Letter to freshmen self: College encourages growth, promotes change

posted in: Opinion | 0

Three years ago, I showed up at Pacific. I was a fiscal conservative who would defend the Republican Party, and I wanted to be a lawyer, not just any lawyer, a corporate lawyer (le gasp).

For those of you who have read this column at any point in time, this may come as a shock. You may be thinking, “Wait, isn’t this the guy who starts flame wars on confessions about gender, race and sexuality?”

Yes, I am that person now, but three years ago I wasn’t. I didn’t care about race issues or class issues. Point is I had issues.

Flash forward three years, I am almost always talking about race and class and sexism. I am more aware of

my cultural identity and I am no longer a Republican or Democrat or a libertarian or whatever. I am a different person because of college. This semester I’ve had the privilege of being an FYS mentor and during our weekly class the phrase, “What you wish you knew when you were a freshman,” inevitably appears like a wild Pokemon in tall grass. This is a letter to my freshman self:

Dear Matthew 2011,

Live dangerously, because the earth is on it’s way out. Soon we’ll all be dead so it doesn’t matter. When people ask you what you want to be when you grow up? Don’t say a job or a profession because you deserve better than a country that only wants you to define yourself by what you produce.

Don’t be productive. Productivity is the single biggest problem in the world. Landfills only exist because we feel the need to be productive. We’ve exterminated the Amazon in the name of productivity. But here’s the thing we should do: have fun. Do at least one thing that can kill you every day.

Don’t be work, be play. Be kickball. Have a life. Don’t live to work, work to live. Above all else leave the world a better place than we left it. Improve it not by producing but by creating. Create art, conversations, joy. If something makes you happy and doesn’t hurt others, do it.

If a “friend” is really a “friend,” they won’t drag you into prickly situations that they created, without asking you. A friend also won’t spend every moment of the day telling you how stupid your choices are, or involve you in their lies.

When you tell people you love them, don’t just say it because you want to mean it, say it because you can’t live without saying it.

Stop thinking that everything is going to go wrong. Stop doing things just because you think they’re expected of you. Don’t worry about being wrong, you will be wrong all the time, make being wrong a habit.

When you want to kiss someone, tell them, don’t say you don’t want to kiss them and then wait three years to do it. Remember, there are people who

need to receive letters and people who need to receive letters from you, falling in love with the former is not a good idea.

You will achieve things you never planned to and fail to achieve things you thought you would. You will be a completely different person, so much so that you will think from time to time, maybe, everything before this moment was just a dream. That’s okay. There is a tendency to want to forget youthful stupidity, but it’s okay everyone is stupid once. Remember this, when high school students you work with tell you, “There’s no such thing as racism.” They will be at least one year smarter than you were at their age.

You will tell a team of high school students terrified before nationals, “to be present. This moment is yours don’t let anyone take it from you.” You should live everyday of college like this. Don’t let anyone take any of it from you, make it yours, make it beautiful. Be present.

Love, Matthew 2014


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