PARTING SHOT: Learn something, would ya?
Growing up, before I left for school every day, from first grade through the end of high school, my father would make the same request — “Learn something, would ya?” It became a sort of inside joke, something I would groan about and roll my eyes at. He was consistent — every morning he’d make the same request, and every morning I would react in the same way.
But deep down, what he meant when he said it, was that he hoped I’d make the most of my day — that I would take every opportunity to learn something new just for the sake of learning. And as I’ve gone through college, I’ve realized how important that little request was. I miss hearing it every day — though when I call him, my dad will still make the same request — because it was comfortable and familiar. But more than that, it was both an encouragement and a statement of faith — my father knew what I was capable of and wanted me to reach my fullest potential.
Now, looking back on four years of college filled with love, laughter and even a global pandemic, I feel like my father’s request is the perfect way to sum up my college experience. College is inherently about learning, of course. In the classroom, I’ve been so lucky to learn from incredible professors who have helped to truly expand my knowledge base — huge shoutout to Professor Clare Kinney, who I’ve taken five English courses with, officially becoming a certified fangirl — and have been able to take classes across disciplines that have pushed me as a student. But college is about another kind of learning as well — learning from failures and about yourself.
It’s easy to get lost in the ups and downs of college, to get “stuck in a moment you can’t get out of,” to quote U2, my and my father’s favorite band. Especially at the University, where there is such a focus on success and achievement, it can feel like any imperfection sets you back. There have been so many moments where I’ve taken a bad grade or a rejection from a position personally, equating it to my self-worth. I’ve told myself that because I didn’t achieve that one singular goal, I am not worthy of my status as a University student, or I’m not intelligent enough or talented enough, and I spiral into self-doubt. But if I could do it all again, I would spend less time dwelling on my failures and more time recognizing the learning opportunities that they were.
Not to sound pessimistic, but failure is inevitable. We’re human! I’ve spent so much time at the University worrying I wasn’t enough because I hadn’t gotten into this club or that program. And sure, it’s absolutely okay to feel defeated, but if I could change it, I would go back and try to tweak my attitude ever so slightly. Hindsight is 20/20, but I can genuinely say that the failures I experienced pushed me forward in other ways. When I got rejected from the Batten school, I was able to focus on my love of English and creative writing. I was able to study abroad, where I discovered that my love for museums could be turned into a future career. This singular failure led to me learning so much about myself and what I truly wanted to do. Maybe there was an alternate future in which I would have studied public policy and loved it, but I choose to believe that this was the path I was meant to be on.
Looking back, four years since I committed to the University, I am proud of how much I’ve learned. I’ve learned the importance of taking time for myself amidst the chaos of college, how time with friends can make everything better, how important it is to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and how one stumble doesn’t mean you’re unworthy. I’ve learned the power of community and that I am capable of more than I could have ever thought. I’ve learned to live in the moment — as much as a very anxious person can — and to value every opportunity. While there are so many things I wish I could experience again or think about differently, I truly feel like I’ve learned so much, in and out of the classroom.
So as an old, washed-up, semi-jaded fourth year, I urge you to make the most out of your time at the University, and please, learn something, would ya?
And Dad, for you, I’ll keep learning every day.
Hailey Robbins was an Opinion Columnist for the 133rd and 134th terms of The Cavalier Daily.