The following Grad at Grad reflection was delivered to the Loyola community at morning assembly on May 1, 2014, by Hunter Bulkeley (’14) A Loyola Student Is Becoming More Open to Growth
I don’t want to be giving this speech right now. I would much rather be sitting in the bleachers listening, and trying to complete the process of waking up. So why am I here then? Well, the easy answer is that Ms. Baber asked me and I thought I kinda had to say “yes”. The more complicated answer is that I am doing this because I don’t want to do it. Let me explain what I mean, in a really round-about fashion by taking you through my thought process. If memory serves correctly, part of every one of Father Sehler’s tests in freshman theology was a reflection, usually about our lives or our relationship with God. Being an innocent freshman, I may have been a bit too candid, so I actually ended up writing about my frustrations and thoughts with little care that someone else was going to read them. Well someone did read them, and I did once have to stay after class for a discussion with Father. Needless to say, I was slightly more careful with where I vented after that, but the repeated act of honest reflection left an imprint on my mind that was deepened each quarter by writing Christian Service reflections. Slowly, subconsciously, I became aware that placing my thoughts on paper allowed me to think about them in a new light and deepen my understanding of myself. This reflective imprint would rise again at the end of sophomore year. After reading Dracula in Ms. Malecki’s Honors English course I was struck by the odd writing style. The story was told through a series of journal entries. Writing a journal entry had always vaguely appealed to me, but I had never acted on the desire. Yet, somewhere in the back of my head, I thought of those freshman reflections, and I decided to give it a try. On April 14, 2012, I wrote the following words in my first journal entry, “I doubt I’ll keep this up for long.” Last night I completed my 567th entry in my fifth journal. The practice of writing out my thoughts has become essential to the way I think. The average entry takes me an hour to
write simply because I get lost in the examination of events while trying to determine exactly how I feel about the day. Simply reflecting was not enough for me. My early reflections, both in and out of Loyola, were rather shallow and poorly written. Then came junior year and with it a class that would come to be the highlight of my day and the low point of my sleepless night, Mr. Gregory’s AP English Language and Composition Course. The entire first semester was devoted to puzzling over moral quandaries such as, “Is there beauty in death?” “Is torture every acceptable?” and “Is there such a thing as a just war?” Thanks to my reflections in previous years, I quickly came up with answers. Yes. No. No. But in an AP course, it is not enough to simply have the answers; we must be able to articulate them and present them in an ordered argument, giving concession to the other side. My normal extreme rants were quickly corrected by Mr. Gregory and I was sent back to rewrite and reconsider my ideas. This cycle of ranting, being challenged, and reconstructing the rant ultimately developed two very important characteristics. The first, the ability to think critically, allowed me to utilize the now familiar frame of reflection to its fullest potential. I began to pull apart my previous assumptions about my siblings, modern music, college, and myself. From a tool for academic papers, I was able to come to terms with long-standing anger issues as well as a reluctance to take any risk for fear of embarrassment. The second tool I took away from that rigorous and rewarding class was the revolutionary concept that other people have different opinions from mine. Okay, yes, I knew people had different opinions before that, but I was neither able to see nor interested in seeing the world from their perspective. Thanks to the exchange of ideas during that first semester of AP English, this year’s philosophy course, and various day-long debates with my dad, I came to realize that other people tend to have perfectly acceptable reasons for their opinions and sometimes their ideas are far better than mine. I found it much harder to dislike or look down on people once I saw that their actions make perfect sense according to their priorities. For some people, school makes way for fun, for me, school is my fun.
But, what do reflection, critical thinking, and considering multiple perspectives have to do with why I am keeping you from class right now? Well, that brings me to the final part of the journey in becoming “open to growth” – my dad. I will restrain my desire to simply turn this entire speech into praise of my dad, even though I could. Suffice it to say, my dad is the single greatest being that I have ever, will ever, or can ever meet and has influenced me more than the sum total of all other experiences in my life. During the time of Mr. Gregory’s junior class, I would come home every day and engage my dad in philosophical and moral debates. In one of these sparring matches, we decided what our meaning of life would be. To us, “the meaning of life is to experience it.” That means we must experience joy, depression, anger, love, embarrassment, and all other emotions. Of course, if an action would cause harm to ourselves or others, we must decline. Now, I am able to combine all my other lessons from Loyola to serve the purpose of expanding my horizons and knowledge. My daily reflections, born from Father Sehler and Mr. Bludgus’s freshman year classes, allow me to locate key issues I am facing in my life, especially choices that I must make. With the critical eye developed in junior year, I am able to pick apart my argument against an action and then construct the opposing argument with my ability to view conflicts from different perspectives. Ultimately, I am now capable of counter-arguing against myself until I submit and fulfill my meaning for life, to experience all things. A perfect example of this thought process is my college decision. I looked at both Haverford and St. Andrews, the merits of both institutions, and my own inclinations. Quickly, I determined that I wanted to go to Haverford; it looked like a slightly larger form of Loyola. That’s when I set about convincing myself that St. Andrews was the right choice. I know I would have been happy at Haverford, but it offered me only a form of the small school system I’d been in since pre-k. St. Andrews would force me to completely rely on myself and provide a greater depth of experience than Haverford, or in fact any American school, could. It is precisely because I want to go to Haverford and am scared at the prospect of going to school so far away, that I know I must go to St. Andrews.
It is the same with this speech. I would prefer to be in the bleachers right now. Certainly, there were times when writing this essay that I thought of just telling Ms. Baber I couldnâ€™t do it, I had to focus on my research paper, the AP Bio test, or the spring concert. I would have gotten more sleep if I had. But, because of the skills I have developed over the/my past four years here, I not only accepted this new experience, to speak in front of roughly two hundred people, but welcomed it whole heartedly. And I am glad that I did. Thank you