“Slave to the Opinion of the A$$hole”
Note: This week’s assignment is to write about a topic of my choice. However, due to finals, I haven’t had the time to think of anything (also, I got so used to being given topics that, now that I have a choice, I’m overwhelmed). The following post is from my former and now inactive blog about Rutgers that did not get the attention I hoped it would; I am recycling it on AliveCampus because I genuinely believe it includes valuable advice, and because AC is a great outlet for a larger audience. Here it goes!:
Excuse my language. I’m just quoting my poetry professor.
In class, we were reading Alexander Pope’s, “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot.” In the poem, the speaker—most likely Pope—directs a verse to his former mentor, Joseph Addison, who is bitter that Pope eventually gained more fame than him. Pope notes that Addison is “dreading ev’n fools;” or in other words, is now so self-conscious about his worth as a poet that he comparing himself to “fops.”
My professor then made the crude but significant comment: “Don’t be a slave to the opinion of an asshole.”
I found myself thinking about his words for days. I, like many other young-ish people, have self-confidence issues (I’ve probably mentioned this before, either in this blog or my former Rutgers blog). These issues have been multiplied since I began college—attending such a large university can make one feel very insignificant, and allows for one to be exposed to different people of different talents and levels of intelligence. So, although it’s easier to fit in, it’s difficult to assert your identity in a sea of similar people.
I still have these self-confidence issues, and I suspect I always will. But, having them, I can relate to others like myself. Last summer, I wrote a letter to a good friend who was beginning her first semester at the Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts (AMDA)—a competitive visual arts school in New York City. As a musical theater major, she is surrounded by ambitious—and sometimes ruthless—peers. I thought it would be helpful to give her some advice that I learned through my experiences as college student:
- You’re going to change. This time two years ago, I was flipping through my yearbook, reading the well wishes and comments from those who meant the most to me in high school. A lot of people said similar, generic things: “Be true to yourself,” “Don’t change” and “Continue to….”. Although I appreciate all of the signatories and their words, and understand that most didn’t have the time to write anything more heartfelt than “Good luck,” I can’t help but realize how unrealistic most of them were. With two years of university under my belt (Did you know that the Brits say “university” instead of college? I think it has a nice ring to it…and it works, too, since Rutgers is a university and not a college) I can easily say that I am not the same person as I was 24 months months ago. But don’t fret! The change isn’t drastic; just small alterations to your personality, as a result of the growth that comes with living on your own. Of course, the people you surround yourself with will affect whether this change is positive or negative. In my case, my friends have introduced me to things like recreational drugs, human sacrifice, and parkour, and I must say my life is much better (I’m kidding!). Nevertheless, the interactions you make in college/university/academy can certainly make or break your experiences. This brings me to my next “point.”
- Don’t subject yourself to social pressure(s). Also, don’t tell yourself “I would never do…so and so.” Embrace both the good and the bad of dorm and city life. Don’t let anyone ever tell you what to do, how to feel, or where to go—and that doesn’t mean be a social hermit or prude. Rather, do what makes you feel comfortable. Remember: your freedom is limitless. I’m definitely not advising you to be reckless; just…enjoy these next four years. Enjoy your youth!
- Don’t let anyone hold you back. Like I said, the growth and friendships that are created in college will inevitably change you—and since you are moving away, the relationships you hold at home will be compromised. Of course, I don’t doubt your ability to maintain friendships in [your hometown] while you’re at [your school] (actually, I expect you to keep them all near and dear to your heart). But if you find yourself feeling guilty because you have not contacted any of your closest friends from home, STOP! Don’t force yourself to preserve ties with your hometown; give college your all. Remember—you’re time here is over, so don’t let your past hold you back. I think I can speak for all of your friends when I say that, whatever happens in the future, they will still love you.
- Carpe omnia, or “seize everything.” Recently, I’ve become too comfortable with the phrase, “carpe diem;” I actually have it hanging, in poster form, over my bed at school. But why seize the day when you seize everything? It seems very weird that “carpe diem” is so popular, when there exists a much more encompassing mantra. So I’m telling you: seize everything. Leave nothing untouched. I understand that telling Brittany Baran [who I wrote this letter for] to give it her all would be like telling a fish to swim. In other words, it’s redundant. But I figured I’d leave you with this tip, just in case you were feeling lost, confused, or intimidated.
- With that being said I advise you to never compare yourself to anyone. I spent the majority of my freshman year sizing up my classmates, and despising myself whenever I happened upon someone more…intelligent, talented, good looking, outgoing, friendly, likable (the list is long and pathetic, so I’ll just end it there). But now, with a bit more experience and plenty of time to mature, I came to realize that the energy I spent comparing myself to others could have been intended for more productive efforts. You see, everyone is different, so “sizing up the competition” is futile.
- Don’t lose sight of who are. This may seem to directly conflict with my first point, so let me make myself clear: yes, you will change, both inwardly and outwardly. It’s inevitable, because you’re moving on and must adapt to new surroundings. But essentially, you—your core, conscience, etc.—will remain the same. So, keep this mind: you will be entering an immensely competitive environment that will be rife with stress, perfectionists, and—excuse my language—super annoying bitches. But you’re above all that.
Although some of this may be geared towards my friend Brittany, I believe most of the advice I provided is universal to all young people struggling with their growth, identity, and transition. Like I said, it’s all from my experiences as a college student.