Monday, October 20, 2003

Walking back from Calculus class, I lapsed into another one of my deeply philosophical moods. It seems to me that the main difference between high school and college rests, not in the environment or academic change, but in the shift of focus. At my high school (though since we were so small I probably have a skewed viewpoint), there was always a sense of a safety net. A friend once told me that it was very hard to fail in high school; he had done it and it took at least as much work as getting A's. This was very true at Fuqua--the teachers kept an eye on everyone and if someone started falling below the expected mark, there was instant feedback. Plus, your classes are set out for you and everything down to when and where you eat is scheduled and formatted. In college, if you don't show up to class or don't turn in an assignment or forget to eat or go to bed at 3:00 AM, there's no one there to take you to task or nag you for it.
You have to do that YOURSELF.
In the end, the only one that really cares what you do is YOU. Freshman year, you're just more grist for the mill. In the eyes of the universe, or at least the university, you do not matter.
And yet...
And yet, if you don't matter, why the emphasis on the individual? Look at all the independent research that upperclassmen do. Consider all the custom-tailored classes that fit maybe 10 people out of the entire population. If no one person matters more than another, why the modern concept of man being in charge of his own destiny?
As far as I can tell, the seeming paradox here exists only to help us, at best, and force us, at worst, to realize what we want--need--to do, and in so knowing DO. The hurly-burly of our first year will hopefully be the catalyst to a gradual awakening which takes place over the course of our education--which as we all know is a subjective thing.
Perhaps a line from the song "Ripple" sums it up. (What would a blog of mine be without a quote?)

You who choose to lead must follow
And if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand, then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way, I would take you home.

Destiny and choice are intertwined in this irrational and inescapable contradiction. It seems now that what we all waiting for with the advent of college was not freedom or adventure or alcohol--but awakening. The awakening of whatever it is inside us that whispers, "Now you understand. Do what you desire most--that which you were meant to achieve."


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