‘I will smile on my way’
When I was asked to write an article capturing my experience at Washington University I wanted to transcribe a testimonial about the euphoria I felt the first time I stepped on campus, and how the spirit of WU spoke to my inner child and that I immediately knew my time here would be well spent. I wanted to relate a sentimental tale of my how my first collegiate moments pulled me from the destitute state of homesickness and satiated me with WU’s sense of community. Well, that was what I wanted to do, but I hesitate to say that I remember the first time I stepped foot on campus, because honestly, I can’t say that I do. But maybe it is not because I am getting old and senile, though I am. Rather, perhaps I do not remember my first day on campus because I cannot remember or simply cannot relate to that person who first strode on campus in the summer of 1999.
What I remember very clearly are the experiences that have shaped the graduate I am today. A few weeks ago, I competed in the first annual Mr. Wash U Contest. My talent in the competition was spoken word, and near the close of my poem, I imparted, “As I leave these hallowed halls, I will smile on my way, with inner strength unparalleled from the interactions of each day.” The daily experi1ences are the treasures which I will carry with me as I leave. I still remember the feeling of failure after receiving my first Macro exam. But at the same time, I treasure the effort it took to achieve a position where I could appreciate the feeling of satisfaction and triumph after receiving my last. Concomitantly, I certainly recall my first all-night intellectual ‘talk.’ And as my stubbornness slowly turned to inquiry, I recognized that my perception of myself, others, and the issue being discussed had all been altered as a positive result of those around me. I have tagged and archived the best, worst, and in between moments of my four years. Though through much struggle, I am fortunate that my perspective has been challenged and enhanced, and that through these experiences I am better prepared for the vicissitudes of life.
Often I hear people talk about experience and experiences. Undoubtedly, in your post-undergraduate job or higher education search, you ran into the institutional appreciation of experience. On a form, or perhaps in a personal dialogue, interviewers inquire about your background to gauge your experience. Yet, to me, the more important question is not what you have done but how it affected you. I think Aldous Huxley put it best saying, “Experience . . . is a matter of sensibility and intuition, of seeing and hearing the significant things, of paying attention at the right moments, of understanding and coordinating. Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.”
I think that message is particularly pertinent now as we prepare to leave the comfort and security of this place. It is probable, ok, inevitable, that tumultuous times lay ahead. But you cannot let the thick fog of uncertainty change your course without an alternative path to attain your goals. Difficulty and failure are fixed signs on the streets of life; yet, embrace the experiences you will endure, the growth you will undoubtedly undertake, and the person you will become. And in the end, you may not remember the person you once were, but I’m sure you’ll always remember and cherish the experience.
In our time together there have been too many good times to mark the beginning and in the same sentimental logic, far too many unforgettables to risk marking the end. This is certainly not goodbye but just another experience to clip and include in your scrapbook of life. I’ll close this message to the graduating class in the same manner I concluded my poem in the Mr. Wash U Contest: “Each year, humbled in your presence; for you are all truly amazin’, I wish the Class of ’03 luck; much love, your friend Jason.”
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