Balancing community and individuality

A critical analysis of the list of 116 things to do before you graduate

This Friday morning, I finally did it. I got the #1 ticket at Bodo’s. Granted, I didn’t do most of the grunt work — I showed up at 6:30 a.m. to wait for a half hour after my friends had been waiting since 5:15. But still, we did it.

As I checked the box off of the list hanging on my wall, I was once again confronted with a question I have been facing all year — am I actually going to do all of these things?

Some of them I am excited to do, and most of them I have already done. But there are some I simply do not want to do — some don’t match the person I am. For example, I have never pulled an all-nighter in college, and I avoid going to Clemons at all cost. If I were to pull an all-nighter in Clemons, it would be expressly for the purpose of checking it off of the list, and is that really a good enough reason?

Part of me loves and respects this list. It creates a U.Va. experience that binds all of the students together. It gives us things to bond over and suggestions for fun activities to invite our friends to do. It helps ensure we do not miss out on anything we would regret missing.

But there is another part of me that feels it creates too much pressure to do things you may not want to do. At the same time it bonds everyone together, it might be homogenizing us too much. Especially at this point in time for fourth-year students, time is precious. Shouldn’t we be spending it doing the things we value most, rather than the things one anonymous third party decided were the most important?

There is certainly value in pushing past your comfort zone and trying things you would not expect to enjoy. For example, I went on a spring break service trip to a place called Nazareth Farm, where it was a thing to eat a “NazWhich” — a sandwich consisting of peanut butter, jelly, mustard, cheese and pretzels. I understand if you just gagged — it is weird. But, because the whole community was trying it, I tried it, and it wasn’t that bad. However, if there were someone with allergies to peanut butter or simply a strong aversion to trying something so weird, I don’t think they should have felt any less a part of the community.

The same logic applies to the list. If I don’t want to spend the night in Clemons or sing karaoke at Fellini’s, I don’t think I should feel like any less of a U.Va. student. The University is filled with a diversity of people and a diversity of different ways to make the most of our college experience, and I don’t think we all need to complete the same checklist of 116 things.

What I think we really need to do is find a way to balance the value of community the list brings with the value of our own individuality. I am glad we go to a school where we have things like Bodo’s, the Lawn and Tony Bennett to bring us together. I like being proud of where I go to school, and I want this community to remain strong. But at the same time, I want to be my own person and be comfortable occupying my own place in Charlottesville.

Perhaps what I will do is cross out the things I don’t think are worth my time — which, to be honest, are actually very few — and instead add a few items of my own. If everyone in the Class of 2016 did that, and we compiled all of the items together, I imagine we would have an extremely interesting mix of activities and values. That is a list I would love to see.

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