Oberlin Blogs

What I've Learned

November 2, 2012

Dara Lehrer ’16

Recently I was having a conversation with my friend about classes at Oberlin in general and he said that if there is any one lesson that he has taken away from his thus far, it's that capitalism sucks. Now, while I don't necessarily agree in every way with this assertion, his statement did get me to thinking, what have I learned in my classes this year?

The easy answer would be to make a bullet pointed list of what I've covered so far in my archaeology, chemistry, spanish, and gender/racial/sexual identity classes. But that wouldn't really answer the question.

Don't get me wrong, I have indeed learned a good amount in all of them. Ever wonder what the best conditions for mummification are, or how to carbon date something, or even how to use the subjunctive tense? I'm your girl. I appreciate the knowledge I've worked towards gaining in all of them, and am eager to learn more. But let's be real-- classes aren't all that college is about.

Far from it, in fact. College is a time for growth and discovery, and while some of that does indeed happen within the classroom setting, I'd say the majority of it doesn't. It happens when you are freezing cold walking through Tappan Square to get back to your dorm room at 3 am, or when you find yourself either succumbing to or abstaining from changing your old habits and routines from back when you were at home, or when you catch yourself in a reflective surface and are startled to realize that you're looking at yourself and not some stranger you thought (for a second) was looking at you.

And so, in that vein, I set out to define what it is exactly I have discovered about myself and about the mechanics of college so far. Here are, in no particular order, the top ten things I have learned in my first two months at Oberlin:

1. Eat breakfast. Every day. Preferably yogurt. Not joking. It's the most important meal of the day, and will benefit you to no end.

2. Let your freak flag fly. I can't speak for all schools, but I can say with an overwhelming amount of confidence that Oberlin is a very accepting place, so you may as well take full advantage of it. Say what's on your mind, when it's on your mind. Don't be self-conscious. More than likely, whatever you have to say will be respected and listened to by fellow open-minded Obies.

3. Pursue all of your interests, even the ones you don't think you have time for. You never know just how cool something will be until you try it, so try it! Try everything! I never thought I'd be an official granola-maker in any capacity, but as destiny would have it, I am. And it's great.

4. Find a space where you feel comfortable taking your pants off. Don't think that space exists? Think again! I truly believe that everyone should spend more time without pants on everyday. If you can find a place where you don't feel the need to be constrained by pants (and moreover, by society), then you will truly begin to feel at home.

5. Don't not get enough sleep. There is so much to do all of the time, but sleeping will make all of that more enjoyable, so make sure to get enough of it. Even if your crazy college friends tell you not to, don't listen to them. Listen to the voice of reason, which, if you're like me, probably sounds a lot like your mother.

6. Accept the fact that humans have a very loose, slippery grip on reality and can't correctly identify anything, ever, in any facet of our lives. If there is one thing I have taken away from all of my classes at Oberlin it's this. All of my classes have an inherent level of ambiguity that just has to be accepted, acknowledged, considered, and at some point pushed to the side entirely. We may never know the exact tendencies of electrons, the true nature of human sexuality, or the reality of the daily lives of the lower caste of the Incan Empire, but that sure won't get in the way of us from trying.

7. Consume vegetables many, many times a day. I am one of the only people I know who has yet to get sick here, and I can only attribute this to my copious and constant consumption of vegetables. I don't shower nearly as often as I should, I hardly ever wash my clothes or towels, and I share drinks and food with sick people. Somehow though, I'm healthy as an albino squirrel.

8. Go with the flow. Don't be rigid in your routines. Back at home, I was a huge stickler for following my routines. When it comes to studying and homework, I definitely still am. But when it comes to everything else, I've realized it's better not to set an agenda for myself. Que será, será and all of that.

9. Don't be embarrassed. About anything, ever. There is no need. Confidence is far more admirable, and will smooth out a situation much more easily anyhow.

10. Meditate. And by that I don't necessarily mean sitting and trying not to think about thinking. Meditating can mean completely different things to different people. For me personally, meditating is walking in silence by myself. For a friend of mine, however, meditating is de-stressing by jabbering away to her friends. Basically, do what makes you feel happier and more focused. You'll be all the better for it.

Here's a quote from Gandhi that kind of builds off of what I am trying to say in list item #6:

"Nothing that the modern civilization can offer in the way of stability can ever make any more certain that which is inherently uncertain; that, when we come to think of it, the boast about the wonderful discoveries and the marvellous inventions of science, good as they undoubtedly are in themselves, is, after all, an empty boast. They offer nothing substantial to the struggling humanity."

So there you have it, ten things I have learned at Oberlin so far, at least six of which I think others should try to abide by as well. Bonus points to those who pursue item #4 with a dedicated passion! I know I sure am.

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