Eric CohnAs we enter our final day of Senior Wisdoms, we give you some graduating Bwoggers and their life advice. First up is “ex-various” Eric Cohn, who covered some of the most real and least real news in Bwog’s history. Today, he brings you advice on listening, self-care, and getting over your cheese addiction. 

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Eric Cohn, Columbia College, Mathematics and a Psychology concentration. Philly suburbs

Claim to fame: Ex-various at Bwog, where I wrote a letter; recently un-anonymized peer listener at Nightline; that guy who you thought would never say hi to you (it was probably Ian).

Where are you going? Vietnam and Japan for a month, then returning back to NYC full-time starting in July.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) Listening is a virtue.

Listening is such an underrated but powerful act, but it takes dedication. Learning to listen to the world and people around you can teach you so much, and it has the added benefit of telling those that you are listening to that you value them. In this world and this place we are urged to speak, to have a voice, and to proceed vertically. These are definitely good things. But there’s a lot to be gained in the horizontal—in standing to the side to let others speak and to listen to them with open ears and minds. Internalize that people believe what they say and are legitimate in what they feel: their experiences are worth hearing. Listen when it’s difficult and uncomfortable. When your friend is complaining but you disapprove; when people on this campus honestly express pain or offense when you see none. We all have much to learn, and listening is an important—if not the most important—step along the way.

2) Act or accept.

This one might not resonate with everyone, but it certainly did for me. There were times in my life—particularly here—where I felt low on hope. One of the most empowering phrases I discovered was “act or accept,” which essentially means that you either accept a circumstance or act to change it. There’s no in between. You definitely don’t have to apply this to every aspect of your life (in a lot of cases you can’t). But if there’s something about your life that makes you unhappy, that you want to change, it can be helpful to frame it in this way: “If I don’t act, I am accepting.” If it’s something that you really want to change, then clearly accepting is not an option, leaving only action.

3) You are valuable.

Complementing #1, which is basically saying that everyone besides you has value, know that you also have value. Work constantly to internalize it. For a lot of us, this will be a lifelong and often difficult process. One thing that can help is not comparing yourself to others’ standards of value, or what you perceive to be their standards of value. It’s okay not to be the most vocal in class, not to be the most socially visible on campus, not to get a 4.0. Those do not have to give you value. You can choose what defines you, and it can be anything. Just make it matter to you.

“Back in my day…” The Bolt bus picked you up right outside Penn Station, you could get into the Heights with a CUID after 1am, and I wore a lot more cargo shorts.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer. I’m a person of few words.

What was your favorite class at Columbia? I’m going to be really corny and say Lit Hum with Tobias Myers, because I read some of my favorite books (aka To the Lighthouse) and the professor was awesome.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I’ve been known to eat a block of West Side sharp cheddar like a banana, and I do love a white slice of Big K with hot sauce. But I’ve already been phasing cheese out of my life due to a mild intolerance, so a complete phasing out probably wouldn’t be that difficult.

One thing to do before graduating: Call Nightline! Seriously. Even if you have nothing specific to talk about or no big life crisis going on. People are literally sitting around for 5 hours just waiting to listen, and getting unconditionally listened to can benefit everyone.

Also, write letters to your friends. I still have to do a big final one, but I love writing people letters (especially on their birthdays) and getting letters myself. The effort is not much greater than a Facebook birthday collage, but the permanence and humanness of it makes it somehow much more meaningful. Keep a bunch of blank letters and envelopes in your dorm for this purpose.

Any regrets? Many. But I prefer not to dwell on them because that hasn’t been productive for me personally. I try to keep in mind that real learning and growth does not come without regrets, and that those regrets have been some of the most important experiences of my time here. At the enormous expense of sounding cliched, if you “do college” without regrets—like BIG regrets, not just “oops I overslept!” regrets—you’re probably not doing it right. Recognize the potential for growth inherent in the discomfort, and be kind and forgiving to yourself when you falter. You deserve it.

Maybe not ready to give up cheese quite yet… via Eric Cohn