One night at a party not too long ago, my dear friend was quite upset. Without getting further into the details, it had to do with a guy at the party. I could see it on her face. I asked if she wanted to leave the room of people dancing on tables to talk about it. She said no, and I didn’t push it further. What she told me next, however, was, “You’re the only friend who’s in-tune with my emotions, sometimes even more than I am.”
I was saddened when she said that for two reasons. First, I do not consider myself to be a model friend. I do not think that I am the friend who goes the extra mile. What does it take to be a good friend if this display of concern is considered unusual? Second, I also realized that her words were true. People at Colgate can be pretty self-absorbed.
Later, I asked a confidant, “Why do you think this is? Why do Colgate students focus so much on their own lives and so little on the lives of those around them, both on this campus and in our community?” She blamed it on two factors: our age and the type of school that Colgate is (and by that I mean a predominantly wealthy and white school located in the Northeast). I join her in criticizing Colgate students. Be- tween people leaving trash and dirty dishes on tables at Frank, to people shaming one another for what they wear to people abandoning their friends and guests to hook up with another person, I find myself wanting to shout, “Honestly, can ya stop being a jerk for a moment?!”
I don’t care if we are still learning this whole “adult” thing. I don’t care if you had a nanny growing up who always cleaned up after you. I don’t care if you just really, really, really love sex. I don’t care if your privilege means you struggle to relate to another individual or group of students. We all ought to hold one another to higher standards of treatment. You can think of college as practice for life after Colgate or you can think of it as the start of the real world but, either way, the way you act here will impact the way you act later. Start practicing kindness now. Pay attention to others’ needs. Start to become a good role model for your kids, should you choose to start a family one day. Become the coworker others also value as a friend. Be a confidant for a loved one, whether that be a family member or a romantic partner.
How? Say hello to people as you pass them on the quad. Help the person in the library cafe who is struggling to hold their snacks and open the door at the same time. Check-in with your friends and ask, “How are you? Really, how are you?” Ask the girl or guy you see out alone downtown if they are okay and if you can help them. Stop being so judgmental of everything other people say or do or wear or think or like. Call your mom, call your uncle, call your grandparents. Be self-sacrificing. You’re not being supportive of someone if you check in only when your homework is done. You’re being supportive when you’re willing to put away the books and stay up an extra hour or two to finish your paper because being a good friend is more important. We need to give more compassionately and more selflessly, Colgate.