Category: Erin Dugan (page 2 of 4)

Tiny Triumphs

When I was a little kid, I had a lot of serious aspirations. For a while, I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up. Then a babysitter. Then a professional soccer player. Then the lead guitarist for a super popular girl band. Then a surgeon. Then a fashion magazine editor.

Turns out that it’s basically impossible to become a mythological creature and then make some kind of career out of that. It’s also pretty difficult to get paid for playing professional women’s soccer. If you’ve never had a guitar lesson, girl bands are out of the question. Performing surgery means spending a really, really, really long time in school. And the fashion industry is for people who value clothes above literally everything else.

I am a certified babysitter, however, so cheers to that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these aspirations lately, these lofty goals that I didn’t quite accomplish. As a college student, I still have a few aspirations, a few goals that might be a bit far fetched. But I’ve also come to the realization that every dream you have as a kid doesn’t always come true. You can’t live in the ocean, attend hours of soccer practice, have a top 40 hit, attach limbs, and bring flannel back all in one lifetime.

Sometimes you have to make choices and prioritize the accomplishments that are most important to you. Sometimes you have to find a balance between your dreams and your reality.

I am in the process of trying to find this balance, deciding how I am going to enjoy my last four semesters of college while simultaneously working towards my future dreams. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the minute accomplishments, the tiny triumphs, are incredibly important in my everyday life. Little things like completing a 5K, stealing high quality apples from the dining hall, making a funny Facebook status- these little things remind me that I have a pretty fantastic life. There are a lot of things to be happy about. And if I really think about it, all of my childhood dreams involved happiness. I shouldn’t feel this undue pressure to become the person I thought I would become at the age of 18. I should enjoy a run with nuns or a club baseball game or a Panera dinner date with my best friend.

Besides, I’ve swum in the ocean. I’ve played a soccer game in a professional stadium. I’ve learned two chords on the guitar. I’ve worked at a Federally Qualified Health Center. I’ve been to a casting at Teen Vogue. And most importantly, I’ve been a babysitter for seven years. I’ve got nothing to worry about.

It turns out fashion was never really meant to be part of the Dugans' destiny!

It turns out fashion was never really meant to be part of the Dugans’ destiny!

~Erin Dugan

An Ode to Judy

Dear Judy,

You probably don’t know me, but I am one of your biggest fans.

I was a freshman in the fall of 2012. I came to college spoiled, overtly privileged in terms of caffeine. You see, in my house, there is always a fresh pot of coffee on the counter, prepared by some java fairy (my mother).

I was lost those first few weeks of school, unsatisfied with the taste of the hot brown “coffee” they served in Russell Dining Hall, and appalled by the miniscule amount of joe that my roommate’s Keurig generated.

Then one morning, I had an epiphany. My first class of the day was in Purnell. Which meant that I passed right by Perkins. Which contained a Dunkin Donuts. Which served coffee. You were there that morning. You took my order and said to me, ever so sweetly, “Anything else, hun?”

Morning coffee with you became a routine. In the beginning, it was a small iced French vanilla with cream. Later it was a medium hot pumpkin coffee with skim. Some days there were celebratory chocolate chip muffins. Some days there were sympathy-seeking extra large iced coffees with cream and sugar. Some days there were homesick donuts. But for every purchase, you were there, referring to me as “hun” and providing me with the most appreciated form of liquid found on college campuses.

I don’t often make it to Perkins anymore, and after realizing that pumpkin coffee contained 180 calories without milk, I try to stick to the traditional varieties. But whenever I see a student walking down the green with a Styrofoam cup in hand, I think of you and the moments we shared in the Scrounge. You completed my freshman year, and I know you’ll continue to encourage the studies and caffeine addictions of the newest Honors students.

Best of luck to you, and please continue calling everyone “hun”.

Yours truly,
Erin Dugan

The Greatest People in the World

A few weeks ago I celebrated the Fourth of July, much like the majority of individuals who inhabit this large landmass we know as the U S of A.

I take it back. Celebrated might not be the greatest word. Contemplated might be a bit more accurate.

I’ve spent the majority of the summer in a city that’s dying. On workdays, I drive past dozens of people who live in a public park and receive one free meal per day. I’m lucky enough to belong to a carpool in a place known for busses that run hours behind schedule. One of the three security guards at my office told me it wasn’t smart for me to walk past the parking lot even in broad daylight. There is a single national chain grocery store within the city limits for a population of 700,000. The other day after a rainstorm, I watched a woman wade barefoot into a two and a half foot deep puddle on the side of the road to collect water.

Detroit isn’t the America our Founding Fathers envisioned. It’s not the America that our parents or grandparents or great-grandparents wanted us to be raised in. It’s not the America immigrants have dreamed of for centuries or the America we hear about in presidential speeches. It’s not the America Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 3.02.26 PMpeople celebrate on the Fourth of July.

Detroit is the America we don’t want to talk about because it’s a city that displays our flaws and questions our self-proclaimed title of “Greatest Country in the World.”

That’s what I contemplated on the Fourth of July and I wish so badly that I could say this contemplation enlightened me. I wish I could say that I understand the problems of this city and that I see a clear path to revitalization. But I don’t. I don’t know how exactly Detroit fell into bankruptcy or what policies can be enacted to return the Motor City to its former glory.

What I do know is that the people of Detroit are amazing people. Despite the odds, they have hope and optimism. They spray paint the sides of abandoned buildings with words like “Love” and “Faith”. They open free clinics and homeless shelters in the midst of economic catastrophe. They look for solutions to “unsolvable” problems like substance abuse and infant mortality. They care about each other, even when it seems like the rest of the country doesn’t.

The people of Detroit exemplify what it means to be American. And although I am not convinced that the United States is the “Greatest Country in the World”, I have surely encountered the greatest individuals in the world, individuals who we ought to admire, individuals who we ought to learn from. In my eyes, our nation has a great deal of work to do, a great number of things to work on, especially in this city. No single individual has all of the solutions. But if we as a country can aspire to be a little bit more like the people of Detroit, a little bit more hopeful and resilient, I think we might be able to get a bit closer to earning our title of “Greatest Country in the World.”

How To: Live in close quarters with another human being

There is no course on “being a successful roommate”.  To be even the most average roommate requires a great deal of frustrating and embarrassing trial and error.

My roommate was a rise-and-commence-death-stare type of person. I liked to get up early and run. She loved Luke Bryan and I preferred Kanye. Her hometown was approximately 90 minutes away and mine was over 2,000 miles across the country. We weren’t compatible in every department. We both had flaws. I was prone to leaving the door unlocked at highly inconvenient times and she tended to let her alarm clock go off for about 15 minutes every day. It wasn’t always easy, living between old cinderblocks and hard tile.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 11.35.34 AM

There were times when I wished that I had been assigned a single, when I longed to have some privacy and solidarity. For the most part however, those feelings were minimal. As hard as it was to live in such close quarters, nothing compares to having a partner in both cohabitation and crime. Nothing compares to getting ready for parties with someone, coping with the stresses of spring registration with someone, wearing all black and fishnets with someone, purchasing half a dozen St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes on St. Patrick’s Day with someone. There is nothing that compares to having someone by your side on a big and scary college campus.

I still live with my freshman year roommate. I realized after that first year that we clashed just enough to keep things interesting, that we didn’t mind silence, that we loved clean dishes and swept floors, that we could live together and manage to be friends. I realized that I couldn’t imagine walking home late at night for chips and salsa on the floor with anyone else. I realized that I couldn’t imagine waking up to any other death stare or to any other elongated alarm clock. This college campus was still big and scary and I needed to have her around.

In the fall, I’ll have a new roommate. I don’t yet know her flaws and I don’t know which flaws she will find in me. I will however miss the old roomie, the future CEO and Italian language pro who is going abroad. So Jess, if you’re reading this, know that I will continue to improve my roommate skills, that I will be lonely and a little scared without you here, even as a junior. Know that there will be chips and salsa waiting for you on the floor of Sharp when you get back.

Imperfection, Madness, and Alternative Spring Break

Before you being reading this blog post, please take note of the following: I am a UDAB site leader. This organization means a great deal to me. So if you are sick of hearing about the productive/worldly/influential things that people did over break while you were at home watching Netflix or drinking in Florida, I get it. But you should also probably stop reading. Because this will make you vomit.

My freshman year of college, I randomly decided to apply for an alternative spring break trip. By complete chance, I was accepted to the program. The trip wasn’t perfect. We had to get up at 4:45 am and walk through campus with our snack-heavy duffels from Russell to Trabant. Our bus had a broken DVD player and axel, which busted somewhere in rural Virginia, leaving us stranded for four hours. I forgot a bandana and never had a hot shower. As a group we managed to obtain some very awkward tan lines.

It was without a doubt, the second best week of my life. I came back enlightened, inspired, and invigorated. In mid-May, I learned that I would be among the newest class of UDAB site leaders. I was ecstatic.

photo (2)As it turns out, planning an alternative spring break trip requires a great deal more work than participating in one does. My stress levels were almost entirely determined by what was happening with UDAB. If we had a SAS cupcake fundraiser approaching, I was happy. If we were sitting in Perkins for hours on end conducting interviews, I was drained. If I stopped for a single second to remember that I was leading a new trip to one of the most rural and impoverished areas in the country under the direction of lovable but less-than-organized hippies, I was panicked. Two days before the trip I found myself crying in a public bathroom and running on six hours of sleep in two days.

Once again, my trip wasn’t perfect. We got somewhat lost in the back-roads of West Virginia. I unknowingly forced my participants to sleep in a frigid yurt (see Google for description) on the very first night. As it turns out, ticks are fairly common in heavily wooded areas and snow in late March is a possibility. My expectations were so far from reality, it was actually comical.

But it was, without a doubt, the best week of my life, for reasons that cannot be explained in simple words or iPhone photographs. I learned more from my fellow site leader, from my participants, and from our community partner in seven days than I learn over the course of an entire school year. For seven days, I lived life in the most beautiful way. For seven days, I was a part of something larger than myself.

UDAB is a lot of work. It’s a lot of higher-level thinking, advanced planning, organizational jargon, color-coded spreadsheets, and early-weekend-morning activities. Unlike so many things in life however, it’s worth every ounce of work exerted. I have zero regrets about the hours of sleep lost, the personal dishevelment obtained, the countless emails sent, or the quantity of tears shed. Because in the grand scheme of things, these negative aspects were minimal when compared to the reward. UDAB has brought me far more joy than sadness. It’s made my college experience. It’s shown me the best possible version of myself. It’s changed so many lives for the better, and I hope that this year’s participants had an equally incredible experience.

You can vomit now.

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