As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working towards being more authentic.
Moriah Bauman, A&S ’15
Let me start this with a disclaimer. I am, by no means, claiming to have mastered the art of humility. Nor am I asserting to be perfectly humble. Rather, this reflection is intended to explore my journey (along with the challenges and questions that I have encountered along the way) to understand the virtue of true humility. Let me take you back to almost a year and a half ago.
I was concluding my sophomore year at Boston College, and I was on cloud nine. That year, I had the opportunity to participate in many of the remarkable programs that BC offers. My days were frequently filled with Arrupe reflections, International Studies courses, 4Boston volunteering, coffee dates, applications, and other miscellaneous meetings. I would walk through O’Neill Plaza each day, and as I waved to classmates, I can remember feeling deeply accomplished and satisfied with my life at BC.After somewhat of a tumultuous start as a freshman, everything seemed to be finally fitting into place.
As I left Boston College that spring, I couldn’t help but marvel at all of my “successes.” BC is a university that truly invests in the potential of its students, and as a student at one of the top universities in the country, I couldn’t help but feel invincible. At this point, I’m sure you’re all rolling your eyes. Don’t worry; I would be too!
Earlier that semester, I had also made plans to study abroad in the Philippines through an immersive program. While I was sad to bid farewell to Boston College for the fall semester, I couldn’t be more excited for the adventures that awaited me. After more than twenty-four hours of travel on that fateful day in August, I finally arrived in Manila. However, I could have never predicted what came next.
I quickly realized that the majority of people that I encountered had never even heard of Boston College, let alone did they care about my academic and professional “success” or my extracurricular involvement. I felt utterly lost. For the past year, I had let these achievements define me. Without them, my identity had been shattered. Additionally, I was immersed in a language and culture that was totally unfamiliar. I lacked basic knowledge and felt incompetent as I struggled to speak Tagalog, to wash my clothes by hand, to figure out the jeepneys of the chaotic public transportation system, and perform other daily tasks. It seemed as if everything that I did and said was wrong. For the first few weeks of my semester abroad, I sat alone in my room and cried almost each day, longing to return to the familiarity of Boston College.
The first month in Manila forcefully knocked me into humility. I soon recognized that if I continued my semester in this miserable emotional state, the next four months would be unbearable. However, it wasn’t until I learned to embrace this humility that I came to appreciate its beauty--the beauty of complete strangers, willing to open their homes and share their reality with me. The beauty of watching patiently, as a group of five young girls attempted to teach me (for the hundredth time) the deceivingly-challenging skill of Chinese jump rope. The beauty of walking arm-in-arm down the road with my ate (“big sister”), telling joyful and heartbreaking tales of our childhoods. The beauty of sharing meryenda (snack), picking wildflowers, and belting out Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” with the countless children of the community. When I learned to embrace my own mistakes and weaknesses, I began to realize that there were countless incredible people that surrounded me—all of whom were willing to teach me, to share their own stories, and to open their hearts. I had previously been too engrossed in my own life to notice.
It was through my wonderful host family that I learned the Filipino cuisine and language, the art of bucket showers, and the profound gift of hospitality. It was through the brave and beautiful children in the barangay (neighborhood) that I learned to surrender myself to uncontrollable laughter and to abandon my fears of appearing “silly” or “stupid.” It was from the relationships with my classmates that I learned how to listen and support without judgement. And it was through each person and community that I encountered throughout my semester that taught me how to love and to give generously of myself. Throughout those four months, I began to see, as the wise Hushpuppy from Beasts of the Southern Wild once said, “I’m a little piece of a big, big universe.”
I have now been back at BC for almost a year, and I think about that semester constantly. However, you might ask, what does this all mean in the context of Boston College? For me, it means acknowledging that there are (literally!) thousands of people on this campus who have their own passions and talents to share. It means attempting to offer my full presence to each Hillside coffee date, conversation in the dorms, and encounter in the quad that I share with others. It means that each time I find myself becoming too absorbed by my own successes or challenges, I remind myself that there are enough joys, pains, and histories at Boston College to fill hundreds upon hundreds of volumes of a book.
Like I originally said, none of this means that I have fully come to understand humility. Nor does it mean that I count my own story as insignificant. Instead, I try to remember and celebrate the reality that ALL of us have our own powerful stories to share. So, I express my gratitude, to you, members of the Boston College community, for humbling me each day with your love, passions, challenges, and joys. I consider myself lucky to be a fellow Eagle and to share this campus with you all.