A ring to remember

It is one of the most cherished rings I own, yet it has no precious stone, no valuable metal, nor beauty of design. But this ring is a symbol of the way I strive to live my life, and a reminder that each day that passes is one to be cherished.

Shortly before I came to have such a ring in my possession, I arrived as a student at a Canadian university in France. It was my third year and I had made the decision months before that I would spend a semester abroad that fall. Initially I’d been hesitant about applying to the school, and didn’t know if, when the offer of admission came, I would actually follow through with my application. But when the offer letter came in the mail, I think it took all of two seconds after opening it to make the decision that I would go for it. I would go to France for four months that fall.

I have always been glad that I did. L’Universite Canadienne en France was nestled high in the hills above the city of Nice, and overlooked the beautiful and ever-changing Mediterranean Sea. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that going there changed my life.

It wasn’t long after I and the other students had arrived to the school that September that we began to hear about our ‘school ring’. Nothing that the school had organized, it had become a custom for UCF students to purchase a particular ring from a tiny little shop in neighbouring Eze, a village also tucked away in the French hills. The story goes that one year a student from the school died tragically in a car accident, and each subsequent year after that the students would buy these rings in memory and in tradition. The most important part of the experience was not procuring the ring itself – it was in living the life that the ring advised. For it was inscribed with these very words:

CARPE DIEM.

By that time we’d all seen the movie Dead Poet’s Society and knew the meaning of these two Latin words. Seize the day. In remembrance of a student who unknowingly went away a few years before to a planned fun year abroad and ended up giving his life to it, we students would wear these rings to remember. We would wear them not only to make sure that we lived to tell the tales of our own escapades, but to make sure that we really lived.

Who could resist buying a school ring that had such a meaning? One day several of us hiked the airy hill-paths to Eze, and crammed into the shop to see them. Mine was silver and I bought it to fit the middle finger of my left hand. I remember being excited that part of its design included a sundial – a single hole in the band and inside numbers where the sun was supposed to shine to tell the time. Aside from its main message that was inscribed into the top, flat section, it also featured age-old metaphysical symbols. I was captivated by its imperfection as mine was slightly misshapen. Perhaps the ring had been forged by an ancient hand that had some wisdom to impart to whoever would wear it.

I wore the ring all term, and I lived the life I wanted to live. I spoke French, I drank wine, I ate Lindt chocolates and baguettes. I made friends and travelled throughout Europe. I cut my hair to symbolize that something had changed within me. I found love. Always on my hand, the ring became a part of who I was becoming.

Many years have passed since I walked those French hills. Although I don’t wear the ring anymore, it still holds a place in my jewellery box and it still holds a place in my heart. I still try to live my life according to the wisdom of carpe diem, and I hope when it’s all said and done that I will be able to look back on it all and say that yes, I did – I lived.

4 thoughts on “A ring to remember

  1. I sat down tonight with a silver jewlery polishing cloth, opened my jewelery box and started cleaning. It had been years since I opened this box – probably since the last time I changed earrings. It was really fun to travel back in time and find jewellery that traces a history in my life. I had forgoten about it until I found it – the Carpe Diem ring from Eze, the school ring from Universite canadienne en France. I cleaned it up and put it where it once lived, on the middle finger of my left hand. After staring at it for a while, I wondered if I could find out anything about it on the internet. So after a quick search…..here you are. My name is Michelle James (Denning at the time). I went to UCF for one semester in January 1995 to May 1995. There was a girl in my Villa (Villa 1) named Beth but I don’t know if that would be you. I have treasured this ring and remember the trip into the tiny historic village of Eze to find my own silver treasure, also slightly wharped. I now live in Halifax. So from coast to coast, there exists Carpe Diem rings in Canada.
    If you wish to contact me you can find me at
    mdenning27@hotmail.com

    CARPE DIEM

    Michelle

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  2. Michelle, your post almost made me cry with joy! It was so neat to read of your ring that lives on the other side of the country. I’ve emailed you. Thanks for posting!

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  3. I was watching the Amazing Race last night, and my heart was flooded with memories of UCF(they were in Nice, Eze, Monaco), my ring, and the person I have become because of the adventure I went on that year. Your post echoed my sentiment.

    I was telling my hubby about Eze, what the ring symbolized, and did a quick search to see what I could find, and read your post. My heart leaped! I was at UCF from September 1994 to May 1995.

    Sadly, my ring is gone. Lost somewhere!

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  4. So glad you found my post! As you can tell I wrote it many years ago. It was nice to go back and reread it. I think it’s neat how people find this post here and there, while reminiscing about our time at UCF. I think I was there the same fall as you. I was in Villa 10 – I think! 🙂

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