Dear Incoming Member of the Class of 2021,
You will not meet me your Orientation week. I won’t hold open the doors of the library for you. I will not be at your first a capella concert. In the next four years you may walk the same steps as I did, your favorite VI meal may be the same as mine, and you may live in the rooms I lived. These four years will not be the best years of your life, and they will not be the worst. But they will change you and make you into the person you are meant to become. I didn’t want advice when I entered Kenyon, but as I leave I want to give some semblance of advice to you.
- Never take this for granted. In finals week you may think college will last forever, but it won’t. That class that you are so frustrated with will seem like nothing one day. Each time you feel trapped in this place know it is a temporary home, and it will be gone in the blink of an eye.
- Judge and criticize Kenyon for its faults, but find the beauty in this campus. Too many times it is easy to say “Kenyon sucks,” and living these four years with negativity will only result in deep regret at the realization your head has been in the shadows instead of seeing the beautiful moments this place can offer. When you feel terrible, get your roommate or friend and get a bookstore ice cream. Go to the Kokosing, sit under the bridge, and write down your dreams.
- Your professors will change your life, but you have to let them. Find the professors who challenge you. Go to their office hours and ask their advice on the future. Ask what books shaped their understanding. Ask about their life. Take classes with new professors, and find those professors you love and keep taking any class they are offering.
- Find your passion and pursue it even if your department doesn’t offer you opportunities. You must make opportunities for yourself. Create a club, go to the Horn for a grant to do that music performance you want, or get Fun Funds for that play you want to put on. Find your favorite professor and do an independent study on a topic you are interested in, or on a project that is your dream. Just find and follow your passion, and the rest will come into place.
- Look to the community as people whose story you can learn from. Go to the CDO and hear their story. Talk to maintenance. Talk to people who live here. Hear others’ stories. You not only are going to school at Kenyon, but you are living in Gambier, Ohio. Do not get caught in a bubble that ignores that last fact.
- Relationships, love, and hookups take too much importance on this college. Your life does not revolve around whether you were able to hook up with someone after an Old Kenyon party, or whether you were able to be in a relationship during these four years. Don’t allow a relationship to take away from your friends, your work, or opportunities. Love will come later, for now focus on the present and the relationships you can build with your friends, professors, and the community.
- You will feel the need to define yourself in terms of what Kenyon sees you as, but fight this urge. Seek creativity and individuality each step of the way. Eat alone in Peirce, try a dance class, and find several different friend groups.
- Don’t be afraid of loneliness. Be single for a bit. Drive to Easton and treat yourself to a “me” sushi date at Kona Grill. Get your guitar and play. Practice self-care and set a time each Sunday where you put on a face mask and relax.
- There will be pressure to go out and party. This will be fun at times, and at other times will be terrible. Allow yourself forgiveness in tough or embarrassing moments, and seek balance. Get a pint of Talenti or some wine and sit alone in your room and watch your favorite TV show or movie some nights.
- Treasure your parents and family. You may feel the need to distance yourself from your family and who you were before Kenyon, but you need them now more than ever. Who you were before Kenyon is still part of you, and you must embrace that here.
Breathe. It will be okay. I know you are scared now, and feel like you need to have everything figured out. There will be tough moments and you will see the darkest sides of yourself, but you will see yourself grow and develop in ways you can’t predict right now. Allow yourself to make mistakes, to be a kid, and to be silly sometimes. Life will take you in the path it intends for you. In the meantime memorize the Deli smell, stop and close your eyes and listen to the sounds of a Friday night winding down, and lay on the grass in front of Peirce that first beautiful day of spring. One day when you are a senior with two weeks left in this place you will realize how precious, messy, and beautiful those memories are. Good luck, and as they say in Girl Scouts “Leave this place better than you found it.”
– A Nostalgic Senior from the Class of 2017