In just over a month, I will graduate from St. Olaf College. It’s been an incredible four years, and for the most part I am confident I will be ready for life beyond the Hill. I have learned a great deal – both inside and outside of the classroom. Still, I often wonder if I’ve learned enough. There is still so much I had hoped to discover before graduation.
For example, I was sure that by now I would have learned to like “adult foods” – specifically, cherry tomatoes. I’m still learning to not make a face when I eat them, despite the fact that they taste like sour, vegetable-flavored Gushers. I’m still discovering the best way to keep trying new things I don’t like, even when I know I don’t like them, in hopes that one day I will learn to appreciate them rather than tolerate them. I haven’t learned to like cherry tomatoes quite yet, but I’m optimistic that one day I will.
By now, I predicted I would have become a semi-professional ultimate Frisbee player. Nothing says “Look at me! I go to a small liberal arts school!” like tossing around a Frisbee. I thought that by now I would be able to will a Frisbee in any direction and to any distance I wanted. I’ve seen my peers toss the disc with ease through the obstacle course of hammocks and Adirondack chairs that is the quad. Whenever I throw a Frisbee, however, it seems that the plastic disc of disobedience has a mind of its own, and if we play during a high traffic time my participation often becomes a danger to the entire St. Olaf community. Vortex ladies – you are the real MVPs of campus. I haven’t mastered the art of Frisbee yet, but I’m optimistic that one day I will.
Giving and receiving compliments without experiencing emotional and physical discomfort – I thought by now I would be able to navigate these interactions with ease. I had no doubt I would have overcome the fear of vulnerability, and that I would be able to articulate to others how much I appreciate them without worrying they might reject my genuine attempt at kindness. I thought I would be able to accept a compliment rather than deflecting it or physically removing myself from the scene. I maintain that there are few situations more uncomfortable than sustaining eye contact while giving or receiving praise. I haven’t figured it out quite yet, but I’m optimistic that one day I will.
I hoped that by now I would be able to tell people I want to be a writer without feeling the need to justify myself. I thought that by this point in time I would be able to claim with confidence that I have not only discovered my vocation but am also in the process of self-actualization. Neither of these things are true. I’m still finding my voice, I’m still discovering how to tell stories that matter, I’m still finding the courage to show other people the way I see the world. I haven’t figured out how to claim my space as a writer quite yet, but I’m optimistic that one day I will.
With just over a month of undergrad remaining, it seems that I still have much to learn. I think I’ve surprised myself by realizing I’m not that worried about it. I remember PDA saying during opening convocation that our St. Olaf education would teach us to be “lifelong learners.” At the time, I found this promise incredibly cheesy, but now I see that it is true. There are still many things we haven’t quite figured out, but we can rest assured that we will continue pursuing the unknown for the rest of our lives. The desire to continue discovering, creating and processing information after our time on the Hill sets us apart. And for now, that is enough.