By DEON THOMAS
What is your biggest fear? To some, that will always seem like a simple and rather silly question, however to me it means much more. By answering the question and revealing your biggest fear, you are also divulging what matters the most to you. I am not referring to simple answers such as “snakes” or “heights.” I am referring to deeper answers such as fearing “dying without leaving behind a legacy” or “being rejected by those you love the most.” This leads me to my biggest fear: experiencing life without growth. I am obviously not talking about growing taller due to the fact that I am currently 5’8”, I have been 5’8” for quite some years now, and I have unfortunately committed to being 5’8” for the long haul. I am speaking of mental growth — the ability to learn and grow as you experience new people and things.
This column seems to me to be a continuation of my last column in which I touched upon people caring too much about following the esteemed “path to success,” rather than finding success their own way. In this column, I am demanding each and every reader to stop running along the path and to look up and take in their surroundings. What’s the point of a class if all you learn is to cram information in your head two days before each test? What’s the point of an internship if all you learn is how to pad your résumé? What’s the point of a club if all you learn is how to scheme your way to a reputable position? The point is to take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned, the changes you should make and ways in which you have already grown. My biggest collegiate fear is leaving college the same person I was the day I was admitted. I want to be able to ask myself what I’ve accomplished and how I have grown from the day I stepped foot in Donlon to the day I walk across the stage to snag my diploma.
The question soon becomes: How can I ensure growth as I go through my years at Cornell? First things first: You can engage with Cornell’s broad curriculum. Cornell has more classes than most of us have Facebook friends. I can almost guarantee that most of us fail to take full advantage of this terrifyingly vast array of classes. I am not simply asking you to look through the course roster for an extra 10 minutes every semester, I am asking you to take action. If you’re an English major I am asking you to take computer science classes; I am asking computer science majors to take creative writing and I am asking fellow ILRies to take a hard class every once in a while. Far too often I have seen students take a very limited range of classes and end up lost in a conversation with anyone of a different major. Being knowledgeable in several areas of studies is a quality I highly respect in other individuals and I strive to be educated and grow in such a way.
The next demand I am going to make has to do with the people you spend time with. I have written two articles on this topic, one entitled “Musical Chairs” and the other “Keep Your Friends Close (But Not Too Close).” In both articles I lament and bemoan the fact that people too often choose their friend by making the “comfortable” choice rather than the “best” choice. If you decide to have a bunch of friends with the same exact temperaments, talents and convictions, you will not grow as a person because they will not push you to grow. What’s the point of getting advice from someone who thinks exactly like you? That doesn’t mean that you should avoid people like yourself, but certainly attempt to branch out to other factions of the school. I also would like to reiterate that being nice is not enough of a rubric to decide who your best friends are. I am sick of asking people why they like someone and their answer being “they’re so nice. ” Find people that are interesting, bold or even unusual — nice just simply does not cut it.
Lastly, simply be honest with yourself. Make sure to take the time to reflect upon everything you have done and learned. Do not expect to go through life without your fair share of bumps in the road. If you are going through life feeling invincible stop immediately, because you have probably veered off-course. However, if you fail to heed my directions and end up not respecting who you have become because you still have the mind of an 18-year-old teenager in your mid-30s, you must face the fact that it’s not me, it’s you, the same old you.