Protect Your Magic: Adelaide Valley’s Story

A portrait of a smiling young woman with wavy hair and wearing a gold pendant
Adalaide Valley '24 reflects on her time at Holy Cross before graduating later this month.

Editor's Note: On May 24, 751 members of the Holy Cross class of 2024 will walk the commencement stage. Each path to the stage is unique. As we celebrate the class, HCM asked several seniors to share their journeys in their own words. Listen and read their uncut narratives — how they got here and what they’re taking with them — as they reflect on the Holy Cross chapter of their life.

Listen to Adelaide Valley '24 read her reflection
Audio file

There has always been something special to me about magic. For years, I remember being captivated by all sorts of magic. From sleight of hand and disappearing acts, to illusionists and those who could uncannily predict the future, I was mesmerized. But it also left me hopeful and moved. Hopeful, in the belief that I could one day master such a trick, and moved, in the sense that even the most solid of beings are capable of some great change.

One of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl, once said, “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” He claimed that the greatest secrets are those hidden in the most unlikely places. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the gift that these lines would bring to a little girl so many years ago.

Christopher Poindexter's poem "Protect your Magic" on the left and on the right side, a tattoo on a young woman's side that read "Protect Your Magic"
Adelaide Valley '24 has a tattoo with the symbol for the National Eating Disorder Association and that reads "Protect Your Magic", which was inspired by one of her favorite poems.

It was a curiosity for the seemingly impossible, and an encouragement to never lose sight of the power that lies within us. As she grew, that little girl clung to what she knew best: as long as you keep your eyes wide and heart open, you will find magic, no matter where you find yourself.

Upon her graduation from high school, that little girl, now grown, did not in fact find herself off to college like many of her peers. While others packed their bags for move-in day, she crumpled up her acceptance to Holy Cross, threw together a suitcase, and was admitted to a place quite different from the school she had set her heart on. 

Miles away from the comforts of home, she was tasked with making sense of a disorder that was more perplexing than any supernatural act she had seen before. All she knew was that this strange illness offered a way to gain back control, something that had slipped her grasp as the petrifying transition to college inched closer and closer. All hope and rational thinking were gone. Her head was swimming in voices that told her this isolated, impulsive, and unhealthy life was the path she was meant for. When change came knocking at her door, she slammed it shut. For the first time in her life, she could not bear to accept what lay ahead: adulthood.

As months passed, she stayed stuck in the depths of her disorder, refusing treatment and denying that she could turn things around for the better. Was this the way it was supposed to be? Had she lost touch with the curious, driven girl she knew so well?

In September, five months into her hospitalization, someone asked her a very important question. It was a question that stumped her in the moment, but would change the course of her recovery. It wasn’t from her parents, or her doctor, therapist, or nurse, but another patient on the unit. He was 6’8, a star college basketball player, and someone who always kept an eye out for her. Yet for months, she had watched him suffer in ways that were unimaginable: screaming about how he would never get better, punching the walls and writhing in pain. But on this day, he came to her in tears.

A poster board filled with inspirational phrases
Adelaide Valley '24 found inspiration from this poster while seeking treatment.

He said, “What are we doing here?,” to which she responded, “Well, I guess we’re getting better, that’s what we’re doing here.” He shook his head, looked in her eyes, and said, “One day, we’ll realize what we’re capable of. We’ll live without shame, and we’ll know what it’s like to want something so bad that you sacrifice your own fear.” He then laughed, and mumbled, “But that takes some magic.” It was that day when they made a pact: however hard it was, no matter how sick or frustrated or scared they felt, they would do the work, show up, and push each other, every day.

They would do this not for themselves, but so that the other would understand what it means for someone to make a sacrifice for them. If I couldn’t find hope in myself, I knew I could find it in others who loved me and who challenged themselves on the worst days to change for the better, and for my own good. He and I realized that recovery would take a team. We would have to make a commitment both to ourselves and to one another. But most of all, we would have to believe in a very distant concept: to be strong enough to attend college one day. This, she decided, was her magic, and she would bring it to life.

A few months later, she was given her release day, a day which signified commendable progress, and a consistent choice for recovery. Her best friend was also given his. Call it luck, or call it magic - whatever you call it, they were to be released on the exact same day. A young man who had once been a complete stranger had challenged her in ways she never thought possible. In six months, she had found magic in a place that many wouldn’t dare look.

As soon as she learned to embrace this chaos rather than push it away, she was free. Together, they embarked for a life that they had craved. I write this now as a senior in college, facing another big year of transition. I am proud to say that this is no longer debilitating, but incredibly exciting. Almost four years ago, I decided to re-apply to the school of my dreams. I had since learned not only how to find my magic, but also when it is time for change, as difficult as it may seem. Although I was nervous, I reminded myself that others, like my friend in treatment, had believed in me enough to follow me through this journey. Soon after applying, I received my second acceptance to Holy Cross, and boy, did I hang on tight to this one!

Once school began, it was as if everything started to fall into place. I loved going to class and putting my energy into things that inspired me. I joined clubs and found friends that made my days brighter. My roommate became (and still is) the greatest gift of my life. It didn’t take long for me to start finding out the person I want to be for myself and for others: someone who would make a commitment to the community, and support those I met to be the best versions of themselves. I have Holy Cross to thank for keeping my dream of going to college alive, and for shaping me into who I am today.

It is hard to believe that four years have already passed. Leaving a place that has fostered such a sense of belonging will no doubt be another challenge I have to face. But in my time here, I have stumbled on a magic like no other. From faculty and staff, to students and mentors, this is a community grounded in selflessness, hard work, and a belief that we can always find a light within ourselves to guide the way. I have met people who are admirably intentional and who truly care about those around them. They embrace tough times, standing tall and staying true to themselves.

They show me to the cliff, offer guidance when the path below looks unclear, cheer me on as I build up the courage to jump, and assure me that I can develop my wings on the way down. I am able to take a leap of faith and watch my passions take flight because those here vow to walk alongside me through it all. Just as a dear friend did all those years ago, they make sacrifices so that I am able to discover my own potential.

In many ways, Holy Cross has also broken open my heart so that I can see where there is room for change both in our world and in myself. Above all, though, I have learned how to protect my magic, even when it seems out of reach. Challenges that once seemed daunting have become surprisingly simple to overcome. I have learned how to both be confident in my abilities but also to give myself grace when I inevitably fall short.

Most importantly, I have learned that change is not about fighting the old, but embracing the joys of what is to come. The world is full of all things magic, even in the most unlikely places – you just have to believe it exists.