Looking forward to looking back

Take a deep sigh of relief, for you are a young, typical college student.

Kate Nelson

As the end the semester nears, some of you (like myself) are realizing graduation is upon us. Though pleading and begging likely urged its arrival, the date still seems to have snuck up on us.

Let me forewarn you: This is going to be a heartfelt column-cum-commencement speech. I hope it doesn’t bring you back to your final days of high school, mostly because I’d like to think I’m more articulate than the 18-year-old who took you on that familiar trip down memory lane.

In the moments I’ve been able to catch my breath between studying for exams and writing long, windy academic papers, I have been surprisingly able to recognize a few ways in which this four-year whirlwind has affected me. Of course, it’s difficult to see the trees while in the forest, so I’m assuming I’ve just barely begun this process. I expect I’ll have a greater appreciation in the future for my stint here at the University, perhaps once I’ve paid off my loans.

A few weeks ago, I was strolling down University Avenue when I had the eerie realization that I was walking among versions of my past self. At that point, I couldn’t help but think of “The Lion King” because I had recognized this microcosm of the circle of life.

I am now at that stage where I am quite anxious to find some form of suitable, gainful employment. In the past, I have disliked when someone tries to alleviate my worries with advice along the lines of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” but now I’m not as quick to dismiss this. I take comfort in the idea that someone before me has been in this situation and that someone found a way into another place.

So just what have I learned during my tenure here? The most useful, practical tip I’ve received was from Chris Ison, who told us reporter wannabes that a journalist should always carry a pack of cigarettes and a lighter – the mentality behind this is something like, “If you spark it, they will talk.”

In recent days, I have scoured my brain for the more life-altering moments or realizations. And what is the wise and worldly advice I’ve got for you, whether you’re a fellow graduate or a college student in your prime? Two very simple words: you’re young.

Take this however you will and however is most convenient, but realize that you’ve got years ahead of you. Maybe that forgives some of the less-than-wise actions you’ve recently taken. Perhaps this means it would do you well to lift an ear to the words of your elders. Above all, this means you’ve got plenty of time to affect the world in the ways you’d like to, and better yet, you’ve got plenty of time to figure out just what it is you’d like from your future self. Take a deep sigh of relief, for you are a young, typical college student.

Graduating class of 2007, I leave you with this. Try to appreciate the cycle. Be aware that there will be moments of up and down and inside out. And, in your graying days, remember to smile when you meet some young pup who thinks she knows the world backward and forward.

Kate Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected]