Senior Wisdom: Ryan Kendall
Written by Bwog Staff
The half-finished commencement bleachers say it all: it’s time for the Class of 2014 to start bidding their fair Columbia adieu. In honor of this year’s graduating class, Bwog has started our 2014 round of Senior Wisdoms. If you have a senior you’re dying to nominate, send their name and why they deserve to share their wisdom to email@example.com; we’re accepting nominations until 5 pm on Sunday. Today’s senior is Ryan Kendall, who plans on going to the moon with Steve.
Name, Hometown, School, Major: Ryan Kendall, Denver, CO, GS, Political Science—the greatest major, as Professor Paula Franzese would say.
Claim to fame: I testified in the federal challenge to California’s discriminatory Proposition 8, was portrayed by Rory O’Malley from The Book of Mormon and Chris Colfer from Glee in 8, the play about the case by Dustin Lance Black; championed laws to ban anti-LGBT conversion therapy for minors, and appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 as well as various and sundry other things. I’ve also won some awards ’n stuff. Most notably, I’m a nice guy, except when I’m not.
Where are you going? To the moon—with Steve! (I have no idea as of right now, but you get bonus points in my book if you get the reference)
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?
1. DO LESS. I’m serious about this one. I know we attend a university full of passionate, active, energetic students. In fact, you all are what makes Columbia the remarkable institution that it is, and I would not have it any other way. But at some point, perhaps a third vice-presidency of a student group is a bad idea, particularly while working two part-time jobs, interning, being a research assistant for your professor, and taking 21 credits, including Latin (just for fun). Obviously this is a caricature, but it is one that contains more than a kernel of truth. Life is already hard, and Columbia doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a club and day spa (though we have one). It is all right to do things at a reasonable pace, and it is a sign of maturity to take care of yourself rather than run yourself ragged. Also, there is merit to the practice of deep work and signature interests. Your time is limited, and you will best serve yourself and your communities if you focus on doing a handful of things exceptionally well instead of frenetically attempting to control the world. Trust me, you can’t—it won’t let you. Columbia is hard enough without going out of your way to make it even harder. You don’t have to. To quote Captain Planet, “The power is yours!”
2. Be gentle with yourself. Related to doing less, I recommend practicing gentleness with yourself. I have too often seen students at this university index their sense of self-worth to their GPA. Don’t do it! You are intrinsically worthy, and everyone I’ve met here has universally been smart and capable. It is okay to be imperfect, and we all are. The sooner you own your imperfection with honesty the sooner you will thrive inside and outside the walls of Columbia. But instead of treating this imperfection as a weakness, you should celebrate every bit of what makes you who you are, and you should treat yourself tenderly, because — again please trust me — the world never will. Being gentle with yourself means telling that inner monologue that constantly belittles you and points out all your flaws to shut the fuck up. This is not something that any of us ever master, but we can seek to actively practice compassion for ourselves.
3. Rob this place blind. Last year, Randolph Carr III, whom I never met, penned the sagest words of advice of any Senior Wisdom column I’ve seen, so I’m just going to quote him here: “Rob this school blind. Check out as many books as you can read, and keep whatever you find inside. Apply for every grant whether you think you are qualified or not. Any professor who you are slightly interested in, take every spare moment they will offer you, to loot their wisdom. This school is abundant in resources, most of which it has, indeed, robbed from someone. Do not be ashamed, steal every opportunity you can get.” Randolph’s is the best advice there is, and I think it is particularly important for GS students and others because of our limited time here. Do not take the immense privilege and opportunity that is a Columbia undergraduate education for granted. I would never advocate breaking the law, but I ardently support (figuratively) robbing Columbia, and the rich world of ideas readily available within its walls, blind.
“Back in my day…” Pluto was a planet. I’m still bitter and/or in denial about this one—it’s kind of a thing.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: Existence requires no justification. Each day I awake to the rising sun (or moon) and breathe the formerly fresh air of NYC – that’s all the justification I or anyone needs.
Write your most memorable note from the field: A friend and I once drank a few beers while riding the 1 train downtown late one night just before school resumed after summer vacation. We hopped the fence blocking off the river and sat on the concrete embankment drinking beer while watching the moon rise. The Statue of Liberty glistened in the background — it was quite a breathtaking and peaceful moment. It isn’t an exciting, flashy, or tawdry field note, but it is my favorite.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? This question is uncivilized! Pro tip: If you are doing the first one enthusiastically enough and follow up with related activities, then you are going to need a light snack afterwards. Allow me to recommend cheese.
One thing to do before graduating? Remember that you live a privileged existence. Climb out of the cocoon of status, wealth, and elitism, if they are applicable, and recognize that you are no better than anyone else. Keep it fresh in your mind that we are not deserving of all the opportunities and resources we possess. The world is a place defined by glaring inequality, and we have and will continue to benefit from our association with an elite institution. This in no way means we are better than other people. If anything, it means that we are all incredibly lucky. The world is chock full of smart, deserving people, none of whom got to attend an Ivy League institution or even pursue higher education. It’s our job to widen the circle of access and opportunity here and globally. If we don’t do so, then we are all hypocritical asshats.
Any regrets? For me personally, regrets seem petty and vain. I have an awesome life, and attending Columbia has been a privilege and an honor for which I am immeasurably grateful. I’ve loved every second of my time here, and I regret nothing.
Tags: "climb out of the cocoon of status", "I regret nothing", awesome people, bwog is uncivilized, cheese: choice snack of oral sex enthusiasts, RIP Pluto, rob this place blind -- this includes silverwear, senior wisdom, senior wisdom 2014