St. Olaf Sentiments: March 6, 2015

In eighth grade, I was in the spring play. I had the role of Lady Beatrice, no doubt a crucial part of a middle school production of Once Upon a Mattress. My friends and I were both intoxicated by the we-run-the-school power trip that is the last couple months of middle school and alarmed by the prospect of the imminent unknown: high school. So when somebody – I can’t remember who it was – proclaimed, “Last show; nothing matters!” we all latched on. Those four words became our mantra for the rest of the weekend.

Worried about messing up your lines? Last show; nothing matters! Feeling nervous because that boy you like is in the audience? Last show; nothing matters! Don’t feel like being quiet backstage? Last show; nothing matters! We felt pretty empowered, and definitely cooler than all of those seventh graders.

Something about senior year of college must evoke those same guttural feelings of exhilaration and anxiety that the end of middle school did, because sometime last September, I blurted out, “Senior year; nothing matters!” – probably as reasoning for why we really should order Pause pizza at 11:00 on a Monday night, and the mantra has stuck.

Among friends, the refrain is used to justify not only ordering Pause pizza more than one time a week, but also staying at lunch an extra half an hour instead of getting a start on homework, or dancing the night away at yet another Pause dance because who cares. I went to the Minnesota Timberwolves game Monday night on Kevin Garnett’s dime – thanks, Kev! instead of spending the night studying. Senior year; nothing matters!

The mantra has an element of humor, of course. We know that a lot of things matter during senior year and always – on campus and everywhere else. Oles are currently confronting issues of race, racism, privilege, social responsibility, sexual assault and awareness, mental health, depression, religion and religious tolerance, climate change, environmental stewardship, gender, sexuality, sexism, sexual health, ignorance, apathy and so many more.

We are surrounded by a lot that matters. But often all of those important things get lost in the daily struggle of finishing the Spanish reading for tomorrow and studying for the bio test on Friday. It is so easy to lose sight of what really and truly matters when so many things do – and deciding not to study for Friday’s bio test at all is probably not a great idea either.

So, what am I even talking about? First, I said that it’s senior year and nothing matters, and then I provided a litany of a lot of things that really matter and typically do not get the attention that they deserve and that they need.

I think the “senior year; nothing matters” mantra is really an exercise in being intentional, which is something that Oles of all ages can probably adopt. It is about reminding oneself – and one another – what does matter, especially when time is precious, like during the last semester of the last year at St. Olaf College.

So, how can we translate “senior year; nothing matters” from the overly-tired and increasingly-nostalgic ramblings of a histrionic college senior into a day-to-day practice at St. Olaf? Great question. Let me know if you find an answer!

I’m kidding. Here are a few ideas:

– Eat dinner with your friends, even if you have a busy night. When you laugh with friends, your body releases endorphins, which makes you healthier and happier. Also, your friends probably have a lot they can teach you. Listen to what they have to say.

– Go to a play or a dance concert or somebody’s senior recital. Spend an hour or two taking a study break and immersing yourself in art on campus. It’s like Netflix live!

– Buy a cup of rainbow sherbet in the Cage. That’s right, the Cage has had sherbet for the past week or so! I think maybe it’s left over from a Valentine’s Day shake special, so it will probably run out soon. Adult life is coming and the consumption of multicolored frozen desserts becomes less and less socially acceptable with age. Take advantage of your youth!

– Go sledding. There’s a beautiful blanket of snow out there right now, and spring is right around the corner. Maybe But actually probably not, so no rush on that one.

– Have important conversations about things you care about. Stay up a little later than you should once in a while. Don’t forget to laugh. Channel your inner out-of-control eighth-grader.

Whether you’re a prospective student who has picked up this paper on a whim during your campus visit, an alumnus preparing for your fiftieth class reunion, a parent who has never set foot on campus, or a real live college senior, remember: senior year; nothing matters!

belisle@stolaf.edu

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