Bad days always come as a shock to me at MCS, and though they’re hard to come by, they always serve as a reminder that this magical place we’ve incorporated ourselves into has become our normal. It’s very difficult for me to make sense of this. My “old normal” so to speak, or my life before MCS, that was something flooded with bad days. I’ve had to realize and help other MCSers realize over and over again that our community isn’t a vacation; we’re not exempt from bad days. But there’s something special to be said with this. It’s been almost two months since we first arrived, August 29th, to make a new home for ourselves. I’ve humbled the question of how to focus my time here on numerous occasions; should I cherish each moment obsessively, knowing our time here is limited; or should I dissolve my worries of our finite time and immerse myself in the regular MCS life I have created? I worry that, by not treasuring each breath I take at MCS, I’ll have underappreciated my time spent here and when at home this winter, will constantly regret not “making the most of it.” On the other hand, what could be worse than being controlled by a ticking clock?
Every time a student or teacher mentions, using numbers, the diminishing time we have left with one another, groans and cries fill the room, begging to not be reminded. It seems that we, the student body, seek shelter to hide ourselves from that chasing clock. But I often catch myself dishing out complaints about classes, quizzes, and homework load. Shouldn’t I feel guilty; aren’t I under-appreciative? Any number of us can think, at any given moment, what we may have been doing at our home school, and re-remember why we came to MCS and why we love Chewonki. That’s the gap I seem to fall into each time I ask myself this question. Where is the balance, and if I do make a conscious decision of how I hope to treat my experiences here, will I be able to act by it?
MCS is notorious for its student-inspired, student-created, student-led Saturday nights. The common MCSer is found huddled in the bathroom before check in, desperately trying to get in the know on the secret evening activity for the upcoming Saturday. No matter the activity, MCSers will get excited, come dressed for the occasion, and take loads and loads of pictures to put on their Facebooks; tag me! But while MCS is a great place to spend your Saturday night, caught up in the adrenaline from the activity we often forget that Chewonki includes school, and the work that’s dragged along with it. It’s not to say that we don’t enjoy our classes so much as, those unfathomable bad days often amount from stress and tremendous amounts of class assignments. It is in a student’s nature to villainize particular classes, teachers, or assignments for the workload that puts a damper on their free time. At MCS, where you live with your teachers, at your school, and your free time is scattered throughout an extremely full day, the line is blurred. Once again I come back to the challenge of finding a balance. Living where I work, I find it so easy to fill all of my free moments with study time. Determining when I can have me time, to relax and socialize, and when I need to be productive with managing my work is one of the challenges that comes with being a part of a semester program. When is it appropriate to complain? Will I feel guilty at dinner for the complaints I made about the teacher I’m now passing the bowl of farm vegetables to?
Most importantly, I worry that secluding myself from the community to complete my work will result in my missing out on the everyday excitement that comes from living here. While I’ve shared with friends my conclusion that Chewonki isn’t meant to slave over work but for the experiences that amount from being here, I want to praise the schedule for providing us with time for this as well. The average MCSer rises at 6:30 am and is not finished with his or her obligations until, at earliest, study hours, but more commonly spilling over into the late hours of the night. While I tend to scold and whine about the crammed schedule, built within the system is time set for the most amazing opportunities. Work program, for one, is a chance to break from the classroom, connect with your teachers and classmates in engaging conversations whilst working on projects to benefit the greater Chewonki community. I am always excited for lunchtime where staff from Outreach, Pathways, OC, and the business offices break from their busy days to share conversation over a meal with the students. Sundays at Chewonki are a clean slate; the schedule is free of any obligations so that the MCS student can find the time to indulge in favorite hobbies. You might find me developing prints of pigs from the farm in the dark room after brunch, or out for a jog to the stop sign and back. Others bike to Shaw’s, Maine’s supermarket (at my first visit to Shaw’s I signed up for a free Shaw’s card and became an official member to my local grocery store!); Big Al’s “grandma store” cluttered with oddities like the infamous Mainer sweatshirts; or to be inspired by the Salt Marsh down Chewonki Neck Road. Rhan has inspired many of us to embark on mushroom forays in and around our way to the Point while many choose to relax on blankets across from the apple trees; laughter squeals above the backdrop of “not me, the other guy’s” iTunes library.
Having gone on a tangent about the countless experiences amounting from each passing week on Chewonki Neck, I’ve become increasingly less restless about how to treat my time here. While managing the balance still presents itself at times to be a challenge, I’m no longer running from the clock. Rather, I nap on the rocks outside the farmhouse entrance some mornings and reflect; lie out on my bed in the evenings and recap; never cease to recognize Chewonki’s magic. I won’t let the passing of days faze me, nor will I let them slip by. I’m tremendously happy with what has already happened and am ecstatic with anticipation for what’s to come next.
-Cammie Taylor, Wilmington, DE