Today’s first senior wisdom is from Matt Neky, who reminds us to stay hydrated, stay compassionate, and go to Hamdel.
Name, School, Major, Hometown: Matt Neky, Columbia College, Biochemistry, Pittsburgh
Claim to fame: Posting a video of myself wall twerking in the class of 2018 group, having a messy snap story that has been described by multiple friends as “disturbing” at times, drinking two glasses of milk with every meal, yelling “SAVE THE BEES” at strangers, serving as Columbia’s foremost “Ted Cruz Is the Zodiac Killer” conspiracy theorist, the muse of the “Reasons We Are PROUD of Matt Neky” Facebook page, sleeping naked every night even though I’ve lived in a double every single year of college, peeing on JJ’s, tagging Deantini in memes, and (most importantly) my obsession with cheese.
Where are you going? In the long-term, probably Hell if we are being honest with ourselves here. In the short-term, New York City.
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2022?
1. Hamdel is not a restaurant; it is a mental wellness center. The kind employees of Hamilton Deli have witnessed pretty much the entire range of emotions I am capable of displaying over the course of my four years: they have seen me happy and enjoying my night with friends, they have seen me on the verge of tears after someone broke my heart, they have seen me completely exhausted after pulling an all-nighter studying for an exam, they have seen me exhibit ~altered states of consciousness~ (insert MLA citation of the “Science of Psych” textbook here), they have seen me looking triumphant and proud of what I have accomplished that day, and they have seen me looking frustrated and embarrassed because I thought I was screwing up my life. But every time I walk in, I know that I’m going to be met with a smile and a friendly greeting and sometimes it is the small acts of kindness from strangers that will change your perspective and get you through the day.
2. Stay hydrated. I mean this one on both a literal and metaphorical level. Staying hydrated benefits your body in many ways (mood, metabolism, skin health) and can prevent a night of going out from becoming a sleepover at St. Luke’s (for the more degenerate Bwog readers out there, but not me obviously). What I mean metaphorically by “stay hydrated” is this: take care of yourself and do it regularly. This might mean taking care of yourself physically, and so literally staying hydrated, exercising, and eating fruits and vegetables. This also means taking study breaks, going out and enjoying yourself (1020 has never hurt me the way the chemistry department has), and realizing that resources like CPS exist to improve the quality of your life. Many students prioritize everything this university and city have to offer over their own wellbeing, but at the end of the day if you are not constantly attending to your own needs and working towards your own happiness, you will not be successful at this university and you will not have a fulfilling life.
3. All you need is love. There are myriad things that can be accomplished on this campus, but in my not-so-humble opinion, genuinely showing love to everyone around you despite the negative, and often hostile, campus culture is the most admirable accomplishment one can really aspire to Columbia. I will not remember who had Goldman Sachs internships nor will I remember who was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, but I will always remember the friend who came and found me crying and sitting alone in Riverside Park and told me that everything would be okay.
“Back in my day…” Back in my day you had to EARN your night out. When 19-year-old me wanted to have fun, I had to walk through subzero temperatures all the way to 108th street’s premier drinkery who shall not be named (okay but actually show some respect and pour one out for Cannon’s) and literally dance my ass off the entire night to the point I was dripping with sweat. Now students just walk to 110 in the global warming induced mid-forties of February and TALK to each other. Fun used to hurt a little bit.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: One time I “accidentally” body-slammed Newt Gingrich when he was on campus and that makes me both inherently useful and historically relevant.
What was your favorite class at Columbia? Okay so I’m going to list three. Human Origins and Evolution with Jill Shapiro, Philosophy of Law with Michele Moody-Adams, and Contemporary Civilization (I know, the horror) with Jessica Lee. For me, a class that ends up having personal meaning to me long-term is a class that changes the way I think about the world around me. All three of these classes resulted in me viewing the world around me in a vastly different manner afterward, and I appreciate that aspect of learning more than any other.
Runner Up: PE Rec Games (no explanation given or needed)
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? All I’m going to say is oral sex has never once made me moan the way a hunk of Cheddar does (I have videos to prove this).
Whom would you like to thank? The admissions officer who believed in me more than I believed in myself, my family, my friends, the yodeling Walmart boy, Cristen Kromm, the guy who asked me “Are you poor?” during NSOP when I told him I was from Pittsburgh, Cynthia Nixon for participating in a Columbia University protest, the people in Westside Market who keep labeling the cheese-less taquitos as “quesadillas,” the guy who wears a Lucha Libre costume and tries to throw water bottles into trash cans using his feet in front of Low, Garrett Ryan for a “hard-hitting” night out freshman year, and, most of all, the amazing employees of CU Dining and Facilities who have brightened my day, every single day, for four straight years (I’m looking at you, Fausta).
One thing to do before graduating: Make a mistake. Everyone here seems paralyzed by the fear of taking any sort of risk that could potentially go awry. That’s a problem. Coming from someone who has made many mistakes, will continue to make many mistakes, and actively wants to make many more mistakes: if you don’t make a mistake, you will never learn. You are young and figuring yourself out and have the opportunity to make mistakes routinely and truly get to know yourself in the process. But strangely, for a group of people who have constantly proven their aptitude for learning, Columbia students seem entirely disinterested in trying anything that does not 100% guarantee them success and immediate gratification. If there was one thing I would say all Columbia students should try, it’s something that won’t bring them any glory or comfort now but could be rewarding in the future. And also the “Big Mama” drink at El Porton up on 125th street (a close cousin of “the mistake”).
Any regrets? I can proudly say, as someone who rarely hesitates to do what they want or to speak their mind, that I have no major regrets. That being said, I could have done without the Iliad or that last shot I took at Bacchanal this past year. Both hurt me.
Photo via Matt Neky