With every fall comes a time for reflection. Summer has come to an end and the new school year is starting. When I think back to how I arrived at St. Thomas, a quotation that my mother drilled into me comes to mind: “When life throws dirt at you, you can be buried alive or you can use the dirt to your advantage.”

Some days it feels like you have fallen into a hole and you cannot seem to find your way out. The hole begins to fill with dirt, and you feel trapped and helpless. You can continue to let the dirt cover you or you can shake it off. By shaking the dirt off, you create a pile that becomes a mound, and eventually it will reach the top of the hole. Then you can stand on top of that mound, climb out of the hole and continue to succeed.

During my senior year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, I discovered the field of Student Affairs and my passion for working with students and supporting them with their unique transitions to college. I began my search for a Student Affairs program that had a credible reputation and aligned with my values. By November, I applied to three programs around the country, and by January all three had rejected me. I felt like I had fallen into a hole and life was burying me with dirt. I did not know how to get out of the hole so I gave up. I could not imagine a career path that did not include graduate school. I felt helpless.

Then I heard about the Leadership in Student Affairs program here at St. Thomas. I connected with the program’s values and knew that it would be a perfect fit for me. I started to shake off the dirt and regroup. I applied to St. Thomas and interviewed for a position in the Department of Campus and Residence Life. The dirt began mounding up next to me and I realized that if I just stepped on the mound, I could once again see out of the hole!

As time went on, the mound grew and grew, almost reaching the top. I was accepted into the Leadership in Student Affairs program and received a position in Campus and Residence Life. The mound had reached the top and I could finally step out of the hole. I am happy to say I have never looked back.

Life can throw dirt at us and we can be buried by our problems. Or, we can use that dirt as a tool to grow and accomplish what we did not think we could. Sooner or later, dirt will hit you in the face, and what you decide to do with it is up to you. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Wisdom is the view from the hilltop.” With much dirt under your feet, the view will be amazing up there!

Editor’s note: Caitlin Herby is a Chaska native who is hall director for 2085 Grand, a St. Thomas Sophomore Year Experience apartment building, and also will work in the Anderson Student Center.

2 Responses

  1. Kate Salvatore

    What a great piece! Thanks for sharing your story, Caitlin. It’s an excellent way to start the week.