This past year, I put a lot of time and energy into finding the answers to the question “How can I get the most out of Olin, life, and love?” In last year’s SERV auction, two sophomores won an item donated by the entire class of 2013 in which the then-seniors promised to address any query to the best of their collective ability. This was the question posed, and it struck a chord with us all. Who hasn’t asked themselves at some point: “How can I be sure I’m getting things right?” Really, how can one tell? Dear reader, how do you?
I took it upon myself to track down my friends and peers in order to collect each of their responses. I can’t share what they said (it’s a trade secret, you see), but I can say what insights I gained from the process. It was an enlightening process – most SERV auction experiences are, and I suggest that any and all Oliners engage in it – and it highlighted to me the true worth of giving advice.
To begin with, it was immediately clear that the value of this grandiose line of questioning did not come from the wise words we said, but rather what those words said about us. Placed high up on a soapbox, separated from their subjects by a blank page and a sea of time, my classmates ended up letting their response bring them on a journey of introspection and wit. It was astounding how well they encapsulated their personalities in a single paragraph – their deepest wishes and their proudly held values proclaimed side by each in a stream of unconscious thought. “Be this way,” they would declare, and I would chuckle at each entry: “Typical this-person,” I’d laugh. “It is just like them to say exactly this sort of thing.”
Responses often revolved around the notion that the way we respond to the world is not in actuality the way we feel we ought to. To the sophomoric versions of themselves, countless students explained: ‘Seize opportunities instead of letting them go by’, ‘try to do what is good for yourself’, and ‘don’t worry too much what others think’. In these answers, I found the recurring sentiment embedded: “You and I are simply striving to live in a way we can be proud of. If we seek hard enough, we will learn what we need to do.” It was astounding to see that seniors, sophomores, and so many more go through this process all the time, wherein we figure out how to be as happy and as beneficial to those around us as we need to.
Finally, I was able to pick and choose from among what matters most to my classmates, to see what resonated with me and what I rejected. I saw every responder interpret the question a little differently – we were all free to advise on any subject at any length. As a consequence, there was a variety of answers that I found inspirational to varying degrees. The interaction of information and attitude, weight and frivolity, commandment and inquiry, and other dichotomies underscored for me the fact that no one else’s response could possibly be right for me. None were right except my own: Its tone was meticulously tailored and its entries guaranteed to be personalized.
I put a lot of time and energy into finding my own answer to the question, “How should I live my life?” It took me eighty illuminating responses painstakingly collected from my peers to realize that the very best advice is the advice that I give myself. I hope you will feel the same.
“Always be honest with yourself. Seek help if you need it. If you are stretched too thin, take ownership of that fact early and mitigate it before it is too late. Fill your life with seized opportunities. Be generous with your time and energy. Give freely what you have in plenty. Be kind and selfless. Be respectful, though you don’t have to like everyone. Be respected – you will not fail in this if you are responsible and joyous in all that you do. All in all, I believe our greatest challenge and greatest satisfaction is to sow our own ideas in the mind of another. Lastly: If you’re not satisfied with the options in the dining hall, try the soup.”