Community, the Capitol, and Central Hall

Every time I meet someone from Hillsdale College while out here in D.C., they always ask if I know [insert their friend’s name here].

Most of the time, I fall back on “I know the name, but not the person,” but the point has been made. Even here, hundreds of miles away, the Hillsdale community is strong. And when I say it is strong, I mean it’s almost obnoxious how many other Hillsdale students and alums are working or interning in the nation’s capitol.

I know it’s because I run heavily in the conservative culture here, but it seems like my alma mater is everywhere I turn. I meet someone from my school almost every week—a speaker at a lecture, someone on the street, a fellow church member. And although Hillsdale’s ever-growing presence is a sort of running joke in town, I am thankful for it.

Community takes on a new meaning when you’re in a city for the first time, and I am lucky enough to have one built in. I haven’t had to flounder for friends, because there is a whole dorm full of them quite literally a block from where I work.

There is something to be said for going it alone, to be thrust completely out of your element, but I think it is only possible to thrive on your own once your roots have been firmly planted. I am only beginning to understand my roots. I am only starting to learn what it means to be grounded in people and places and moments.

Nearly three months in D.C. has only shown my heart has not been uprooted, only transplanted.

This isn’t a post about school spirit. This is not about cheering at football games. This is not about bumper stickers or class shirts or banners.

This is about how I have buried my heart under the well-worn steps of Central Hall. This is about planting my hopes among the flowers of Arb, rooting myself in the blue and the white, finding my purpose among bustling Midwest halls.

This is about unspoken allies in the city.

No matter what internship or job brings someone here, we both understand what is like to struggle through American Heritage, to see the glow of Central Hall at sunset, to have your heart jump in fear (or excitement) when Dr. Arnn rounds the corner. It’s a shared experience that is irreplaceable, unexplainable.

Knowing there are others—many others—in this town who share these roots is a comfort. Seeing where they are now is an encouragement. Meeting them is a joy, if only because the unspoken becomes the spoken.

The friendships I form at school might fade. Details of classroom lessons will be replaced. But the sense of community will never disappear, no matter where I go.  Once a Charger, always a Charger.

So charge on, Washington. Charge on.

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A Letter to Boardwalk and Everyone in It

Today I move out of the little brown house on Manning Street and into the newly-refurbished Mauck Dormitory. 

It will be nice to have a properly-heated room. Less nice to have to share a bathroom with more than two other people. 

Still, I will miss this house, run-down as it was. Not because of my larger room or the abundance of community tea nestled on the top shelf of the kitchen, but because of the aggressive positivity that turned it into a home.

I am not used to having an abundance of female friendships. Growing up, I had my mom and a few close girlfriends. I have never been the girl that hangs out with 10 other girls at the same time. I’m not in a sorority. The last group of “girlfriends” I had was in early middle school. 

This means I have more intimate friendships with the girlfriends I do have, but it also means I spend a lot of my time with boys. 

Girl friendships are difficult for me. I despise doing the weeks, even months, of awkward friend-flirting, only to have the friendship fizzle. Sometimes, it’s because Things Happen. Sometimes not. Either way, it’s a wooing process, tiring and often fruitless. It’s left me a little jaded toward the idea of reaching out to make new girlfriends.

Living in Boardwalk changed that. 

I hadn’t originally planned on living in the house, but was offered a spot after my planned roommate bailed at the last second. I’m grateful now she did. 

I have never seen a house get along so perfectly. The living room was always littered with twinkle lights and candles. Some sort of baked good cooled on the kitchen counter at least once a week. When I wandered into the kitchen in the morning, still blurry-eyed and bed-headed, I was always greeted with at least one cheery “good morning!” 

Twelve girls in one house seems like a lot. It is. Every space in that house was crammed with something. Books, food, and homework, but also joy, laughter, and love. 

Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t gathering in the living room every night to giggle and swap makeup tips. But knowing there were others just down the hall who would be there for me, who would let me vent, and who I could support equally, that was exciting.

The women in Boardwalk showed me why female friendships that are unequivocally and passionately positive are of unmatched importance. Having such a positive experience with 11 other girls at once gave me the desire to once again pursue female friendships. They made me a better person, a more confident person, in just a semester.

So thank you, Boardwalk. A few twinkle lights and a little bit of a laughter made a little run-down house feel like home. 

Here’s to a new dorm, a new semester, and new friendships. Welcome to Mauck. 

Five things you absolutely need for your dorm room

Regardless of what school you are going to in the fall, there are five things you must have for your dorm room.

1. Ten-foot phone cord.

It doesn’t matter how you set up your room or what spot you snag in the library, you will always be too far away from the plug. Or, if you’re like me, your cord will start to fray from being bent at a weird angle between the bedframe and the wall. Solve that with a ten-foot phone cord. I ordered these. They’re two for $10, so I have a spare if the one I use ever breaks. Being able to roll over in bed and still be able to charge your phone is seriously life-changing.

2. Hot pot

Even if you have a full meal plan or access to a dorm kitchen, I really recommend purchasing a hot pot. They’re different than a hot plate, so most schools allow them. They’re great for making soups, Ramen, tea, and oatmeal. I used mine to make hard-boiled eggs for in-room breakfasts, which seemed to work pretty well. I have this one.

3. Jars

In a small dorm room, labels and cheap containers can be visually noisy. Even though this might not consciously add anxiety, transferring small items like paperclips and thumbtacks into miniature desktop jars can calm down your room. I used a large mason jar as a toothbrush and toothpaste container and smaller ones to hold things like hairties, desk supplies, and makeup brushes. I even bought a small candle holder to serve as a stand for a makeup sponge, replacing the plastic, labeled one it came with. I found that cutting down the amount of labels visible in my room helped to create a cleaner, more relaxing environment, which, in turn, helped me focus on homework and studying.

4. Plants

Regardless of how many posters you hang, dorm rooms can still feel sterile, plain, and lifeless. Adding a plant (or seven) can help to add a little bit of greenery back into your life. Depending on where you live, something like a succulent might work. Succulents need a lot of light, so they might not be best if you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sun. I personally suggest a money tree (formally known as Pachira Aquatica). My boyfriend gave me one as a gift for Christmas and not only did it stay alive, but it actually thrived in my dorm room.

5. Sleep mask

Roommates suck. They stay up late and get up early, somehow always on the opposite schedule of you. Instead of suffocating under a blanket to block out light, buy a sleep mask. You’ll be able to sleep, and your roommate will be able to study or get ready for class. A sleep mask is also incredibly useful for those Saturday afternoon naps you take when you’re avoiding homework. To become an impenetrable nap fortress, buy a pair of earbuds, too.

Returning students, what are some things you would recommend for incoming freshman?

A goodbye to my freshman year

It’s strange to think that I will leave campus today. Only a few months ago, I was unpacking everything into tiny dorm room.A summer suddenly seems like a very long time.

The welcome party the first day with my roommate. Photo credit to Hillsdale Colleg

Freshman year has been good to me. The struggles of my last post about college still stand, but I think they always will. Making friends, getting enough sleep, and looking presentable all the time are difficult, no matter where you are in life.

Still, here I am, one year closer to my diploma—decidedly not dead, and very, very proud of myself.

Throwing yourself whole-heartedly into a new life is terrifying. You have to rebuild from the ground up, and I’m a far worse construction worker than I previously thought.

I learned a lot this first year. I think every freshman does, and my experiences are not new or shocking. I’m not expecting them to be.

But if I were to pass on advice to myself one year ago, it would be this:

Your time and energy are valuable and there is no point in wasting them on people and issues not important to you.

Learning how to ration myself has been difficult. I am by nature a person who spreads herself too thin, and this manifests itself in the worst ways at school. It means I overstudy for an easy class, or stay friends with people who only bring negativity into my life. It means I try to fix other’s problems or get too involved in their drama.

Rationing myself and my energy means learning time-management, learning how to let things go. It means learning how others and their problems fit into my world.

But it also means figuring out my goals and going after them with a vigor. Rationing myself means learning self-control.

Learning when and where and how to spend my energy has paid off. I end this year with good grades, with friends, with a beginning job in my field.

I’m looking forward to next year. In the fall, I begin work as an assistant news editor for the Collegian and will take one of my first courses for my major.

I am on track to making myself who I want to be. This year has only been a first step.

So, goodbye, freshman year.

Thank you for bringing opportunities into my life. Thank you for gifting me with new friends. Thank you for giving me a second home. Thank you for letting me lay the foundation for who I want to be.

Thank you, freshman year, for being my beginning.

Wearing jeans is really hard (and other things I’ve learned in the first few months of college)

I have been officially a student at Hillsdale College for nearly two months now and, since I have not dropped out, been expelled, or died, I would say it is going pretty well. Classes are challenging but interesting, and none of my teachers hate me (I think).

Honestly, though, I find I am learning just as much outside of the classroom as in it. Learning how to manage my own time, form meaningful relationships, and to just take care of myself has been one of the more challenging parts of college. Writing papers, doing worksheets, completing reading assignments—I am familiar with all of that. Meeting a slew of new people, learning to take initiative with professors, and training myself not to stay up until 3 AM every night is what has challenged me more.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is simply to just give relationships time. Juggling all sorts of new friendships has probably been most difficult for me. As someone who has grown up with a very close friend group, it was strange, and almost terrifying, for me to leave that and be plunged into a crowd where I only knew a few people. Even though I realize the entire freshmen class is in the same situation, it does not make it any easier to sit down at a table full of strangers and just start talking (something I have never done and will probably never do).

A little time, though, combined with a little effort, has gone a long way in sorting out friends from acquaintances. I had to stop expecting an instant friend group and shift my thinking toward various independent friends. Even though this was extremely frustrating for me at first, by now I’m starting to see who I will be able to call friend by the end of the year.

The second thing I realized about college is that looking nice every day is really, really hard. I like sweats. I like leggings. I like boxy tshirts. It takes effort to wear something else. However, this is effort that is often worth taking. My campus dresses well—insanely well. On a daily basis, I probably see more men in a tie than I do girls in yoga pants. The students here value putting your best foot forward. An admirable ideal, to be sure, but one that requires a little more planning and forethought.

However, this goes just beyond dressing well. Learning to take care of myself and my daily life has not been exactly fun. It took a few very long, very tiring days to realize staying up late was not a good idea for me, and then a few more to drive it home. I’ve learned what and when I need to eat to stay healthy, a surprisingly difficult task in a cafeteria with an amazing ice cream machine, great pizza, and subpar quantities of fruit. Going from a controlled environment to one with a bit more freedom comes with a few hard lessons.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, I have learned that I belong. School spirit has never necessarily been something I had, seeing as I didn’t technically have a school. Looking around here, though, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride for my school. The people, the courses, the ideals are all shaping who I am going to be. I believe I made the right choice.

Especially at homecoming (my first at a “real” school), the amount of school spirit was almost overwhelming. Seeing the dedication of the alumni who were visiting and the enthusiasm of the students and knowing I was part of it was a great feeling. Surrounded by people who want what I do—to live a better life, to understand beauty and truth—I can’t help but feel like I found a second home.

One side note about which I am especially excited: very soon I will be paid for my writing. I currently freelance for the school newspaper, The Collegian. After a minimum of five articles, I get paid per article and picture. As someone who hasn’t been paid for their work before, this is a big deal for me. I am finally getting paid to do what I love, however minuscule

Me holding the paper with my first published article in The Collegian.

Me holding the paper with my first published article in The Collegian.

the amount is.

If you want to see my work, go to hillsdalecollegian.com and search “Jordyn Pair.” Anything I have done will show up in the search results.

Hopefully, this is the just the first step in doing what I love, where I love. I look forward to see what is in store for me not only in my writing, but in life, and I believe Hillsdale College will be my stepping stone.

Hillsdale College, Class of 2019

I leave for college tomorrow morning and figured it would be timely to share my graduation speech. Even as I step into this new portion of my life, I will cherish the years that have made me who I am today. Here’s to the next step.

When my mom first told me we were going to homeschool, I stomped my foot, crossed my arms, and insisted that I would be going to school with the rest of my friends and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.

Turns out, there were a couple things she could do about it. And here I am, 12 years later, ready to go off to college.

I am so grateful to the many people who have stood by my side and walked with me.

Thank you to the friends who have always been there to laugh with me, cry with me, and occasionally fill other friend’s rooms with balloons. You have stuck it out through dumb fights, tough days, and those awful middle-school years when I thought arm warmers were cool.

Thank you to my teachers, who have inspired me to push myself, learn, and grow. You have given me the tools I need to be who I want to be, and do what I want to do. Thank you for understanding on the days I turned in late work, for helping me find joy in learning, and pushing me to give my best.

Thank you to my family. You have been there through the tears, through every Christmas, Easter, and birthday, through every tough homework assignment and broken heart.

And thank you to my parents, who have loved me through every attitude, supported me through every new obsession, and let me learn, grow, and discover at the pace I needed. All these other graduates are lying when they say they have the best parents, because I have them. Thank you. I love you.

And to the other graduates of the class of 2015, I wish the very best for you. I wish the road would rise up to meet you, the wind be always at your back, that the sun would shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, I wish God would hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thank you.