The weather here on the hill has been interesting over the past few days. There’s been about equal parts bright warm sun, cold sharp winds and wet, dark clouds. Sometimes all in the same day. Today it started out bright and warm and now it’s cloudy and windy. It’s probably going to start raining just as soon as I leave the library.
That being said there are things I should be worried about more than the weather. The fact that my thesis still needs a fair amount of work before it is presentable. The fact that I’ll have to move to Ithaca, NY the day after graduation. The fact that at some point between now and graduation I have to go through all my stuff and figure out what I’m going to dispose of (and how). And I’m sure there’s a project and assignment or two that I’ve forgotten about. Life goes on.
In some ways, life at Lafayette has a been a good combination of bright sun and dark clouds. There are the awards and the friends and the parties. And there’s the waking up 30 minutes after your class started. There’s the exam you just barely managed to pass because you had two papers due the same day and had no idea what you were doing. But one thing I’ve learned is that even the darkest cloud isn’t really that bad. There’s going to be rain at some point and you might get cold and wet, but rain is a good thing. And this isn’t some magic aspect of Lafayette, I think it’s true of any worthwhile college experience. To quote Frank Chimero:
The point of all education is to get better. Better designers. Better citizens. Better workers. Better thinkers. Better people. Any other objectives are false and superfluous.
If you’re in college and you’re not getting better at a measurable and fairly steady rate, then you’re doing it wrong. And getting better is equal parts taking in the sun and getting wet in the rain. But getting better is hard. It means pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and trying new things even (especially?) when you’re just starting to get comfortable about what you already know. It took me a while to figure this out and I still haven’t fully internalized it yet (just ask my advisor how much I procrastinated on my thesis).
In some ways college is a fight against time, a race to get inside before the rain starts and you get wet. There’s always something which you wish you knew last week. Something you wish someone had told you before you got started. You’re always wishing you knew how to swim before you got into the deep end. Of course if we always waited till we knew everything before starting we’d never get anything done. The good thing about college is that it’s fine to fail sometimes. It’s fine to spend a semester doing an independent study where you end up proving the opposite of what you started out with. And unfortunately that’s not the same as the real world (or so I’ve heard).
I’m glad I had chances to get wet in the rain, to be able to fail spectacularly without having my livelihood depend on it. When I leave in a few weeks I’m going to remember the good times. And the bad.