We are into the second week of the new year and if you haven't done so by now, it may be a bit late to draft that "I resolve to..." list.
Most folks, I think, begin making these types of lists right around Christmas. How appropriate, right? The year is fast coming to a close and we start to evaluate the year and our responses to it. How did I handle this situation? Was I able to make progress on this front? Have I gotten any closer to my goals? Did I invest or save money? Did I lose weight (does anyone resolve to gain weight?)? Did I befriend anyone? Did I curtail my drinking or get to bed at a decent hour? Did I tell my mom I loved her? How many times did I call in sick when I really wasn't? How many times did I skip class? How many times did I put off completing an assignment? How many times did I oversleep or forget it was my turn to make pasta?
We can go over and over our shortcomings and faux pas and vow again to be better at being who we are while trying not to offend anyone in the process. But to what avail?
I stopped making resolutions several years ago. My self-esteem could not manage the disappointment. For example, each year I vowed to be on time, early even. Just be on time: to work, to church, to getting my kids from rehearsal or a practice, to the hair salon, to meeting my spouse for a meal, to getting dinner on the table... there were far too many time-oriented and time-sensitive things to try to handle so before the week was out, I had already failed.
CHANGE IS H-A-R-D.
So rather than stress out or draft some aspirational goals (we all like to dream, yes?), I started making lists of things I wanted to accomplish in terms of tasks as well as lists of things I wanted to do on the lines of self-improvement. The list might have something like:
Smile more and frown less. I tend to have a perpetual scowl on my face, which belies my general feeling of how blessed I am.
I propose you do the same thing. For 2010, resolve to learn more about Oberlin, try things that are uniquely Oberlin, experience things that you can only do in Oberlin.
Read a book while sitting on the Bench by the Road steel bench dedicated by Lorain native and acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison on the northeast corner of Main and Lorain streets. Let me recommend Song of Solomon or The Secret Life of Bees or In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Or just read your textbook. Or take your laptop and post an entry to your blog about the serenity of this underused green space.
Sleep in the courtyard of the Allen Memorial Art Museum so you can be among the first to choose a work of art to hang in your room as part of the Art Rental project. You may have already camped outside a stadium to get prime tickets to a sporting event or a concert, but for a work of art? How cool is that? While it may not be comfy sleeping outside, renting a work by Monet or Red Grooms for $5 is worth it. Unlike most things, the rental price is quite affordable.
Have lunch or dinner in one of the program houses. Experience firsthand the food, culture, and language of a country and not be made to feel awkward or foolish because you don't know cultural etiquette.
Study away. Study abroad. Not many small or liberal arts colleges have an office devoted to studying abroad. The college years are the best time to travel--before debts and other responsibilities kick in and while your mind is still open to trying new, unusual, and unconventional experiences that force you from your comfort zone.
Rent a bike from the Bike Co-op and use it throughout the semester to get around Oberlin. You'll get great exercise, save on your carbon footprint, help Oberlin keep its top 10 Coolest School status, and realize that an SUV is not something you should aspire to buy after college.
Teach or take an Experimental College (ExCo) class. The student-run program offers courses that run the gamut, from the serious to the eccentric. Some past course titles include Sacred Dance: Pathway to Well-Being, Crime Solving in British Murder Mysteries, Introduction to Japanese Cinema, Performance Swing, and Jump Rope, among others. Students, in particular, and anyone who wants to teach a class is able to, I believe, based on an application process. You can earn one credit and up to five ExCo credits toward graduation. Classes cover subjects and themes not offered through the Oberlin College curriculum. (Did I see jump rope on the list?)
I am sure there are other uniquely Oberlin experiences that you've already had or are dying to try. My recommendation list is sparse. Please add to it.