Guest Column: A word of encouragement

Ashleigh M. Fox, Assistant Professor of English, CCAC North Campus

If you’re a student at CCAC, you’re unhappy; you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t, right? If you were wholly content with your life—your current job, your career prospects—you wouldn’t be taking the courageous, commendable steps to change your life. The fact that you are creative and motivated enough to imagine this better future should make you really happy. Still, you’re uncomfortable: after all, you’re entrenched in the space between seeking your goals and obtaining them. You may feel like this stage of your life is something merely to endure before what we call “real life” begins. You may be more focused on the questions of your future than the realities of your present. As a college student, the uncertainty of life beyond graduation wholly terrified me: what was I going to do? Who was I going to be? Where was I going to live? Would I ever be able to purchase a car, a house, a really expensive facial cleanser? These are life’s big questions.

In order to calm myself down, I taped these wise words by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to my dorm room wall: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t take this great advice. I wasn’t patient toward anything at all, least of all everything that was unsolved in my heart (which was, to be clear, absolutely everything). I failed spectacularly at “living the questions now”—instead, I lived the anxiety. I withdrew from the friends and activities I’d once loved. I immersed myself in answer-seeking, trying to control everything. In turn, I missed out on much of life.

I would love to see something better for you. Please do a better job than I did at cherishing a time in your life you never get back. While you may have a hard time imagining yourself labeling these “the good old days”—after all, many of you are balancing full-time work with families and myriad other responsibilities—please believe there is something delightful about being surrounded by a whole team of people whose entire purpose is to care deeply about your success. As you know, the workplace isn’t quite like that, and the “real world” isn’t, either.

Right now you are uniquely positioned to expand your network of both peers and mentors. Every single person you meet on campus has something in common with you, by the mere virtue of being there when you are. These people are your future colleagues, letter of recommendation writers, and dear friends. Get off your phone and talk to them! Ask about their weekends. Find out what your professors are doing this summer. Swing by the Office of Student Life to say hello, to vent, or just to ask a question. This is good stuff. This is the stuff of life. This is the stuff you don’t want to miss out on while you have it.

In short, don’t be distracted by what’s going on somewhere else. To quote the wisdom of the classic film Wayne’s World, “Live in the now.” And know that while “the now” certainly contains questions and anxieties, it’s still a pretty great place to be.