Senior column: Keeping it real in the real world
Published: Friday, May 30, 2008 - 2:01am
Posted Friday, May 30, 2008
WHEN UNI ALUM Molly Smith (Class of 2005) came for a quick visit about a month ago, she accused me of being a jaded senior. Though I protested the allegation at the time, I must say that, if I’m being completely honest with myself, no description suits me better.
I am a jaded senior. I’ll say it loud and proud. I’m done with Uni, with homework, even with the sports practices and games that have been my saving grace these past five years. Uni halls are just too small to provide excitement to intelligent people for five years. There’s no way to refrain from getting bored.
That being said, now is probably not the best time to sum up my Uni experience in a couple hundred words. Nevertheless, I will try to reminisce as accurately as possible.
At the end of the day, it’s been the students who have gotten me through Uni High.
I truly believe that my 60 or so classmates are some of the best people whom I have ever met and will ever meet. Their various interests, their incredible intelligence, and their sense of humor through five tough years have been edifying and inspiring. With no one else could I have had dance parties in the lounge, watched Montana Meth Project videos in calculus class, assembled a web of string in the first floor hallway, or gone streaking in a cornfield, all while learning about quantum particles and expounding upon the value of dialect poetry.
Additionally, Uni collects a group of people such that I can read about one classmate placing seventh in the world at the International Math Olympiad, and then watch him play in a soccer game that evening. I can give my friend a big hug and wish her luck at the YMCA Swimming Nationals, and then in three days be in the Mac lab writing an editorial with her. I can give the cast of the fall play a standing ovation on Friday night, watch Otto Frank perform card tricks the following Monday, and receive an e-mail about Miep Gies’ SSAT after-school tutoring sessions.
Even though all I want to do is graduate and get the heck out of here, I am going to miss my fellow seniors more than I am currently allowing myself to acknowledge.
But even as I love you all dearly and think that you are all amazing, wonderful people, this senior column needs a point. And what I would like to do is inject a sense of humility into this end-of-the-year, graduation atmosphere.
Uni is filled with great people, and it’s been a pleasure to get to know all of you, but something we lose sight of is that there are so many other great people just in this area who decided for whatever reason not to come to Uni. This school is not the sum of Champaign-Urbana’s academic excellence, and most assuredly not the sole collection of smart, talented people in the U.S.
So, before we enter the world with an undeserved ego boost from five years of teachers and administrators telling us how great we are and explaining that we are the next rulers of the world, it is important for us to realize that there are thousands, even millions of other brilliant people with whom we will be competing. And just because I think you’re all amazing, that doesn’t mean everyone will agree. We need to be prepared for the unavoidable pool of people who won’t appreciate us.
We also need to be willing to mold our measuring sticks for success. Unfortunately, a 4.0 GPA here doesn’t mean that comparable achievement outside of these walls is inevitable. We will all probably do well for ourselves, but nothing’s guaranteed, and after school is over and we no longer get grades, our accomplishments will not be so easily quantified.
And finally, we need to be willing to learn. We need to maintain open minds, so that we can learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. We need to hear the advice we are given. We need to value all experiences and all types of intelligences. We need to embrace creativity.
It’s easy for us to fall into a trap where we think our way is best; but everyone has something to bring to the table, not just the graduates of elite high schools. You don’t have to be labeled “smart” by the man to be intelligent and qualified.
I don't want to be a downer, especially in our last few days as Uni High students. So on that note, I hope that you continue to pursue the interests and engage in the activities that have made these five years such an enriching experience. I hope that you all stay as awesome as you are now. And I hope that none of us ever wear our jeans above our belly buttons the way our parents do.
But I also hope that we find the flexibility, the tolerance, and the modesty to continue our success. I hope that we find an openness to change, new experiences, and different ideas. And finally, I hope that our lives remain full of discovery.
Perhaps then we really will be as cool as we think we are.
Peace out ’08!! The best of luck to all of you.