As Welcome Week comes to a close and the thrill of saying hello to the acquaintances we haven’t seen in three months dies down, a harsh reality sets in: we’re at the end of all of our problems — the front end.
There’s 15 weeks of school ahead of us, and syllabus day only reminded us of the countless tests we still have to take and the papers we still have to compose by the end of this semester.
We’re already feeling bogged down; we’re tired; we’re stretched thin.
I see the toll that this day-to-day life has on my classmates. I see it in the eyes of the collegiate athlete who starts her day at five, swimming laps in Beeghly Center — who goes to class and then works out until evening, staying up deep into the morning to catch up on her studies.
I see it in the eyes of the dad who goes first to class and then to work, who scrambles to get dinner ready for the kids, check their homework and get them to bed before starting homework of his own.
I see it in the eyes of the ambitious senior, who has filled out application after application, hoping to hear back from a potential employer. And I see it in the eyes of the graduate who wants to continue his education, who has studied for months to improve his GRE score by a few points, desperately fighting for an acceptance letter from a coveted graduate program.
Acutely aware of the hardships most of us must endure and the detriment that school can put on us as students, I’ve realized that we have an obligation to empathize with others and to help — in whatever small way we can — our fellow man.
Smile and hold open a door for someone. Strike up a friendly conversation with a classmate you’ve never met. And when you see a student who is sitting alone in the dining hall, invite him or her to eat with you.
Make Youngstown State University a hub that fosters respect, a haven for all students and a welcoming sanctuary for the deflated. Even when it feels unnatural, throw your shoulders back and walk with a bounce in your step; grin from ear to ear. Fake it till you make it — you’ll eventually internalize your outward signs of happiness, lifting your own spirits while concurrently contributing to a more spirited campus.
To quote singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, we can either “give up living and start dying little by little, piece by piece” or we can “come home from work and wash up and go racing in the street.”
To truly be alive, then, is to live for some purpose. Sometimes our struggles define that purpose, and the most difficult tasks in life are also the most meaningful and worthwhile — so hats off to the folks who regularly put their nose to the grindstone. Other times, taking up a call to help others defines that purpose. But, either way, as Springsteen said, “stay hard; stay hungry; stay alive.”