. Please continue honing some of the good habits you have devoted an entire semester toward forging whether it is taking out the garbage or folding your laundry.
- Being an adult is a full-time endeavor and requires us to give up some of the indulgences that speckled our childhood years with joy. (Even Halloween was yanked beneath my feet this year because work responsibilities took over this precious day normally reserved for carving Jack O’Lanterns and working on a costume.) Even when we are on a legitimate vacation there is still work to be done. But there has to be just one day once in a when it all just stops! If you can manage it throughout this five-day weekend then you should give yourself just one day that is entirely about YOU! Watch your favorite movies or vegetate in front of Facebook if there are no pressing adult priorities. The pleasure from this day of leisure will seem exaggerated in its intensity. More rare and valuable, if you will. These feelings come from knowing it is deserved and you are entitled toward the fruits of your labors from the College Experience Program (CEP). Perhaps the next bullet point will not seem so unfair.
- Does anyone remember when our schoolteachers would force us to complete journal entries while at Disney World? I remember one winter vacation in ninth grade when I had to complete a thick math packet that seemed like half a rain forest had assisted in its creation. It seemed like a cruel and pointless adult conspiracy to chain students to the misery of school. But twenty years later, I am finally able to appreciate what these teachers were trying to accomplish. The shock of transitioning from vacation to school was not as intense because we had a taste of such responsibilities during vacation time. On that note, I am hoping that students will work on at least one of their CEP assignments that are due shortly after you return. There will also be less work waiting for you when you return.
- When you put your happiness at the mercy of other people’s opinions then you will be doomed to be thrust about by waves commanded by a vengeful Poseidon. Holidays such as Thanksgiving may force you to interact with relatives or family friends that serve as the Finders. The Finders are conditioned to always “find” something wrong with everything and are infamous for their snide comments. Do not let their negativity ruin your holiday. My CEP colleague, Judy came up with a great strategy. If the rudeness becomes too intense to the point where you are going to say something that you will regret…go for a walk and ask if anyone wants to join you. The pre-winter air will hopefully cool down your rage and prevent Thanksgiving from being ruined.
- The CEP Thanksgiving Celebration allowed you to experiment with culinary abilities and pushed some of you outside your comfort zones. Even if nobody is imposing these requests upon you, be the one who offers to create the same dish you made for the party or at least help out with the cooking. If cooking is not your forte then perhaps you may assist with other things such as washing the dishes. On Thanksgiving Day I will be driving nearly forty-five minutes away to pick up my maternal grandmother and her aide, Maxine to bring them back to the house. I’ll be driving them back to the retirement community after dinner concludes and am happy to know that Thanksgiving will be enhanced due to such contributions. Thanksgiving does not manifest itself purely through the magic of the Holiday Spirit. (It may have seemed that way when we were much younger.) As the entire program experienced last Thursday, November 19, 2015…it takes an entire team and at least two days of work. Take the initiative to become a piece of this Thanksgiving magic!