Abby's Farewell: Some Sage Advice for Grads
*Cue “Closing Time” by Semisonic*
It’s official. The last test has been taken, the last project turned in. Graduation is the last task on my to-do list (besides writing this article, of course.) For the next two weeks, I have nothing to do but reminisce. Until the tassel has been turned and the cap thrown, I am sitting pretty in Sentimental City, the nostalgia capital of the world. I’m like the sage grandparent you can’t help but listen to because you can see the years of wisdom in my eyes. “I can remember it like it was yesterday,” I’ll say to the freshman taking her first final. “You’ll miss these days when you’re my age,” I’ll nod to the man whose biggest worry is getting into a pre-rec class for his major.
I’ve been working at Campus Recreation for two years. They hired me as a graphic designer. Somewhere along the way, writing for Be Well was integrated into my repertoire. To be honest, I never ever wanted to be a writer. My boss “strongly encouraged” me to do it. As much as I fought it, writing for Be Well ended up being one of my favorite parts of my job. It seems only fitting that the “senior advice” I leave you with should stem from this creative intervention.
Don’t put yourself in a box.
I put myself in the “visual art” box. Had my boss not dragged me out of it, I wouldn’t know how much I actually love writing — something I now spend a lot of time doing. If you’re a chemistry major and you’re offered a free pottery class, don’t turn down the opportunity just because, historically, art hasn’t been “your thing.” College is the time to try. If you’re not interested, then, by all means, don’t do it. But if there’s even the smallest glimmer of interest, why would you limit yourself to things you already know are in your wheelhouse? Who knows, you might discover a hidden talent or something you just genuinely enjoy. It might be your new favorite way to relax and stretch the other side of your brain. You might walk out of that class with a beautiful portfolio abstractly portraying a chemical structure you’ve been researching. Or something. I don’t know. Chemistry.
It could be the opposite, too. Maybe us art folk need to take a walk on the wild side and try to integrate a polynomial equation. It might go very poorly, but it’s a challenge. Challenge yourself. And accept challenges. College campuses, especially Auburn, are the perfect environment to either catch you when you fall or celebrate your victory after taking on something you’re just not sure about. There’s no other environment like it. We’re surrounded by people who are literally paid to challenge us and point us to challenges that they think will suit us.
This includes The Rec. (This is my last chance to give Auburn Campus Recreation a shameless plug. Let me have this one, guys.) If you’ve never been good at the whole “fitness” thing, but you want to get healthy, don’t let the risk of looking ridiculous stop you. It’s okay to walk up to a machine and read every word on the instruction panel before you use it! And it’s definitely okay to ask for help from one of our certified personal trainers. Or maybe it’s not a traditional gym workout; maybe you go to the intramural fields and flip tires or grab a paddleboard from Auburn Outdoors and take a few laps around the pond at Chewacla.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the value of going out on a limb for a good relationship. Romantic or platonic, strong relationships are one of the most important things we take away from our college experience. I don’t know how many people told me, with stars in their eyes, that college is where you make the friends you’ll keep for the rest of your life. Obviously, I’m not completely out of college yet, so I’ll have to get back to you on how much that rings true for me. But I will tell you that the friends I’ve made here are ones that are worth keeping up with.
They didn’t come easy, of course. College is not like high school where your friends are the people you always had class with. There are 25,000 undergrad students at Auburn. You have to choose your friends. While some of us are more “socially apt” than others, initiating a new relationship is always a risk. Sometimes that means sitting down with a complete stranger at a booth in the Student Center. Bold. Sometimes that means asking a girl to lunch (kindly, in a friendly-but-persistent-but-not-creepy way) three times before she finally agrees to it. Go out on a limb. It’s worth it.
As I write this article, I’m realizing that the commonality among these challenges is a willingness to be uncomfortable. Trying something you might be awful at or being vulnerable with someone you barely know is not the easy route. Rejection and failure are real, and they hurt. Big time. But I promise there will be a time that you give up being comfortable to take a risk that leads to something or someone you will love for the rest of your life. I can’t imagine anything more worthwhile.
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Julia B.