As I sat in the Global Citizenship Award ceremony this past week, I couldn’t help but to reflect upon my four years at Macalester. In some ways, I am the definition of a successful Macalester student. Many on campus know me for the things I’ve helped to move forward here – Medicinal Melodies, the bone marrow drive, Relay For Life. But the picture is so much more complex than that.
I have failed by Macalester standards, both real and imaginary, over and over again in my time here. I have dropped an honors project, left early from study abroad, and have been fully absorbed in tackling my relationship issues and whining about not liking the food in Café Mac rather than concerning myself with global hunger and the AIDS epidemic.
This is what I want to tell my first-year self:
The goals you are striving for are unattainable. Your heart is big and ever-expanding but cannot fully encapsulate every world issue and every struggling nation.
It is perfectly acceptable to have a growing experience and difficult time abroad. Bravery is knowing that you have tried and accepting that not all attempts can be successful.
Academics are ultimately not more important than physical health and emotional stability.
Despite the fact that everyone around you seems fully capable of balancing academics, civic engagement, intentional conversations, and social life, everyone needs to make compromises. As one of your future housemates will put it, Macalester students are like ducks on a pond. All seems calm, but we are paddling furiously under the surface in order to keep it that way.
At some point, you will hurt. You will have your heart broken. You will miss your family. You will curse to the sky at the cold and darkness that makes getting out of bed seem like the greatest thing you will ever accomplish. Your supports will reveal themselves in both expected and unexpected ways.
This is what I want to be told:
Soon enough, you will sit on the lawn nestled into the spot where you fit in the tree out near Old Main. You will sit, warmed in the sun, laughing about all of the scenes that this tree has witnessed of you since you first walked on campus, unsure if you would ever be accepted into this school and this community.
You will finish your capstones and be proud of them.
One day, you will laugh about the dense snow of April and the time you went for ice cream when it was thirty degrees below zero.
You will have a job, and a life, that you find fulfilling. And you will realize that this job does not define what is fulfillment.
This is the last time you will live with all of the messiness of the universe in one square block. Make the most of it.
Feel deeply, unashamed.