St. Olaf Sentiments: March 4, 2016

I’ve had the same scrap of paper on my desk since Sept. 2 – a “Note to Self” of sorts. Most of the time, it’s obscured by stacks of notebooks and novels and half-sipped mugs of tea. Some days it suffocates under the weight of my accounting book, and other times it makes a great placemat for my scantly washed cereal bowl. But every once in a while, when I clear the clutter, I find it again – a reminder scrawled in out-of-shape cursive: “No more chances.”

The phrase was born on a humid night with a very non-alcoholic beverage in hand. Friends and I watched the final moments of our last real summer seep into the first minutes of official seniordom.

“This is it. No more chances.”

Unlike anything we tried to adhere to the walls of Ytterboe in that first week on campus, the words just stuck. We adopted them as a phrase to live by in our final months of our college careers.

It seems blunt, perhaps, but this motto is not untrue. Chances in life, sure, there will be many more. But opportune undergraduate moments on the Hill are getting fewer and farther between for the Class of 2016. After three and a half years here, our time is almost up.

As a senior, I can say there’s something about this fact – that time is almost up – that makes us feel invincible. We come to terms with our insecurities, or rather, we simply don’t have time to care about them anymore – we have job applications to complete. But there’s a similar something about this fact – that time is almost up – that makes us wonder if we’ve done what we were supposed to do here. If we learned what we ought to know. If we’ve become who we were meant to be.

We are conditioned to believe that college is synonymous with opportunity. And to a certain extent, it is. People with Ph.D.’s roam the hallways at our disposal, ready to answer the questions we haven’t even thought to ask. Other twenty-somethings mill about the quad, the caf and the library, ready to be noticed, liked and maybe even loved.

The tools are laid out for us here. But tools, by definition, are meant to be used. After all, what is the difference between a missed opportunity and no opportunity at all?

Four years seems like a lot of time, and, as college students, we are prone to procrastinate. That’s precisely why Netflix’s stock is through the roof. When resources and opportunities replenish themselves as frequently as they do at St. Olaf, we delude ourselves into thinking we can afford to skip out. I’ll raise my hand next time. I’ll say “hi” next time. I’ll apply for that job next time.

For some reason, we don’t consider all chances equally precious. In reality, the anticipation of future chances should not be an acceptable reason to postpone an end result.

Why then, do we hesitate?

My theory is the duality of fear. Somehow, during senior year, fear evolves from being an inhibitor to a motivator. Suddenly, the anxiety that for so long prevented us from taking that chance pales in comparison to the possibility of missing out. Academically. Socially. Romantically. We finally get scared enough of the experiences we realize we might have to sacrifice and the memories we might not make.

“No more chances.”

The opportunities catalyzed by our learning and interactions at St. Olaf are countless. But when it comes down to it, our allotment of time on the Hill is not. We receive years of reassurance that we “have so much time” to figure it all out, but the unsettling truth is, the days are numbered. They always have been, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait until we have “no more chances.”

tupa@stolaf.edu

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