Senior to Senior
May 17, 2015
Alexandria Cunningham ’16
May is a month of milestones for many undergraduates sharing their accomplishments on places like Facebook and Instagram. From college graduations to engagements to job offers to huge career moves, some of my best friends are rapidly transforming into incredible game changers. My overflow of enthusiasm for my Oberlin family graduating in less than a week is deepened by my own nostalgia of my college journey.
Fourteen-year-old me vividly remembers starting high school and dreaming about college. Over the next four years, I matured into a young woman who thought she would have it all together by the time I hit campus. After all, I had been through things, I lost people and I knew what struggle meant from experience. However, I do not think that any of my big city life in Chicago prepared me for the uniqueness of Oberlin.
If someone told eighteen-year-old me that Oberlin just might be the best, worst-best time of my life I would not have believed them. After three years full of stress, anxiety, anger, tears, fear and far too many I-want-to-give-up-and-crawl-under-my-bed days, I am PROUD of myself. For all that Oberlin has put on me (think worry, stress, debt, frustration and sleepless nights) it has also forced me to significantly grow (e.g. intellectually, spiritually, physically, relationally, etc.). Moreover, it has brought me to this current point as twenty-one-year-old me who appreciates this newfound clarity of my own college journey.
To the new babies (℅ 2019): Oberlin is far from perfect. The thousands of reasons why this statement is true is the very reason why a considerable amount of Obies hold the campus to higher standards. It is never enough to uphold a history of traditions of inclusion and radicalness without actively continuing that history. When you become a part of this community you will hear these things repeatedly and I genuinely hope that it compels you to want to do something while you are a student here.
As a rising senior, I have come to accept that my relationship to this campus is one where I constantly have to re-evaluate, re-prioritize and re-invest myself in this space. My best friends have painted a powerful portrait of what an Oberlin scholar/activist/community enthusiast person of color can look like. I am inspired to empower my community members to be the sharpest, wittiest, most loving people they can be because my elders cultivated these qualities in me.
The most pressing reality for me now is that "I am up next." Whatever being "next" means, at the moment, is not that scary because I have earned a few warrior badges living (and not just surviving) Oberlin for three years. With that I have included a "timeline" of sorts to provide some food-for-thought about engaging with your own Oberlin journey.
- Accept that you do not fully know who you are at this stage in life. Embrace that scary reality and run with it.
- Ask questions and listen critically.
- Read! You are coming into a wealth of new ideas, start reading and writing more.
- Cry on the rough days. Yell on the frustrating days. Then, keep it moving.
- Get confident--in your abilities, strengths, weaknesses, passions, interests, EVERYTHING. There will be days when you forget how fantastic you are, so start reminding yourself of your self-worth early.
- Be unashamed to be confused, not all together or whatever lie you tell yourself that stops you from believing you deserve to be in that seat in your new college classroom.
- If you find somebody great and you want them in your life, tell them this: "Hi [insert great person's name], you're fantastic and I want you in my life as a mentor/big brother/sister/sibling/resource because I am rather fantastic too and we can make this work."
- Get excited for being 1/4 of the way done.
- Think about where you fit into the broader campus... are you a student leader? an athlete? a musician? a researcher? a theatre baby? a campus host?
- Be reflective and proactive. What drives you? What drains you? What support(s) do you need to accomplish whatever you desire?
- Be vulnerable. Cry, yell, seek community, try counseling, attempt meditation, pray, write, compose, seek soul food (spiritual nourishment that is)... you need to continue to build yourself up at this point.
- Remember that you have been through a lot already and more is going to happen. You got this.
- Check-in with yourself and self-love to the point that it is instantaneous. Go to Cowhaus, get that fruit smoothie at Decafe, take a mental health day, run barefoot for 5 minutes... just have it!
- Celebrate your upperclassman status. Woot!
- Don't get overwhelmed with the big life questions just yet. Don't lose valuable sleep stressing over "big" things that will not be as serious in a very short time.
- Recall your memorable college experiences--why do you remember them? How were you involved?
- Reflect on your community, especially important if you choose to go abroad during this year (or anytime).
- SLEEP and EAT!! For some reason, this year is when a lot of students decide they are superhuman and can pull all nighters and be malnourished... don't do it, y'all. Also, midterms and finals are the worst time always... this rule applies especially during those times.
- Spend time away from campus. Life gets a lot clearer when you take a step away from all the stress-business of Oberlin and you get a chance to put it out of your mind but watch it from a distance.
- Finish this phrase, "When someone thinks of Oberlin and says my name, they will remember/think..."
- *sing* I'm at the end! I'm at the eeennnddd!! It went by quickly didn't it?! Well, here you are after many hard days, long nights, tears on your friends' shoulders, awkward office hours and exhaustive examinations later.
- Did all the assignments, papers, exams and presentations get you anywhere? What did you take away from your learning--formal and informal?
- How have you changed? What has evolved in your life? What is the same?
- What is the ultimate thing you want in life? How can you work towards it going forward?
- Finally, what legacy/impact/motivation are you leaving behind for others? Are you proud of it?
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