Gracious Living

“The end of learning is gracious living.”

I remember the happiness that buzzed through the campus when a Day of Gracious Living was announced. (This was in the Paleolithic Era, so we didn’t have smart phones but were pretty good with smoke signals.) An entire day to head out to the dunes, fall back asleep, spend time with friends –or catch up on that assignment you were going to have to pull an all-nighter to finish. Thank you, Sweetwater’s, for providing the caffeine and sugar that allowed me to graduate.

I can’t recall exactly how I spent each Day of Gracious Living, and not because sometimes Bell’s was involved, but to this day I love the concept. A free day. You can reflect on your larger purpose; your future; life, the universe and everything –or you can choose to relax and enjoy the moment. The concept of gracious living told me that there is a point to hard work beyond acceptance into grad school or crafting the perfect resume. Your education and career are means to an end, and not an end in themselves. For years I was a little baffled by the phrase, “the end of learning is gracious living,” as I wondered why learning should end. Aren’t we lifelong learners? What happens after the end of learning?

In fact, it wasn’t until I wrote this that I realized the use of the word “end” is not in the sense of a finale or termination, but in the sense of purpose. The purpose of learning is to understand how to conduct your life in a gracious manner. The purpose of learning is to allow you to improve your entire existence, not just your resume or a GRE score. Learning opens the door into gracious living.

K gave me that.

-Corey Schultz ’97

This story starts at the end…

Matt Thieleman ’07

 

The story starts at the end…

I’m standing next to my good friend, Karman Kent ’07, talking with a 19-year-old UNC student about the need for greater mental health support on campus. We’re wrapping up a two-day workshop on mindful leadership with some of the brightest minds I’ve ever met.

I just led that workshop. I’m ridiculously fortunate.

Yesterday I had dinner and drinks with former classmates and we recounted stories from baseball and study abroad. Two days ago, I arrived in Chapel Hill for the first time and met the baby daughter of two friends I hadn’t seen in years.

Seriously. Fortunate.

Because 13 years ago I picked the path that seemed right for me at the time, and found myself in a place that encouraged me to keep picking my own path over and over.

Starting a business is scary. Especially when it’s in a “new” industry that’s often met with raised eyebrows and heavy doses of skepticism. When I decided a year and half ago that I was going to bring mindfulness meditation to corporate America, I knew I was in for some tough days.

And tough days I’ve had. Questioning my sanity in giving up a promising career as a marketing professional. Being told no one will pay for what I’m offering. Reaching out to prospective customers and getting crickets in response. Tweaking my business plan over and over, trying to find a way to make a profitable business.

It’s hard. It’s scary.

But Golden Bristle wouldn’t have made it out of the “I have this crazy idea” planning stages if not for the support of my friends and family, especially my fellow K alums.

I moved to Nashville a few years ago largely due to the encouragement of a good friend, Mike Morosi K ’07, who I’ve been trading business ideas with since we met. And I can honestly say if I had never made that move, my business wouldn’t exist. Mike and others (Rob Connor ’07, Rob Duszynski ’09) have been part brain trust, part support group — offering their advice, serving as guinea pigs for my services, telling me to chill and have a beer when I’m pushing too hard. All the stuff a fledgling founder needs.

So when I announced to the (Facebook) world that Golden Bristle was a real, actual thing, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that another K alum immediately offered me an opportunity I’d never dreamed of.

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Karman (Hamlin) Kent ’07

 

Golden Bristle… something about that name just embodies Lux Esto – a concept that Matt and I grew to appreciate so much during our “Four and Forever” and a daily choice that continues to guide my path.

My husband, Caleb Kent K ’07, and I started off on a crazy new adventure almost nine years ago when we moved to North Carolina without knowing a soul.  As intentional serendipity would have it, I had the chance to speak with Kathleen Shapley-Quinn K ’83 who lived in Chapel Hill, our new home, at a phone-a-thon my senior year. A brief fifteen minute conversation somehow ended in a part-time job offer and an invitation to dinner. I was humbled by her kindness and inspired to embrace the community that extended so far beyond those brick paths through the quad.

The confirmation that we were in fact meant for the Triangle area was solidified when I received a call from the Education Program Leader at The Emily Krzyzewski Center who excitedly informed me that she had just returned from visiting her husband’s family in Kalamazoo. Kim Cummings–beloved Sociology and Anthropology professor at K–had somehow convinced his daughter-in-law to create a position for me. Lesson learned: never underestimate the power of a small community filled with passionate people who not only want to make the world a better place but also choose to bring others along for the ride.

Fast forward several years and I’m working with the bright and motivated high-achieving students Matt mentioned, who remind me very much of my amazing classmates. They challenge me daily. They inspire me to be bold and take risks. They struggle, like all of us. We’ve all been there, 9th week rolls around and there are a million things to be done. The high level of stress and the low level of sleep are badges we wear. We work hard, but at what cost?

How much happier may I have been had I learned to prioritize self-care and create space for regular reflection at nineteen? I, too, felt fortunate to be able to collaborate with Matt and to share such important gifts with my students, my “kids.” I love the fact that my K story continues. It morphs and deepens as I look at the incredible ways my friends are investing in other’s lives. It inspires me to ask big questions about how I’m reflecting on and exuding that “Light Within.”

 

Live to Write

Despite my insistence that 1990 was ’about 10 years ago’, this year my class (K’94) will meet in Kalamazoo for our 20th reunion. When I visited the reunion page to start making plans, I found a link to our class yearbook and in the yearbook I found this picture:

Vintage class photo of fifteen students with handwritten note Job-hunting English majors: Live to write! Don't write to live. You can't eat words! Signed, Ellen Caldwell
(That’s me, second row, second from the left.)

I was lucky enough to be an English major at K, and I was even luckier to have Dr. Ellen Caldwell as my advisor, mentor, and teacher. She knew her students well….so well, in fact, she could almost see into the future with her sage advice.

Her encouragement to “live to write” instead of writing to live may not have made much sense to me at the time, but 20 years later, I think I can finally see the difference. The times I have tried to “write to live,” I’ve ended up going down dead-end paths and feeling lost. On the other hand, when I have been able to “live to write,” I have had incredible journeys that have filled me to the top.

Since I’ve left K, I have lived to write while teaching English to Hmong and Somali refugees. I’ve lived to write as I tried to help prisoners learn to read. I lived to write through 15 years of trying (and finally succeeding!) to get a Master’s degree. I lived to write while getting married and raising two daughters. Now, I live to write at my dream job — combining my degrees and teaching experience in a flexible, innovative way.

As you consider your college journey, I hope you too will be able to take Dr. Caldwell’s advice to heart. Live to write, no matter what form that might take for you.

-Hillary Frazey ’94