Most people won’t read this article.
Not because of any moral opposition – we’re all just busy, and most of us are too focused on our lives to consume a diverse journalistic diet.
But this isn’t just about journalism. It’s about a much broader problem, a powerful undertow on campus. Hidden beneath the surface, it pulls everyone in a certain direction. It's so nearly benign that it goes unnoticed, but if you don’t fight it, you’ll subconsciously follow where it leads.
I promise. I’ve ridden it.
We came to Athens wide-eyed, having heard legendary stories of college and eager to see where we would fit into that story.
But then, monotony hit. Around October of our freshman year, we found a group of friends who happened to look, dress and talk like us. We don’t have an issue with people unlike us. It sort of just happened that way.
Some time sophomore year, we settled into a place to live. We switched our major to something we were pretty comfortable with, that most of our friends were pursuing too. We aren’t exactly sure why we didn’t consider landscape architecture, turf grass management, real estate or fisheries and wildlife. It just sort of happened that way.
Some time junior year, we settled into a philanthropic organization where most of our friends were. We found a job where most people were like us. We went to church because our friends did, or didn’t because they didn’t. We read books and articles because our friends did, or didn’t because they didn’t.
Suddenly, it’s senior year. When asked what keeps us busy, we muster up “you know, school stuff.” During class, we kind of listen while on our laptop, uninterested in the people next to us. Then we put our headphones in, board the Orbit bus and let our minds drift beyond the crowd of people pressing around us, as uninterested in them as they are in us. We might all be on the same bus, but we’re being carried to distant locations. And come to think of it, we don’t really care.
Wait. Is this really how college is supposed to go?
What would our wide-eyed freshman selves say to the boring monotony of our lives? When did our goals morph from becoming better people to just making it up Baxter? When did joy succumb to FOMO and to-do lists? How did we let college just happen?
It doesn’t have to be this way, but resisting requires steady effort along a different path. I can’t pick that path for you, but I can suggest a couple questions you owe it to yourself to answer – what are you living for? Seriously. Then ask, “is that worthy of all my focus? Will it hold up?”
The undertow prioritizes what feels urgent. Purpose prioritizes what’s important. Learn the difference.
So, take classes your friends don’t. Get to know professors, not for a recommendation letter, but for the heck of it. Ask questions that won’t be on the test. Meet people unlike you. To borrow the Creature Comforts tagline, “Get comfortable” being uncomfortable.
Notice the trees on North Campus and the leaves imprinted on the sidewalks of South Campus. Be where your feet are, not drifting into passive thought. Apply for things and get rejected. Ask a good friend what they think about spiritual things. Ask about political things. Listen to the pride and struggles of Athens. Fight not just to get grades, but to learn.
You have two paths before you:
You can accept the well-trod, passive, comfortable path that comes with the status quo. Upon graduation, you will be handed a piece of paper, congratulated and sent on your way, much the same as before.
Or you can choose the exhausting, thought-provoking, humbling path of intentionality. You’ll leave your mark on this Classic City, and it will stamp you as one of the daring few who rejected passivity and exerted agency upon your own college experience. And as you walk under that hallowed Arch, you’ll look back and say,
“Thank goodness college happened to me.”