Keeping up with yourself
A fourth year trustee advises that you should first do right by yourself before worrying about others
Back home, my family and I would go to this little Chinese restaurant at least twice a month. It certainly didn’t have the best General Tso’s chicken, nor were the dishes at the best prices compared to its competitors, but there was a reason why we would go, and why the restaurant won so many local awards every single year. It was the owner and his family. Lee had been in the restaurant business for years, and his extended family that helped out with the business all lived under one roof. Lee was sincere, and he was real to his customers. He genuinely cared about how the food tasted to them, and showed actual interest in a customer’s response when he asked how he was.
As fellow fourth-year trustee Michael Boone so cleverly stated in last week’s article, pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University “rivals racing in a Formula One Championship.” But remember, who is in the cockpit? You are. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” The tree is the substance and the shadow is just the reflection; don’t let your tree die to improve your shadow.
At college you’ll be in a whirlwind of friends, classes, organizations and so many other things that it will be so easy to lose touch with yourself. You’ll probably sign up for too many organizations your first year, meet hundreds of other people and then forget their names. Well, here’s the first piece of advice. Remember a person’s name. It goes so far, and sometimes they’ll even be surprised if you see them a month or two later. It shows you care, and it shows that you were genuinely happy to meet them.
The second piece of advice is don’t overcommit yourself. Doing one thing well is better than doing five things just “okay.” You’re going to let others down and you’ll lose people’s trust. Strive to be exceptional in key areas that you’re interested in. It’s impossible to balance a school workload along with every single organization and group that will inevitably spark your interest at the activities fair, in addition to allocating time for yourself, family and friends. Pick your passion and give those few things your best self.
At the University, you’ll notice that your class is incredibly diverse. We come from so many different cultures that it may be difficult for you to “find your place.” Whatever your place may be, don’t change who you are. Conformity leads people to become a fake representation of themselves, and your peers will notice that and see that. No matter how much pressure you may get to join a certain social circle or group, never do it for the wrong reasons. You’ll thank yourself later for not allowing your fear to determine your future. You may be worried about what others think of you or about not living up to people’s expectations. Don’t let that get to you.
The fourth piece of advice is to recognize your mistakes and own up to them. You’ll inevitably disappoint others during your years as an undergrad. Whether it’s getting a bad grade, letting down a friend or getting in serious trouble, genuinely apologize and show that you are truly sorry. You may feel like your mistake is the end of the world, and there’s no way to climb back up. It may seem impossible at first, but as long as you don’t give up and continually show that you’re working on fixing what you did, people will realize that and forgive you. There may be some setbacks. Your friends may disapprove of who you are, and you’ll feel that you have to change your behavior to gain back their trust. As the pop star sensation Lady Gaga said, “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” If you can’t trust yourself, how will anyone trust you? Step back, reevaluate who you are, and get back in the race. “Remember baby, you were born this way.”
You only have four years in college. There is and will only be one of you in this world. Why not spend that short time you have being yourself? As Dr. Seuss put it, “You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?”
Suraj Mishra is a fourth year trustee.