Here’s a tip. Never be a second semester senior. Just skip over the whole thing. It will probably be easier.
Life seems to have suddenly accelerated. I arrived on campus in September looking forward to this year. In my head, I understood this was it, my final eight months as a college student, but graduation seemed to be quite a distance away. Suddenly, it’s three weeks to go, and I’m done.
The past four years have been a huge learning experience for me. I grew up home-schooled, never having sat in a classroom until my first college class. Well, technically, my first college class was archery at East Campus, so there was no classroom involved. But the point remains that I laugh thinking back to September of 2008, to the nervous, sheltered 17-year-old kid who arrived at Pre-Camp, knowing no one there.
Fast forward four years to this previous September, and I was on top of the world. I was coming into my final year as a New Student Orientation Leader and captain of the swim team and I had this college thing figured out. Little did I know how much I was going to learn over the next several months.
After a phenomenal experience at NSO, I was ready for the school year and swimming season to start. But on the night of September 4, my attitude changed. Hopefully everyone remembers Phil White, an incoming freshman who lost his life at the beginning of the school year. Although not directly involved in White’s life, through my position in NSO, I was somewhat involved in the incident. I won’t get into details of this involvement, but by the end of that night, I felt like I had aged 20 years.
Life suddenly took on a new look. I was suddenly re-examining my own life, my own priorities and how I treated others. Little things suddenly did not seem important. Those close to me took on a whole new meaning, and I was doing some serious thinking about what was actually important in life.
This incident and my involvement in the aftermath did more than anything else in four years of college to make me think about how I live my life. My best friend likes to say, “Life isn’t short; it’s the longest thing we’ve got.” (No idea if that’s original or not.) It ends up sounding cliché, but live your life. The life you want to live. Have fun, help someone else.
Find something you’re passionate about and do it. This is something different for everyone. But find something you care about and go after it. I spent the entire year working harder than I ever had at swimming, spending hours a day in the pool and gym. People thought I was a little crazy. But the reality was, I’d realized that if I wasn’t going to put my best effort into swimming then why do it? I love swimming and I love my team. I wanted to do the best I could. I didn’t want to get to the end of the season and realize I could have done more.
This swim season was a microcosm of what I’ve learned over my senior year. Don’t coast through life. Don’t go through the motions or do what someone else tells you is the right thing to do. Find what you want and go do it. Don’t leave a stone unturned.
And in the end, it’s really not the end result that matters. My season did not end how I wanted; I missed making the NCAA national meet for the second year in a row by a very slim margin. And I’m not, and probably never will be, completely happy with that. But I am happy with what I did this year overall. I did everything I could. I was, I hope, a good teammate and team senior. I know I worked as hard as I could. So, at the end of the day, I have no regrets with my last season.
These are lessons I’m applying to the rest of my life. School is over. Real life has begun. Whether you’re a senior or a freshman, find something in life. And put everything you have into it.