Why HOBY Is An Amazing Part Of My Life Two Years Later

Why HOBY Is An Amazing Part Of My Life Two Years Later

I still have the "HOBY spirit."
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Chances are that if you’ve seen me at all in the past two years, you’ve heard me mention HOBY. And it’s likely been more than once, possibly even to the point where it’s annoying.

People often ask me what exactly this "HOBY thing" is, and I can’t tell you how often I’m at a total loss for words. “It’s a leadership seminar,” I’ll eventually stammer, getting a polite smile and nod in response before the subject is changed.

But that’s not quite it. Not even close. Just a scratch at the surface, really.

But for these people, I keep it simple, hoping that I can somehow communicate to them in the way I get excited about this thing and the way that my eyes light up that THIS is the place where I found my tribe. That this is the place that has moved my voice closer to my lips.

It’s impossible to describe HOBY for a multitude of reasons, one of which being the detail and depth I’d have to go into to even begin to try to explain is far too great for the small talk it typically makes an appearance in.

Also, we HOBYs kinda like this ambiguous little secret of ours, both frustrated and pleased that we have such a hard time helping others to understand this other family of ours and the place we’ve found that we belong––––this place where you discover the best version of yourself.

Lately I’ve been resorting to calling it a “utopia” but that’s really not it either. That makes it sound too much like a cult, but with the fervor my fellow alums and I speak about it with, one might just start to wonder.

So really the best way I can describe it is by calling it “an ineffable wonder” but by definition, I’m really not describing it at all.

I attended the HOBY New York West seminar at the University of Rochester in May of 2014, where I heard one of the Lost Boys of Sudan speak, cleaned up Mount Hope Cemetery, got poison ivy, wrote, directed and performed a skit all in half an hour, stole bandanas and candy off of neighboring groups’ tables (harboring quite a collection from each by the end of the weekend), and laughed when our table was stolen out of revenge one night during dinner. I had had a nice time, but I wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about.

And then I was introduced to the WLC, or World Leadership Congress.

I wasn’t going to go at first, discovering four days after signing up that it was the same week as a summer course I was planning on taking at a local university. But after mulling over my options for several days (and, let’s be honest, crying) I decided on the World Leadership Congress.

Every minute I got closer to departing for Chicago, the more the dread came in and the fear settled in my stomach. I cried the night before, afraid of flying on a plane for the first time in eleven years to a huge city I’d never been to before.

But it was like that the night I left to go back home, too, and it had nothing to do with the plane ride, and everything to do with the fear of leaving this place. This version of me.

And now, I’d give anything to go back. To be traipsing around Chicago with twelve of my favorite people--ones who are unapologetically themselves and incredibly enthusiastic about everything--by my side. Screaming ridiculous cheers at the top of our lungs down the street. Making Canadian jokes. Untangling ourselves from human knots.

The thing about HOBY is that everyone you meet has this genuine love and care for you. It is a place where I instantly felt connected and understood, even though I was meeting these four hundred twenty-five other people for the very first time.

What I loved about my week in Chicago was just how incredibly open and welcoming everyone was. By the end of the week, you really felt like had known the people in your group for years and had experienced some of their hardships with them. I had finally found what my favorite author Marina Keegan calls “the opposite of loneliness.”

HOBY is a place that challenges you and your beliefs for the betterment of both yourself and the world. Bringing together about 430 ambassadors from 16 different countries, it enables ambassadors to learn that we all have much more in common than we ever could have imagined, despite coming from so many different corners of the globe.

People often ask me what you do at this leadership thing, and I never know how to describe it without making it seem dull. Because it wasn't. We listened to speakers and created websites and nonprofits and thought about ways to solve world problems. We explored Chicago and wrote notes and danced and sang crazy cheers and played ridiculous games. We updated our social media pages and took too many pictures and hugged everyone we met. We engaged in service projects and discussions. We slept too little and smiled too much. We laughed so hard we were sore the next day. We cried until our tears ran out. It was exhilarating.

At night, I would crawl in bed, exhausted, but joyfully so. That’s when I would contact my family. But my home life felt so far away and so unreal. It made it hard to think about coming home--leaving this place and saying goodbye to these people. This version of myself. Me, a homebody, couldn’t imagine coming home to her family in just a few days.

It’s no wonder ambassadors talk about “HOBY hangovers” and “withdrawals” and creating an island only for HOBYs to live on social media every once in a while. We celebrate our anniversaries like high school couples and, in our friends’ opinions, gush about it too much.

Getting off the plane and seeing my family again for the first time in eight days, after all of this, was surreal. I felt like a pair of pants that shrank in the wash––––I just didn’t fit anymore. And of course coming home begged the question, “What are you going to do with this?” I didn’t have the answers to that then, and honestly I’m not sure I do now. I was terrified of losing this other side of me, scared that I’d fall back into my normal routine and everything I had gained would be lost. The staff had warned us of this, scheduling a presentation entitled “Life After HOBY” on one of the last days. “You might feel like you don’t quite belong when you get back,” they said, assuring us that this was normal.

I remember going to Wegmans after reuniting with my family and having to resist the urge not to rush up to a person looking at bread and tell them my name and ask them where they were from. It took a lot of effort not to get up, put my hands over my head and start shouting “O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G OUT-OUT-OUTSTANDING” at the top of my lungs whenever someone asked me how my day was or if I liked my pizza. I’m not sure if this is what the staff were talking about, but it was definitely far from normal.

I’ve been on multiple trips and sports teams before and since, and while I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them, I’ve never felt as connected to these people as I have to HOBYs.

Oftentimes the leaders at these events boast that this new experience will be the best one of your life, so when “HOBY Daddy” Russ Tanguay told all 426 of us ambassadors in a conference room at Loyola University of Chicago that “a week from now, you’re going to wish that you were back in this room on July 19th, 2014 at 8:32 pm CT” I was skeptical. But, I can’t even begin to tell you how right he was. It's been two years since that date and I still remember the exact time.

I still post about it on social media and engage in Google Hangouts to catch up and commemorate that day. I volunteer as a Junior Counselor at New York West every year, eager to inspire high school sophomores just as much as my counselors inspired me and keep my HOBY spirit going.

In this day in age, when we are surrounded by violence and hateful acts and a crazy presidential race, it's comforting to know that those of different cultures, religions, views and backgrounds can all come together respectfully and peacefully and learn how to lead together for the betterment of our local and global communities.

HOBY has not only challenged me, but given me confidence, lifelong friends, a love of service, and a place where I belong. Being able to give back to the organization that taught me how to reach my full potential and granted me the opposite of loneliness is one of the most outstanding feelings in the world.

Cover Image Credit: hoby.org

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I'm The Girl Who'd Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

You raise your protest picket signs and I’ll raise my white picket fence.
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Social Media feeds are constantly filled with quotes on women's rights, protests with mobs of women, and an array of cleverly worded picket signs.

Good for them, standing up for their beliefs and opinions. Will I be joining my tight-knit family of the same gender?

Nope, no thank you.

Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be oblivious to my history and the advancements that women have fought to achieve. I am aware that the strides made by many women before me have provided us with voting rights, a voice, equality, and equal pay in the workforce.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Who Would Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

For that, I am deeply thankful. But at this day in age, I know more female managers in the workforce than male. I know more women in business than men. I know more female students in STEM programs than male students. So what’s with all the hype? We are girl bosses, we can run the world, we don’t need to fight the system anymore.

Please stop.

Because it is insulting to the rest of us girls who are okay with being homemakers, wives, or stay-at-home moms. It's dividing our sisterhood, and it needs to stop.

All these protests and strong statements make us feel like now we HAVE to obtain a power position in our career. It's our rightful duty to our sisters. And if we do not, we are a disappointment to the gender and it makes us look weak.

Weak to the point where I feel ashamed to say to a friend “I want to be a stay at home mom someday.” Then have them look at me like I must have been brain-washed by a man because that can be the only explanation. I'm tired of feeling belittled for being a traditionalist.

Why?

Because why should I feel bad for wanting to create a comfortable home for my future family, cooking for my husband, being a soccer mom, keeping my house tidy? Because honestly, I cannot wait.

I will have no problem taking my future husband’s last name, and following his lead.

The Bible appoints men to be the head of a family, and for wives to submit to their husbands. (This can be interpreted in so many ways, so don't get your panties in a bunch at the word “submit”). God specifically made women to be gentle and caring, and we should not be afraid to embrace that. God created men to be leaders with the strength to carry the weight of a family.

However, in no way does this mean that the roles cannot be flipped. If you want to take on the responsibility, by all means, you go girl. But for me personally? I'm sensitive, I cry during horror movies, I'm afraid of basements and dark rooms. I, in no way, am strong enough to take on the tasks that men have been appointed to. And I'm okay with that.

So please, let me look forward to baking cookies for bake sales and driving a mom car.

And I'll support you in your endeavors and climb to the top of the corporate ladder. It doesn't matter what side you are on as long as we support each other, because we all need some girl power.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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The Revival Of The Coal Industry Is Unattainable

Clean beautiful coal will never be a reality. President Trump's backing of a declining industry is misguided and will have despairing environmental impacts.

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The coal industry and its workers were placed at the forefront of American politics during the 2016 election cycle. President Trump promised a revival of the coal industry and promised to secure the jobs of coal country. The President, halfway through his first term, has so far taken measures to do just that. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, threw out Obama's Clean Power Plan, and did away with an Obama-era regulation that would prevent coal ash from entering streams and other bodies of water.

On one hand, it's quite extraordinary for a politician to do good on his campaign promises. On the other hand, is anyone considering whether or not the President is putting all his eggs into the wrong basket? Coal has been on the decline for about a decade now. Even without environmental regulations, the energy produced by coal is expected to reduce by 20% by 2030. Renewable energy such as wind and solar are replacing coal.


For an election campaign, it's easy to see why a candidate would align with coal. States like West Virginia and Pennsylvania are key when running a national campaign. The votes are there in those counties that support the coal industry. They will vote for any candidate who sides with their industry. But from an environmental standpoint, there's more on the line than just an election. It's about our clean air and water. Climate change is real and the effects of coal will only accelerate the process.

Coal ash that finds its way into water streams can damage that water supply for good. It could also impact the wildlife within the area. Coal also pollutes the air we breathe. Clean coal is a myth. Plain and simple. Coal is anything but clean. Clean coal sounds good in a stump speech, but we all know it's a fallacy.

Mountaintop mining also has a deep environmental impact. The Appalachian mountains have been destroyed from surface mining. West Virginia residents hold their beautiful mountains in high regard. Now, some of them look very different and the destruction is permanent. If the mining continues, the mountains of the Appalachia region will be gone. It would be a shame if you went to West Virginia to admire their mountains, and none were left.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt passed the American Antiquities Act of 1906. Roosevelt protected 230 million acres of land during his presidency. Roosevelt understood the importance of conservation and preserving our nation's natural beauty. The same natural beauty that God envisioned. We should not take that for granted. We should restore our mountains, forests, and lakes so that our children's children can reside in the richness of our natural environment.

President Roosevelt also ended the coal strike in 1902. The United States was much more dependent on coal in the 20th century than it is now. Roosevelt knew the coal strike had to be resolved because the cold winter would have been fatal. The change of the Republican party over a century later is quite intriguing to ponder. The party went from a strong conservationist in Roosevelt to Trump, who is willing to move mountains for a dying industry.

All of these facts surrounding the coal debate cannot be ignored. The rest of the western world will move on to new forms of renewable energy. While the United States will be stuck in neutral, reviving coal. Renewable energy should be strongly considered if we are to protect our water, air, and lands.

Disclaimer: I understand the risks coal miners make when they show up for work. I know that safety regulations are not always up to par and that coal mining is a very dangerous profession. I also understand the viewpoint of coal miners and their reasoning for disagreeing with me. I know they want to work and provide for their families. That's what we all want to do. As I write this, I wish not to offend coal miners, I only aim to critique the President and his policies about the coal industry.

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