Dear Class of 2014:
With finals over and commencement week just beginning, I took advantage of the beautiful weather we received last Sunday by going for a long run through Providence. As the run progressed, however, it became less of a workout and more a time of reflection and introspection.
I ran past Piano Bar and reminisced about the Sexless Marriages, the infamous Wheel of Mystery, and the countless requests for “Defying Gravity” and “Let it Go” to be played. I ran past Whiskey Republic, and thought of the chaos that came with trying (and usually failing) to make the 10 o’clock BuzzBus. I ran on Exchange Terrance, and thought of cheering on some of my closest friends as they finished the Cox Half Marathon just a week earlier. I smiled as I ran past Fire and Ice, recalling each time my housemates and I stuffed our faces on College Night.
I got the chills as I saw a sign for the Dunkin Donuts Center, remembering storming the court against Villanova, Marshon’s 52 against Notre Dame, the arrival of Coach Cooley, the heroics of Bryce Cotton, and watching the Friars win a Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden. I finally made my way back up Douglas Avenue and past ol’ reliable Olds, the madness of Clubbies, and a place where everybody knows your name: Brads.
I finished my run at our beautiful outdoor track, but my trip down memory lane did not stop there. I turned off my music and began a slow (and long) walk back to my house on Huxley Avenue. I took in the beauty of Harkins and the grandeur of Ruane. I walked past the Quad and embraced all the memories that came along with it: living in Aquinas, playing Kan Jam instead of studying, and all of the Civ Screams. When I passed Ray, I tried to stay positive; as a growing boy, quantity often trumps quality. I made my way down the Guzman Hill and recalled living with the Guzman Goons freshman year. Finally, I made my way down to Lower Campus and took a long look at Suites: my favorite living experience here at PC.
As commencement quickly approaches, there seems to be a strong focus on the academic experiences we’ve all had here at Providence College. Our degrees will denote our areas of study. Some of us were awarded with academic awards earlier today. But what does it all really mean? I don’t mean to take anything away from academic achievement: I will wear my cords with pride. But my college experience was not defined by my GPA nor my field of study. What will stick with me forever are the relationships I formed with students, professors, administrators, faculty, and staff alike. Moreover, some of the most important lessons I learned over the past 4 years came outside of the classroom: being a member of Student Congress, doing service throughout the city of Providence, organizing around the issues of Academic Freedom and LGBT rights, acting as a fitness instructor, and last but not least, writing as a member of Friarside Chats. When people ask me about Providence College, these are the things I choose to speak about. These are the experiences that will last a lifetime.
But this piece isn’t supposed to serve as a final reflection or a diary entry to make you teary-eyed before we walk across that stage. Instead, I simply wish to make the point that while different colored cords may differentiate us, our academic experience is only one piece of our entire PC experience.
I’ll never forget what Dr. Hyde’s said to my PSC 102 class after returning our first exam. He proclaimed, “If you did well, don’t get a big head; this exam is only worth 15% of your final grade. If you didn’t do well, don’t worry about it; this exam is only worth 15% of your final grade.”
In the hyper-competitive world we live in, we oftentimes get caught up comparing each other’s accolades: our GPA’s, our work experience, and our extra-curricular activities. Similarly, as we all get ready to go off into the “real world,” the same competitive mentality is usually applied. We envy those people with life direction, and seemingly look down on those who are still trying to figure it out.
So I call anybody reading this piece to take the advice of Professor Hyde.
Those of you with definite plans post-graduation: Remember all of the hard work it took to get to where you are. You have the necessary tools to be great and succeed; continue to use them. Embarking on this new journey should be exciting and fun. So it’s okay to be serious, but enjoy the ride as you more forward.
Those of you who are still trying to figure it out: There is a big difference between failing, and being a failure. If things don’t work out, if you don’t produce the results you want, that’s okay. But don’t confuse who you are with the results that you produce. Where you are in the world is always temporary. If you want a change, go make it happen.
And finally, to every member of the class of 2014: We will all fail in life at some point or another. But, in the words of Eric Thomas, if you are going to fail, fail forward. Learn from every mistake you make, every setback you endure, every obstacle that you don’t overcome, and every barrier that you cannot budge. Don’t quit. Don’t give up; fail forward.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned through four years of college is the importance of faith. And despite my presence at a Catholic college, I am not talking about faith in God. Instead, I am talking about faith in you. In order to accomplish your goals, you need to have a vision. You need to foresee the future. You need to believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to. Nothing great in this world is ever accomplished without faith.
Up until this point, I’ve lived life with a chip on my shoulder. I wear bracelets that say “Prove People Wrong.” But I’ve learned that in this life, the only person worth proving anything to is yourself. So, Class of 2014, don’t try to prove anybody wrong; Prove Yourself Right. Do whatever you can, wherever you are, with whatever you have, and never be satisfied. Know that, wherever you are in life, you can enjoy more, and that you deserve more. Don’t ever settle. Continue to strive for greatness. Continue to be great.
The “real world” is waiting for us, 2014. Let’s show ‘em what we’ve got.