So it is upon us again, the end of another year at the University. For some, it has been their first year here, a year filled with forbidden delights perhaps, but most likely with successes and failures. For those of us who have done this before, we are reminded that sooner or later, all this will end.
For people like me, who see the light at the end of the tunnel, this is a sobering thought. It seems like it was only yesterday that I stepped through immigration and caught my first glimpse of Ann Arbor. It wasn’t entirely awe-inspiring, but at the very least I was glad to have gotten away from the diktat of my African parents.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect. For months beforehand, Michigan was simply a blue thumbtack in the middle of the North American Map in my father’s study. All I knew for sure was the fact that Ann Arbor was not a big city and that it snowed. I really had not done much research. Michigan had been my backup; I had my heart set on a slightly more prestigious school in Philadelphia. However, I got my small envelope and my large one. The large one was postmarked Ann Arbor, thus the decision was made.
I had no idea what these Midwesterners would be like. I was quite apprehensive that I would be stuck with an idiot of a roommate, the kind of person who would ask whether I lived in trees and how come my English was so good. Thankfully, both for my sanity and for his personal safety, my roommate freshman year was a decent fellow and remains a friend to this day.
Growing up in Africa, you really do not appreciate the weather, so when I arrived here and was talking to an older African, he inquired if I “knew about winter.” I replied that I knew it got cold here, but it got bad in Kenya too. At that point in time being cold in my limited experience meant 15 Celsius (that’s about 60 degrees for all you metric system deniers out there). He chuckled and then proceeded to inform me that sometimes it got so cold your soul froze.
I came to understand what he meant perfectly when I would make the thrice-weekly pilgrimage to Dennison together with the rest of the freshman collective for introductory calculus. With snow hitting me in the face and trying to avoid slipping and falling on my behind on the ice bridge, I would curse and swear all the way to class and back, wondering why the hell I did not apply to UCLA.
My first year was an amazing experience, as have been the years after.
However now as I move onto the final lap, I stare into the great abyss of uncertainty. I enjoy college life. I enjoy being able to go to bed at all hours, I enjoy spending hours adding to and organizing my large collection of mp3 files. I enjoy arguing about the similarities and differences between Fight Club and American Psycho at 3:40 AM over beer and pricey Pizza House pizza. I enjoy being able to go to Mardi Gras and Miami on Spring break. I like the fact that sometimes I feel most productive at 2 a.m. and as a result, I do a lot of work, such as writing columns and papers at those hours.
However, is there room for creative bursts at two in the morning in the corporate world? Is there any room at all for the kind of originality, creativity and wild living that college epitomizes in the real world?
After thinking about this for a while, I believe, contrary to popular perception, that there is. As an old friend put, keep the plot simple. Despite the fact that the environment around us changes and at many points in time there seem to be vast amounts of uncertainty, the real world still offers seductive opportunities to live life to its fullest.
Perhaps you may never again do the Irish jig on a table top on a whim or argue on the merits of Sartre and existential philosophy at 5 a.m. No matter, you will find new challenges, new conquests and new things to live for.
Thus even as some of us journey towards graduation day with trepidation and hesitation, we should still realize that the adventure is only beginning. Always, always remember life is about living and keep the plot simple.
Babawole Akin Aina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.