“Be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms, like books written in a foreign tongue. […] What matters is to live everything.”
—Rainier Maria Rilke’s “Letter to a Young Poet”
First of all, live like you’re going to be here for three (or two or one) more years. Because, chances are, you will. This sounds obvious, but it’s something I wish someone had reminded me of. Ignoring a less-than-likeable acquaintance is easy when you forget that the acquaintance may one day be your group project partner, your suitemate, your RA or any other number of things. The professor whose advice you disregarded may become your advisor, your reference or your Bible study leader. JBU is small, and “the bubble effect” has a way of keeping people — those you love and those you don’t — in your life, so generosity in all circumstances goes a long way.
Live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you, but also choose the people you really want to hang onto for your four years of college and even beyond. Despite our love for community, no one can be friends with everyone. There are seasons, and some of the numerous friendships you’ve developed during this first year will naturally fade. And that is okay. For me, this realization was huge. During the fall of my sophomore year, I tried to maintain close friendships with everyone, both my returning friends and all the incoming freshmen on my hall. I would have lost my close friends — the ones I’ll keep for the rest of my life — in the burnout that followed if they hadn’t patiently waited for me to recover from my depression.
My thoughts on relationships are pretty simple: go on dates. Friend dates, coffee dates, group dates, I’ve-had-a-crush-on-you-since-August-dates. Forget for a moment about whether or not you have a crush on the guy or girl across the table from you, whether or not you’ll become boyfriend and girlfriend, if you’ll get married and what you would name your children. Just get to know him or her. Make good food together, go catch a movie, see who can come up with the cheapest date idea. Take pictures of all the adventures.
I know graduation is years away for you, but indulge me for a second and store away a couple pieces of advice for when that time comes. Let the end be sharp. I’m going to contradict what I just said about not being friends with everyone and ask you to stay soft, to stay open to new friends. During the last two spring semesters, meaningful friendships of mine grew out of the last six weeks of school, right before my new friends graduated. Now that I’m down to the last weeks of my senior year, I honestly want to shut down. What is the point of investing when there is so little time and so many unknowns ahead of me? But I’m trying to do as Rilke instructs: “Love the questions,” and I would add, “Love each other,” because really, that’s all we can do in the face of loss.
In conclusion, I want to show you a piece of dialogue between a young girl and an old man from Dickens’ novel “Our Mutual Friend” which has helped me face the end of my time at JBU:
The little girl, Jenny Wren, asks, “Is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never to have had it?” Old Riah responds, “Some beloved companionship fades out of most lives, my dear — that of a wife, and a fair daughter, and a son of promise, has faded out of my own life — but the happiness was.”
To sum up all of this in a word — Risk. Because it’s worth it. Because the happiness was.
Schultz is a senior majoring in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.