By: Tatum Hunter ~Outgoing Editor-in-Chief~
As a few of my Newswire peers have acknowledged, it’s difficult to write these senior-goodbye editorials without getting painfully nostalgic or dishing out condescending advice to underclassmen. While I’m not one for nostalgia, I am totally one for condescension, so I’ve decided to go with the second option.
As a college newspaper, the Newswire runs a lot of editorials about dealing with busy schedules and stress. These usually advise students to cut themselves a break — take a step back, make more free time, get drunk, that math test doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
I think this advice is very important. Stress and anxiety are real problems on college campuses, and we live in a culture that worships business for its own sake. Grades should not come at the expense of mental and emotional health.
However, a less stressful existence should not come at the expense of personal and intellectual growth. Partly because I’m contrarian by nature, but mostly because I truly believe this, my advice to college students would be to care more and try more.
My goal here is not to contradict my peers’ advice but to point out that pushing yourself to do more than you think you can achieve isn’t always a negative thing. You can’t know which activities, friendships and academic disciplines will be the most meaningful to you until you try them, and you are lucky enough to have four years to try as many as you want.
For a lot of us, this will be the time in our lives when we have the least amount of responsibility (even though it doesn’t feel that way). Take advantage of your time and your youthful, spongy brain, and try to treat learning like a privilege instead of an obligation.
Trust me, I hated writing that last sentence as much as you hated reading it. But I truly think that we can maintain a healthy perspective about grades and resumes while still working hard if our hard work comes from a desire to improve ourselves and our world and not from a desire to impress professors, parents or future employers.
When we embrace the idea that learning, creating and achieving can be just as fun as free time, we lessen our odds of becoming really boring human beings. (I know that naming “Netflix and pajamas” as your all-time favorite activity is adorable, but it’s also not actually an activity).
So do something stressful. Pick up a minor in something you’re not good at. Set an academic goal for yourself that has nothing to do with GPA. Take an improv class. Buy a camcorder and make a shitty movie. Learn calligraphy and leave ominous haikus around campus, I don’t really care. Just don’t use “grades don’t matter” as an excuse to get stuck in a rut.
Quick self-congratulatory personal anecdote: During these past fours years, I did way too much stuff. There were moments (usually toward the end of each semester) when I seriously considered bailing on my life and running across the country like Forrest Gump. I was too busy, and I’d end up cursing myself for my tendency to overcommit. But looking back, I wouldn’t change my decisions. Contrary to many college narratives, the “moments I’ll remember most” are not the times at Dana’s with my friends or the hungover brunch dates; they’re the times my friends and I got to take a bow together after rehearsal 30 hours a week for two months or the times we stayed up until 2:30 a.m. making sure the Newswire was filled with stories.
Like any institution, Xavier has its fine points and its foibles. It’s easy to make tongue-in-cheek jokes about magis or roll our eyes at “educating the whole person.” But there’s a reason that Xavier marketing doesn’t shut up about that stuff — it’s actually meaningful. The vast majority of administrators, professors, staff members and campus leaders are genuinely committed to helping students grow as people.
Looking back, I can see that Xavier has been the single biggest blessing in my life. It provides an environment where you can spend four years running back and forth between theater and economics classes, juggling club meetings and internships and falling into bed every night exhausted but smarter than you were the day before.
Oh no. It’s happening. I’m getting nostalgic. Thank you to all the people who have made hard work fun and helped me grow these past four years: the Newswire staff past and present, Stephen Skiles and my theater family, my English professors, my economics professors, Abby King-Kaiser, my roommates and my improv friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you.