Ironwood Maine Web Update

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.” 

Michael Josephson

            This point of self-recognition is a continuous theme at Ironwood, where the phrase “staying in the moment” is repeated and emphasized. For the recent Family Weekend, nothing could be truer. It was, as all are meant to be, aimed towards reunification of students and their families. Red, purple, green, and blue students were all seen taking this opportunity to connect with their loved ones, and I have a feeling that the weekend was an opportunity for fun activities as well as personal experiences; although the heat made some feel “melted” at more than one check-in. But the heat here has lapsed into mild and muggy days, while the campus overall is also experiencing a somewhat equal and bittersweet mood. That isn’t the only topic for this update, though, as there are also many other activities we’ve enjoyed and exciting events many are looking forward to.

            Starting with the sour, it’s been difficult for many students to say goodbye to their families. Tears and heartfelt exchanges have been a notable normalcy at the Family Weekends I’ve witnessed, and this time was no different. There was a recent change in the procedure of Family Weekend, as many were able to spend time outside of the Ironwood campus, which I’ve heard has given many students hope for their future. It has also been a source of worry, with many having a reasonable reaction of being overwhelmed. However, once students became comfortable outside, they said how great it was to spend some individualized time with family. This is a very special time for many families, and it otherwise wouldn’t be seen as such outside of Ironwood. With all of the students and their families working so hard towards their common goals, families become reconnected and bonded in a way they haven’t been before. Perhaps a day or dinner out with your family would be seen as annoying, difficult, or something to get away from with the attitude and relationships many students come here with. But because of their hard work to come together and heal as well as all of the time spent apart, time spent together is that much sweeter.

            We discussed this and more during a group called “Experiential,” the focus of which is to improve and better our group as a collective. Jacki, the therapist leading the group, had us all begin with a creative exercise where we drew what our family weekends looked like to us. After about 20 minutes of drawing and creating our projects, we all were asked to share. Many students chose the approach of symbolic representation, like rain clouds and sunshine, growing and fruitful trees, and other creative examples, like a dumpster fire. Although it does sound purely fun, this group gave all of my Farmhouse peers the chance to process their feelings and experiences from their Family Weekend, something that was much appreciated. Even outside of this past group, experiential groups have been a helpful tool for many students, including myself, and I really enjoy the experience of being able to discuss and share my perspective and emotions with my peers in a way that’s meaningful and healthy with boundaries. This translates back to the quote I’ve shared, as the group is a space for students to “take pride in how far [we’ve] come,” “have faith in how far [we] can go,” and “enjoy the journey.”

            There are some students going through this process right now, as they are steadily preparing to graduate. Two are lined up for this week, one on Thursday and one on Friday, and it’s a very, very exciting event. A lot of effort goes into these ending ceremonies, which makes sense. These students are finishing up their programs, using Ironwood as a stepping stone, moving towards their goals, and saying goodbye to a significant part of their lives. Both have made so much progress, something even an outsider can see, and everyone is very happy for them. We’re also excited for three more soon-to-be graduates, as preparations are being made and graduation dates have yet to be announced for those expecting celebrations soon. When those dates are given though, it will definitely be a packed schedule!

            Another group that was enjoyable was this week’s art class. Art has always been a personal form of expression for me, although my peers haven’t shared similar experiences. Mostly the art classes many have taken are the basic credits that needed to be taken to go through high school, but this class goes farther than that. We’re given set boundaries and limits as well as a focus for a project, which allows students to develop their artistic skills outside of their creativity. Even as someone who doesn’t want to pursue a career in the artistic field, I still appreciated learning the techniques used for painting and drawing, especially when they have been used by some of my favorite artists, which we studied as well. This past class, we were working on a sketch of one out of two pictures. The first was a nice orange flower while the second was a very goofy-looking fuzzy clown, complete with a big red nose and Dumbo-esque ears. For the next class, we plan to paint our sketches with the fancy new watercolor paints that were just sent in, and everyone seems excited to do it. After working to the painting stage of the project, students had the option to continue a drawing that they had begun last class. During that last class, we all had looked through the various magazines and chosen a picture to recreate with our own view of it. One person chose a London skyline while another finished a flower and a picture of a random person holding a hen. Needless to say, we were given the space to pursue wherever our creative interests decided to take us, which is just one benefit of our art groups. We’re able to find an outlet to express ourselves and use it in the ways we need to, recognize our very valuable work, improve where we wish to, and enjoy our creations; similar to the prospects of doing what Josephson advised with “[t]ake pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you’ll go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”

            To wrap it up, this past week has been great to see. With Family Weekend and the visible bonds shown to seeing what my fellow students can make from a pencil, a piece of paper, and an idea, I’ve only begun on my realization of how great this opportunity is for me and my family. So many students have worked so hard, and I’m very happy that they got the chance to reconnect and that some will be reconnecting with their families outside of Ironwood very soon. My experiences behind me, I’m proud of the progress and effort I see every day. My hopes and knowledge beside me, I have faith in the success of myself and my peers. Lastly, with my family and my sense of self with me, I’m enjoying this journey ahead of me, and I sincerely hope that you all feel the same or will soon.

            I hope you all had a good Family Weekend and have a great week!