The last time I went to the Calcagnini Contemplative Center, I packed my bag full of worksheets, practice exams, and review problems—I think I even brought my calculator in tow. I had a midterm on Monday and was leading an ESCAPE retreat from Saturday into Sunday, so I planned on locking myself up during free time to study. Fresh off a week of midterms and heading into another stretch of exams, I knew I probably needed to get off campus, reflect, and remind myself that the stress of life at Georgetown wasn’t the defining feature of my life. But that stubborn, perfectionist part of my brain still made me dutifully pack up my books and promise myself I wouldn’t get distracted during free time.
Every time I’ve been on ESCAPE, both as a retreatant and a leader, there’s been that moment of nervous energy before I leave— just a moment, but one full of worry and fear that the time I’m giving could have been spent getting work done or being “more productive.” And then I get on the bus.
And then I remember that I never have more joy in my life than when I’m connecting with people, honestly sharing myself and taking the time to look at my life as it’s happening to me. And I remember that even in the middle of a stressful semester, I’m allowed to take a breath and remember that I get to be a person instead of just a student. I remember what it feels like to sing, and to sit out in the sunshine, and to stare at the trees, and to find a community full of loving, genuine, engaged people. It takes all of an hour (but usually less) on ESCAPE for me to remember that there is so much more meaning that I could make in my life than the narrow vision I sometimes fall into with my schoolwork.
This particular ESCAPE was our retreat for transfer students, and I was so grateful to listen to the stories of the journeys that brought them to Georgetown and their goals now that they’re here. Their energy and determination to build Georgetown into a home reminded me why I came here in the first place—reminded me why I fell in love with the school on the hilltop and the community there. Even more, this ESCAPE reminded me, as they all do, that the community I look for and the space I really need—one where I can cut away all the external markers I use to define myself (grades, clubs, school, major, & on and on and on)—is never as far away as I imagine.
I like to tell people that there’s no perfect weekend to go on ESCAPE. That magical, imaginary weekend when there’s no work and no meetings and no obligations—it doesn’t exist. The perfect weekend to go on ESCAPE, for me, has always been the one when I think I can least afford to go. When I’m the most exhausted, the most stressed, the most worn out by the daily work of being a Georgetown student—that’s when I need joy and support the most. That’s when I need reflection and perspective the most, and it’s when I need an ESCAPE the most. So during free time, instead of doing my worksheets, I wrote in my journal and reflected. I sat outside in the October sun, talked to the leaders, and spent some time being grateful—for the break, and the trees, and the singing, and the community.
Written by Julie Bevilacqua, C’19