The Jewelry Stand

The recipient of a 2006/2009 International Service Fellowship, Evelyn Rojas traveled on her own for the first time the summer after her sophomore year at Williams to Córdoba, Spain, as a volunteer for the Red Cross. The experience in part inspired her poem “The Jewelry Stand,” which won a Dunbar Student Life Prize in April. She was also inspired by “having conversations with many different students who wanted their voices, their struggles, to be heard,” she says. “This is where this poem steps in.”

 
 

I stare

At the jewelry stand

The jewelry stand with the brass-like plump little bird that serves as decoration

The jewelry stand that holds all my earrings and bracelets—

My treasures from far, far away

And as I do

Memories of traveling

To Spain, Uganda, Chile, Argentina, and Nicaragua

Appear in my head

And I begin to think

How lucky, How grateful, How blessed I am

For having the opportunity to travel

To 5 countries during

My 4-year stay

At Williams

 

But sometimes

When life gets to you

When you compare yourself to others

Compare, compare, compare

When your mind begins to cloud with thoughts

Negative thoughts that make you feel in knots

You think how

5 countries is nothing

And all of a sudden you feel a slight sting

For there are those who have traveled the whole world 

Maybe even twice around

For there are those who began to travel as a child

For there are those who think of traveling as second nature

Not as a rare opportunity

Like for me

Like for others on campus

Like for us who never saw traveling as an option

Not even as a dream

Before coming to Williams

 

But just when I begin to lose hope

Just when I feel like my slump will never end

I remember

If there is one thing Williams taught me

It’s that the definition of success isn’t

Merriam-Webster’s definition

“Achieving wealth, respect, or fame”

Success can mean a million different things

People at Williams come from all realms of life

All types of circumstances, circumstances, circumstances

All types of realities, realities, realities

And that is why success is a little word

that to allocate it with one definition would be absurd

Success has many meanings

That involve many feelings

To a single student

To a small group

To the whole campus

 

Success is getting through Family Days when your parents can’t come

And you start feeling anything but numb

Because they’re 18 hours away

Or because they’re 2 hours away and can’t afford the ticket

Success is passing a Division 3 class

Success is being able to fight depression—

to have the willpower to go to class in the first place

Success is being able to fall into a deep sleep without anxiety taking over the hours of the night

Success is getting into the Ph.D. program of your dreams

Success is getting the job of your dreams

Success is being able to graduate in the first place

Success is learning a completely new language

Success is not losing your Spanish proficiency because you read and write in English 24/7

Success is being proud of dressing differently, eating differently, speaking differently

Success is chasing after your goals ambitiously

Success is coming out to your friends and conservative parents

Success is juggling with classes + a sport + work-study

And trying your best to keep your head from getting muddy

Success is admitting that you need to talk to someone

Because you no longer find anything fun

Success is finding a way to bring at least one family member to your graduation

Because you’ve worked hard for your education

Success is what YOU make of it

What makes you satisfied

What makes you feel pride

Let this poem be a guide

Success is creating a poem

that can express how many students feel

Listen up! This is the deal:

We are all unique

Therefore, to compare is just not fair.

 

I stare

At the jewelry stand

The jewelry stand with the brass-like plump little bird that serves as decoration

The jewelry stand that holds all my earrings and bracelets—

My treasures from far, far away

The brass-like plump little bird guards my treasures and my memories of traveling

Just like this poem guards my hope from straying

 

Evelyn Rojas ’16 is working as a social services caseworker for the nonprofit Heartland Alliance in her hometown of Chicago, where she’s assisting immigrant children and teens from Central America.