“The quality of a university is measured more by the kind of student it turns out than the kind it takes in.”
~Robert J. Kibbee
Yesterday was the start of Arcadia’s annual Fall Fest, their big homecoming weekend on campus. Saturday is always Family Day for current students and Alumni Day for those of us who already went to classes, ate in The Chat, and walked across the expansive soccer field for graduation (or the makeshift stage in the gymnasium, because torrential downpours not only forced Commencement indoors, but also caused an hour-long power outage first … I may still be just a tad bitter over that). Anyway – it’s always a lovely day, and this year was no exception. The air was cool and windy, but the sun spread a blanket of warmth. The first fallen leaves crunched beneath people’s feet, balloons popped around in the breeze, and happy chatter abounded. And, when day turned to night, an explosion of twinkling fireworks lit up the velvety sky over the castle. They were a sea of sparkles, a statement of vibrancy.
Now, I will be the first to admit that my five years at Arcadia were sometimes frustrating. There were things I wish were done differently, many things. But there were also – there are also – wonderful memories. Being on campus yesterday brought them back and instantly made me reminisce about all the time I spent there during college. Early morning fieldwork for Education courses, afternoons working as a consultant at the Writing Center, evenings editing in the video lab as I pieced my senior thesis and tv station newscasts together … I had some truly great experiences. They’re in the past now, each one a square in the tapestry of my years at Arcadia, but all it takes is one step onto the picturesque campus for them to once again play like a movie in my mind. Sometimes it seems like a lifetime since I spent every day there. Sometimes it seems like only yesterday. In reality, it’s been six years since graduation and five since I did my internship at WPVI and student teaching in a sixth-grade classroom. Not gonna lie, that feels crazy. Part of me is still the same person, but so much of me has changed. And that got me thinking: if I could tell my College Self a few things, what would they be?
1. You will find a passion that fills you up completely and makes you deeply, innately excited to work every day – it won’t be what either of your degrees are in, but that’s okay. It is okay. It’s more than okay. Yes, you spent five years fulfilling all the requirements for a double major and minor. Yes, you were absolutely certain of how you wanted to spend the rest of your life. Yes, your experiences foraying into that are ones you will treasure always. But dreams evolve. People evolve. Sometimes it takes several journeys before you find the one your heart is meant for, and even then, it’s ever-growing. That’s a good thing. Keeping yourself open to possibility helps possibilities open up to you.
2. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Putting yourself out there can be hard, so hard, but it’s worth it. It sounds cliche to talk about following your heart, but it’s not. It’s important. It’s necessary. And it can be life-changing. Personally and professionally, you will never move forward if you don’t take that first step. You’ll never get your homerun if you don’t step up to the plate and try. Will those risks always pay off? No. There will be cracks in your heart and disappointments that feel overwhelming, but you’ll get through it. You’ll realize that things happen for a reason. You’ll grow stronger. And when it comes time to take that next risk? Maybe you won’t be as afraid of falling.
3. Don’t go to graduate school right away. Give it a few years, see how life unfolds and how you unfold, and then consider it. Sometimes we walk along the same career path. Sometimes it veers off in a new direction. Why not see where that path leads? Also: do your very best to win the lottery, because holy wow, are grad classes expensive. That Masters in Editing and Publishing is calling out to me, but I may need money to start growing on trees in order to answer.
4. Meet as many people as you can, and savor the friendships that feel more like family ties. Some of those friends will drift away, and it’ll hurt deeply, but others will stay close and be such a blessing in your life. Thank them, love them, and enjoy every moment of the way you grow even closer with time. Be grateful for something as seemingly random as sitting near each other in a Broadway Musicals class or being rescued from a gigantic bug sitting on your shoulder (true story!), because it just might be the start of a lifelong friendship.
5. Embrace every minute, every experience, every memory made, because before you know it, they’ll be part of the past and not the present. Times passes too quickly. Don’t let it pass you by.
What about you? What advice would you give your College Self?