Long Lost Friend

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Photo by Joseph Cox

By Sabrina Corbin

Day in and day out I feel her drawing me in. Whispering repose in my ear as she asks me to come visit, but I rarely can. The work must get done, but the cunning deception of work is that it’s unending. The daily pressures of my life wear and tear at my entire being. I’m constantly exhausted both physically and emotionally. Everywhere I go, I’m always carrying a load on my shoulders. No matter how large or small the matter may seem my anxiety will make it appear at large. If I am to achieve the serenity I so desperately crave and escape the daily anxieties I endure, I must accept the invitation she whispers to me.  The ocean calls my name, and, ignoring my troubles, I tell her that I’m on my way. The moment I step out of the car and breathe in the air, my attitude changes. The closer I get to the shore, the more my worries get quieter and quieter in my mind. The cloud of troubles that shields my view rolls away with the sunlight pouring in.

Every aspect of the beach is beautiful. The sand is as soft as the light ocean breeze kissing my skin with salt. All the seashells are tiny, artful, masterpieces just waiting to be found, although nothing compares to the ocean itself. The sound of the waves brings about a feeling within my chest that is difficult to explain. Peacefulness, wonder, respect, curiosity, and a hint of danger; all these things well up in my chest. Here I am standing before this momentous body of water that covers ¾ of our planet, and I can’t help but feel such wonder and respect for the incredible nature before me. I can look out to the horizon and, as far as I can see, the ocean is unending.

The water. Almost in a trance, I walk in to my shins. As I go deeper, I feel the water get colder. The drop in temperature sparks a sweet clarity in my mind. The water is at my hips. Before I know it, it’s up to my neck. I realize I shouldn’t go any farther, but the currents are arguing with me and try to pull me out more. It’s almost as if the they’re taunting me as the currents rip around my legs. With each movement, the sweeps prove to me that they’re stronger than I am, and the sea gives me a feeling of revere. These currents could break my balance at any second and pull me out to open ocean, but they don’t. I ignore the currents’ swift pulls and go underwater where the most beautiful part lies: silence. More specifically, a different version of silence lies within the depths. The only things that can be heard are the waves above me and the water around me. My thoughts are void of my troubles, which is unheard of if you have anxiety and know how it works. There are no worries, yet one simple thought remains in me: “peace at last.” It’s such an elegant thing to take a break from sensory overdrive to hear only water If I could, I would stay under the surface for much longer. I don’t know if I’d ever leave the ocean’s depths if I had the option, but my lungs protest. I give in and break the surface while heaving a big gasp. I reach for the sandy floor with my feet, but my head goes under again. The sea has brought me out a little farther than I need to be, and my heart rate quickens in slight fear. I swim back to where I can reach the ocean’s floor and can’t help but get a little annoyed. The ocean is greedy in the way she constantly wants me, and everyone else, to go out farther when she’s well aware we can’t do that. I look out again to the horizon to watch the tops of the waves forming and breaking in constant rhythm. I think to myself, “What’s out there?” Thinking of the ocean’s many secrets ignites a spark of curiosity within me. I don’t think of the dangers, like sharks, rip currents, or jellyfish. I think only of the positive possibilities of what I could find in her depths.

For some unexplained reason, the ocean makes me fearless, and I always want to swim out farther than I know is good for me. I always keep my cautious attitude, but I never want to listen to it when I’m surrounded with liquid courage. At the end of the day, still at peace, I sit on the shore caked in sand. My hair remains a salty mess throughout the day, and I’m loving it. Watching the sun set on the horizon, my eyes are rewarded with a conglomeration of the most beautiful colors that fill the sky and reflect off the water. Sharp reds and oranges guard the sun with soft pinks trying to calm them down. Crisp blues and purples bring up the rear as the moon pushes the sun out of sight over the horizon. However, a feeling of melancholy sweeps over me, as I know what comes next. It’s time for me to leave and return to reality after my day of relaxation. I gather my things, go back to the shoreline, and let the waves touch me to say goodbye for now. Silently, I thank this marvelous piece of nature for taking care of me and helping me relax. I thank her for allowing me to find an escape in a world where it’s next to impossible to breakout. As I drive away, my serenity and repose flicker away as the cloud of worry rolls back into the home it’s found in my mind. “Until next time my friend.”

The Sound of Goodbye

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    Art by Felicia Wahlstrom

By Rachael Whitlock

The machine’s steady beeping was the only sound I had heard for the last week. Everything else, the other machines, all the voices, the scuffling in the hallway, I couldn’t focus on any of it. I could only focus on the rhythm of the machine. This sound kept me from getting lost in my head. The rhythmic beating was all that kept me grounded.

I couldn’t touch her. Her hands were so cold, and I couldn’t bear to reach out to her. The blue veins crawling up her arms were sickeningly prominent; the chipped red nail polish on her fingertips was a painful reminder of our life before. Every time I summoned the courage to rest my hand on hers, I drew back as soon as I grazed her skin. Every time, I looked at her face afterwards there was no movement. Not even so much as a flutter of an eyelid escaped her body.

Her still face was smooth and, although her cheekbones were sharp underneath her skin, she was still beautiful. Her once-soft skin was pale and took on a bluish tone, her honey-blonde hair was no longer there, and there were small clear tubes that snaked into her nostrils. To me, though, everything about her was still perfect.  Even though her eyes were closed, I could still picture them: a light blue the color of a tranquil sea hiding beneath those dark lashes. What I would’ve given to see those eyes bright with life one more time.

I knew, though, that seeing that sea again was impossible because about a week ago, an insincere doctor had said so. I didn’t understand most of his words, but I picked up enough, enough to lose hope. After this news, I started focusing on the beeping.

Even with the machine’s calming rhythm, though, I was not calm. I couldn’t help but stare at the wedding band wrapped tight around her finger, and that was more painful to look at than her still body. The way the diamond mocked me as it glittered, and the gold metal took on a rosy tint in the pale blue light. The scene reminded me of what our life used to be. The ring that once symbolized love, hope, and progress was now nothing more than an artifact with the capacity to drudge up painfully sweet memories. I stared at the diamond until it was just a blurred shape in my vision, and my thoughts took over. I was no longer in the hospital room, but in a memory, I would give my life to go back to one more time.

I stood under a giant oak tree with the wind whipping my dress around my legs, and I was smiling as I watched her walk towards me. She was absolutely stunning- white dress glittering in the sun, honey-colored hair falling in rivulets down her back like a waterfall, red lipstick outlining her smile- I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She walked down the pale blue aisle slowly while holding an overflowing bouquet of wild flowers loosely at her chest. After she reached me under the oak tree, she read the vows she’d written nearly a month before she had even proposed, and then I read mine. Her smile got larger with every word, and tears began to spill down her cheeks behind her veil. Before I knew it, I gently lifted her veil over her face as she threw her arms around my neck. Then, her red lips were on mine, so warm and soft–

The frowning man with the lab coat pushed the door open to break me from my thoughts. He opened his mouth and sound came out, but I was trying to focus on the noise of the machine to keep from hearing him. I knew why he was here. I had signed all the paperwork yesterday, but I just couldn’t bear to hear him say it again.

The doctor continued to speak until I finally heard what I’d been waiting for: It’s time to say goodbye now. Right then, the crack in my heart that had been slowly growing the last few months broke open into a giant abyss that left me teetering on the edge. I took a deep breath and, with a shaking hand, finally reached out to her. I grabbed her icy hand and held on like I would never let go.

The slowing of the machine’s once-steady beeping threw me off rhythm. After a minute, the sound was replaced by a single drawn-out flat-line. Then, silence ushered its way into the room as the doctor turned the monitors off. He walked out.  He had left me alone in the room with nothing more than an empty shell of the woman I once loved. I stared dumbly for what seemed like an eternity before finally standing and wiping away the tears that had begun rolling down my cheeks. Without the machine, I had nothing left to focus on, nothing to hold on to, and nothing to keep the thoughts at bay. The silence was deafening.

Towards Change

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Photo by Jade Jacobs

By Jade Jacobs

I know where I am, because I’ve seen where I’ve been. Although I’m not sure where I’m going, I know I won’t be back again. The past has snares that bind, and the future’s high beams blind, yet I leave footprints behind me as I move forward towards change.

The path I’m walking is far from straight. Some stretches have holes hiding as they await an unobservant foot. My gait becomes awkward when I wade within the water, waist deep, wishing to wash me away. The undertow shifts underfoot and undermines the purchase put beneath my own weight. The surface of this cypress swamp sits still. The mossy haze mocks me as a woven wood of roots wind the path into a maze. Still, I move forward towards change.

Occasionally the sun beats down, providing my head a glistening crown and sheaths my body in a crimson cloak. Each step another hot coal stoked. The arid climate a threat to choke me of the breath I hold so dear. Mirages taunt of oasis near but sand sweeps, serpentine, and swirls to sear my sight. Still, I move forward towards change.

Clouds converge to cover the sky, while lightening crackles and creatures cry curses to the storm that soaks them and soils their shelters. The path becomes soggy and seeps to my bones. There’s no place to dry in and no hearth to make warm. Yet frogs plop into puddles and worms rise from the earth. Unbothered by the torrential pour, they spring forward to embrace the storm, and I move forward towards change.

When darkness falls on an open sky, the stars glisten and remind me why I march on. For just as they sail through celestial seas, I too feel a burning need to strive for whatever lies beyond what can be seen. Through the cosmos waltz flaming ships that never settle, but take their risks so every petal blooms into constellation. Thus, we all move forward towards change.

The Island Of Us

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Poem by John Donne

By Jay Ayer

“No man is an island entire of itself.”

John Donne wrote those words as an opening to his poem ‘No Man is an Island.’ The poem serves as a representation of both our empathy for one another as humans and the one fate we all share: death. I mention the death and loss of people not to make people sad, but to remind everyone that we are all connected because that is what both of those concepts inherently do.  The loss and accompanying fear of losing a person are the ultimate reminders of how close we are as people on this planet. One prevailing theme of Donne’s poem is that, as humans, we all share the same problems and the same experiences. I’m writing this article because the last year and a half has reminded me of Donne’s poem and, subsequently, reminded me of the importance of us as people. I have begun to notice the problems of those around me more than I notice the problems in my life, and, through my observations and experiences, I have seen how applicable Donne’s words are.

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”

I said earlier that one of Donne’s points was that we share similar problems as humans. This point is the case because humans are empathetic creatures by nature, and when one person has a problem, we make his or her problem our problem. The past 18 months have shown me that this notion of empathy is true. In these months, I have seen people lose their loved ones and fear losing their loved ones. I am a human,  a creature empathetic by nature, so I have felt these people’s feelings along with them. In these past 18 months, I have lost one friend to leukemia, one to cancer, and one to depression. In these cases, I had not spoken to that person for years or only briefly before their passing, but I know people who spoke to those friends practically every day. So, when these friends passed, not only did I cry for them, but I cried for the people around them. I cried for my loved ones who felt a loss greater than mine. I cried because each of those events reminded me of how one day I will lose someone close to me, and I was  reminded of the importance of every human life. This importance is a concept that Donne addresses in his poem, as he implies that we are one continent as mankind. If any part of the continent disappears, then we are all affected. Just as the ocean eventually weathers away parts of a coastline, time takes its toll on mankind.  As time ticks away, we must hold close what is important to us.

Now, as I said, my point here is not to sadden people but to remind everyone that we are all connected and all exist under the name of mankind. One person’s suffering relates to everyone because everyone endures some kind of suffering in their lives. John Donne wanted to remind us that we all suffer, and we all have problems. He wanted to emphasize that we are not just individuals but a species connected through emotional hardship. I want everyone to realize that the people in their lives are important because our time here is so brief, and the most important aspects of our lives are the connections we make with other people. I write this article now for reasons similar to Donne’s reasons for writing his poem. I want people to realize and value what they have now,  but before what or who they have has disappeared forever.

The Definition of You

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Quote and illustrations by Dr. Seuss

By Joseph Cox

Definitions are endlessly interesting to me because so few of us seem to examine what they really are. In modern society, we love to have opinions on any concept we can begin to grasp. Politics, the news, science, religion, abortion, drugs, welfare, and student loans are all things being debated everyday by people with minimal education to people with doctoral degrees, yet we pay such little attention to articulating our definitions before we bother to debate. We take such stupendous amounts of information for granted that we often wind up accepting terms that we never agreed to, being swooned by people we trusted, and agreeing with statements we have never fully grasped. I hope to elaborate more on the philosophical and political implications of our society’s specificity problem, but for now, in the spirit of finals week, I’ll focus on just one application of definition: what defines you?

As a college student, I’ve been hit with that rusty train on numerous occasions. I refer to the defining task as rusty because that’s what the question feels like when it’s asked, and what the advice sounds like when it’s given. Being asked to define myself is like a rusted pile of metal painfully screeching its way through my brain in a pattern I’ve seen a thousand times before. I’m always just waiting for the train to pass. Biding my time before I finally explode to explain all the reasons bothering to define myself is a worthless endeavor for two reasons. One, the definition should have relevance to only me, and secondly, the act of defining isn’t permanent. The definitions of people, as with the definitions of words, are flexible objects that change with the flow of life. Well, here’s the explosion of my reasoning.

What I define myself as, should I choose to apply such a strange limitation to myself, is relevant only to me. Applications, tests, and interviews are all designed to delve into some strange, falsely universal, method of uncovering who we are as people. Finals week presents no better time to point out the uselessness of tests in defining who someone is. Around me every day are future scientists, communicators, teachers, and parents of differing cultures, beliefs, religions, and experiences, yet I observe most us, myself included, worrying about things that we allow to define us. The effects of test scores have little practical implications in our lives beyond the powers we grant them. Say I’d like to be a scientist. What about failing all 5 of my exams would stop me from achieving that goal? Sure, it would be preferable that I succeed now, but my future success isn’t entirely dependent on the scores I receive currently. My point here is simple. In the scientist scenario, I’ve assigned a definition to myself: I’m a future scientist. Such a construction was, hopefully, created entirely by me for my own sake, yet here I’ve been all week worrying that someone might take that definition away from me. The fear of test scores does not come down to a mere fear of failure, but to a fear that something might strip away the definitions we’ve afforded ourselves. Though, the truth is much more frighteningly beautiful: the only thing that can strip away that definition is whatever assigned it. Test scores can’t touch your dreams, institutions have, at best, limited power over you, and the only person that defines anything in your life is you. Feeling stressed? Change your definition of success. Don’t want to change your standards for success? Better define the requirements you must meet to reach such success. Test scores have only the powers that you grant them, so define the scores however you so choose.

Furthermore, perhaps the most overlooked point of defining oneself, is that definitions of all kinds are infinitely flexible. Few people ever stop to consider how words themselves come to be defined. Take how the word ‘red’ came to be defined for example. How did that color come to be established? It’s not as if there was some objective concept of the word before humans came along. Sure, the color red may or may not exist independent of our perceptions, that’s a whole other debate, but the word ‘red’ certainly doesn’t exist beyond the human use of it. Red, therefore, was created because of a lexicographer, or the equivalent of one at the time, who decided that’s what the color should be called, and that’s how every definition has been created. Meaning assignment is an empirical science that fluctuates with changes in human society. Words change along with the human usage of them, as will the definition of one’s own self change with the continuation of time. In English, my argument against exam worries, as well as defining people in general, is simple: who cares?

The definitions of people are relative, meaning that they’ll change with the circumstances that surround them. Today, you may be defined by a couple of letters on a piece of paper accompanied by a percentile ranking. Tomorrow, you’ll be defined by how funny your pun was on snapchat, how dank your Instagram post was, how attractive your smile is, or by one of indefinitely many other variables. In ten years, you’ll be defined by whatever the heck it is you’re doing with your life. The point is simple: defining yourself is a task made for you and by you. Don’t let anyone or anything, especially an exam, take away that privilege. The test scores don’t define you; you define you if that’s what you wish to do.

From The Editor: A Semester In Review

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By Jay Ayer

As the students of the University of West Florida prepare for finals week, I would like to look back at the 2016-2017 school year. Particularly, I would like to look at how UWF Infinite Wisdom has evolved over the course of this Spring semester. When Joseph Cox and I took our positions as the editors of Infinite Wisdom, we both had similar goals in mind regarding the blog itself. We both saw in this blog an opportunity to showcase the experiences, talents, and various beliefs of the students in the Kugelman Honors Program. Every post since the beginning of the semester has been excellent, and we have had multiple students both volunteer to be staff writers and to donate freelance articles.

Infinite Wisdom is not just the title of this website. It is what we post, share, and discuss on this site. Infinite Wisdom is an eclectic summation of all the beliefs, personalities, and values presented by our writers. We value every viewpoint of every student that writes for us because those viewpoints are the wisdom in the title of this blog. With the wisdom from the students who write for us, we all learn the importance of love, mental health, leadership, leaving a legacy, and introspection on several levels. With each article posted this semester, we have redefined what the term ‘Infinite Wisdom’ truly means, and each article we post after this one will continue to redefine that term.

As Editor in Chief of UWF Infinite Wisdom, it is my privilege to work with our writers, read about everyone’s beliefs, and share those beliefs with the world. I would like to personally thank every staff writer, freelance writer, editor, and reader of Infinite Wisdom for making this semester one of the most successful periods this website has ever seen.

Thank you to the Infinite Wisdom staff for spreading your wisdom with the world, and thank you to the readers for constantly supporting our writers.

We at Infinite Wisdom look forward to spreading more wisdom as we continue to experience new things in our lives.

I Am Not That Smart

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By Meg Hossler

How many times has someone asked you if you’re in the Honors Program? Take a moment and really think about it. Do you have a number? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been asked this question over a hundred times. Most of us have been asked questions like these since we were little. We grew up smart, and we were taught to take pride in our intelligence. I remember being the only person who could read in my preschool class, and my mom would brag to everyone that her child was so smart. I remember feeling happy that I could read better than everyone else. I also remember that, in elementary school, I would finish my work before everyone else. I would always get in trouble for talking, so my mom would send in extra worksheets for me to finish to distract me. I remember feeling proud of myself for excelling. When we were little kids, our fellow classmates didn’t seem to care that we were smarter. We were still invited to their birthday parties, and they still picked us for their kickball teams at recess. Now I’m grown up, and I wish people wouldn’t think I’m so smart. I used to take pride in my intelligence, and now I find it bringing me more misery than happiness. If you’re an Honors student, you might see where I’m coming from, if not, let me explain.

In the three years I have spent at UWF, I think the only thing my fellow classmates have actually learned about me is that I’m in the Honors Program. At first, I enjoyed people knowing that I was in Honors, but that feeling eventually faded. I learned quickly that being smart in college was not the same as being smart in grade school. Once people find  out I’m in Honors, they always have a snarky comment, like, “Wow, everything must be so easy for you since you’re so smart.” At first, I didn’t let this bother me, but, after three years of your classmates making assumptions about who you are based on one fact, it gets old. Instead of these people learning more about me, they assume that, since I’m in the Honors Program, I think of myself as better than them, and that I don’t have time for fun due to studying. All of my classmates have put me on a pedestal that I didn’t even ask them to put me on. Once other students learn that I’m in Honors, they don’t want to invite me to their birthday parties like the kids I grew up with.

Instead, my classmates treat me like I’m only a brain. They forget that I have a soul, a life, and a heart. My classmates proceed to make statements that just a brain would like to hear. Here is a list of my favorite ones- maybe you’ve heard some of them:

  • “When did you start preparing for college? When you were 3 years old?”
  • “What are you going to do over the summer? Oh, I know you’re going to do school work all summer.”
  • “I bet you make 100 on every test.”
  • And, my ultimate favorite, but I should provide some background before I state the quote. Some fellow students had asked me how I studied, so I proceeded to tell them that I start studying one week before the test. When I get to the end of the week, I realize that I remember more than I thought I knew. I thought this was a good response, and it would help them study, but I was wrong. To this they responded, “Wow, it must be so nice that everything is so easy for you.”

Now, to answer some of these questions, so people can learn that I am not just a brain. My life consists of more than just studying, and everything is not easy for me. To begin with, I didn’t even want to go to a four-year school. I wanted a way to get a degree quickly and get into the field of nursing as fast as possible. My mom’s best friend, who is a nurse, told me I had  to go to a four-year school to become a nurse. I didn’t do any other research, because I believed her. Only after starting nursing school this year did I find out that I  could have gone to a two-year school to become a registered nurse. Going to college and joining an Honors program were  not my biggest concerns after graduating high school, and I would have skipped all of it if I knew then what I know now. I am literally only in college right now because I was lied to. Second, everything is not, “so easy for me.” Being smart has never been something easy for me. Being good at anything has never been something easy for me. I have always worked harder than everyone I know to be smart and excel in what I do, and it’s quite frustrating. In both academics and sports, I have put in more effort than most to get where I am. My little sister is one of those people with natural talent. Growing up, I always worked hard for everything, and when my sister started following in my footsteps, I thought things would be difficult for her too. Instead, she was a natural softball player without even practicing while I spent countless extra hours on the field trying to master the sport. She could study the night before the test and ace it while I had to study a week in advance just to make a B. So in response to everyone who thinks everything is easy for me, it’s not. Everything is tremendously difficult for me, but I work hard to do well. I don’t only study. I actually enjoy doing other human things, like any other human. What I find most distressing about being an Honors student is that a majority of my classmates learn about my brain, and they never learn about my heart and soul. I’m almost 100% positive that if you asked any of my classmates the things I do besides school, they wouldn’t be able to tell you. My classmates haven’t taken the time to get to know me.

But if they did, they would learn that I am a concert junkie. In high school, I used to go to 3-6 concerts a month.  I would probably still attend concerts  now, but Pensacola doesn’t support that kind of lifestyle. They would learn that I suffer from a mental illness, that every day is a struggle, and that  I’ve learned to not let the sadness win. They would learn that I am a wander luster, and I take advantage of any chance to travel. They would learn that I have a jean jacket full of patches from all of places I’ve been. They would learn that I’m a big sister, and that being a big sister holds so much more importance to me than being smart does. They would learn that I am loud, weird, and outgoing, rather than the quiet, shy, person I portray in the classroom. They would learn that I have a tattoo, and that I plan on getting at least 3 more. Finally, they would see that I’m not just a brain, but that I’m a free-spirited person who does more than just stick her head in books. They would see that I have feelings. They would invite me to their birthday parties if they only knew how cool I am.