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Ol' Father Time & I: Advice From the Halfway Line

March 24, 2014

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

Do you remember hearing how quickly college flies by? At first it seems like folks are just over-exaggerating when they say that college literally begins and ends in an instant, but believe me, they are for real. In the blink of an eye, you can go from being that anxious high schooler ready to start off in the world to that more seasoned college senior at graduation who has been through enough to know who they are. Four years comes and goes... and here I am halfway through it.

Now that the hectic rush of midterms is finally winding down and my mind is snapping back into shape, it just hit me that I am almost done with my second year of college. I have (essentially) completed 50% of my undergraduate degree. The rollercoaster ride is halfway over. When the hell did all that happen?! I have had so many conversations with my friends about how time has literally eluded our grasp and how amazing it is to see how far we have come. I look at my Posse with eyes of wonder because we have been together for three years now--we have seen, done and felt it all and are completely different people. It is mind-blowing to think about how time has pushed us in different directions.

Two years at Oberlin will do things to you (hopefully for the better), and in reflecting about environment, maturity and time I figured a quote parade would be the best way to prompt discussion. The following sections are loosely organized around things I wish I knew, insight that I fought to gain, knowledge I had to accept, and self-awareness that I am coming into. Personally, I notice that my grind is harder, my convictions run deeper and my commitments to people and principles are much stronger because of the experiences I have had in this Oberlin space. I had time to break down, rebuild and keep it moving. These quotes reflect that... so let the quote storm begin.

Why Didn't You Tell Me?!

  • "Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • "Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have." ~Louis E. Boone
  • "I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." ~Michael Jordan
  • "The older you get, the more you understand how your conscience works. The biggest and only critic lives in your perception of people's perception of you rather than people's perception of you." ~Criss Jami

Self Definition and Its Meaning

  • "I used to want the words "She tried" on my tombstone. Now I want "She did it." ~Katherine Dunham
  • "I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition." ~Maya Angelou
  • "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed." ~Booker T. Washington
  • "Deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect, and make everyone else deal with you the same way." ~Nikki Giovanni

A Grain of Salt and a Nice Thought

  • "Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face." ~Carol Moseley-Braun
  • "Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me." ~Zora Neale Hurston
  • "I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to." ~Unknown
  • "I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else's whim or to someone else's ignorance. ~bell hooks

Growin' Into It

  • "The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things." ~Temple Grandin
  • "You can fall, but you can rise also." ~Angelique Kidjo
  • "When I dare to be powerful--to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." ~Audre Lorde
  • "What I will say is that what I have learned for myself is that I don't have to be anybody else; and that myself is good enough; and that when I am being true to that self, I can avail myself to extraordinary things... You have to allow for the impossible to be possible." ~Lupita Nyong'o

So what is my advice from the halfway line? Honestly, it is just to cherish every moment you have both on this campus and outside of it. For better or for worse, life happens, and you are never going to know how to prepare for ultimate devastation or how to make the sweetest joys last forever. The point may be to experience them to their fullest and live with the vivid memory. So to all the incoming students (as well as my continuing folks), love what you do and cherish it like it is your last day to do so. Time is of the essence.

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