When I watch the tour groups circle campus, I both smile and cringe as I see prospective freshmen coming to the University of Michigan. I smile because college tours are exciting — they are full of promise and dreams of what is to come. But I cringe because, for many, college tours are also the beginning of a time in which students will first encounter the realization that they know basically nothing about the world.

I put myself in their shoes and it is hard to believe who I was a year ago. So much has happened since then, and as my first year at the University comes to a close, I realize I have learned a plethora of new things and yet still seem to have learned very little of the world outside my education. I am not sure if this is because it is my first year or because so much of the next three years is still unknown, but I have never been more aware of the knowledge I do not have.

I have had some hard lessons because of this lack of knowledge throughout the year. Whether it has been in what classes to take, what to major in or any kind of sizable life decision, more often than not, I usually learn from the mistakes I have made and not the things I did right. And this makes me wonder if I can successfully graduate and enter the “real” world with all of the skills I could ever need.

This extends to my friends and acquaintances as well. They have expressed these same thoughts, and it has lead me to believe that we, as a generation, still do not know very much. Collectively, our knowledge may be great, but I do not see how we can confidently leave college behind without admitting that we are not done learning.

Depending on what source you consult, the oldest millennials are currently entering their mid-thirties right now. This means many have settled, or are beginning to settle, down to have families, and they are just now starting to find jobs they could possibly stay in for more than five years. When looking at the big picture, we can see there are so many other people with more experience to draw on that we are still basically children within the world and young adults at best.

Millennials need to see that although some of us may disagree with certain values of older generations, we are not all-knowing or better because of our youth. There is value in talking about life lessons with those older than us even when we do not see eye to eye on specific issues, and we cannot begin to take major positions within this country, as politicians, business leaders or even as active citizens, without recognizing we have a lot to learn.

We must accept that our viewpoints and beliefs are not the same as others’, and it does not do any good to ignore what individuals from the opposing side have to say because we believe our way is right. Learning how to be a member of society does not just include contributing our opinions to the discussion. It means actively listening to others, being open to new ideas and not being afraid to change the way we are living based on an idea that was not our own.

Yes, the world is much different from when older generations were our age, but there are fundamental truths about life that we will wrestle with through our entire lives. As young adults, we have yet to feel the pressure to understand many of these, and simply because we have not wrestled with certain problems does not mean we can blow them off and not accept the advice we are given.

This goes beyond calling up our parents when we are having a bad day and need a pep talk. It means actually listening to what they have to say, what our grandparents have to say, our bosses, advisers and anyone else who offers us their input. I am not claiming everyone older than us automatically has something useful to tell us, but we should at least actively listen when they feel the need to express their thoughts.

Ultimately, even though we learn a lot during college, we cannot logically believe that we are done learning at graduation. Life itself is perpetually being a freshman and we cannot make decisions assuming we know everything. Because of this, we must remember to reflect not just on our choices, but the choices of those older than us. The world is made better not by citing the wrongs of those before us, but changing our actions so we do not repeat the same mistakes.

Alexis Megdanoff can be reached at amegdano@umich.edu.

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