Standing at the Line

By Kylee McGrane - 2:44 PM

I love my school. I've always said this. I love Mount Saint Vincent. It has provided me with a sense of family and security that I had never felt at any other school before. I'm proud to be a dolphin and to be involved in all of the things that I am involved in. I appreciate all the classes I take and the professors I've had and the opportunities that the school provides me. I love my swim team. I love the campus. I love the school. I really do. I always have.

But recently, something has happened that has made me do the impossible: love it even more. Early in December I made the decision to stay in the city to take an internship writing for an online fashion magazine. That meant that for the summer, I would basically be completely independent. I decided to pick up a job bar tending on the side to cover my financial costs of the school credits and personal expenses.

I knew that our school offered discounted living rates to people that took on jobs on campus. So, in early January I decided to apply to be an Orientation Leader, simply as a way to cut the expensive cost of living in NYC and try to hang out with my best friend for a little bit longer (hi, Maggie).

After a information session about Orientation Leaders, I was convinced that there was no possible way I could ever get the job. Dozens of students had applied - one's with resumes much more impressive than my own. I convinced myself that I had to get stellar recommendations and stand out in the group interview. But there were almost 100 of us. How could I possibly do that?

Holding each other accountable, my best friend and I decided to go to the group interview together. I was secretly freaking out about the fact that I was almost positive that she would get the job, but wasn't so confident in my own ability. Despite being socially awkward and entirely self conscious, I forced myself outside of my comfort level and tried to act as a leader in the interview. Annoyingly answering as many questions as possible but somehow maintaining the role a listener, I landed an individual interview. 
I'm pretty sure it was this night.

Something about talking to four people who had the complete control of my summer in their hands got me extremely nervous (go figure, right?). I answered every question shakily, but honestly. My interview lasted no longer than five minutes. Within fifteen minutes I broke down in a crying fit in my room because I convinced myself I had entirely ruined my chances.

I remember walking into the office and picking up the decision letter for me and Maggie. My hands were shaking. It was only a summer job, right? It didn't matter that much. If I didn't get it, it was no big deal. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but I look back in retrospect and laugh at how naive I was. Of course, I knew it would be helpful financially but even then, before I knew all 23 of these great people, I knew that if I didn't get picked I would be missing out on a huge opportunity for me to grow.

I opened my letter, and then Maggie's, and smiled wider than I had in a long time. We had both gotten the job. I was going to spend part of the summer with my best friend. Something I don't think I've ever done.

Within the upcoming weeks I was introduced to the rest of the staff and I this sense of confidence and security I felt when I opened the letter vanished entirely. We were all so different. I barely really knew anyone on the staff, most just faces I saw when I rushed to class. Panic hit me. What if they didn't like me? Even worse, what if they hated me? Or worse than that, what if they just straight out ignored me?

We worked together briefly for commencement, and I began to feel extremely about the job. I wasn't sure if I fit in. I felt like a bother and a nuisance rather than a team player. There is nothing more I fear than being the girl that is oblivious to the fact that she's a little too much to handle. I was terrified of this being me.

When training came around I was emotionally, mentally, and physically drained. I had been traveling nonstop, working at all hours of the day, and needed to sleep instead of simply drinking caffeine. I was insecure and nervous and anxious about the upcoming three weeks. Because of this, the first couple days I subconsciously isolated myself from the group, blaming it on exhaustion rather than confronting my social anxiety.

As the week progressed, and we competed in more games, ice breakers, and leadership training, I found myself opening up slowly. Maggie pushed me in the right direction. Rob made me laugh effortlessly. I wanted to be Jenna's friend. Something about Karen reminded me of my sister. Nina made me feel safe. I remember Pedro saying that I was a good leader. Even now, thinking about that makes me light up. I got to know these people that were basically strangers without a regard to how silly I looked.

I remember how heated it got in kickball and capture the flag. I now have a scar on my shin from sliding into home base, to which I proudly point out to anyone who will listen. I remember hiding in the woods with Maggie and then in the dirt behind rocks where we met animal friends. I remember yelling at Carlos for almost blowing our hiding spot. But, he didn't.

On the Wednesday during training week we went to volunteer at a local nursing home. I watched Matt interact with a woman who was over 80 years old, but had the smile of a flirty sixteen year old. I watched him connect to her without forcing it to happen, but simply through witty banter and childish giggles.

That night we went on a Midnight Run, a drive through Manhattan with several stops where we give out food and clothing to the homeless. I laughed until tears fell from my eyes as we created some inside jokes that I promise I will always remember. I will remember Danielle singing Taylor Swift with me so loud until we had the entire van singing along. It was the same song that Gabby used as a caption to her instagram picture - to that I throw my fists in the air. I watched Brandon, someone I had briefly mentored my sophomore year of college, take on an active role during the process, chatting up those who came to us for food and clothing in masses unlike anything I had ever seen.

The next day we ventured off to my home state of Pennsylvania to go to Dorney Park as a group. That day was a riot from start to finish. We somehow got hooked up with a party bus. Suddenly our planned nap time turned into DJ Blanco hosting the wildest dance party of the year. I watched Katelen laugh harder than I had before. I listened to Isaiah rap every single word to every single song, earning him the title of Human Jukebox. I watched Bryan absorb it all. I watched Karen snuggle into Marcus, the beginning of me witnessing a beautiful friendship.

I had been to Dorney Park a lot growing up. I went with my friends during high school. I went with my family. But nothing has ever prepared me for this experience. As someone who is more afraid of emotional attachment than heights and roller coasters, I was in the front of the line for every ride. I remember how the only time I had ever heard Rob silent was when we went on a roller coaster together. I remember the expletives that Marcus yelled in stark comparison. I remember laughing with Carlos over our stupid faces that the roller coasters camera had caught of us. I remember screaming at Pedro to keep his hands up the entire time the ride was going. I remember flying out of my seat during a ride and having Blanco grab me with one arm and ask me just where exactly I was going. I remember Frank and Fern laughing hysterically at my expense.

Coming back home we stopped at Old Country Buffet, which I found to be entirely random. I remember Frank referring to our waitress as "darlin'" and Maggie spilling ice cream everywhere. I remember Gabby trying to help clean it up because that's just something that Gabby does. I remember driving back to campus and listening to Good Riddance and simultanesly thinking that it was the cheesiest, corniest, most overplayed song possible but somehow smiling at the fact that it captured that moment perfectly.

We were told the last day of training would be emotionally difficult, that it would be testing and trying and a lot to handle. I brushed it off. I shouldn't have.

In the afternoon we played step to the line and I confessed things I had been hiding for years. These were secrets that I had never told anyone, let alone people I met a week ago. They were things I had hid from people I'd dated, my friends, my family. They were the things that gave me nightmares or made me cry on the bathroom floor. They were the voices in my head that screamed out of no where, and here I was in my schools multipurpose room admitting that I was effected by them by stepping to a line made out of masking tape. When each "step to the line" was asked, I walked to the line with my head down, ashamed by the things I had said or did. But when I looked up, I realized I had never stepped to the line by myself. I found solace in Samantha's strength and realized how similar we were. Suddenly I saw a lot of the similarities highlighted so clearly. I found comfort in her smile, like she was saying, "shit happens, but we got over it, and now we're stronger".

After we went around in a circle and described things that were important to us. I watched Katelen and Alyssa open up about one of my biggest fears- the fragility of love and the strength of family. My respect for everyone increased trifold in that hour. I felt like the Grinch on Christmas, whose heart grew three sizes. Except mine grew more than that. Suddenly,  I loved every single person sitting in that room. I loved their scars and struggles and fears and strengths. I respected them. I appreciated them. I realized how lucky I was to be around them.

We played "give your heart" next. I can't remember exactly who gave their heart to me, or even what for, but I remember exactly who I picked. I gave my heart to Nina for someone I respect. Our fearless leader and constant reminder to stay humble. I wanted to give my heart to Bryan, for someone I wanted to know better. I want to give my heart to Pino, for someone I'm happy I reconnected with. To Rose, for someone whose story I want to hear more of. To Karen, for being so strong so silently. To Marcus, to inspiring other people. To Pedro, for working harder than almost anyone I know. To Brandon, for somehow always hearing the music and dancing to it (both literally and figuratively). To Carlos, for being our gentle giant. To Danielle, for being the listener. To Kelly, for her competitive spirit and kind heart. To Gabby, the first person to say something comforting and make you feel at home. To Isaiah, for acknowledging that being stoic isn't synonymous with having a brave face. To Jenna, for being infectious. To Blanco, for connecting us when we need it. To Rob, for instantly lighting up anyone's day. To Rose, for putting up with all of us. To Matt, for being my spirit animal. To Frank, who played the role of leader and friend so exceptionally. To Sam, for showing us how to put your passion into everything. To Maggie, for everything.

I remember getting ready for family dinner that night. For the first time in a long time, that family dinner as about family. We we're a family. I don't know when exactly it happened, or even how. But suddenly it was just fact. I remember walking to the dinner with all of the girls and the boys stood up from their seats and clapped. And we laughed like it was a joke, but I felt respected by a large group of guys for the first time, maybe ever. We took a ton of photos that night, and even though I look absolutely dreadful in our group photo, that will always be one of my favorites. The photograph of 23 people no longer looked like a random group of people thrown together, it looked like a cohesive movement of friends, interlocking arms and sharing laughs and stories. That night I made memories that I will be laughing about in the nursing home future CMSV students will volunteer at.

Orientations came and went, and I saw each person in my family take on a new role as a professional. I watched them interact with family members and students and other staff easily. I suddenly just realized that this is no longer a post about my summer job, but rather a short memoir of my new family. I'm pretty excited about that.

One night we all slept in the same room together. There were probably about 15 of us packed in together watching movies until 6am. I think that really speaks volumes about the kind of family we became, so attached that we refused to sleep apart.

There were plenty of nights that I wish I could go back to during those three weeks. Dancing with Katelen and mimicking a vine. Adventuring out to underneath the cafeteria with the whole group. Laying in the grass at the pier. Dancing in the streets of Manhattan. I watched summer love take full effect, and I wonder impatiently where all of the lines are going to go. I watched walking home in tears from laughing so hard from the diner. I watched all of us screaming over a mouse in the common room. I watched us all collapse in exhaustion during breaks. I watched all of us dance. A lot. I watched us make fun of each other and then throw our arms around each other. I watched all of these things that you see in stupid romantic comedies that we roll our eyes at when we watch them. But when you experience them yourself it all starts to make sense.

Watching everyone leave to go back home tore up my heart. It felt like we were all leaving summer camp, the magic of the hallways that only we owned was starting to fade along with anything-but-innocent innocence and fragile yet strong new friendships.  I watched as people returned back to their regular lives, with office jobs to work and vacations to take, miles away from CMSV. This morning, I realized that for the first time in weeks I will be returning to the campus alone and sleeping in an empty room. I know it hasn't exactly hit it yet, but I'm sure it will when the only laughter I hear is from me laughing at the things that have already happened.

I know, this has become so unbearably dramatic. But bear with me. I'm not someone who makes friends easily, if at all. I'm used to putting up a guard and blocking people out because I'm convinced it's safer. It's easier to never get attached then to miss people, even if they are sending you hundreds of messages via GroupMe a day. But just listen.

There are few moments in life where you feel comfortable enough to be effortlessly yourself. Usually, if you're lucky, you feel this magnetic connection with one person. By some kind of miracle, I was blessed enough to feel it with 22 people.  We we're supposed to be confirming someone else's decision of coming to the Mount, but somehow, all of you confirmed my own.

So, this might be the longest post I've ever written, but I honestly can say I meant every single word I wrote down in between snapchats and group messages. I hope the trips we planned and events we discuss happen. And then I want to write about them. I can't wait to see where this adventure pans out and I hope when I look up when I'm standing at the line, you're all there next to me.

infinite x's and o's,

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