Nostalgia is a common plague on campus. The first bout of Rome-sickness will soon fall upon our juniors. Seniors will start using phrases like, “Well, this is our last one…” Sophomores will gather in the lonely passages of West Hall, mourning the loss of Madonna or Jerome, and the easy, though primitive, lifestyle of the traditional dorms. It is, perhaps, the worst for the freshmen, who, having left behind all that is familiar, are still reeling from the neon pink and megaphones of orientation as they receive their first stacks of 10-page syllabi.
Fear not! There is an antidote to the lotus flower of nostalgia! It lies in recapturing the initial thrill and excitement of the great unknown future, so easily felt when we were younger and wiser. With the new academic year, we are presented with many opportunities to reclaim this joy once again. We have only to resolve to do so.
So this year, let’s laugh a lot and smile more. Smiling is such an easy gift, and it can be given genuinely to everyone, whether we know them or not. There are new faces everywhere, and, though I will never remember everyone’s name, major, hometown or “fun fact about themselves,” I have a hard time forgetting someone who finds joy in seeing me. Whether we are welcoming the new class, our now veteran Romers, or simply making new friends, we must remember that, as G.K. Chesterton said, “Satan fell by the force of gravity,” and, in the words of Mother Theresa, “every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
Let’s learn – despite all obstacles. There come times in the lives of all students when they find themselves in a section with a professor whose teaching style makes the course incredibly difficult. There will be classes where the material being taught seems less than glamorous or the textbooks are just really expensive. As trying as these setbacks might be, and as justified as we are in our frustration, let’s try to fall in love with learning once again, with the simple joy of discovering new things. Moby Dick is not, and never will be, to everyone’s taste, and it has been argued that Don Juan of Austria was able to win the Battle of Lepanto with a very limited understanding of accounting. Yet perhaps we can turn all this knowledge into wisdom, if only we persevere
Finally, let’s plan something awesome. Something spectacular. Something not only life-changing for us, but which will “set the world on fire,” as St. Catherine of Siena urges us to do. If your ambitions, like mine, have sounded a little like “make it through junior high/high school/college,” maybe it is time for an update. If we cannot imagine an incredible future, filled with potential, we will be hard pressed indeed to leave the past behind us where it belongs.
We have come to a new semester. There is no time to look behind. The joys that await us this year are second only to those which will come the year after.