June 17th, 2016


College Daze

Last week I said I wouldn't trade my life with anyone's--but I do harbor a few regrets, almost entirely college-related. It's sort of odd the way they still sit at the very back of my thoughts, like small stones polished smooth from much handling.

  • That solitary, super-late math essay the end of my sophomore year that almost got me flunked. My very forgiving tutor (SJC doesn't have professors) attributed it to burnout, but if so, that essay was the only aspect of my work affected. I still can't explain it, and can only be grateful that my class participation was strong enough to buy me leeway.

  • For some reason I never took advantage of the alumni sail picnics. No excuse--just pure inertia that kept me from going even once.

  • I intended to write my junior essay on Don Quixote, with the title “On the Burning of Books”, but never managed to figure out what angle to take, and so wound up writing about Pascal’s understanding of happiness. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but it explored someone else's though rather than my own.

  • Allowing a friend-of-a-friend to talk me into being part of a Simon and Garfunkle trio that basically winged its performance. It was pretty painful. Lesson learned: if the leader of a group keeps delaying rehearsals, regretfully resign. (Which, in retrospect, I really could have, as I was already in at least 3 other entries for that semester's music show.)

  • The one thing I still really do kick myself about is that I didn't follow my gut and ask the assistant dean (who I'd had for seminar my sophomore year and had a pretty good rapport with) to be my senior essay adviser, and instead went with someone else's suggestion based on essay topic. It wasn't exactly a disaster, but it didn't go all that well, either--in large part because I was never comfortable with the tutor I wound up asking. And because of that, I strongly suspect, I wound up writing an essay that a) was much more last-minute than it needed to be and b) wasn't really what I meant it to be. But given what I learned from that mistake, perhaps (in the long run) it's just as well. (I always did favor Leibniz over Voltaire.)

Although I label these as regrets, I really ought to learn to think of them as lessons learned--certainly there were no lasting ill-effects from any of them: I graduated college just fine, have a decent job with people I like working with, still keep in touch with the few close friends I made in college, and can now talk about how crazy Hegel is with the authority of someone who spent an entire 2 hour seminar untangling about 4 paragraphs from his Phenomenology of Spirit.

Perhaps the wisdom that comes with age really is just a shifting of perspective.