With my tenure at Temple rapidly winding to an end, I’ve begun to reflect on just how perfect the owl is as a symbol for the university. No, the general education program does not require a class in nocturnal hunting or turning heads in a 180 degree fashion, but there is a pervasive intent to prepare students for the moment they are kicked out of their cozy nests and must learn to fly into adulthood.
As I begin to flap my arms wildly — who can afford wings in this economy? — I find solace in two things. One is that the avoidance of the fiscal cliff has kept my Icarusean dreams alive. The second is that I have a medium to express everything I’ve learned to a younger audience.
So I asked myself this: “If I could sit my freshman self down and try and prepare him for the next handful of years, what would I say?” And then, most importantly, could I apply appropriate subheads that are lyrics from hip-hop songs. Luckily for you, the answer to both was a resounding yes.
“Who wants to help me, I’m looking for a muse” — Atmosphere, Spaghetti Strapped
Who here among us is not guilty of procrastinating on an assignment? Exactly. So I think we can all agree to put down the stones since none of us are in a position to be casting them.
But I think we can also all agree that no one has ever said: “Wow. That worked out so much better than it would have if I had done it in advance. I’m so glad I dramatically restricted my ability to plan this out, dedicate sufficient time, edit profusely and turn in/present a finished product that I can be proud of.”
That doesn’t seem to stop some people from pretending that the difference between work gradually created through meticulous effort and work rushed together at the last possible second is comparable enough that it justifies the opportunity cost. If procrastinating is shooting yourself in the foot, then that’s the equivalent of pretending that you can walk it off because the hospital is too far.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend my entire senior year of high school getting A’s on English papers I’d written the period before. Those days have vanished into an ether of one-part nostalgia and nine-parts relief that it’s over. And they will for you too. So make sure you’re prepared to adjust accordingly. Don’t expect divine inspiration to just strike at the last moment, and don’t expect others to help you out of every jam. It’s your work, so you have to put the time and effort in.
“It’s more than just a pause and a chuckle” — Lupe Fiasco, SLR
The notion that a sense of humor is necessary to survive not just college, but life in general, is hardly novel. But it is worth repeating simply due to the magnitude of truth that lies behind that principle.
It’s inevitable that [fecal matter] will get real at some point. How you handle those situations ultimately says more about who you are than you may think. No one comes out of those situations better than the person who can keep a steady perspective. Part of that is knowing how to laugh at a situation when it clearly deserves it.
So, yes, taking the time to stop for a second and laugh about something means more than just the summation of those words. It means keeping your cool. I’m not sure how much time, energy and money went into the medical research, but I do know that four out of five doctors say laughter is the best medicine. Keep that in mind the next time stress is ailing you.
“No need to speed, slow down and let the leader lead” — Rakim, Follow the Leader
But the most salient lesson I want to impart is the importance of balancing your swagger.
Confidence is certainly vital to survival in the collegiate jungle. So you should never question if you belong or if it’s OK for you to use “swagger” in an article.
At the same time, this world essentially quantifies each person as some combination of the sum of their accomplishments and the sum of their potential. So it’s important to remember that — chances are — you haven’t accomplished anything yet.
But what about the people before you in that lecture hall, or the person whose hand you shake at that interview for an internship or even the handsome chap in the picture accompanying this article? Most of those people have accomplished something to earn that position, and most of those people can help you get to where you want to be. The other guy made a semi-clever reference to the Greek myth of Icarus a few paragraphs back, so cut him some slack.
So while confidence may be key, humility is imperative to maximizing the collegiate experience. Understand that, and don’t take the help your professors and various mentors offer for granted, and you’ll be aces.
If you’re reading this and thinking that this was all intuitive and kind of annoyed that I seem to be taking the time to lecture you about such basic stuff, then congratulations. As I wrote at the beginning of this article, this is all stuff I wish I had known back then, so the fact that you know it reflects that you mastered these principles at some point, and that’s great news.
But if you’re reading this and thinking that I’m wrong or that these may apply to other people but not you, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Zack Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZackScott11.