We ought not forget the zeal for life we met here
I looked back at old Commencement issues of Student Life expecting to find every column beginning with, “Well, I’m sitting down to write my last column, and I can’t imagine how to put into words the four great years I’ve spent here.” The plan was to cite how most final columns do that and simultaneously, in doing so, avoid doing it myself. Turns out, though, most past columnists had some very acute reflections. Turns out, I was the one sitting down to write my last column, with no idea how to put it all into words.
How about this? The thing I’ve learned in college is how the best option is to be relentlessly positive about everything. To recognize the joy in simply doing things, things happening, things simply even existing.
I’ve written a few columns in the last four years that have tried to incite or enter into heated debates—things on subjects like sexual assault, avant-garde art and the current controversy with the neighbors. For these columns, I usually get slammed, at least by somebody. Disputes like these are usually stocked with angry people looking for a fight, and in most cases, groups on both sides have reasons to be upset, because there’s rarely a black and white answer.
But what is black and white, in my opinion, is that the world is a whole lot brighter when one has the humility to leave those kinds of heated conversations behind. The word that might best describe this approach is a simple, often overused one: appreciation.
Dennis can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I may, I think it is the willingness to appreciate things that are good that has been behind my most meaningful work with the paper, from encouraging a Thanksgiving staff editorial that was actually thankful, to pointing out, perhaps naïvely, some of the interesting peculiarities of college life, to capturing exciting events like flash mob dances on camera. While entering into the fray has its time and place in the development of a fair, progressive world, I find that life is much more worth living when, instead of criticizing the world, one focuses on loving it.
That’s been my primary revelation at Washington University, as I think might be true, actually, for most students. I (and perhaps you) did a lot of things from ages 0 to 18 for the wrong reasons: getting excellent grades because I wouldn’t let myself not, playing a sport each season because that’s what one did, hanging out with people who I may not actually have had very good relationships with because they were perceived to be somewhat cool, and so on.
Life in college, for many of us, represents the point at which we were finally given the opportunity to do, instead, just what we thought was the best thing to do. It became an opportunity to embrace life, to experience variety, now not because of external (or awry internal) motivations but rather because of a zeal for the things of the world. For this reason, I think, so many of us are fumbling around with plans after graduation. We have learned to embrace life for what it is, for the underlying enjoyment we get out of the thing, while many traditional jobs require us to embrace a single activity or cause, which often becomes disassociated over time from that underlying good.
But, fortunately, with such a point of view at the front of our minds, we can maintain an approach to the universe that holds onto that fragile energy and zeal. Such a task will become quite difficult, I am sure, in an environment without the vibrancy that we’ve all experienced here. But with the knowledge that many of us have gained on our best days, that simply doing, simply moving oneself from the bed in the morning can be done with an enthusiasm for the project of life at large, we might hope to avoid the dullness of routine, in favor of going with a sense of engaged appreciation through life. Many days, we will wake up tired. But that’s only because yesterday was so big!