Name, Hometown, School: Alex; Lenexa, KS; CC
Where are you going? Slightly south. I’ll be living on the UWS as I work in the city. Some kind souls saw fit to provide me with gainful employment. Maybe I’ll knock off some of those red zeros that follow the negative sign on Mint.com.
Three things I learned at Columbia:
- To love the Core. It’s not exhaustive, and it’s not perfect, but it has no such pretensions (or at least shouldn’t). What people most often mistake when criticizing the Core is that the curriculum is not intended to cover certain, critical subjects so much as it is designed to introduce and develop modes of thought (philosophical, literary, musical, etc.). I may be wrong, but the western bias isn’t so much essential as it is convenient. We should embrace the exercise on its own merit, and then seek to apply whatever we take away in all other areas.
- To embrace ambiguity. I loved my philosophy professors and history classes, but I’m pretty sure that the two years of German language classes I took were the most impactful from a non-intellectual standpoint. Against all intellectual inclination, we must sometimes discard well-devised plans and allow ourselves to be subject to the whimsy of chance.
- That life isn’t graded. There is significant value to what we learn in terms of subject matter and intellectual skill in the classroom, but at graduation all you get is a fancy piece of paper (but not actually) and a fraction to list somewhere on your resume. While at Columbia, what is vastly more important is how you engage with the community and define your place inside it. During NSOP, we were inducted into a great community of students, staff, faculty, and administrators. Learning how to best service that community is a challenge on par with any you can find in a classroom.
Back in my day…
- The College had a sharp, generous, fair, considered, eloquent, BAMF as Dean, and she didn’t insult the greatest liberal arts community in the world with darn-diddley quizzes about worthless minutia.
- JJ’s Place was a miniature supermarket where you could use monopoly money.
- Windows in John Jay could be opened so that occupants could enjoy a full torrent of fresh air above the jungle floor below.
- The world still had Steve Jobs and Christopher Hitchens.
- Obama was President.
- The economy was terrible.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: My father drove me to soccer practice when I was a single digit. He once told me that the secret to success was being different. Typical attitudes are worth less.
Write a CU admirers post to anyone or anything at Columbia: Most would think that there is nothing but disdain between us. I mean, at times there probably was. There is no doubt; I did you wrong. But you can do things that make me go wild. 67 Orange?
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I honestly can’t imagine life without pizza, Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese, or mozz sticks.
To the freshmen/others: many things to do before graduating:
- Declare yourself free. By that I mean understand your own capacity for responsibility, free from determination by expectation or circumstance. You chose to come to Columbia, but now, and at every point of possible inflection, you must choose to succeed, whatever that means to you. You choose to be in Butler on a Saturday night, and you choose to write a thesis. I think we need to do better as a community identifying who is ultimately responsible for good and bad decisions. We WAY overcomplicate the matter far too often.
- Become a patron. There will be a time—somewhere in between your freshman floor’s first collective 40s order from Crackdel and the near-graduation scramble to find out who’s staying in the city—that you need a cup of coffee and a smile from a guy you know only as “bud”. Tom’s has a reasonably priced breakfast menu that suits this purpose wonderfully.
- Study abroad, if only for a summer.
- Become obsessed. Dive into something and lose sight of everything else. Indulge is your own personal brand of idealism, and compromise nothing.
- Serve somebody. Early on, identify a cause that you care about, and learn to compromise for that greater good. More often than not in life, somebody else is running the show, and success depends on your ability to follow; not lead.
- Take a class with Prof. Moody-Adams. Also: Foner, Jackson, Jones, both Kitchers, and Mercer.
“Our age is properly the age of critique, and to critique everything must submit.” – Kant
I don’t understand people who have “no regrets, YOLO.” Had I won the lottery, maintained a 4.3, and then landed a job as Obama’s closest confidant, I’m sure there would still remain some events that could have gone better or actions that could have been better planned. To say, “Eh. Good enough: no regrets!” seems lazy to me. Still, we can’t have a mess of regrets that covers every step of prior experience (also the drink is seeping in, and I should cut this short before it gets sloppy).
So, in short, I’d like to simply say that I regret many, many things. I’ve let others and myself down repeatedly, and I apologize for each and every instance. I like to think that the karmic balance sheet finds the aggregate “partially regretful” as opposed to a full blown “failure,” but were I to find myself four years into the past, things would be done differently.
Also: I know and care more about Star Trek than I do some class subjects. I regret not majoring in 24th Century Intra-Galactic Relations.