They say college is the greatest learning experience a young adult will have, but I don’t believe that’s true. I think college is a battleground where you’re subjected to a lot of superficiality, disappointment from preset expectations, and self- doubt. Here at Oxford, despite all jokes of our 21stranking, we are ultimately a community of overachievers. It’s very likely that we were amongst the best where we came from, and then became average when the bar for “the best” changed. I know I definitely experienced that frustration, when my best efforts seemed futile in comparison to the brilliant minds of my peers. But in three semesters, I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned is how to fall on my ass and laugh about it.
My biggest mistake coming into college was thinking that all you needed to succeed was ambition. If you had the willpower, you could make anything happen. That’s only true to an extent. Sometimes, it’s not just about how hard you work, but also how smart you work. I remember many complaining sessions I was a part of after 2 AM my freshman year, mainly about how sleep deprived everyone was. It was kind of a competition, where the most sleep deprived student gets crowned some sort of invisible glory. A year later, I realize how stupid that is. Extensive sleep deprivation is not a representation of an individual’s work ethic, but often speaks more to a problem of time management. It’s hard to accept that it’s a shortcoming of the self, but recognizing failures is a big step of growing up.
Another mistake was focusing too much on portraying an image of what I wanted to be. There is an ironic duality that exists within that concept, where you’re trying to become a better version of yourself at the expense of losing who you already are. Before college, I was varsity track and tennis, on the dance and drama team, and still managed to work thirty hours a week. I could not maintain this person in college, because courses were harder, and life slapped me with cancer. Denial is a good- but inefficient- coping mechanism. I think people have a preset understanding of what cancer looks like, although the reality truly is very different. My pride didn’t let me ease up nor ask for help. I didn’t want to be seen as just my disease, because I knew I was more than that. I was a person determined to accomplish something, and I was going to be known for my ability to persevere despite the drawbacks. The funny thing is, heroism works differently in reality. “The hustle” mentality is really quite stupid when you are literally dying for an image of something you no longer are. The greatest lesson here is to know your limitations and set a realistic reality to work towards. After all, to be able to do good by anyone, you would need to be okay yourself too.
The last aspect I want to talk about is friendship and other relationships in college. You’re not going to like everyone, nor will you really knowa lot of people. If you’re smart, you’ll get used for your brain sometimes. If you’re really social, you might get used as an entry ticket to parties. That’s okay. Superficiality is a human trait to have beneficial connections and avoid conflict. You’ll have entire friend groups based on mutual necessity, and you’ll all grow from it. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll also meet great people that’ll truly be your friends. They’ll be there for you through thick and thin, and they’ll show that through their actions and presence. It’s easy to say, “I’ll be here for you” and “ily”, but know how to filter out the people that are there for the long haul from the people who are transient. It’s easy to take those people for granted because they’re there, but they’re the only ones who really have your back. Sometimes they don’t stay forever.
So, college. Really, it’s a train wreck where you fail consecutively and begin to doubt a lot of things. I often think of myself as the dog sipping tea in the meme of the burning building, but I still haven’t burned out yet. I guess I depart with this: As long as you acknowledge your own failures, not make excuses for them, and remember why you started, you’ll be okay in the long run.
All that being said, peace out, Oxford College. Thank you so much for everything; although I regrettably say, I will probably not miss you.