“Hey! What are you doing here? How is Mystic?”
I’m contently curled up in a corner table in Tunnel City, the coffee shop at Williams College. We had a joint Oceanography-Marine Policy class on Tuesday in honor of Earth Day, and I’m taking advantage of our three-day weekend to see the friends I left behind for the semester. In the past few days, I’ve noticed a theme in the general reaction to my arrival: strange looks become those of recognition before I am extensively interrogated about my experience at Mystic. I can’t help but feel a smile playing at the corner of my lips whenever I try to respond in an appropriate amount of time – I could talk for hours about life in the coastal community, our amazing trips, our roles in mitigating climate change, the topics of my research papers, and my friends in the program, but I’ve learned to condense a suitable amount of information into a roughly five-minute spiel.
Still, I find myself struggling with the insufficiency of my words: how can I describe the essence of the Williams-Mystic Program, when every minute detail seems to have such significance? Almost every conversation ends with the enthusiastic suggestion: “Please visit me! You have to see it for yourself” or, for the lucky few still eligible, “You should seriously consider the Program!”
It only took a few days of separation from Mystic to make me realize the greatest impact Williams-Mystic has had on my life. It has taught me to feel present, to truly appreciate every component of myself, to indulge in my passions and share them, and to surround myself with people who allow me to do so. Quotidian stresses have lost their importance; my definition of self-worth no longer relies on my grades, on my athleticism, on my image. In exploring the sheer vastness of the sea, I have somehow found my way into a community of people who encourage me to also delve into the depths of myself by focusing my attention on the values that I hold important.
As I gain greater perspective of the world around us and focus on my sense of place here in Mystic, I am much more accepting of myself, a peace that frequently eludes me when I choose to ignore the bigger picture. Ironically, it takes a three-hour drive and a hundred and fifty miles of separation to create such self-reflection. Still, it’s reassuring to think that in three weeks I will be able to carry my presence with me as I depart from the very place that allowed me to find it.