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May 25, 2012

Closing on a few good notes

Words of wisdom from a former Viewpoints editor and departing fourth-year.

Since it’s my second to last week of college and my final opportunity to appear in the section of the Maroon that I edited for two years, it’s only fitting to fill this article with as much graduating student wisdom and nostalgia as possible. Below, I have included a few disparate pieces of advice for the students who will remain in Hyde Park after June 9.

Your real education takes place outside of the classroom. There’s a lot more to the life of the mind than hiding out in a cubicle on the third floor of the Reg. Go to museums; go to the opera; go experience whatever unwatchable series Doc has planned for the evening; go to Jimmy’s with your friends; go watch Derrick Rose dominate another team (granted, this one may have to wait a while). These experiences are all educational and edifying in their own way. They matter. I promise you, you’ll regret it if you don’t have enough of them. If you ever have the choice between doing something cool and potentially memorable or staying in and doing homework, then barring extreme circumstances like an exam the next day, you should go and do the other thing. And yes, I understand that this advice is way too general, which brings me to my next point….

Don’t be afraid to make an actual claim in class discussions. Few things are more frustrating than being in a class where students are afraid of making arguable statements because some horrible pedant who went to Stuyvesant will inevitably pounce on them for it. Hum and Sosc were a lot of fun, but I cringe when I think about those discussions and how unwilling I was to ever make a claim beyond “X is a factor that we should arguably consider when thinking about Y….”

If you run into Emily Wang, the current Viewpoints editor, on campus, call her E-Dubs. She loves it. Self-explanatory, I think.

Don’t be afraid of graduating. Look, it’s going to happen anyway (hopefully, at least). So there’s not much of a point in being terrified of it. I’ve spoken to a few second-years about it (unfortunately for my underclassmen friends, all I’m capable of talking about lately is graduation), and they mostly agree that college is this incredibly comfortable bubble and that escaping said bubble is going to be terrible. I agree with the first part: College is pretty great. But the second part is silly. Graduation will inevitably come; perhaps it will sneak up on you, but June of your fourth year will inevitably get here. And when it does, way more likely than not, you’ll be ready for it. You might even be pretty excited about it.

Don’t base your sense of self-worth on external things. Say you’re a third-year; you’re finishing the year with some excellent grades and have a very prestigious internship lined up. Congratulations! You have accomplished some very difficult tasks, and you should be proud of yourself for having done so. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that either your grades or your job validate you as a person. At some point, somewhere in your life, things will not work out the way you hoped they would (let me add a “most likely” here for any horrible pedants still reading this). Maybe next year you’ll get a bad grade in one of your classes. Or maybe your career prospects a year from now won’t be quite as appealing, for whatever reason. What then? Does this automatically make you a failure as a person? No! You should always maintain a core belief in your value as a human being. You shouldn’t let temporary setbacks (or permanent setbacks for that matter) mess with that feeling. Yes, these are all well-worn clichés, but they are relevant because many of us will be graduating into a terrible economy with weak job prospects. Too many people will graduate feeling horrible about themselves because their immediate future fails to live up to their hard work and expectations. Don’t be one of them.

Waste time. Elderly people are fond of saying that youth is wasted on the young. They are wrong. The charm and beauty of youth (and, in this case, college) is that you are ignorant enough about how temporary it is and, as a consequence, can waste it. If you spent every day of college as though graduation were tomorrow, frankly, it would be terrible. It would be like that Simpsons episode where Homer is told to live each day like it’s his last, so he parks his car at the side of the road and begins crying inconsolably. Don’t do this, please. Waste your time. Don’t even dedicate a second to sobering reflections regarding how soon it’s all going to end; trust me, this is the way to maximize your enjoyment of college.

If you don’t want to read columns in which graduating fourth-years pontificate about their time spent in college, don’t open Viewpoints between weeks seven and 10 of spring quarter. But, on the bright side, this interval is the one time during the whole year when you’re unlikely to read an article about the Kalven Report.

Peter Ianakiev is a fourth-year in the College majoring in math.

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