There are lots of things I could have written about for my last F-Word column of my college career, the Nigerian school girls who have been abducted by a terrorist group, the Title IX investigation UI is currently undergoing or the cultural appropriation inherent in Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Instead, I’m going to go soft and discuss how college has affected me in substantial ways. I’m graduating in a week, so consider this my love letter to what my five years in college have taught me.
1. It’s OK to let go
We are creatures of habit. We want to hold on to anything, everything and nothing. Even when mountains of evidence against a strongly-held belief is sitting right in front of our faces, we refuse to admit it. I entered college as a strong conservative. I leave as a flaming liberal feminist. This isn’t because I was brainwashed, I sold out or the peer pressure was too strong.
It’s because I learned to let go of beliefs and ideals that I no longer felt were substantiated. It was difficult — I was becoming what I’d grown up hating. But in the end, it wasn’t due to being wishy washy or flip flopping — it was admitting an error and maturing from it. The moral of the story is simple, if you find yourself confronted by new ideas, don’t just brush them aside. Consider the argument and the evidence. If it’s compelling, don’t be afraid to admit you are wrong.
2. Different is not bad
We meet so many different people in college. People of different races, religions, family backgrounds, gender identities, political affiliations and socioeconomic statures.
We get to know these people, to be their friends and to appreciate their stories and beliefs. It’s easy to demonize “the other” when we don’t know them. It’s easy to dismiss people entirely if you lump them into ideological groups, conservatives and liberals, Christians and Muslims, liberal arts majors and science majors, us and them. But when we start putting people and faces to those groups, it becomes a lot harder to dismiss them out of hand. And that’s okay, because seeing people as individuals is never a bad thing.
3. It’s OK to fail
I’m an overachiever. I’ve never failed a class, but I’ve failed tests and papers. And I’ve gotten near-fail grades in difficult classes. I’ve applied for opportunities I really wanted and was incredibly qualified for … and not gotten them. I’ve messed up big time. I’ve hurt others and hurt myself. But guess what? I’m alive, kicking and about to graduate with honors in a week.
The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes and do better next time. Dwelling on what went wrong doesn’t do anyone any good. Life moves on, even after failure. Might as well move on with it.
4. Get involved
Whether it’s ASUI, Student Media, club sports, volunteer projects — do something. Your college experience will be 1,000 times more worth it. You will find others with similar interests, and build a support network. You’ll realize that people you would never have met by just sitting in class or chilling in your dorm have become your friends. For me, this will carry over into the rest of my life.
I’ve discovered things I have a passion for and am incredibly excited to have more time to volunteer my time post-graduation. I plan to continue to get involved in my community, because I’ve realized what great relationships are built through such experiences.
5. Take a motherlovin’ break, kid
I always do too much. I always commit to too much and think I can do more than I can actually handle. Trust me on this one, drowning in a pile of homework and responsibilities is an actual thing that happens.
Students should learn how to take a break, take time for yourself, a weekend off, a night of watching Netflix — whatever it is.
And then learn to say no. This might mean quitting a job, giving up a volunteering gig or getting an extension on a homework assignment. But mostly it means being able to realize when you are doing too much and adjust accordingly. When you do too much, everything starts slipping. It’s better to let go of one thing than to see everything tumble down around you.
I’m graduating in a week and while I’m overjoyed, I also know I’ll start missing college in six months — about the time my loan deferral ends. I’ve discovered who I am and worked hard to meet my goals. I know that because of my experiences these last five years, I can do anything I want in life — although I can’t do everything. So thanks to everyone who has made this time wonderful. Thank you to my loyal F-Word readers. And my loyal F-Word haters. Let’s get this show on the road.
Kaitlin Moroney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org