1. The path is not straight
2. Mistakes need not be fatal.
3. People are more important than achievements or possessions.
4. Be gentle with your parents.
5. Never stop doing what you care most about.
6. Learn to use a semicolon.
7. You will find love.
– Marion Winik
On move in day my freshman year, sometime between the backaches of hauling a year’s worth of crap up three flights of stairs and the awkwardness of meeting my hall mates, my parents slipped Marion Winik’s list of wisdom underneath my pillow. I remember reading it once or twice over and tossing it into a pile of clutter on my unmade bed, only to be revisited at the end of my freshman, sophomore, and junior years. In that eternally ambiguous space between the end of senior year and the beginning of the rest of my life, I have turned again to Winik’s seven truths and reflected upon the ways they have guided me through the past four years:
1. The path is not straight, it is upside down, backwards, under construction, and in most cases, clogged with so much rush hour traffic that I was left wondering whether I would ever get to where I was supposed to go in the first place. Over time, I have learned to navigate the path. Although these navigational abilities have proven faulty at times, I continue to believe that wrong turns are sometimes for the better.
2. Mistakes need not be fatal. This I learned the hard way when I made a math error on my first Econ exam that cost me two letter grades. Discouraged as I was, I turned to my mathematical-minded friends and professor for guidance. By the end of freshman year, I learned that grades are fluid and arbitrary measurements of one’s perceived involvement in the classroom. They are not a means to punish students for their mistakes — their purpose is to reward students for their attempts at success.
3. People are more important than achievements or possessions. This I needed help defining at first – there are academic achievements, but there are also romantic achievements, intellectual achievements, and moral achievements. In the same case, possessions sometimes do not have any value at all – sometimes they are significant others, friends, and family. Over the last four years, I have come to understand that “people” are those that we are closest to, those who guide us in our decisionmaking, those we trust, and most importantly, those we love.
4. Be gentle with your parents. I am incredibly lucky to have two smart, loving, funny, and above all, understanding people for parents, and I know that there are many people who do not share this wealth. While I have transformed into a vastly more independent and different person over the course of four years, I have never once seen my parents’ love and respect for me change. To the readers who are lucky enough to have one, two, or three years left at Bucknell: call your parents. They, most likely, are the ones who sent you here in the first place, and they deserve your love and respect as much as you deserve theirs.
5. Never stop doing what you care most about. When I chose my major freshman year, I feared I would fall into the fabled trap of English Literature majors — that I would somehow end up a teacher, a novelist, or a homeless intellectual. But my family and professors encouraged me to follow my passions for reading and writing and soon I found a job at the Writing Center, three summer internships with online publications, and of course, Her Campus. Now, I do not let my major — or anything, for that matter — define me. I have learned that it is important to respect and own my passions as something that is uniquely mine.
6. Learn to use a semicolon. I am an English Lit major and still do not understand how to use this baffling punctuation mark; perhaps I will learn someday?
7. You will find love. This, of course, I found hard to believe. At eighteen years old, I interpreted this sort of love as the kind that was advertised to me by alumni: the image of the Bucknell Couple was clear in my mind, and I was excited to find Him my sophomore, junior, senior, or even freshman year. Now, looking back, I am grateful that I have yet to find this kind of love, because I have been busy filling my life with different kinds of love. I have found love through my sorority sisters, my Her Campus team, my professors, mentors, modmates and roommates. I have taken this for granted until recently, when I realized that never again would I be surrounded by so many types of love as I have been lucky enough to experience on Bucknell’s campus.
In these last few days of senior year, I have learned that Winik’s words are wise, but they are not final. While I fully believe that they can be applied to any college experience, the ways in which they are interpreted change through time. And so, my fellow Bucknellians, I challenge you to find your own seven truths. I challenge you to not be wary of unmarked paths, faulty decisionmaking, or disappointing others. Say no; say yes. Say “I love you.”
Be selfish, Bucknellians. In this hour, in this moment, you are the only thing that truly matters in this universe, simply because you exist.