Pack Attack

I don’t think I’m fully settled in yet. I had thought this week would be a breeze, I’d post daily with updates about my doings–but there has been so much doing to be done, that writing here was not one of them. The amount of welcome week activities was staggering, and the amount that I actually went to was somehow less than I had at first planned, but more than I had thought it would be. Oh, the irony.

In any case, I return with the fruits of wisdom in many regards.

LIFE

Let’s face it, you don’t quite learn all there is to learn until you’ve had some time to live on your own. Your awareness? Broadened. Your experiences? Enhanced. Your stress level? If fortunate, steadily maintained.

  • Even though your washer/dryer unit may work correctly, others’ may not. Be on the lookout for floods.
  • Bus times are approximate. Repeat: Bus times are only approximate.
  • Eavesdropping: Surprisingly informative and usually unintentional.
  • That new pair of shoes? It’ll be broken in–and broken out–within a week.
  • There are those on campus who will make you feel good about your weight. There are those who won’t.

Consider these last two: Fitness has been a goal of mine all year. I had thought walking around campus would instantly help. In some way, it has–my calves? Rock solid. That comes with its own complications, but it’s still a step in the right direction, no pun intended. What’s most annoying, however, is how disconcerting it is to realize just how out of shape you are. I know I’ve not been in my best shape for a long time, but when you daily see dozens of guys your age, younger and older, who are practically model-worthy, it brings to light how not-model-worthy you are–or at least, how much you feel it.

There’s a gym on campus. I plan to make use of it. I also plan to make use of an outlined schedule that provides me time to study, time to work out, time to work, time to rest, and time to spend with others on campus. Getting in better shape isn’t going to happen over night. It could take the whole semester–or even longer. But I’m going to work toward it without ceasing, and then, I know I’ll get there.

LEADING

We all know leadership skills look brilliant on a resume, and we all know that “leadership” doesn’t just mean being at the front of the line. It’s setting an example for others; it’s striving to achieve your potential; it’s being true to who you are and the principles you stand for. A strong leader doesn’t have to be outgoing and upbeat and the light of the crowd–strong leaders can be quiet, informed, and subtly intense. What matters is not how you act or behave, but how you live; that is what makes you a leader.

Nonetheless, we can learn quite a lot from a week on campus.

  • The best way to draw college students en masse is to offer them free food. Lots and lots of free food, of all varieties, in seemingly unlimited quantities. They will come for the free food, and let’s be frank, they will stay for the free food, but they just might learn something along the way.
  • Every extracurricular activity that you want to do will be scheduled at the same time. This is to promote efficiency in prioritizing wants versus needs and to ensure every student has at least one night per week to devote to academic disciplines.
  • Buses are like people: In through the front, out through the back.

That last one doesn’t seam leaderly? Well, maybe, for that one in particular, I do just mean walking in line.

LEARNING

Of course, the piece de resistance of college is actually learning, and in some cases living in, a learning environment. Yes, classes are the epitome of this criterion, but what makes learning come alive is not what we do inside the classroom, but how we apply it outside the classroom. Through homework, we discover discipline, invest in independence, and reap the rewards of research. Through applying our knowledge to our daily lives, we learn everything else. The classroom hours might be what’s graded and put on our transcripts and schedules, but experience? That comes foremost from doing.

Even though most of this week was filled with activities other than classes, learning happens every day, if you’re open to it.

  • If tracing your class schedule, do not enter building while fire alarm is sounding.
  • While tracing your class schedule, take note of bus stops, shady walkways, and available seating, should you happen to run early and not be able to get into your classroom, or if you should happen to pass out rushing to be on time.
  • Try out the arts: Creativity, management, and leadership are skills important in all disciplines.
  • Scan your card. Wait for the click. Then open the door.
  • Never be afraid to ask questions. The answers may surprise you.
  • Never be afraid to introduce yourself. The other person might surprise you.

Those last two are especially important. Often, I feel we hold onto our questions, thinking we either know the answers already or believing they’re not worth asking. And often, I feel we judge people too soon, thinking they look this way, talk that way, walk the other way–or whatever. We believe we know them before we’ve met them. And it keeps us apart in so many more ways than we could imagine.

Today I dropped the first course I have ever dropped after the first day of classes began–why? Because I didn’t need it. And I only learned I didn’t need it because I asked an unrelated question that led to a discussion that informed me that part of my course planner has not been properly updated–and that means there’s a number of classes I had thought I’d needed that I don’t need to take. It doesn’t make a large impact on when I’ll end up graduating, but it does make me reconsider my science electives and minors.

This week I’ve also met so many unique people. That guy who’s a complete jock and swoons over the ladies? He’s actually really nice and fun to be around. That girl who looks so depressing you might want to cry? It’s just how she looks, and really, she’s awesome to talk with. That one guy at the GLBT Center? He’s actually straight, but he’s an ally–even if he’s never heard the word before. The German doing research here? More to learn from her than from some of my teachers! The upbeat girl you met at breakfast? She just needs a good friend. And the neurotic girl who’s sanity seams questionable? She’s actually well informed and willing to help you out with it.

People abound and surround us, but we never give them a chance. However, I think we could learn more from the people we meet at college than from all of our classes combined.

Go out and meet someone. You’ll be happy to know them.

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