Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
“Set the world aflame! The world is your oyster! Expand your horizons!”
Although some of us here at Boston College have taken these words to heart and truly felt their meaning, most of us have felt something more like an urge to maim or gravely injure the individual whose mouth one of those lines came out of.
College is a time when doors appear in every direction. While you may think this is a variant of what mommy and daddy told you on your first day—that is, the old cliche that hails a university’s ability to “open countless doors of opportunity”—this is in fact a gross oversimplification of what actually happens. Contrary to what you may have been told, “doors” do not gracefully present themselves like pretty butterflies on a sunny day. Rather, a flood of unwanted doors assaults you and you’re left maneuvering around them like a squirrel running through a field of land mines. Should we go see this movie? Have lunch here? Have coffee there? Take this class? Or that one? Silver bullets? OR STONES?! That’s right, Sally Sue (freshman, class of obviously not a real person), making decisions in college is going to be just like that time you stayed at the party until 3 a.m.: The opportunities are looking grim, they’re very persistent, and there’s one stumbling onto your lap every 30 seconds—about to regurgitate some late-night chicken fingers all over your spankin’ new Jimmy Choos. I don’t think so.
The fact is, it’s impossible to do everything. But we will all try to do way too much at some point. Throughout these four precious years, we constantly find ourselves overflowing, whether it be emotionally, physically, or literally (happens to the best of us). The fact is, until you let all those doors hit you in the face—at least once—you’ll never get to experience the rush of running through that field of land mines. You may be thinking, “This is all nonsense, I’m no woodland critter!” Wrong. Your first mistake was writing your email down on every clipboard at student activities day last Friday. It’s quiet now, but they’re coming for your inbox. And they’re hungry. At last we meet again, BC Office of Transportation and Parking.
While college is probably the only time you’ll find yourself saying things like, “I’m sorry, I just really don’t want to go see your friend’s sister’s Irish folk dancing performance,” recognizing which doors not to walk through is an invaluable asset in life. Saying no to people, difficult as it may be at times, gives us a chance to be honest with ourselves. And more importantly, learning how to say no in the right manner and at the right times will clear the path for your autonomic instincts. It will guide you toward the doors that you are destined to walk through—doors that lead to the promised land, my child, whence thou shalt deservedly suckle on the honeysweet teat of success!
In order to move forward, you will inevitably have to walk into certain rooms that you have no desire to be in. We have a name for those rooms—they’re called internships. While there are a select few of you out there who have found the company that will motivate you to become a fruitful and successful individual, the rest of us have no idea what we want to do with our lives. But when you begin your next internship or sign up for a new club, if you have even the slightest feeling that this might be one of those doors that you are destined to walk through, apply yourself to your absolute fullest. If you crawl through these doors, you will never manage to stand proudly inside the rooms that lay behind them. While I poke fun at the BC motto, this is what it’s talking about; this is why we’re here. Unless you put yourself out there, fully investing yourself in the projects that you have carefully chosen for your life, you will never manage to cross off certain rooms, and your life will start to look something like a freshman dorm—doors open everywhere, people talking all around, neither friends nor enemies, and as you walk in and out of those rooms and have conversations that you will never remember, you will eventually be left standing in the hallway, not knowing where to go or who to speak to.
It is only by fully dedicating ourselves to certain paths that we may cross them off with certainty. One of the saddest moments in my life came with the realization that I would never be able to contribute something of value to pure academic philosophy. Despite the fact that I was drawn to this subject, one that is now my major, I walked through this door confidently, interacted with intellectuals whom I regarded as the authorities of their respective disciplines, and I came out battered, knowing that I would never achieve the level of understanding that they have. But this experience left me with a very important realization—that I must necessarily turn to art if I have any hope of feeling accomplished in life, for education and art are born from the same womb of life’s true essence. Now, I have picked myself up, and I have found a new direction. More importantly, I know myself, at my core, in a more intimate and profound way.
So what do you do now?
March past the thickets of meaningless doors that mask distractions and degenerates alike! And onwards, down that long and dark hallway, confidently breathing in the cold air of a future that is clouded by uncertainty. The doors that stand at the end of these paths are the ones that you will feel the most ambivalence toward, since they will ask you questions about your career, your love life, your friendships, and your interests. But know that you have your priorities straight and forget about the cousin’s grandmother’s dog’s birthday. Whenever you have to say “No” to someone—with unmatched confidence and impeccable poise, of course—remember that you’re one step closer to opening the door that leads to a room full of the people whom you cherish, and the passions that define you.
Now go light some things on fire!