How I would re-do college

The things I’d do differently if I went back to first year

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John Patterson is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

If you could rewind Father Time’s clock to move-in day your first year and re-do college, would you? Personally, I would pass. I don’t have any hefty regrets to prevent or could-have-beens that I wake up wondering about every day. I am trying to live my fourth year a bit differently though, and I wonder how much I would’ve accomplished if I somehow retroactively applied my new habits to the John of younger days.

So if through some B-movie plot device I woke up as a hatchling first-year again, I would do the following:

Get up early at the same time everyday

I think it’s the most mystical time of the day. I’ve found it’s difficult for a good morning to turn into a bad day, and it’s almost impossible for me to salvage a day from a bad morning.

I like mornings because nobody bothers me at 7 a.m. The quiet refreshes me. When I’m working throughout the day I get texts and incessant group chat notifications and all these little worries occupy my mind. But nobody wants to talk to me at 7 a.m. When I turn my music on as I unhurriedly walk out the door after an hour of silence and solitude, it feels like I’m starting the day and not letting the day start me.

A good friend of mine once slammed his hand on our table at O’Hill, looked into my eyes and said, “John. So many people LET LIFE LIVE THEM. You need to LIVE LIFE.”

The scene’s been seared into my soul ever since.

Staying up until 2 a.m. in the fluorescently-lit fish tank that is Clem 2 would be letting life live me. “I have to get this done tonight,” I would think. “I have to work like how it seems everybody else does — late into the night.” To tell you the truth, I can’t really do anything productive past 11 at night, and I would have acknowledged this sooner if I re-did college.

I would eat alone less

Every Sunday I sit down and text my friends until I have two meals scheduled for the week. I try to see friends I don’t see all the time or haven’t hung out with one-on-one yet. It’s a long list.

Let me explain this with astronomy. The empty space between stars constantly expands until it’s untraversable. My circle of acquaintances works the same way. As we go about our individual days the distance between us grows and grows until we resign to the futile, “We should get lunch sometime.”

I hate that line, “We should get lunch sometime.” It’s so passive. It’s like saying,“We should floss every day.” I mean that would be a nice world to live in, but how are we going to achieve it?

Uttering these “should” statements lets Life live me. I should do this. I should do that. Thoughts like that clutter the mind. Throw them out. Instead, I’ve re-engineered the phrase to, “I want to get breakfast or lunch with you this week.” This way I’m not stating some general notion that it would be nice if we ended up having lunch sometime but instead putting something in the calendar.

I should also note that I’m not trying to avoid eating alone at all. I’m a big fan of being comfortable by myself, it’s one of the main lessons I learned here. But there’s only so many times I can go to the dining halls just for the food and not for company.

I would make more professor friends

One time I asked a professor at an awkward meet-and-greet dinner what he thought the most underused resource on Grounds was.

“The faculty,” he said after a pause.

I have to agree with him. I’ve only befriended a few professors in four years. The ones I have gotten to know, however, have been definitive in shaping my college years and beyond. For instance, Prof. Elzinga and my ECON 2010 TA convinced me to change my English-Philosophy double major to the English-Economics double major man I am today. I could hear the relief in my parents’ voice when I told them about my conversion.

Despite professors having the ability to improve my life so much, I rarely seek out relationships beyond lecture. I don’t know what it is. Is it because they’re so intimidatingly smart I’m afraid I wouldn’t come up with anything to say? Or maybe it’s because I can easily push “Get to Know Professor” farther and farther down the to-do list until suddenly the semester ends. Either way, I would’ve kept in touch with more of my professors if I could re-do college. I can only imagine how neat it would be to have one see me develop from first-year to now.

This all adds up to how I would edit the story so far. This is also how I’m living my fourth year. Mornings, lunch dates, office hours — turns out they’re all great ingredients for a good semester, and I hope a reader smarter than me can throw them into their own recipe sooner than I did.

John Patterson is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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