Change is an undeniable part of growing up. Whether it is moving homes, changing schools, meeting new people, finding new interests, or anything in between, every single person experiences myriad changes in their life. For many people, myself included, one of the largest changes is the process of going to college. College can come with any number of transitions: a new city, new friends, new studies, or even a new identity—a new you, so to speak. In my experience, the change that took the longest for me to get used to was the independence. For better or for worse, a majority of college students operate on a level of independence with which few have had prior experience. You’re going to be treated as an adult in college, so no one is going to be nagging at you to do your homework, no one is going to be making sure you get to class on time (or even go to class at all), and fewer people are going to be looking out for you on a day-to-day basis. It’s not to say that no one is going to be supporting you, but it’s just that the increased independence is also going to come with a necessary increase in responsibility as well. You need to start taking responsibility for yourself. And when I say responsibility for yourself, I mean every part of yourself—for your own sake, as well as others’.
Taking responsibility means a lot of different things. On the surface-level, your responsibilities are going to include basic necessities—eating three meals a day, getting enough sleep, staying healthy, sorts of stuff like that. But, just as important as the simple things is taking ownership over yourself, your happiness, and your own success. The biggest piece of advice I give to first-year students (or really just about anyone actually) is that if you want something, go get it. Do not wait for something to be presented to you on a silver platter—that’s not how the world works. Success takes hard work and you have to be willing to put in the effort to achieve it. College—NYU in particular, in my opinion—is a matter of getting out what you put in. If you’re not willing to expend the time and energy to research and pursue your passions, then you’re not going to achieve them.
I recently participated in a meeting of students, faculty members, and administrators from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study (my program!) where we discussed the resources available to students and the connection between students and faculty. As one of the few seniors in the room, I was asked several times if I had taken advantage of various resources that are offered to students in Gallatin, to see if they were effective resources. All sorts of things were brought up: faculty office hours, independent projects, student grants, fellowships, and funds, alumni networks, and more. To my embarrassment, I wasn’t aware of a lot of the resources mentioned, and the resources I did know about, I had only taken the initiative to make use of a few. Even though I walked out of the meeting slightly frustrated about this fact, I really only had myself to blame. I’ve been a student at NYU for four years now, so what was my excuse? This is what I mean when I say take responsibility for yourself. NYU and New York City as a whole has an unreal amount of things to offer students, but you have to be willing to go out to find them.
Perhaps most importantly though, don’t complain about the things that you have every power to change. If you’re too busy, then reel it back with the commitments; if you’re studying something you’re not passionate about, switch programs! It can seem daunting to have this level of responsibility weighing on your shoulders, but it’s better to view it as a form of empowerment. You might have a lot of choices and changes coming up, but think about all of the new places this independence can take you. So register for that one art class you’ve always wanted to try out, put yourself out there to make new friends, apply for the grant you never thought you would get. Not everything is always going to work out, but giving something a shot never hurt.
I don’t much feel like celebrating Independence Day this year and that is sad for me as it is one of my favorite holidays. I am so in awe of those who have dedicated their lives so that we have our freedoms and have been able to keep those freedoms for more than 2 ¼ centuries. I am so appreciative of the fact that I was born and raised in this country and therefore, my freedom came as part of my birthright. I feel so fortunate to live in what I believe is the greatest country in the world.But, I am so saddened by what I have been seeing lately with regard to those who are abusing their freedoms by mistreating others in so many arenas without giving it a second thought.
With freedom and independence comes the right to do and be and live as we choose. We are free to choose our political views, our religions, our work, etc. We have the right to vote for whom we wish to represent us and what laws should govern us. But, for many, their responsibilities stop there. They want their freedoms as long as they don’t have to do anything to earn them or support them or work for them. They want peace in the world but that is for someone else to figure out how to get it. They want for so many things and for so much in their lives but are not willing to work for it in the same way as so many before us who fought for our independence and who struggled to make a life for themselves and their families in this land of opportunity.
Just look around you and see what has been going on. In so many homes, there is little or no love or time for one another as everyone has become so driven to focus on the ways that they can get more stuff and keep up with having the best of everything. So much has become all about appearances. Everyone is too busy trying to reach the top that they are doing anything and everything to pursue the almighty dollar even when it is at the expense of those who are nearest and dearest to them. The pressures and stress are so great that people are returning to their homes and releasing everything on their own families because that is a safe place to do and be whatever they want without the ramifications that would occur were they to behave in that way outside of the home.
The work place has become an even harder place in which to exist these days. With the stress of the work alone in greater quantity having to be done by a smaller work force, it is no wonder that people are having a hard time. Many bosses are under pressure to increase the bottom line and are doing so by passing along their work to those who work for them because they know that they can get away with it at this time when it is so hard to find a new job elsewhere. These same bosses are threatening the work force either directly or in the undercurrent of their messages that if you don’t do what you are told to do in the timeframe given, there are plenty of people standing in line to take your place. Those at the top are increasingly taking credit for the work of others in order to advance their own careers and are receiving promotions because of the efforts of everyone else. And those getting hired and promoted these days are increasingly the family and friends and the favorites of those who are in the positions of power.
I think that each of us needs to stop and take a look at the way we are dealing with our own situations and how we are treating those around us. In all situations, it is our personal responsibility to appreciate the freedoms and independence that we have and to honor our forefathers as well as ourselves by treating everyone fairly. We can accomplish whatever we need to do or want to do by working together, sharing the work equally, appreciating what others can bring to the table and being grateful and appreciative to others for their help and effort. A little love always goes a long way and it is what everyone deserves. After all, you only need to look around you to see what a lack of love has produced in many homes and business to know the difference.