Monday, February 7, 2011

Awards? Sign Me Up!

So, for some reason, I was nominated for an award. I'm not normally the sort of person who's eligible for awards. Normally, people who report information that leads to my arrest are eligible for rewards. It's a bit different. But yes, as a graduating senior, I was asked to submit a personal statement as to why I should be given cash (!) and recognized as awesome. Writing something along those lines was harder for me to write than you might imagine (mostly because I wrote it while watching the super bowl and had Dorito dust on all of my fingers but my pinkys, so I was only typing with those). Still, I thought I'd share it with you, because it's just serious enough not to be thrown out, but just shitty enough not to be taken seriously (I'm not even going to mention the joke of a resume I submitted.) So here you go: my analysis of my four years at Columbia and what they've meant to me.

I didn’t want to go to Columbia. I grew up in this city. Why should I stay here for college? Then, I started to consider the other colleges I was admitted to. This one is too small. This college exists in a bubble. What would I do there for four years? One by one, I eliminated every other school from the list of colleges I wanted to attend until only Columbia was left. Then, I signed above the line, dropped an envelope into a mailbox, and I was committed to going to Columbia. At the time, the decision seemed anti-climactic. With the hindsight granted by four years, I see how fitting it is that I began my adventure at Columbia in that manner.
“Adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose,” G.K. Chesterton wrote; my experience at Columbia only shows how right he was. I arrived on campus with a jaded attitude, a spoiled child given a gift he does not appreciate, though only because he doesn’t know how to appreciate it (sort of like how I cried when my grandmother gave me blocks when I was little). The four years I have spent at Columbia were a gradual process through which I learned how to appreciate the adventures of friends and learning that Columbia offers (I also ended up really loving the blocks).
I initially searched for people with the same values as mine at Columbia, and at the end of my freshman year, I had a circle of friends not much different than my high school friends. This changed sophomore year, when I became an resident adviser. I naively thought that I would be giving back to Columbia by being an RA; in reality, I took much more from the job than I ever could have given. Through residential programs, I met some of my closest friends, many of whom I had little in common with other than being an RA. I was arrested with one of those friends. If that doesn’t mean I met one of my best friends through Residential Programs, I don’t know what does.
Unlike most of the people I spoke with when I was a first year, I had no idea what I wanted to study. It seemed that everyone else had their goals set, and I was the only student wandering around lost. I took classes, I learned, and I got decent grades, but I didn’t take pleasure from my coursework. After having considered a majoring in German, French, physical education and math, I abruptly declared my intention to major in Earth Sciences. Then began the adventure. Unfortunately, I can’t explain how drastically my attitude about learning changed once I started studying something I was passionate about, especially within the confines of one page. I will only say that, as a sophomore, I felt ready to graduate; as a senior, I wish I had three more years.
Ultimately, I came to Columbia to learn (this is where I tie this all back to the core curriculum; get ready). As a senior, I’ve learned how little I know compared to how much knowledge is out there. Had I paid more attention reading Plato’s Apology (an addition to our lit-hum syllabus) or to the Zhuangzi taught in Professor de Bary’s colloquium on major Asian texts, I would have learned my lesson much earlier. Socrates was proclaimed the wisest of men because he knew he knew nothing; Zhuangzi wrote “Your life has a limit but knowledge has none. If you use what is limited to pursue what is infinite, you are in danger.” Columbia has given me the humility to understand how hard I need to work if I wish to accomplish anything great (like graduate, for example). Well, good. I have the friends I made here. I have what knowledge comes from four years of applied studies. To the world that awaits me after I graduate, I say, “Bring it.”

On an unrelated note, someone arrived at my blog by googling "Brendan is uncool." Thanks a lot. Dick. But hey. I hope all is well with you guys.*
*except whoever searched "Brendan is uncool."

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