Tag Archives: Salem Academy

When in Ireland, find home in the most unlikely places.

17 Jul

Twice in the past week I have heard two different Irish cover bands play “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. Other than “Wagon Wheel” being one of my favorite songs in general, it’s also a song that speaks of North Carolina, my home state. It’s just so weird to think that twice in one week I’ve heard a song that instantly has me thinking of North Carolina, Asheville, the mountains, bluegrass music, and the place that I feel most connected to. I’ve realized that even when I’m in Ireland, I can still receive the strong pull of home.

There are mountains here in Ireland, but they are nothing like the Blue Ridge Mountains that I call home. Every so often I find myself searching for the blue hue that holds so much security and comfort inside me, only to slowly realize that the specific color that holds so much emotion for me cannot be found in the mountains here. At the same time, however, I think if the Ireland landscape was more like the landscape that I’m used to at home then it would make it that much harder for me to leave next week.

It’ll be hard to say goodbye to a place that I feel has taken root so quickly in my soul. Before coming to Ireland, I was a bit hesitant. I didn’t know if I would like it or not. I had no idea what to expect, other than the fact that I was looking forward to seeing the green beauty that I had poured over during all the times that I watched P.S. I Love You. No words can describe how amazing it has been to realize that home isn’t always one specific place. When I come to think of it, I’ve found home in multiple places.

My first home was in a small town in South Carolina. It was where I grew up, and even though it has now become a place that doesn’t hold very much meaning for me, it will always be the place where I first learned about life. I think of riding my Barbie Jeep, my gocart, and my four-wheeler. I think of making mud pies in my Barbie kitchen. I think of my childhood friends…and the friends that ended up not being very friendly towards me. I think of finding my love of theatre, which is also when I realized that it was possible to have another family outside of my immediate family that was there to love and support me just as much. I think of growing up, of the days that I lost myself in books because I needed a way to escape the days when the pain was too much. I think of the nights when I made my own little space in the bottom of my closet that was equipped with a light, blankets, a pillow, a book, and a pencil and paper that I used in order to write away what I was feeling. I found security sitting in my closet…with the realization that the harsh world lay just outside. I found out what it meant to dream.

My second home was Salem Academy, an all-girls’ boarding school in North Carolina. Though I didn’t consider it my home until my senior year there, by my senior year I didn’t want to leave. It took a year to find my own place, but once I did, I knew that I’d never be the same. I found a part of me…a part of me I hadn’t really embraced before. I found my true self…or at least the beginning of my true self. I wouldn’t have been able to embark on the journey of figuring out who I truly was were it not for my best friend Skidmore. I met her during my junior year at Salem, and she was the first friend that I discussed my entire life with, the good and the bad. Skidmore was the first person I completely opened up to, and having someone who reacted so positively to all that I knew I needed to say was also something that was necessary. Without Skidmore’s love and non-judgemental acceptance, I wouldn’t have been able to start to figure out who I was…or what the meaning of home really was.

My third home is, as a whole, North Carolina….but more specifically…the Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville. I’ve always been a mountain girl, but I’ve never been able to say that I have had the chance to live among a landscape that I love….until last August. And being in Asheville makes home feel even more real to me because I’m in such an artsy city…while also knowing that it is a mere 5 minute drive to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway…or the place that makes me feel completely alive. Writing has done the same thing…given me that feeling of being truly alive. Therefore, being able to write among the landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains…it’s unreal, and yet, it’s what I’ve been doing.

It’s hard to imagine that Ireland has, in a way, become another home for me. And yet, I’m not all that surprised. I can’t think of one person that I know who has come to Ireland and not fallen in love with its beauty. But it’s more than just the beauty. It’s the people…it’s the quaint little village towns and the college cities…it’s the pubs and the pub atmosphere (which, I’m surprised to report, have held more character and comfort than I ever imagined), and it’s the music. I’m a true music lover, and I listen to music every chance I can get. Here in Galway, live music can be found all over the city on every night of the week. I love that opportunity. It’s probably one of my favorite parts about being in Galway. It’s not just live music every night though…it’s free live music. For a true music lover like me, it can’t get much better than free good live music every night!

So even though I’ll be leaving a home next week, I’ll also being going home to a place that I love more than anything in the entire world. Despite the fact that I’m leaving, I know I’ll be back. A place can’t take hold in my soul so quickly and not be a place that I don’t plan on returning. I don’t know when, or under what circumstances, but I know that I’ll be back. I can feel it. After all, there’s only so long that you can stay away from home, even when, sometimes, home has the ability to be so many different places all at once.

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Beyond The Waves by Elizabeth Marek: A Book Review.

6 Jun

During one of my many trips to my favorite used bookstore in Asheville, I came across Beyond The Waves by Elizabeth Marek when looking through the bargain books. After reading the synopsis on the back of the book, it seemed like a book I’d like, but more than that, it seemed like the type of read that I’d pay much more than one dollar for. I’ll take the deals where I can get them though!

Psychologist Abby Cohen is still reeling from the loss of her beloved daughter when another young girl arrives in her life-twelve-year-old Miranda, who appears at Abby’s hospital mute, terrified, and completely alone. In her struggle to connect with this deeply disturbed child and unravel the mystery of her past, Abby must grapple with her own frozen self.

Numbed by grief and on the verge of losing her relationship with both her husband and little boy, Abby finds herself tempted to leave behind what is left of the family she once cherished. But something about Miranda and the bond that has begun to form between them awakens Abby’s capacity to feel, and reminds her of the power-and the limits-of love.

The way the characters of Abby and Miranda came together in order to deal with the demons of their different pasts was moving to me. I was most drawn to the character of Miranda simply because my heart ached for her and the mysterious past that she seemed to be very troubled by. Through much of the book, Miranda was afraid and alone. Though that was heartbreaking for me, it was also a very huge reminder of why I want to be a counselor myself. Psychologist Abby Cohen tries throughout the book to connect to Miranda, despite the fact that Miranda seems very frightened and alone. However, that’s all the more reason that I strive to connect with others. Though my past wasn’t as extreme as it could have been, it wasn’t easy. I spent so many years afraid, in pain, and surrounded by doctors and parents, and yet feeling utterly alone. When I was going through my intense physical therapy and 3 intense surgeries, I wanted someone who understood or at least could be there to remind me that I wasn’t alone through all the pain. Studies show that every person benefits from a strong support system. Though I had support from my parents and other family members, that wasn’t the kind of support I was looking for. Even though at the time there wasn’t a friend who was aching to understand, what I didn’t know at the time was that the support was coming.

My support came during my junior year at Salem Academy when I met my best friend, Skidmore. Skidmore was the very first person I completely opened up to in regards to all the details of my past. Every memory of pain, fear, loneliness….Skidmore knows it. Realizing that I had someone to share everything with was big, but once I began to understand that Skidmore longed to know so that she could understand who I truly was, I practically never stopped talking. I mean, it came out slow (the details of my past), but it felt so good to tell someone. Telling someone about my pain, fear, and loneliness and having them not judge me or feel sorry for me, but just love me….scars and all…that’s what I had been looking for, and I found it. Though I know have other friends who are an equal amount of support, no one knows as much as Skidmore does. Once I said everything single memory in detail once, it seemed like enough. I mean, my other friends know me really well too, but I guess you could say that since Skidmore was the first person who seemed to want to understand me for exactly who I was, that’s what she got: the stories of pain and fear that I carried around for so long without telling anyone. The stories that, though they don’t define me, are the truest form of the difficulties I’ve faced that I can possibly show.

Two Years Ago…

27 May

Yesterday I went to Salem Academy (the boarding school that I graduated from in 2010) to see the Class of 2012 graduate. I had a few really good friends who were graduating, and graduation is always a great way to see fellow Salem Sisters who have also graduated. My best friend Skidmore, who graduated from Salem in 2009, came to the graduation too, and I loved seeing her.

As I was sitting in the audience watching the Class of 2012 graduate, it surprised me to think that 2 years had already gone by since I was sitting down in the May Dell in a white cap and gown getting ready to embark on a new phase in my life: college. I remember my graduation day so perfectly, as if it was yesterday. I was so excited, and yet I was also incredibly, incredibly sad. I wasn’t ready to leave the one place where I finally had felt like I belonged only to have to start over again. I didn’t want to leave behind the friends I had made or the faculty and staff who had shown me what it meant to truly follow my heart and chase my dreams. And yet, I was excited for what college would bring. I was anxious to be in a new place with all new people who would all be on their own path of self discovery. I was happy to be done with the grueling academics of Salem, but knew in my heart that without them, I wouldn’t have been as prepared for college as I felt at that moment.

As I sat in the May Dell in my cap and gown, looking up at the all girls’ boarding school that was founded before the United States achieved independence, I was proud. I was proud to be part of another group of women who, though leaving Salem, would continue to think back on Salem in the years to come, relishing in the wonderful memories that shaped our lives. On that day 2 years ago, I was happy. I didn’t think that I would cry until I looked up to see my mom crying. However, in that single moment, all the sadness of what I was leaving behind hit me. But as I shaded my eyes from the sun and listened to girls from my class speak about their fond memories of this place, I let the tears fall. I cried knowing that the young women who stood around me would always be in my heart, even though we were all about to head off to colleges at far ends of the country, and even far ends of the world. And at the end of that day, I left Salem knowing that I’d be back to visit and that I had made some of the best memories and friends that I could have ever imagined.

When the graduation of the Class of 2012 was over, I felt a strange sense of deja vu. It took me a moment to realize that it wasn’t my graduation day, but the graduation of a class that I first got to know as freshmen during my first year at Salem, my junior year. Though it felt sad to see them leave the place that will always be home for me in my heart, I’m happy to know that one of my friends from the Class of 2012 will be heading to Asheville in the fall. It will be so exciting to have a fellow Salem Sister with me once again. Someone to explore Asheville with and talk about Salem with, and most of all, someone to create new memories with, even though both of us know that the memories that will forever bind us are those that were created in a place in North Carolina that I was able to call home for 2 years of my life. However, with my friend coming to UNCA in the fall, it’s as if something incredible has happened: Salem has become both my past and my present.

Tuesday’s Tunes: Katie Armiger.

15 May

In yesterday’s Monday Musings post, I mentioned that I discovered a new country artist, Katie Armiger. She isn’t really new, but she’s new to me since I hadn’t heard of her before. Two of her songs, “Scream” and “Unseen,” really stuck with me.

I think I was just drawn into the songs because of Katie’s voice. As I was pushing the replay button on YouTube, I was reminded of how much I love to sing. I’ve always been the kind of person to sing anywhere. I always have music playing, so anytime there is a song playing that I know, I’m singing. When I was in high school, I took voice lessons (which I loved) and then when I was at Salem for my junior and senior years of high school, I was in Glee Club, and I really loved that too. Since then though, I haven’t done much in regards to singing, other than just singing on my own time when I’m doing other things. When I go back to UNCA for the fall semester, I think I may look into joining the women’s acapella group. I’ve always loved acapella music, and I might as well try out. It couldn’t hurt.

Anyway, here are 2 of Katie Armiger’s songs, “Scream” and “Unseen.” I couldn’t pick one over the other.

Spring Fever And Salem.

21 Mar

Spring has made an appearance here in the Blue Ridges, and I’ve been itching to get out and get some new spring photography done. Due to lots of schoolwork, that hasn’t been possible. However, yesterday two of my friends from high school came to stay with me until tomorrow. They are both seniors in high school, and one of them is most likely coming to UNCA next year, so she’s here to get to know the campus and sit in on classes.

Though I won’t be done with classes today until 4, I’m hoping that the weather will be nice enough for us to get out and take some spring photos. I’d love to be able to get out on the Blue Ridge Parkway for some spring shots, but I’ll see how tired I am once classes are done. Either way, it’s nice to have a bit of Salem here, even if only for a few days.

See, I loved my high school experience (or at least the last two years of it). I went to an all girls boarding school for my junior and senior years of high school, and it was a huge high point in my life. I grew a lot as a person, I made some amazing friends, and I made incredible memories that I still look back on and smile about. Having Olive and Carrie here have brought Salem here, and it’s as familiar as a warm blanket. I’m reminded of the fun times I had while at Salem, and I remember just how strong the bonds of sisterhood truly are. Even though I don’t keep up with too many of my Salem friends, I will always have a place in my heart for the Salem sisters who helped me grow into who I am and those who lifted me up when so many others insisted on keeping me down.

I’m reminded of cookie break, all the Salem traditions (ring banquet, senior vespers, Athletic picnic, etc), and the realization that Salem will always hold a special place in my heart. During Springtime, I think of Salem often. I think of all the pretty blossoms in the trees on campus, of the times that my advising group enjoyed lunch out on the front lawn, walking down to the Fine Arts Center for Glee Club and singing the whole way there, the yummy Moravian sugar cake in Old Salem, and the people I’ll never forget. My friends that are here said that they are ready to be out of Salem, and while I understand the want to graduate and be at college already, I have realized that I long to be back at Salem more than I longed to be there while I was still there. I long for the memories to come rushing back, to fill me up completely and remind me of the time in my life when I began to get more comfortable in my own skin.

Who Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself?

1 Mar

I’m always amazed at how songs can transport you back to a year, a day, a moment. This morning I heard “I’m Only Me When I’m With You” by Taylor Swift, and I instantly thought of my best friend Skidmore and all of the memories we made at Salem (the boarding school I went to for my junior and senior years of high school).

I remember when I met Skidmore. It was orientation in August of 2008, and all the new students were moving in. Skidmore was a senior at the time, and so she was helping move everyone in. Even then, though I didn’t really know her, she seemed interesting. Though it did take us a little while to become close, once we were, it was as if we had been friends for years. In the beginning, Skidmore gave me the run-down of Salem life….explaining some of her best memories and just the ins and outs of dorm living. It wasn’t as if Skidmore was telling me what to do. She just was familiar with everything, so she showed me the ropes. Like I said, it was as if we had been friends for years even though we had just met. I just had this gut feeling that I’d be able to trust her (despite my trust issues), and I just figured that we’d be really great friends no matter what (which has been true). Skidmore was a lover of hugs, and that instantly was a bond between us. Our bond of friendship continued to grow based on our love of country music and many of our views on certain things.

I remember one particular night of my junior year. I was having a rough time because of a comment that my roommate had made regarding my CP. It upset me a lot, and I needed someone to turn to. I needed to find someone to open up to about my past. Not just anyone though. I was too upset and hurt to just explain my past to someone who would just listen due to curiosity rather than a genuine sense of caring and concern. So, I turned to Skidmore, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I instantly felt relieved (after I got a good bit of the big stuff out), and I still remember how Skidmore reacted. She told me that ever since the first time she saw me, she knew I was different, but not in the sense of my CP, but in the sense of having a fearless attitude towards life. After that night, Skidmore and I became even closer. I found out that she got really attached to friends too, so things worked out in that sense. But after explaining the first bit of my past and knowing that she responded in such a positive way, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I let all of it out, and Skidmore just listened and commented or asked questions when she wished. It was the beginning of one of the most incredible friendships I’ve ever had.

Skidmore and I are very similar. We both get attached to people easily. We love hugs, country music (Taylor Swift in particular), Jodi Picoult, and just other random things. But it’s not those things that make us close necessarily. We trust each other completely, and we both know that we’ll be there for each other no matter what. It’s even gotten to the point now where Skidmore sometimes knows me better than I know myself. She was the first friend to fully understand me, and that means so much to me. It’s not that she knows what it felt like to go through what I did, but she understands the views that I have towards all of it. For instance, I talked to her about my book a while ago. She was the first one of my friends that I went to regarding guidance for my book. Since she knows me so well, I know that she would be able to really help me. She said: “Amelia, in the past you’ve accepted bits and pieces of your past, but I don’t think you’ll accepted it fully. Though you’ve been able to talk about certain memories, you’ve skirted around others because they were painful or scary. This book is going to be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, because you won’t have the option of beating due to the harshness of the memory, the fear, or the pain. You’ll just have to plunge into it, and have the courage to know that you’ll surface again when you’re ready.” When Skidmore said that, I was shocked. I was shocked because it was pretty much spot on.

I’m certain that Skidmore and I will be best friends forever. Though I’ve used the phrase “best friends” numerous times, the friendship of Skidmore and I is exactly that. Even though sometimes it’s weird to realize that someone knows and understands me better than I know myself, it’s also a good thing to have since in most situations I don’t even have to explain to Skidmore why I made a certain decision or said a certain thing. She just gets me.