As an editor for the Perspectives page, my average week includes asking, begging, manipulating and blackmailing people into composing short pieces of writing to be published on the pages that you now hold in your hands. This week I was unable to coerce anyone into filling this section of the paper. Rather than considering this a failure on my part, I decided to take the opportunity to give someone with a message for the student body a soapbox to deliver their advice. That person is me, and since I like to boil my thoughts down to cliches, my message is for you to seize the day.This isn’t a rant about my problem with finding willing contributors to this section of the newspaper. Instead, I want to address an issue of which this is merely a symptom. I am not a historian and cannot say whether this phenomenon only affects my generation, but I see a great reservation among my peers to take the life in front of them and use it to accomplish what they want.
We have become so used to being told what we have to accomplish that we don’t know how to achieve the things that we want. We go to college because it is expected of us and, and while we are there we are given assignments to complete, expectations to meet and rubrics to determine the value of our contributions.
These are not bad things, but we miss out on the chance to make a unique and lasting impact on the world when we limit ourselves to completing the bare minimum of what is expected of us. The things that I am most proud of in my life are those that I did on my own terms and for personal motivation. I used the internship requirement in my major as an opportunity to get additional cross-cultural experience and spend a summer in an intentional community in rural Mexico. That wasn’t expected or required of me; it was a meaningful experience that I chose for myself.
I think even my teachers appreciate when I bend their assignments to my personal interests. Instead of opting for an easier assignment, I changed the lyrics to a Beatles album and re-recorded it with Nate Day to follow the story of Frankenstein (the end result was pretty hilarious if you love sloppy instrumentation and bad jokes). I used a Mennonite history paper as an opportunity to read the newsletters from the mental hospital that my grandfather, whom I never met, worked at during World War II (including getting a glimpse into his personality in an ad that he placed asking for people’s used soda cans, so he could return them for their deposit when he was broke). And who doesn’t do a better job when they are motivated by sincere curiosity about their research topic?
In my time at college, I have tried to practice the art of making life into what I think it should be. Likewise, I hope that everyone can use their time on earth to do something fulfilling for themselves. Practice that today. Don’t put it off until after your homework is done.
And if your secret wish has been to share an experience or your unique take on life, send me an email about it. Lets talk about your opportunity to make your life what you want and be included in next week’s Perspectives page (please ignore that I’m trying to make you do what I want by telling you to do what you want).