In his breakthrough novel, “This Side of Paradise,” F. Scott Fitzgerald describes college as the golden years of a young man’s life.
After all, it is during this time that friendships are forged, love is realized, hearts are broken and worldviews are relentlessly challenged.
Along the way, we tell ourselves that feelings of hope and optimism are to be relished and savored, while feelings of sadness, heartbreak and dubiousness are to be quickly discarded and forgotten.
Of course, in reality, we’re apt to remember all of these feelings — regardless of how we felt at the time.
That’s mainly due to the banality of life. Most of our day-to-day activities are structured, repetitive and uneventful. Sure, we may garner an anecdote here and there; but, ultimately, we remember days like we remember names at a sparsely attended social gathering — poorly.
Yet, those moments of intrinsic happiness and heart-wrenching sadness seem to be permanently etched in our minds.
We’re drawn to these memories because they speak to our souls.
While the prose of Shakespeare, the verse of Ben Johnson and the lyrics of Bob Dylan may awaken dormant emotions and elucidate personal feelings, it is through our own deeds that we understand both the world and ourselves.
Decades from now, as we sit back and reminisce those wonderful and difficult times in our lives, we’ll undoubtedly turn to one chapter more than any other: college.
And we’ll do so, because it is at this institution that we found our true selves.
Unfortunately, many students have approached his or her special moments in college as a sentimentalist would. As Fitzgerald explains, a sentimentalist hopes against all hope that a moment will last; of course, the inevitability of time ensures that such a wish will never be granted.
On the other hand, the romantic embraces the inevitability of time and has a “desperate confidence” that even the most splendid moment will, indeed, pass.
Personally, I’ve been guilty of falling into the sentimentalist trap. It’s just so easy to pray that time moves quickly, then ask it to remain at a standstill whenever I’m in awe of the people and places around me.
Unlike Shakespeare, I have no interest in cheating time through the immortality of my words; instead, I only ask it to briefly slow down.
Of course, time will not heed my simple request; it is far too busy aging men, rusting clocks and gathering dust.
Then again, the acceptance of such an appeal would effectively render all extraordinary moments as ordinary. After all, brevity is an integral part of every special moment.
Sadly, the sun is setting on an extraordinary moment in my life. For the last two-and-a-half years, I have been the editor of the Opinions Section for The Carolinian.
When I first earned the position, I was clueless. I had very little newspaper experience; my writing skills were fairly weak; and I was still searching for my niche on campus.
To be perfectly blunt, all of these factors contributed to my section’s exceedingly poor performance that semester. Nevertheless, I remained determined to improve upon the skills of both my staff writers and myself.
Unsurprisingly, such an attitude paid deep dividends. Over time, our readership increased, our content improved and our impact on the community began to be subtly felt.
Sure, we had more problems and crises than I can count, but each setback proved to be a tremendous learning experience that I’ll be able to draw on for the rest of my life.
However, if I were to claim that the strength of our content and my own improvement as a writer are the most important takeaways from my long career at The Carolinian, then I would be lying.
The Carolinian gave me a place on this campus, and I’m eternally grateful for that.
And, more than that, The Carolinian introduced me to many individuals whom, under any other circumstance, I would have never met.
These friends have put up with my hard-headed worldviews, unique personality and unceasing wit — even to this final column.
So, please be aware that as I write these final words, I’m doing so with the desperate confidence that they will be my last for this newspaper — and it’s a beautiful feeling.