This year, in an attempt to ignore the future – my thesis, [un]employment, graduation, leaving college friendships and relationships, all the terrible things that come with senior year and impending adulthood – I often find myself looking back to the beginning. I keep trying to condense my Colgate experience into a few well-learned lessons or some great period of change – and while that’s accurate, I sometimes forget that what I’ve learned or how I’ve changed is the culmination of all the little teaching moments that this campus and community provides, sometimes intentionally but usually not.
I think the closer that we get to leaving campus, the more we start to realize that in all likelihood, we’re not bringing anyone from our four years here with us into the real world (unless you’re going to NYC … Have fun awkwardly running into your old hook ups and the girl from freshmen year that you hate).
That’s not to say that the connections we’ve made were in vain; I’d like to think that I’ve made lifelong friends, and I know that I’ve formed stronger bonds and closer ties with my college friends than with my high school ones. This is somewhat expected; college is one of the only places where we get to eat, live and breathe with our closest friends. They teach you how to cook (How hard can making an omelette really be? Do yourself a favor and master fried eggs before trying anything fancy), and you help them with doing their own laundry (Yes, you have to buy detergent). More importantly, they skip class and are there for you when your parents split up. And when they experience a particularly nasty break up, you put off your assignment to go help them drink their sorrows away.
But as senior year quickly vanishes, as all those scary things in the first sentence become reality, you have to focus a little more on yourself and your own ability. It becomes necessary to distinguish between dire situations and distractions.
We’ve all had group projects where our partner was dead weight, and most of us have experienced the incredibly messy roommate that doesn’t know how to do dishes. You can deal with it up until a certain point, when you realize that picking up other people’s slack isn’t helping anyone and worst of all, it’s stressing you out and not allowing you to focus on your own priorities.
Around this time, you realize that you are the only constant within these relationships. You are in charge of your own life and your own future. You are responsible for your reputation and the legacy that you leave behind. You are accountable for your own good grades and employment. Nobody else cares much about your progress or your happiness, unless it benefits him or her in some way.
That doesn’t mean it’s okay to treat people terribly. You can still be a respectful, courteous roommate or team member or friend while focusing on yourself and your priorities. But it is okay to be selfish, and it’s more than okay to put your needs first.
Maybe it’s a cynical take on humanity, but I don’t view it negatively; it’s incredibly empowering to know that you have all it takes to make a change and get where you want to be. It’s strengthening to realize that you don’t have rely upon others to become a smarter or stronger or more successful version of yourself.