As I sit before my computer, my fingers typing the words you are currently reading, I must admit that I really don’t know what I want this final piece of the year to say. Whatever ensues may be a bit tangential, abstract and esoteric, but I think there is merit in retrospective philosophizing from time to time.
I have been writing in this space for seven months. Did I accomplish anything with my words this year? Have I done anything other than litter the opinion section with irrelevant anecdotal ramblings? Do you even care?
When you think about this newspaper, the audience is the Case Western Reserve University campus community. That is a decent potential readership including all students, faculty and staff, as well as local residents who may pick up a copy and peruse these pages.
I know only a small fraction of these people actually do read The Observer. Furthermore, every installment I write for my column is only a single work, part of the entire body of works which make up the paper. It’s easy to think that all the words I’ve written here are insignificant and any effort I’ve put forth is futile.
What about you? What about your pursuits, academic or extracurricular? Has what you’ve done this year meant anything? Were your efforts futile?
Futility: a fascinating concept. Perhaps pursuing these questions is what’s futile because if we believe that what we’ve done this year has been an honest reflection of who we are and what we want, then what we do is anything but futile.
I believe I’ve done something valuable beyond measure writing this column week after week because I love writing it. I believe any student who has done what they love this semester has done something valuable beyond measure.
Have you done what you love this year? Have you done something radically different from what you’re used to, acted spontaneously or stepped outside your comfort zone and thrived within it? Have you enjoyed the year, its ups and downs, triumphs and failures? Have you grown as a student, as a human being?
The end of an academic year is a tumultuous and stressful time to say the least, but it can also be inspiring and cathartic. It marks a culmination of all the work we’ve done and the beginning of a new chapter in life. But in order to recognize the inspirational catharsis at the end of any extended diligent period of time, we must be acutely self-aware and proactive, looking back on the year and consciously entering into a new period of reflection.
So I ask you again, have you done what you love this year? Have you grown as an ever-evolving and supple human being? When I critique myself, I did things I loved but I failed miserably in a majority of areas.
And that’s the beauty of life: the propensity to fail and the ability to. That’s what makes life worth living. But we need to be willing to transcend our default settings of egoism, narcissism, even solipsism. We need to be compassionate and empathetic people willing to stare into the eyes of our souls and be our harshest critics.
When we go through semester finals, it’s as if life stops. We cease being humans and assume some android form set with the task of completing our work at all costs. Our campus looks like an extension of humans vs. zombies—where the zombies have clearly won.
Is this what college should reduce us to, androids and zombies? We aren’t just nonhuman bodies of genetic mass merely floating about our campus, like the fat, scared skunk I often see wobbling aimlessly, grazing by moonlight around the lawn of Guilford House late at night on my way back to north side from KSL.
Sadly, this is how we act. But why?
When finals have ended and summer vacation begins, CWRU will become a distant memory almost instantaneously. But as we distance ourselves from this place, we can’t waste our time. Just because classes have ended doesn’t mean we are no longer students and learning ends.
Whatever you’re doing this summer, make time to reflect on who you are. Ask yourself tough questions and discover what drives you. Learning doesn’t just take place in the classroom, and there are always things to learn about ourselves.
If you haven’t been doing what you love, start now. If you haven’t thought about what you want in life and who you are, start now. If you are dissatisfied with anything in your life and are seeking change, start now. Resolve to come back rested, more self-aware, enlightened and ready to work. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Find what you love, do it and never stop.
“Do what you love. Know your bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” —Henry David Thoreau