On the first day of my senior year at Binghamton University, I navigated my way through the infamously confusing Engineering Building to find myself a seat in my classroom.
My class began at 1:10 p.m., But by 1:25 p.m., my classmates and I were still anxiously awaiting the arrival of our professor.
When he didn’t show, I was dismayed. What a poor start to the beginning of the end of my college career.
Was this how my last year at BU would go? Would I have to be taught by a lackadaisical professor who missed the first day of class? Or was this the fault of the beloved BU Registrar? Regardless of the circumstances, I was disappointed.
The next class, I arrived eager to see what kind of professor would be teaching me for the next few months. My professor stood calmly in front of our classroom. “I apologize for missing class yesterday,” he announced. “My wife gave birth.”
My heart filled with joy, admiration and respect. My professor, whom I felt so much contempt for just days before for simply missing a class, had just brought life into this world. I was embarrassed that I so preemptively accused him of lacking professionalism and that I had thought our one-hour section of class was the most important part of his day.
I learned two important lessons that day. For one thing, my professor’s introduction resonated more with me than any of his following lessons. My inability to recognize the triviality of my day juxtaposed with everyone else’s sheds light on a familiar plight that embodies us all — that of self-importance. I had been so wrapped up in my head, worrying about my own schedule and my own day, that the value of someone else’s was a mere passing thought.
But out in the real world, that thinking won’t be sufficient. Out in the real world, new acquaintances, who frankly, will not even know our names, will surround us. Our intrinsic egotism will make us yearn for recognition and its absence will be absolutely terrifying.
Upon graduation, I advise all of us to take a step back, to ground ourselves and to realize that the depths of this universe go beyond our own trials and tribulations.
I share this not to frighten anyone, but to help us all understand that the reality of life after graduation will not be laden with automatic happiness and success; we will have to work for it. But we’ve all survived weeks without sunlight, so I know that we all will.
I also learned that academia is finite. Correct answers only take us so far. My most valuable lessons at BU came from what I learned and achieved outside the classroom.
Beyond our many impressive academic skills, there are our real-life characteristics that pulse through the veins of each student on this campus — the provocative and stimulating ones that can’t be taught, but only learned.
As freshmen, we left home, some of us for the first time. We began the next four years of our lives and that in and of itself is an achievement. As sophomores, we helped the city that surrounds and supports us overcome devastation when it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene. As juniors, we rose above the criticism when BU was scrutinized for our Greek life system and we proved to everyone that we are in fact not average, but exceptional.
And as seniors, we hosted, with honor and grace, the President of the United States of America.
As BU students, we each bring to this world the perseverance to go after our goals, the humility to help those other than ourselves and the curiosity to question what we don’t always believe or understand.
Those very qualities, the ones we exhibit not just inside the classroom but outside as well, are what will allow us to succeed in this terrifying, yet exciting, post-graduation world.
For four years, BU has been my home. I will miss this place in its entirety, because to quote the 2014 Oscar-winning song, “the cold never bothered me anyway.”