Disconnect and Reconnect: What You Learn When You Return Home

Disconnect and Reconnect: What You Learn When You Return Home

Brain Droppings from a Sitdown with Skyler Mueller
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Friday, July 31st, 2015

“My name is Skyler Mueller. I am a junior at Virginia Tech, and I am from Malvern, Pennsylvania, a small Philadelphia suburb on the Main Line. I have two loving parents, a[n] older brother, and I want to teach.”

“I would say I have spent no more than two weeks at home since I began my second semester in sophomore year.”

Skyler on College

  • Until I went to college, I think I enjoyed more peace in my life and thinking.
  • I truly believed upon entering college that I knew myself. I remember actually saying it to a couple of my hallmates, and not a few weeks later, I was spinning as my whole world went upside down. So I have learned to never assume I have discovered myself completely.
  • I was completely away from everyone who had fostered my beliefs, away from that safety. That is a quick and easy gut-check, to see what you really believe.
  • There is no growth without pain. Embracing pain or discomfort when it comes will help growth.
  • I hope to be the RA to my residents that my RA was to me. She was a companion through tough times, through inner turmoil, and also through times of happiness.
  • There are many times where you are teacher and a learner, just at the same time.
  • I’m not usually someone who decorates my room, so people are like, “Oh, so you don’t have a personality?” So now I am trying to find things to decorate my room.

Skyler on Home

  • I went on a cross country road trip last summer – 10,000 miles all around the country, in a huge circle. And although I was very happy and fortunate to explore, and eager to explore and discover, throughout the trip I always wanted to be home. Not as in, “turn the car around, turn it around right now.” I always knew I wanted to finish my trip at home. The destination was home. I went through, and passed through and arrived at so many homes across this country, and that was what was so crazy to me. I passed by so many places that are home, like what I have been describing, for so many other people.
  • I’ve always had a strong affinity, a feeling of kinship around home. I feel very much myself. Someone could drive through my town, through those streets on a trip, and to them it is just another town, but I can’t see it in that way. The memories are in the air. To me there is so much more import surrounding this place. I see home as a reminder of my roots; the core of me.
  • Even though I am changing, and I could be very different from who I was however long ago, my home updates with me. Home has never felt outdated, so far in my life. It has felt like it has always been alongside me. Home has been a companion; but it has been more than that. It has been a lot of things.
  • Home is safety and comfort, but not complacency. I do not feel stagnant here. It is a safe place to grow. I can be challenged even in a place so familiar, and sometimes in the best ways.
  • When I come home, sometimes, it feels like it knows me better than I know myself, in the sense that I am learning about myself by just being home.
  • There is something about this location, this geography, that knows me, in some way.

Skyler on Family

  • My family and I are very fortunate; we never had much conflict or many problems, and so when I brought some problems and some conflict, I think it was very healthy in a very great way, and made connections I had never made with my family before.

Skyler on Skyler

  • I am happy, I am. But it is a little more complicated than that. You know, I am content.
  • Disillusioned and delusional are two very different words. Why are they so close? I remember saying disillusioned a lot when I meant to say deluded or delusional, and when I finally looked it up it was like “Ahhhhh, shit.” Exact opposites almost.
  • I usually view growth in what I gain, but inevitably there has to be a loss. I have lost a faith. I was Christian, and now I am Agnostic. I gained some new beliefs and doubts, and I lost others.
  • It is very uncomfortable to start to believe that what you used to believe is wrong.
  • My excitement for life, I haven’t lost that, not yet. There is never a moment when I feel like there isn’t something to learn, and I am constantly captivated by the dynamics of life.

Parting Shots

  • Why don’t we do this more? I don’t mean like a Diane Sawyer sit down interview, but with people I care about, this is such a great concept for learning about each other, and learning about yourself. I want to reciprocate this. Why don’t we, not just you and me, but people, sit down and ask each other those essential questions? Is it time?
  • The people are the primary destination.

“They won’t know you care, until you care to know.”

–Said by many, not accredited to any.

Cover Image Credit: Malcolm D. Anderson

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To High School Seniors In Their Last Semester

Senior year moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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Dammit, you made it. The final semester of your senior year. You’re at the top of the food chain of high school, and it feels so good. You’re probably praying this last semester flies by, that you get out of town as soon as possible.

At this point, you’re calling teachers by their first names, the entire staff knows you by name, and you’re walking around school standing tall, owning those hallways. You’re convinced you’re ready to leave and move on to the next chapter in your life.

You’ve already experienced your last football game, standing in the cold in the front row of the student section all season long, decked out in your school colors and cheering loud and proud. That is, until they lost, and you realized you will never have that experience again. Never again.

SEE ALSO: What I Wish I Knew As A Second-Semester High School Senior

You already had your last winter break. Preparing and celebrating the holidays with your family, ice skating and sledding with your best friends. Those quiet nights alone in your room watching Netflix, taking for granted your loved ones just a few rooms away. Never again.

If you’re an athlete, you may have already played in your last game or ran your last race. The crowd cheering, proudly wearing your school’s name across your chest, giving it your all. For some, it may be the end of your athletic career. Before you knew it, you were standing in an empty gym, staring up at the banners and thinking about the mark you left on your school, wondering where on earth the time went. Never again.

I’m telling you right now, you’re going to miss it all. Everything you’ve ever known. Those early mornings when you debate going to first hour because you really need those McDonald’s hash browns. The late nights driving home from practice, stopping for ice cream of course, ready for a late night of homework. Getting food on a whim with your friends. Endless fights with your siblings. Your favorite chips in the pantry. A fridge full of food. Coming home to and getting tackled by your dog. Driving around your hometown, passing the same sights you’ve seen every day for as long as you can remember. Hugs from your mom after a long day. Laughs with your dad. And that best friend of yours? You’re going to miss them more than anything. I’m telling you right now, nothing will ever be the same. Never again.

SEE ALSO: I'm The Girl That Enjoyed High School

Before you start packing your bags, slow down, take a deep breath, and look around. You’ve got it pretty good here. The end of your senior year can be the time of your life; it’s truly amazing. So go to the winter dance, go to Prom, spend Senior Skip Day with your classmates, go to every sporting event you can, while you still can. College is pretty great, but it’s the little things you’re gonna miss the most. Don’t take it for granted because soon, you’ll be standing in a packed gym in your cap and gown, wondering where the heck the time went. You’ve got a long, beautiful life ahead of you, full of joy but also full of challenges. You’re going to meet so many wonderful people, people who will treat you right and people who won’t.


So, take it all in. Be excited for the future and look forward to it, but be mindful of the present. You’ve got this.
Cover Image Credit: Hartford Courant

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Competition Isn’t Real, So Stop Worrying About What You Think Is Your 'Competition'

When you stop worrying about being better than "your competition," you will succeed.

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"What are your plans for after College?" is the one question every college student wishes they could never hear again. After hearing those seven short words, the body of the college student is flooded with waves of irritation, paranoia, and worry.

When you set all your triggered thoughts and anxieties aside and manage to hurl out an answer, you're probably told "That's nice, but how are you going to get a job? That field is so competitive." At this point, you are probably ready to excuse yourself from the conversation for a timely breakdown.

Throughout high school, conversations at family gatherings and holiday parties typically went through this vicious cycle.

A naive junior in high school who was quick to say his major was going to be Musical Theater in college was always infuriated by the response "You'll never find work. That field is so competitive."

After a while, I started to believe it and decided to look elsewhere for a career path. I considered nursing, to where I was told how competitive college nursing programs are, and how little students they accept. I figured I wouldn't stand a chance, so I kept looking.

I circled back to the theater and was reminded by everybody how rigorous the Musical Theater college audition process was, and how they only accept a handful of kids. Surely there were other students more capable than me, and I wasn't going to let the ridiculously annoying boastful comments of theater kids ruin my search for my path in life.

My Dad always reminds me how much money I could make pursuing business, but working a 9-5 desk job dealing with hot-headed businessmen being choked by the tightness of their neckties never appealed me.

I felt fatigued like I was being told that I need to pursue what other people want me to, instead of following my dreams.

At this time I was a senior in High School, and my CommonApp was filled with prospective schools that I might attend, but the "intended major" section part of each application wasn't filled.

The loud "you can't" and "you'll NEVER get work" boomed in my ear until I was convinced I couldn't follow my dreams of becoming an actor, so I caved and intended to pursue journalism. I was told by all my teachers I was a gifted writer, so I figured it would be worth a shot.

"You can always do theater on the side," is what I heard. Now in college pursuing journalism, a field I was told: "will be one I can actually get a job in," some professors tell me after graduation, I will be doing journalism "on the side" because of how "competitive" the field is.

All occupational fields are competitive, whether that be communications, business, nursing, etc. Here is one thing that I learned through this experience and many others…

You have no competition.

In the eyes of someone who is hiring for a job, they are going to pick whoever's work they feel best fits the position. This isn't the product of a cutthroat field, it's solely the product of your work fitting the part.

You can't mash two puzzle pieces together because you THINK it's what fits, whatever is meant for you will come to you. Your puzzle pieces will fit together naturally.

In the end, it will come together to form a beautiful picture.

As for me, I decided to tune out the comments about competitive fields. What used to consume me cannot phase me anymore.

I still intend to pursue my dreams of becoming a performer, and at every audition I will remind myself that it is not the field that is competitive, there is no competition. The performer sitting next to me at an open call is not my competition, but my inspiration to work hard to find the job that will best fit me.

In the words of Cinderella, "there is one thing, they can't order me to stop dreaming."

The reporter who grabs every single story shouldn't turn me into someone who viciously grabs every story they can to build their portfolio, it should make me look for stories I WANT to tell that will progress me as a writer. After all, I am still learning.

I learned that I shouldn't belittle other people that are deemed "my competition" to disorient them, giving me a better chance at getting a job. Kindness will be more rewarding than contributing to the vicious dog-eat-dog world.

"I'm not in competition with anyone except who I used to be, and everything I do now is just an evolved version of something I've done before" -Kali Uchis

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