The Quality of Life Project Student Feature: Lily Switka

This excerpt was taken from The Quality of Life Project, a student run social media project dedicated to sharing the stories and experiences of Villanova students. The original post can be found  on Instagram; @theqolproject.

My life is like a crazy mixed-up story, and I like to make it sound as weird and romantic and funny as it actually is.

I’ve recently decided to change my major, which has been a huge deal for me. I came in declared as Astronomy & Astrophysics, which is obviously a fascinating field of study. I have been so amazed by space my entire life, but I’ve also always been very passionate about writing and social justice. Over the past couple months, it’s been this trail period where I realized that maybe Astrophysics isn’t what I want to do, not because I don’t find it interesting or don’t love it, but more so because I want to work with people and help them. Everyone in my major is amazingly talented and scientifically oriented, with these insane math abilities. That could never be me; I’m just too artistic. I’m much more inclined to notice a beautiful flower than a solution to an equation. So as of next semester, I’m doing a double major in English and Peace & Justice, with a minor in Astronomy. I couldn’t be more excited. I took History of Homelessness this semester, and it was my favorite class I’ve ever taken here. 

We’ve read 10 books and I just tore through them. I love learning about things that we can actually change, rather than just scientific fact. Being a part of Service Learning Community, I’ve realized that service is so much more than just going on a break trip or doing a food drive. 

It’s really about the relationships  that you make with people.You can learn so much more from them and the way that they deal with their struggles than you can in a class.

I went to see Father Greg Boyle speak, and someone asked him “How do you do it all? How do you not get overwhelmed?”. I loved his response: “If you’re getting overwhelmed, you’re making it about yourself. I get endless joy from experiencing what these people are experiencing with them and getting to grow and learn from them as people who have dignity. So I never feel exhausted.”

Writing is going to be the way that I actually bring about some kind of social change. While Peace & Justice itself is incredible, I think I need an active piece to it, and writing does that for me. Also, I just have so much passion in my heart for putting a pen to paper. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. I have this cabinet at home that’s just brimming with journals. Like, more than 50 of them. I feel that God speaks through me through writing. It’s like a stream of consciousness of what’s coming to you at that specific moment. 

I definitely have respect for planned out writing, but for me some of the best stuff comes when I’m really feeling a lot of emotion and just need to put it into words, and that manifests itself in whatever way it does.

I’ve been doing a lot of little writing blurbs, and I’m not really sure what genre that is, but it’s just a reflection of what I’m feeling right then.

Social media has such a bad connotation to it now and it’s said to really harm your mental health, but I really try to be authentic with what I put out there. 

I like to share my art and my photography. Just genuine moments. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I have no secrets. I want that to come through.

I just think kindness is the most important thing. Like ever. The way I present myself to people, I just try my best to be that person that’s like always kind. It takes a level of maturity to see past petty things and just try to get to know people for who they are, not what they identify with or the perceptions we might have about them. That’s pretty much been my life motto: have courage and be kind. Everyone’s busy and talented and smart and everyone has their own thing going on, so I feel like we don’t always take the time to do something nice for someone. I take pride in knowing that I can be that person. Kindness makes all the difference.

I feel very lucky to have had people in my life who have modeled that for me. My dad was the coolest person ever and my best friend. He was one of those people that was just like that. He’d walk into a room and you’d just immediately know what this guy’s about. He was so full of life, and that’s how I’m always trying to be. 

He passed away when I was eleven, but I have never felt more blessed to have known a person and be inspired by them. Of course I miss him every single day, but I still feel his presence in everything I do.

He’s a part of me. Every day I see some kind of sign that reminds me of him. I feel like I’m the legacy of the way he was.

Life is so precious. I don’t get caught up in what other people do because I’m able to see the bigger picture, but it’s still hard sometimes. I’m just trying to navigate this world and put as much love out there as possible.