Happy Hanukkah from Zoe & her sister. Photo courtesy of her mother.

This semester has brought a lot of small joys for everyone. From being able to meet people for breakfast in the dining hall, to choosing a seat in a classroom. The joys of meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends. Even studying in the library and inviting people over to hang out. These small joys are just the tip of the iceberg on what students are grateful for this semester. 

“Every time you allow yourself to embrace the process, you are allowing yourself to grow in gratitude,” Morgan Harper Nichols. 

Gratitude comes in many forms, being grateful can be expressed in many different ways as well. A year ago The Free Press newspaper was hosting once a week zoom calls where the editors would call in and share the stories they were writing that week. While these meetings brought us together they also allowed us to reconnect, yet we were all missing the in person element. This year, every Wednesday we gather in the purple painted walls of the back room, sit around the rectangular table in mix-matched chairs. Where I sit is with my back to the windows and I stare at the whiteboard which unfortunately has been stuck in the September print as the dry erase board has eroded over the years. But nonetheless, the paper is alive and the sharing of our upcoming stories are filled with conversation and eagerness as we chat.

This liveliness has re-bonded our team, most of the editorial board members are seniors and we can all reflect on the first few days of our Free Press days. As the semester is rounding out and we prepare for the last print issue of 2021. 

I’m grateful that my family, friends and myself are healthy and have everything we need. I’m grateful to be pursuing an education, for the opportunities I’ve had and for having jobs to support me financially,” Haley Hersey shares. Hersey, the News editor, mostly comes to our weekly meetings with a rush in hand, so it’s no surprise that Aroma Joe’s is given as something that has kept her afloat this semester. Hersey is also an Academic Mentor on campus and getting to be back in person has been a new challenge but getting to “spend time doing things I enjoy to balance out school and work has been super helpful in maintaining my sanity,.” she said.  

Little Haley helping wrap Christmas presents. Photo courtesy of her mother.

Having gratitude is acknowledging the support and love you have in your life. Hersey shares that she is thankful for her family and friends, the furry animals, “my family is super important to me. My siblings are my best friends. I’m also thankful for having a pretty neat boyfriend.”

Neat indeed, besides that she has learned a lot this semester and like many of us had to navigate a lot of change. As many students have not had a full year of in person classes, living on campus and interacting with as many new people at once. This semester was full of learning new things, “I’ve learned to be gracious and patient.” She says, “my grandma has always told me, ‘nice things come and small packages’ and that ‘good things come to those who wait.’ Lastly she states, “being an advocate for myself and others is also a super skill I have learned.” 

Being patient has been quite a lesson I have also learned, Professor Nancy Gish once stated, “patience is a construct.” This idea that patience is subjective and those expectations shift and change with each person and task, or situation you are placed in. Being patient to let people in, to make new friends, start new relationships. Patience with yourself to allow change and shifting in routine. Patience to learn something new in class and challenging yourself academically. The ability to balance an academic, social, work life takes a lot of personal patience. 

“I am grateful for all the beautiful people I have in my life as well as my roommate’s cat. Her name is Martha,” Nora Devin says. Devin, the Director of Photography at The Free Press explains her gratitude for in-person classes. As she is living off campus, she has enjoyed her commute and getting ready for school. The little things like preparing to go to class can give so much fulfillment, “compared to last year having everything online, being able to be taught in person is something I don’t take for granted.” Devin also elaborated on how important her friendships are, “being able to come to the office and say hello to Zoe has been so nice.” 

Sneaky Nora playing Santa. Photo courtesy of her mother.

Similarly to Hersey and Devin, Cullen McIntyre shares his gratitude for friends and family, “I have a really strong support network that I’m really lucky to have and they have supported me through everything.” While many students might rely on a coffee to pick them up throughout the day, McIntyre has never been seen without an energy drink in hand, however he does state, “taking time for myself to do the things I enjoy while balancing my hectic college and working schedule was very important to keeping me afloat this semester.” 

The Free Press does have a close bond and friendship across the staff, as McIntyre shares the news, “ I am thankful for my girlfriend and friends, this year has been one of the busiest of my life and my friends have kept me sane as well all find time to spend together.” He adds that, “being able to take the time to take our minds away from the stress and enjoy each other’s company is something I am really thankful for.”  

The past year has been a rough one, being grateful and reflecting on the good can be a positive way to appreciate all that has happened and all the growth you have done, to see the work and strength of pushing through. “I have learned this year to focus on my happiness and to do things that I enjoy. I think that following a passion is extremely important and very valuable to me,” McIntyre says. 

Happy Holidays from Cullen’s gingerbread house to yours. Photo courtesy of his mother.

For me, I am grateful for the friendships I have made and got to keep up. Sending letters and staying in touch has grounded me in remembering the love and support I have. Being grateful that calling home doesn’t mean always calling my family since friends and other can represent home; although I am equally thankful for my family. The Free Press has been such a part of my USM experience and the community it has built has been so influential. My friendships with Devin, Hersey and McIntrye and the staff meetings have reconnected me to my love of the paper. I am thankful for the ability to learn patience and  compassion towards others. Understanding people’s busy lives and being thankful for the time spent together. The pandemic and all of the changes in my routine is definitely still jaunting. But learning to loosen my desire to control and be appreciative of the small joys has been an overwhelming way to feel more grateful. 

Entering the winter break and heading deep into finals is such an accomplishment that we should all be proud of. We have all learned so much about ourselves. As we enter finals remember to be kind to yourself and let yourself reflect on what you are grateful for. Cheers from The Free Press staff, we will see you in 2022. 


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