I begin this column anew, exactly 68 minutes from its deadline. This was supposed to be my work of art, my masterpiece. I had big plans for this column; I had the best of intentions. But, many hours of assembling portfolios and nights of studying have left me with little in my intellectual tank. I have survived on caffeine and nicotine (and if anyone’s keeping score, with what I’ve written about this semester, I have yet to quit smoking), and the idea that, soon, it would all be over.
So, here goes.
The following is addressed to all freshmen:
We came to Binghamton four months ago. Some came to college excited, others apprehensive. Some, like myself, came to college with contented resignation, acknowledging university as the requisite next step toward whatever life we would one day lead.
We came to college with some expectations, but mainly hope for what we might find. We came to college with anecdotal advice, with worrying mothers, with proud fathers. We knew not what was coming, and were surprised at every turn.
We have watched as the pleasant blue August sunshine has turned to December’s eternal gray and black. Four months, one semester, one eighth of our college experience, has rapidly gone by the wayside. As we sit, huddled in our dorms, sipping coffee, staring at the soft light from a laptop’s monitor or seemingly endlessly poring over the highlighted pages of an overpriced textbook, it’s high time to take a moment to step back and see what we’ve learned.
We’ve learned, most of all, how little we once knew. Whether it be the trivial, the date of the second failed Ottoman invasion of Vienna, the practical, the existence and/or purpose of a dryer sheet, or the personal, that I, when pressed, will wear the same pair of socks for 72 hours, the knowledge gained in the first semester of college is a constant reminder of the lack of knowledge we had before.
We’ve learned, after all that we have heard, that much of what you were told about college is untrue. We’ve learned that more time is spent playing video games than drinking or studying combined. We’ve learned that the basic meal plan is not adequate for an entire semester, despite how often we complain about the food.
We’ve learned, however, that much of what we heard about college is invariably true. The archetypal “poor college kid” is extremely easy to relate to, if not embody. Two weeks of underwear is absolutely essential. College can be hard. College can be fun. All of this is true.
But, what I have realized most of all, is that the education you pay for, lectures, discussions, professors, exams, all that jazz, takes the back seat to the education you had only some idea was coming. The life lessons, the personal revelations, the little epiphanies, take the place of whatever scholastic knowledge you would have hoped to have kept, if any.
So study your math, your history, your biology. Very little of it will ever serve you four years from now. The lessons you will actually need come naturally.