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For as long as I can remember — and yes, I’m counting those intermittent college nights that might be a bit fuzzy — I’ve been conditioned to believe that all good things come to those who wait; that those infinites of patience and perseverance will bear the fruits of success. And, most notably, my father’s colloquial phrase of choice, “Work hard, play hard.” These phrases have all served to condition me into believing that only through monastic resolve can anything meaningful be accomplished. I guess it is because of this lifelong process of indoctrination that the circumstances of Osama bin Laden’s death reawaken my inner rebellion.
Now, before you get all up in arms, I realize that using his situation takes us a bit into the realm of hyperbole. In no way am I condoning his actions as anything other than reprehensible, but I can’t deny that in watching his home videos that were subsequently released, I came to the realization that life requires a careful balance, and that having one singular purpose to validate one’s own existence can’t possibly be healthy. Granted, I’m not being pursued by the world’s most formidable military, but that’s beside the point.
The fact of the matter is that college, for all of its fun moments, can be a stressful undertaking. Coupled with the added pressures of friends and family belittling college with the typical “Wait until you’re in the real world,” along with grades, this life can get pretty tough. What’s important is to resist attempting to objectively measure our lives, whether through tests or money, therefore rendering the subjective experience as an afterthought. The results of that physics test, which has consumed your every waking moment for the last week, won’t change the fact that gravity exists, or cause any other unforeseen life-altering circumstance.
I’ve come to believe, as many of you probably have, that college serves to prepare you for your career. So, unless you plan on going into the NBA, it’s probably a good idea that you’re here. For most of us, a career will mean 40 to 50 hours a week spent doing something that will become a means to an end. That, based on my calculations, still leaves those 120 odd hours that will need to be filled by some combination of sleep and activity. Undoubtedly, classes, tests and all that comes with school can prepare you for those 40 hours, but the college experience is what does the rest.
Now, I’m not proposing complete abdication of all responsibility in favor of daily afternoon shifts ordering mind erasers at Study Hall, but rather, my point can be illustrated with an analogy. Pretend life is a road and traffic is all the unfortunate shit that happens along the way. If you constrain yourself to one lane, inevitably the road will have its fair share of accidents, maybe a few speed bumps, but either way you’ll become dependent upon its course. So make life a freeway, change lanes, and, unless it’s the 405, eventually you’ll end up content and where you want to be. Whether you’re hiding in a compound in Abbottabad or sequestered in godforsaken Davidson, keep in mind that outside there’s a world of opportunity.