My Suffolk Farewell
The ceremony is over. My regalia and cords are hanging in a closet, my diploma stored away until it will be taken to my next location; wherever that may be. I am a college graduate, and what that means for me moving forward is yet to be determined.
What it means for me at this very moment, is the reason I am writing this. My college years are now behind me, which is a reality I knew I would face even as I was filling out my first registration sheet during my freshman orientation in June of 2010. I find that my mind is caught in a loop of thinking about the past and future; a mix of pride over accomplishments and apprehension about what lies ahead. I am sure there are many among me who can relate.
Suffolk University introduced me to a place where I controlled my own destiny in a more intimate way than I had ever been able to in the past. I had a clean slate to be who I wanted to be, to make friends that enriched my life, and to make decisions that directly changed my life. It gave me a place to channel my talents and fuel my passions, it gave me an environment where I wanted to succeed.
I want some order to what is, for lack of a better phrase, a completely chaotic and disordered memory dump. So I’ll use some fancy headings to try and sort through everything that made these four years the best four years of my life.
The Suffolk Voice
I took so much pride in being able to contribute to and eventually run The Suffolk Voice. To me, the Voice was more than an activity; it was my home at Suffolk. The people I met through it and worked with became my best friends, and I consider it a stroke of pure cosmic fate that I met my girlfriend of two years, Rebecca, at the first editors meeting of my sophomore year.
I can honestly say that the people I worked with in all four years of my Voice tenure helped me grow as a person and a writer. My involvement with it was pivotal towards my selection as an intern with the Boston Bruins, an experience that was invaluable and rewarding (and exhausting). The Voice was the best avenue to hone my skills while also shaping a college identity for myself.
I gained a lot of confidence by being at the front of the room leading meetings, and count myself as very fortunate to have had the staff, and especially Rebecca, by my side through the entire final year. For all of these memories, I want to sincerely thank everybody who contributed to the Voice, everybody who came to meetings or served on the staff; those who read our work and supported such a talented crop of young writers.
I believe the Voice is the future of news for the Suffolk community. It is a group that right now, in my mind, has such great potential for positive growth. The staff that is taking over for the 2014/15 school year is a passionate group that is held together by strong chemistry and a love for quality journalism. If I accomplished nothing else as editor-in-chief, I hope that my spirit and energy inspired those I’ve left behind to continue to strive for success, to provide a voice to those who want to be heard, and to never shy away from something because it is controversial.
They told us to “make our mark” at Suffolk during orientation, and I remember laughing at how corny it sounded at the time. Little did I know that making a mark, regardless of its size or impact, would become something I did care about quite a lot while I was a student here. I wanted my work at the Voice to be something I could look back on later with happy thoughts. As I sit here, I know that I will miss being a part of it very dearly. Viva la Voice indeed.
Suffolk gave me the opportunity to live and study in the heart of Prague from early September until late December. This is the kind of once in a lifetime experience that you can only truly seize while in college. I would never trade this time for anything. I was able to travel to Germany for Oktoberfest, visit monumentally powerful sites like Auschwitz in Poland, see centuries of European culture in the Austrian capital of Vienna, and live truly wild and free for a weekend in the Netherlands’ one of a kind hot spot, Amsterdam.
It has been about 17 months since I left for Prague. It’s strange what the brain chooses to remember vividly. I remember so many peaceful days full of walks without destinations, thoughts running free of anything but exactly what was happening in the moment. The medieval charm and beauty of modern Prague has been painted into my brain like a grand mural that, all at once, displays its big picture wow-factor and its more nuanced enchantments.
I miss the kind of uninhibited, unrestrained adventure that came with studying abroad every day. It strengthened my confidence in my abilities to take care of myself and to be able to appreciate the good things in life. I want to thank everyone from the Prague program. Dr. Robbins, Marcela, and especially the nine fellow Suffolk students who became my travel companions and friends throughout the whole ordeal. We’ll never forget that trip, and for that I am thankful to all of you.
The “College Experience”
To me, college will be remembered for the activities that I participated in, the classes that enhanced my curiosity into a vast array of areas of study, and for the blisteringly fast pace in which four years came and went. I gained a lot of insight into what is important in life and how to better relationships with the people that became part of my story. I believe the most important thing, however, was how I learned to have a healthy relationship with myself.
Before college, I was an insecure boy full of doubts who possessed a self-esteem tank that was running on fumes. The experimental and immersive experience of college was the fuel I needed to find confidence in both my abilities and the person that deep inside I knew I wanted to be. I learned how to not take myself so seriously, to laugh at mistakes and take pride in accomplishments, to go for opportunities that I would have been terrified of just a short while ago. If nothing else, college taught me that the only thing that can truly hold me back from where I want to go is myself.
I hope that those entering Suffolk next fall, and those still attending will take that fact to heart. It is especially true at a place like Suffolk, where the opportunities are endless and bountiful, but only if you actively seek them out. If you are hoping something will fall in your lap that gives you a “Eureka!” moment, you’ll probably wind up transferring or dislike your time here. They can send you a thousand emails a week (and they do) about fun things going on that might hold a clue to your future, but you’ll remain oblivious if you never seek any of these opportunities out.
Luck plays a part too; it’s important to note this. I was lucky that I qualified for a financial aid package that left me only $28,000 in total student debt (and compared to others, that is a significant “only”). I was lucky that I had a loving and supportive family who drove me to trains at every possible time you can imagine throughout all four years and never once made me feel like an inconvenience or a bad son. I was enormously lucky to find such an amazing girl so early in my life who was participating in the same activity I was.
But at the end of the day, we are where we are for some reason. We all wound up at Suffolk together for some reason. I have come to believe that every human on this tiny spinning rock is caught up in something much larger than our minds could ever comprehend; though I’ve tried on more than one occasion to get a grasp on what that “larger” thing is.
Even believing this, I don’t consider luck and preparation as meaningless. Maybe in the large scale, the cosmic scale, our actions and consequences are meaningless. But to us, in our micro world of early commutes and hungover exams, our actions and consequences are quite literally everything. We just have to hope that by doing all we can, we put ourselves in the right position for some larger-than-life forces to carry us to where we want to be.
I became quite a fan of “House of Cards” during the last stretch of school, and I think Frank Underwood illustrates my prior point well when he said that, “My father believed that success is a mixture of preparation and luck.”
Other Parting Advice
The following is simply a list of things I’ve learned that have made me a happier person. By no means is it a step-by-step guide towards finding happiness, I’m still searching for that myself, but hopefully four years of lows and highs have left me with something of value to pass on. This is my attempt at doing so.
1.) Explore as though you’re the first to do everything
Studying abroad really drove this point home for me. It made me want to see as much of the world as I can before my time is up. But explorations don’t just happen across the sea in distant worlds. Exploration can be as simple as taking a different route home than you normally take. Visit some place that’s a little out of the way, a place that you’ve always wanted to see but never felt compelled enough to go. Simply go.
Exploration can be metaphorical as well. Do not confine yourself to one profession simply because you think it is what you are meant to do, or it will bring you wealth. Explore and search for your calling, and listen to that voice inside that tries to pull you in a direction you might be uncertain of or nervous to explore. Some of life’s best moments are reserved for when we take a risk or step out of our neatly arranged comfort zones.
2.) Appreciate the beauty of big moments
Imagine yourself at a concert. It’s your favorite musician, and they’re playing at your home venue. Imagine the lights, the people rocking in unison, the crash of the cymbal as the drummer finishes a solo. Now imagine what you look like. If you have a phone in your hand, painstakingly trying to keep a steady hand to record a video you will NEVER watch, or a photo that will appear as though you took it underwater that you will NEVER look at, go ahead and slap yourself. You don’t deserve this beautiful moment of imagination.
I am guilty of this as much as anybody. But I’m calling us all out on this now. If we think capturing a rare moment to post on Facebook later is more important than soaking in every second of said rare moment, we are doomed as a species. It pains me to see how many people live for ‘likes’ instead of memories. Instead of letting ourselves go for three hours to properly take in a concert and form memories to be able to truly remember it, we would rather rely on grainy photos to form that memory, while we feed the Facebook monster that is gnawing at our integrity and our sanity. If we realize it, maybe we can combat it. Live for moments, not ‘likes.’
3.) Find somebody you care about, and love them completely
Full disclosure: I am a giant sap. I believe in true love, I believe in soul mates, and I believe that with the right mentality, partner, and fortitude, love can overcome anything. I might have watched too much “Boy Meets World” as a kid, or I might just be in love. Both are true, but I wouldn’t change either of those facts.
If you are lucky enough to find somebody who truly loves you for who you are, and for no other reason, you must hold onto them with every ounce of strength in you. Far be it my goal here to define how you know somebody else is the right person for you, but the heart does know lust from love, and that’s important to realize. I haven’t lived long enough to claim to know this as true, but I believe lust is always fleeting, whereas love burns and strengthens and remains. Don’t ever give up somebody who loves you for a moment of lust.
I still have plenty of lessons to learn about love, and believe me that I do not consider myself an expert on the topic by any means. But my relationship has taught me that you can only truly make somebody else happy if you are happy with yourself, and you consider them a part of who you are.
4.) Tolerance is not the same as acceptance
If you do not accept the fact that being gay is not a choice, if you think homosexuality is a sin, and you do not support that lifestyle for your own family, you are completely within your rights to not accept it. I think you’re silly, and a homophobe, and are most likely drastically misinterpreting ancient scripture, but you are certainly entitled to your opinions just as I am entitled to mine. We probably won’t be good friends but I don’t consider you a scourge to humanity’s progression.
However, if you do not tolerate that people are gay and you actively attempt to keep them from being able to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then you are not only a bigot, but you are making a mistake that will place you among deplorable company like those who fought against women’s right to vote, or blacks from being able to live like free men and women. You’re actively fighting a war you cannot win, and you are no friend of mine or people who think like me. This advice can be funneled into many other aspects of life. For example, you don’t need to accept religion into your life, but you damn sure should learn to tolerate that other people believe in it.
Of course, if something controversial becomes tangibly dangerous to others (and I mean actually dangerous, not how opponents of gay marriage say it is dangerous to their perception of what a “family is”), I believe it to be absolutely necessary to fervently stamp your foot and yell “I do not accept this.” A case where tolerance needs to be stricken in favor of unacceptance in modern society is the treatment of these people who advocate against vaccinations of children. You are wrong, your studies are false, and you are literally a detriment to the betterment of mankind. I do not accept your lifestyle because it is dangerous and not based in reality.
5.) Remember that you are simultaneously gigantic and incomprehensibly small
This is something I always try to keep in perspective, and it helps ground me when I’m feeling out of control. Imagine a pen. Millions of bacteria much too small for you or I to ever be concerned about could fit on just the tip of that pen. We are very, very big when looking at the world through a microscopic perspective.
Now think big. Imagine finding yourself on a globe. You occupy a space that is so small that it cannot even be accurately depicted by a pinhole on a map. That is how small you are compared to the amount of space is available, just on our Earth. If you start getting into the size and scope of other things in the Universe, it can be an extremely sobering realization to learn that we are no bigger than bacteria on the tip of a pen, and in actuality, we’re much much smaller than that on some scales.
We are constantly sandwiched between worlds that are very small, and worlds that are very big. Despite this, we exist and persist without usually giving it any thought. But the other worlds exist too, at the same exact time as us, always, eternally. Do not ever believe that something that happens to you is going to disrupt this never-ending flow of existence. Long story short: even if you fail that test or get shut down on a date or embarrass yourself in front of a thousand people, I promise you, the world will go on.
Because of what I learned in college, I will never stop trying to improve who I am as a writer, as a lover, as a friend, and as a person. Once you get complacent, you open up yourself to be knocked down a peg. Do not ever stop climbing or reaching higher. Do not ever hold anybody else but yourself accountable for your actions or the consequences that they bring.
Be loving, caring, and sympathetic even to people that you do not see eye to eye with. You will be shocked at how much people can surprise you if you don’t close them out and judge them before actually getting to know them. If you feel like smiling, smile. Happiness is truly infectious, and simply providing a good vibe or giving a kind word to somebody who is in a dark place might just make a significant difference in their life. Be the person that others look at and admire for your character, not your car or your clothes or your ability to funnel tequila.
Above all, find who you are and own it. The world is too beautiful of a place, and we’re here for too short of a time to be so caught up with the opinions and approval of others that we change our behavior accordingly. Live for what makes you feel the most alive, and hold onto the people who support you no matter how well you are doing. Be honest with yourself, be true to who you are, and the right people will gravitate into your life; it’s the natural flow of the Universe.
People often say that college prepares you for the real world, but I don’t think it’s that simple. College merely puts you at the helm of your life for the first time in your life. It is how you choose to steer yourself, how you choose to run yourself, and where you choose to go that will determine what horizon you will move towards. Choose wisely.