March 10, 2014

THOMAS | The Road Not Taken

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When I was growing up, the path to success was planned out for me. Eat your vegetables at dinner and you will grow up strong. Pick up a book instead of turning on the television and you will be smarter. Get an A+ on your papers and you will have good enough grades to get into college. Matriculate at college and pick a solid major, and you will graduate and find success. The plan seemed simple, and success by the age of 25 would be imminent. Yet here I am at the age of 21, finishing my second to last year in college, and I feel as if the success I have been spending my whole life striving towards is so far away. I am sick and tired of hearing that graduating will be the key to accomplishing my dreams. There is no better time than now.

I’ve been on the same path my entire life without making the smallest attempt to deviate from the norm. Most of you reading this column are on this same path, trudging along dutifully. I believe that America is becoming less and less creative as the years go on. Art isn’t appreciated or focused on in secondary schools anymore. Federal and private funding for the Arts have decreased due to the current state of the economy. English classes teach you how to write about books you’ve read, but not how to write your own. You learn about the economy in business classes, but they shy away from teaching you how to start or operate your company.

I believe that Cornell’s push to broaden the scope of entrepreneurship for students is a step in the right direction. We as students of Cornell make up some of America’s brightest minds, yet the majority of us have a “get hired” mentality that dominates over the idea of “do it yourself.” Imagine how many great ideas have been lost because students have refused to go out on a limb and accomplish the “impossible.” This problem exists because of the way we were taught in our youth. I personally was told to value stability over accomplishing any outlandish goals. Any innovative idea was thrown out in order to focus on my next test or upcoming project. I have been continually surprised by the number of students here who have never considered a profession outside of being a doctor, lawyer or engineer.

America has never needed innovative thinking more than it does now. Last night in the reboot of the television show, Cosmos, President Barack Obama had a special message for us. He stated that, “America has always been a nation of fearless explorers who dream bigger and reach farther than others imagine … today, we’re doing everything we can to bring that same sense of possibility to a new generation because there are new frontiers to explore and we need Americans eager to explore them. There are no limits. So, open your eyes, and open your imagination.” This message may be about exploration in the field of science, but it needs to be expanded much further.

This column is for the girl who has always dreamed of being on stage her whole life, but listened to all of the naysayers who claimed a performance career was only for a few lucky ones; she instead majors in business. This column for the engineering major, studying away in Carpenter Hall each night instead of working to invent the cheap alternative prosthetic arm he has always dreamed of creating. This is for the ILR major who grew up defending her disabled brother her entire life, but hasn’t found the courage to start up the non-profit organization she thinks could change the world. This is for me. The boy who worked his entire life to get into a top school, and now sits here, writing to you all about how he fears he hasn’t lived up to his full potential. I am making the promise that tomorrow I will write the first page of the novel I have been waiting to write. I encourage you to take the first step towards your dream as well. I do not yet know the plot of my novel, and I assuredly do not know its title, but if you decide not to follow your dreams, a few years from now you might be browsing your local Barnes & Noble looking for inspiration, fall to your knees in desperation and find yourself face to face with the New York Times best seller entitled: It’s Not Me, It’s You.