Sink or Swim

My doctor told me not to cry because it’s over, but instead to smile because it happened. My friends don’t wish me goodbye, they say I’ll see you later. My family told me this isn’t the end, but rather a new beginning.

Yet some friends will say goodbye and disappear from my life forever. I have to cry for all the happiness I’m leaving behind, and it’s hard to smile about four years of unfulfilled promises and missed opportunities. I know at commencement that something is ending, and this sense of finality is getting sharper every single day.

Despite how many credits I have accumulated, I’m not ready to graduate. There’s just so much left to do in this blissful world of college that I cannot see myself leaving. It was a lifetime ago that the Dean of Students sat us down and said with outstretched arms that Binghamton University is more than just these buildings. It was right then and there that I knew I had an obligation to turn all this freedom and independence into something worthwhile. There were just too many people who would give everything to be in my position, and I owed it to them to make the very most of it.

I am in awe about how extremely lucky I have been to be able to write this piece right now. As a Long Islander, I am in the top fraction of a percent of the wealthiest individuals on this earth, and I did absolutely nothing to deserve that. But with such serendipitous good fortune comes the responsibility not to screw it up. College is about balancing the freedom to have the time of your life with the discipline needed to graduate. We have all sprung off the diving board of recklessness and suffered the consequences of hitting that ice-cold water. Looking back, those are the mistakes I regret the least, as I still feel that chill before I attempt to make them again. Sometimes you need to spend your Friday night realizing how much you hate looking at art, and sometimes it takes sleeping in your bathroom to figure out when enough is enough.

Yet there are so many kids on these campuses who literally sit in their rooms and do nothing. I feel sorry for these people, because when they graduate, they will be holding a degree that does not represent an education. I do not claim to know how to be a responsible individual, a leader or a mature adult, but I am damn sure the answer cannot be found by staring at a laptop. The most beautiful thing about college is that you can fail out first semester, become the president of a club, and everything in between. It’s sink or swim, and too many kids never get into the water.

That is the greatest lesson I have learned from Binghamton University. Independence is nothing without an active mind and an open heart. Freedom demands prudence, and every opportunity is a mistake waiting to happen. College has taught me that it’s better to laugh at my horrible decisions than to be afraid that I might fail, and to surround myself with good people so that I am never laughing alone. To all those who have convinced me to do what I would’ve never done, say what I would’ve never said, and go where I would’ve never gone, I am eternally grateful for making me the person I am today. You guys have taught me more than 15 years of academia ever could, and I sincerely hope that every college student has the privilege of being pulled out of their comfort zones by people like you.