So ends an era
Checking off my holiday "to-do" list as I rushed around Danville last Wednesday buying gifts from boutiques and bookstores, I was struck with a strange feeling. Not only is it Christmastime—the most magical season of the year—but finals were finished. With my class exams complete (and I feeling particularly depleted of the knowledge that I had amassed over the past term), I weighted gift options for my brothers. The origin of that strange feeling, peculiar and unrecognizable at first, suddenly materialized. My first semester of college was finished.
At once, pride, accomplishment and fear welled up inside of me. What were my grades going to be? Had I done well enough? Where do I go from here? As these questions flickered through my mind, my thoughts turned to my siblings, both of whom are in different places on a path similar to my own. Ross, 21, is in the final stretch of his collegiate experience and having to make important decisions about where to progress next in his life. Nick, 14, is a freshman—still unsure of how he fits into the greater social hierarchy and looking forward to the next four years of high school. Merely hoping to make it through the next geometry test, I could hardly fathom my first term as a college student.
My journey from Nick's place in time to Centre was full of triumphs and failures, good times and bad, and I wouldn't trade it for anything on earth. That said, this past semester I have begun a new, exhilarating journey—a path to my future—to Ross's place in time and the moment that I decide what my life's passion is and what dream I will pursue. I (naively) felt certain in the fall that I would return home from college in December with a deeply instilled passion and certainty about my future, and that I would be opened to new, deeper methods of reasoning that would somehow make me older or "more collegiate."
I realize now the ignorance in that wish. College is about the factual knowledge that one gains, but it is more so about the experience of gaining knowledge. Undergraduate education is not about the ability to regurgitate historical dates, MLA formatted papers, and language paradigms, but the ability to prioritize, manage class workloads, social life, and activities that make you older and more prepared to enter the adult world. Academics provide the framework for our transition into that world by supplying us students with the tools necessary to succeed in fields that we love.
I don't know what the future will bring, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the best is yet to come. I've never thought of myself as that guy who claims, "college was the best four years of my life," and I still don't. But now, after my introduction to the experience, I can safely guess that the remainder of my collegiate experience will be a wonderful, worthwhile, and challenging experience that will hopefully lead to even bigger and better things.
As I turned off my lights, locked my dorm, and packed the car, again I was filled with that strange feeling. No longer strange and unfamiliar, I now welcomed that feeling of accomplishment and progress. Heading westward for the holidays, I found myself uttering, "So ends an era." (Or so it seems.)