After dropping his son off at college for the first time, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow tweeted his speech to him. “Most people go to college and find themselves. Some lose themselves. Remember yourself,” he said.
As I embark upon my own new journey as a first-year law student, I want to explore this theme with the members of the Class of 2016.
At this point, I’m not going to law school to “find myself.” My tuition is WAY too expensive for that. But in all honesty, that’s what always happens during the process of becoming formally educated. I believe it’s the most important part.
However, the message that other people will lose themselves along the way both resonated with me and reminded me of what I had already seen happen in college as people chased acceptance and whatever else they felt may have been eluding them. Most importantly, the charge: remember yourself, even and especially when everyone else tries to make you forget or when they forget themselves.
So with Charles Blow’s advice in mind, I have one more crucial piece of advice to help us all through our year of transition: seek your voice now.
Seek your voice now. We always hear people talk about “finding yourself” as though the search for oneself is a passive process and we are just going to run into ourselves at the mall one day. Allow me to tweak that. Go look for yourself. Just as no one is ever going to hand you anything, you are never going to figure out what you like, don’t like, are good at, bad at, or passionate about if you do not explore. I understand that getting involved and getting to know people is more difficult for some people than it is for others, but even if it means forcing yourself out of your protective shell, it’s necessary.
Many — not all, but many — people graduate from school and still have no idea what they want to do with their lives not because they are interested in too many different things (we all have that problem), but because they do not know what they are interested in. Their life’s purpose was not simply revealed to them in a dream and they never took the time to actively pursue it or figure it out.
Seek your voice. Don’t just find yourself, find your voice. Find your ability to communicate and express your wants, needs, feelings and opinions to yourself and to others. While I’ve always loved to write, prided myself on being an opinionated person and a relatively good communicator, I did not find my voice (on campus, in particular) until my junior year when I joined my school newspaper. Until then, I saw things, felt things, and thought things, and I would tell other student leaders or complain about it to my friends over dinner, but once I made the decision to find a platform where my voice could be heard, everything changed for me.
I know that it can be difficult to trust the value of your own voice amongst so many other seemingly loud or more influential ones, but learn to speak up and be heard. Be sure to seek and use your individual voice, not someone else’s.
Seek your voice now. This final part is arguably the most important part of the charge. Do it immediately. Everyone comes to his or her own realizations in time, but college — traditionally anyway — is only four years. Yes, you will have an adjustment period, but try not to let adjustment turn into apathy, absence, or neglect.
Don’t sit back and say, “I’ll get involved tomorrow.” Not just in assignments, but in life procrastination is not your friend. The last thing you want to do is to look up and realize that your time there is almost over and you never sought help for the trouble you were having in math, studied abroad, submitted that article to your school paper, or went to that organization’s meeting.
Those are the most important words I have for you as you begin. Now, let’s hope that I can take my own advice.
Live HOPE. Give HOPE.
About the Author
A May 2012 graduate of Howard University and a 1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Britney Wilson is a poet and freelance writer and blogger. Check out more of her work at her blog, Mut(e)iny.