As my time at Goshen College draws to a close, I’m learning to cope with the fact that I am fading from relevance. Many of the underclassmen on campus simply know me as “that guy who wears cardigans and looks like a pretzel thin,” which is obviously less than ideal.
What happened to the glory days when I was known for my wit, charm and striking physique? It’s hard for me to risk it all and put myself out there, but I’m beginning to work through it. I refuse to be known as the post-“Friends” David Schwimmer of my Mennonite community.
I don’t like taking risks. Perhaps this stems from an early distaste for the board game Risk, which combines two things I hated as a child: competition and oversimplified political negotiations. I guess you could say I was a typical 8-year-old.
Connecting with new people on campus is easier said than done, much like tandem skydiving with a lobster, or getting students to attend Goshen College basketball games. In the fifth grade, I took the biggest risk of my life and asked Laura Barton* to skate with me at a roller rink pizza party. She said yes and we drifted around the rink to God knows what cheesy 2000’s party song they were playing in Elkhart that afternoon (“Da’ Dip,” probably). It was a humble blend of awkward and peaceful—much like the time I watched the 2004 teen comedy film A Cinderella Story with my elderly grandfather.
But if there’s always the possibility of rejection, what’s the value in taking a risk on anything? We might end up embarrassing ourselves. As someone who once accidentally farted audibly in a lecture hall with phenomenal acoustics, I can tell you that a few embarrassing moments won’t ruin your life. It’s better to try and fail than to live with regret. I learned that from the hairdressers at Great Clips on the East side of Goshen. We have a fun mentor/mentee dynamic where they tease me about my Malcolm Gladwell hair, and I ask them for life advice. Just your run-of-the-mill business relationship.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. I fondly recall that afternoon skate with Laura not because we ended up together, got married and now have 13 children and a cottage out west, but simply because it made me happy at the time. That’s pretty bananas when you think about it. Why continue putting emotional stock into something that happened, like, a million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Larry King was still in his 40s?
I’m sure your psychology professors could describe it in a much more eloquent way than “bananas,” but I’m the one with Hannah Thill breathing over my shoulder to write a Record piece, so here we are. On a related note, if Julie Reese wants to pen a funnies article, I’m all for it.
I’m leaving Goshen College in a month and a half and the nostalgia is too real. There is a hole in my heart, and it is the size of a large maple leaf (cardiovascular surgery pending).
Your time will come too.
You’ll regret missing your roommate’s voice recital, deciding not to dumpster dive at midnight and being too shy to talk to that girl who sat next to you in chapel. The papers and projects can wait an hour or two. Take some risks, meet new people and make time for the community you’ll soon leave behind.
*Name changed because I’m still hoping Laura and I will rekindle our love one of these days.
Jesse Bontreger is a contributing writer for the Record. He recently presented his senior film show, which was attended by ten people (blindly guessing– this article was written before the show happened). You can find him on Twitter (@jbonz87) or in person, crying behind the Westlawn dumpster.