I Wish I Had Known

Originally run in the 2009 Pre-Orientation issue of the Maroon-News

I’ve driven down Broad Street countless times, the fraternities stretching onwards alongside my car like looming stone fortresses, the chapel peeking out from atop the hill, greeting me with it’s gold-crusted cupola. Each August I arrive on campus searching instinctively for the same landmarks, the markers that denote Hamilton, New York as the same unchanging and wonderfully preserved piece of country that it is. I look for the flickering waters of Taylor Lake in a surrounding sea of green grass, and Adam and Eve drifting carelessly and iridescently on the surface. I look for Oak Drive lined in sweeping willows, the whimsical branches floating in the breeze as if to beckon me home again. I look for the still and quaint village green. The Inn. The bookstore. Lebanon.

And yet, my appreciation for Colgate’s pristine campus and untouched beauty has not spanned my college career. Indeed, these same landmarks once provoked reactions of disdain and contempt. What could this town-no, village-offer me? What possible value could this Colgate bubble have? As a senior now, I look back on my brash sureness with a smirk and a shrug of the shoulders. I was narrow-minded, urban-centric, naive. And so, what wisdom do I wish I could impart unto my younger self? My scared, wide-eyed first-year self, so sure of what I knew, what was right and what was wrong, and what Colgate ought to be?

I wish I knew that I was more apt to study in the morning than in the evening. That sleeping in the library is not real sleep. That sleeping off a night of drinking is not real sleep. And most importantly, that I need sleep. I wish I had known that the Gate Card photo you take as a first-year will haunt you all four years. That I should savor looking young and freshman-esque because now I’m 21 and that’s closer to 40 than ever, and when I’m 40 I’ll wish I looked like I did in my Gate Card picture.

I wish I knew to not sweat the small stuff. Perspective is easily lost at such a small school, but when you have it, it’ll ground you, keep you calm, remind you that life is grand even if you bombed a test, argued with a friend, fell face first onto a frat house floor with your cheek pressed against the beer smothered cement. I wish I had listened to my mom more. Moms are wise (even if you wish they weren’t so right).

I wish I had known that I needed rain boots. That parking tickets add up. A lot. That having a long-distance boyfriend is indeed a sacrifice, perhaps in the name of love-perhaps in the name of security-to your collegiate experience. I wish I had played in the snow more. That I had embraced the Hamilton arctic tundra for it’s white winter beauty. I wish I had sent more hand-written letters. It’s a dying and undervalued form of communication and there’s something a bit romantic about reaching out to family and friends from such a rural setting. I wish I had called my younger brother more while at school. I wish I had more time (or time at all) to read leisurely during the semester. But that’s not my fault, is it? I wish I had taken more risks these last three years. That I had leaped once or twice before I looked. I suppose, I wish I could do college over again and again until I get it just right.

Finally, I wish all first-years luck as they embark on their own discovery of Colgate, Hamilton, and most importantly, themselves. It’s become quite evident to me over my years at Colgate that the more I learn the less I know. The only thing of which I can be truly sure is that it’s all right to make mistakes, to realize that you were wrong at points and to know that, in someway, you’ve learned. College is bound to be one of the single most formative experiences of your life. Make sure that your drive down Broad Street is with open arms and an open mind.