Kelsey Warner ’07 graduated from Colgate University in 2011 and works as a Client Services Analyst at Kantar Retail. She is a member of the Hyde Alumni Board and volunteers with the Rise & Walk Foundation. In July Kelsey helped lead Hyde’s summer Women in Leadership program.
Four years ago, in May 2007, I graduated from Hyde-Woodstock carrying three tickets for success. In my eager, 18-year-old grasp I held a high school diploma, a Hyde school character diploma, and an acceptance letter to one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. Though transitioning to Colgate University in September would be a big change for me, the move was also characterized, to a degree, by a sense of certainty, a promise of permanence. As an incoming freshman, I would make the northward trek to Hamilton, NY from my hometown in Wilton, CT for the first time. I then would spend the next four years in stereotypical collegiate bliss: making friends, reading books, singing in a vocal ensemble or two, joining clubs where I might meet like-minded peers, watching my first (and second, and third, and three-hundredth) snow fall. The next four years were my opportunity to define myself, to come into my own as a young adult. What lay in store for me beyond the ivy and the icicles was nothing but a smoky, vague series of well-worn ideas: get a good job, be successful, meet someone great, fall in love. But in the span of what feels like a dream-filled night here I am: 22 years old, sitting at my desk at my good job, ever the hopeless romantic, reflecting on who I’ve become.
Colgate, although it wasn’t the perfect pastoral paradise I’d built up in my head, was amazing. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had the privilege to know. I sang soprano in two music groups, just like I wanted to, and I joined clubs where I met like-minded peers. I saw more snow fall more months of the year than I ever realized was possible. I learned, I grew, I regressed and grew again. I graduated Cum Laude, with a special Honors degree in English literature, just like John Rigney knew I would. The title of my thesis was “Other Worlds: C.S. Lewis’s Suppositional Fictions and the Desire Called Utopia.” It sounds convoluted and overly academic, and it was. But the desire called utopia is the desire for greater learning, the desire to think differently about the world and its potential, the desire for the hope of something better. In a way, then, it’s strangely fitting that I spent my final year of college ruminating on it, because as I stand before my future, stripped of all the comforting certainties I knew before, I am certain only that life is meant to be lived fully, fervently, and most importantly, without fear.
At the beginning of the summer, I opened a fortune cookie and learned that “big journeys begin with a single step.” Fitting, I thought, and so I tucked it into my wallet and vowed to embrace spontaneity. For those who knew me during my days at Hyde, this vow may come as a surprise. I have never been particularly flexible. I have never been a lover of change. I have never even been a “liker” of change. Ok, I hate it. Hated it, that is. Because in May 2011, I committed myself wholeheartedly to it.
As I left Colgate behind, I counted myself among the very fortunate who graduated with a full-time job lined up and an August 1st start date. My parents, who generously decided to support my quest for spontaneity as a way of life, supplied me with the resources I needed to kickstart my journey. I spent the months before I started working traveling, spending time with friends, meeting new people, and volunteering. Sometimes, even a lot of the time, I forced myself to enter and remain in situations that made me uncomfortable. Some of these situations were brought about by what seem like small choices. I went out with friends when I was far more comfortable sitting home on the couch, volunteered at a local organization in a less privileged part of the state, or invited someone I didn’t know very well to do something with me. Some of the situations were driven by much bigger choices, like when I decided to go up Hyde by myself, knowing no one but certain faculty, and help lead the “Women in Leadership” program for current students. Or when I spent a week on a mission trip in Bogota, Colombia helping underprivileged children and families. Each time I gave of myself, I realized the power and joy that comes with doing so. I internalized the idea that fear is the enemy of growth, and came to believe that if you’re not growing, you’re not really living either. Eventually, I came to love the thrill of not knowing.
My final summer as a full-time student came to an end on August 1st, 2011, when I began my job as a Client Services Analyst at Kantar Retail. My experiences throughout those summer months, however, functioned as a galvanizing force in my life, motivating me to be actively engaged in the world around me. Among other things, I serve on the Hyde Alumni board, volunteer with the Rise and Walk Foundation (with whom I went on the mission to Colombia) here in the United States, and seek overall to both inspire others and to pursue things that inspire me. That is why I want to share with all the members of the Hyde Community at large some details about the Rise and Walk Foundation, and in particular about our 5th Annual Gala, “Sponsoring a Dream.” The Gala will take from 6 PM – Midnight at St. Catherine of Siena’s Church in Trumbull, CT September 10th, 2011. I encourage you, if you are reading this, to check out our website, learn about these beautiful children, and consider making a donation or attending the function. As someone misquoting Henry David Thoreau once said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” So go forth and do it, and perhaps along the way you’ll help someone else to do the same! From experience, I can tell you it’s a choice you won’t regret.