The world at your feet

Why did you choose to come to William and Mary?

Out of all the schools I was looking at, it provided a good mix. A lot of people already know whether they want to go to a big state school with lots of parties or a really small liberal arts school. They already know what they want to study and have their whole career path beforehand. I personally was not like that, so when I was looking for a college, I wanted a place that could offer me a variety of resources and a variety of options, because I know that I’m still undecided about what I want to do with the rest of my life. William and Mary was not only in my home state of Virginia, because I felt like not going too far from home would be good for me because I am close to my family, close to my friends, so I want to be able to go back home and see them often. Also, the fact that it’s not too big or too small, it has good programs in the sciences but it’s obviously very strongly based in liberal arts too, so it provides that well-rounded education, that maybe if you go to a strong technical school or a strong liberal arts school you don’t get both sides of the spectrum, so I think William and Mary is really good about that. Additionally, one of the things I’m sad about William and Mary is that it doesn’t have necessarily the sports theme, Football Saturdays and things like that. But I think when I look at it now, as a college freshman, the point of all that is to bring the big school closer together. That’s something that a sports team really does, it unites everyone behind one cause. But really, we don’t even need something like that because all the students are so tight knit, everyone is so open and welcoming, there’s such a sense of community in the school that you don’t really need to rally around a sports team because the students really just rally around each other.

That’s a really cool thought! I hadn’t thought of it that way before but that was really interesting. So in these first few weeks have you been feeling that sense of community from people?

Yeah. First of all, I think William and Mary is different from a lot of other colleges, at least the ones my friends are going to, because we do orientation directly before school starts, while my friends had it five weeks before school started, in the summer, and then they come back here and have to readjust. Starting orientation right before school starts really gets you into that school spirit, especially since the OAs are all so positive and welcoming. If they were older faculty, it might not be the same, but since they’re just students like you, it makes a big difference because you see people who were literally in your shoes just one, two, or three years ago and now they’re here with open arms, welcoming you in. Right from the start, orientation was a great way to start off college. And not only that, they also really keep you busy. One of the biggest and most difficult transitions between high school and college is how much free time you have. Orientation, just by keeping me occupied, was really great because I wouldn’t be by myself all day, wondering man, I’m alone, this college stuff is so hard. I’m sure school’s going to be tough too when it starts. So I really got to explore campus with my dorm mates, who were all super nice and friendly. Over the course of five days I bonded more with the thirty or forty people in my hall then I think I had in any other five days in my life. It was truly an eye-opening experience. Once classes started, I’m in a lot of big lecture classes, but even in those large hundred to two hundred people classes, you do find friends you are going to study with and work on assignments with or just review, so the academic side of the family is also still there. Definitely, the sense of community has been in the dorm, outside the dorm, even in just playing pickup basketball at the Rec center. It sounds very casual but it’s been a lot of fun so far.

That’s really good! I’m glad you’ve had a positive experience with Orientation and everything. One of my friends said this the other day, they were like “William and Mary is just small enough that you run into people you know a lot, but it’s not so small that it feels suffocating.” I think that’s one of the cool things about this school. So when in your life would you say you’ve felt most free?

There’s a famous fashion designer whose name is Virgil Abloh, and he said that “Luxury is having the freedom to do what you want.” So when you say “when have you been most free?” I think “when have you been most able to what you want without restrictions or inhibitions, without second guessing yourself. I think thus far college has been the most liberating experience of my life. Your parents aren’t there to watch over you, my older sister isn’t telling me what classes to take or what steps to do, all the checkboxes to mark off. Even your friends who you’ve known for years and years aren’t there with you anymore. You’ve sort of got to move on, and it’s a scary step towards independence, but I think it’s an important one. Having that freedom is not as easy as it sounds when you say “when have you been most free?” Being free, being independent, having the ability to make your own decisions is a privilege, but it comes with its own set of responsibilities as well. Taking care of yourself, physical health, mental health, eating three meals a day, getting exercise in, things I took for granted back in high school when your parents would tell you to do homework, or your basketball coach would make you lift weights for practice. Now I have to do all of those little things by myself. But I think I really do enjoy being on my own and having the ability to make my own choices. Especially towards the end of adolescence I think you really do start to feel like taking the next step into the world and being on your own. Of course, after college is a whole different ball game and you have a different set of responsibilities. But the whole not going to school for eight hours a day and then having two hours of practice afterwards and coming home tired because you literally weren’t free between the hours of 8am and 8pm. College is definitely better with respect to that, without a doubt.

Do you think you’ve been able to navigate and balance that well, then?

I’m on my way. I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve done it well so far. It’s tough. The whole key to life is just finding balance. Regardless of whether you’re in school or in fun, you really just want to have balance. Honestly the only way you’ll find balance in life is by living and having that experience. No one can tell you to do that. People can tell you to have a balanced life but it’s not going to have an impact on you until you go ahead and do it. Mistakes will be made, but that’s just part of the journey of life and finding that balance. It’s important to have that freedom and be able to find out who you are. No two people are going to have the same goal, the same hopes and dreams. You really have to find out what you want, go out there, and pursue that.

Do you think you’re in touch with who you are and what you want?

Well, I’m honest with myself, in that I don’t know what I want. I don’t know if that counts as being in touch, but I think it’s better than lying to yourself, not being 100% forthright in that you’re not sure. A lot of times, especially in this day and age, people are hesitant to say they’re not sure. They feel like they have to take a stand, one way or another. You have to know where your career is going, you have to know what your major is from the time you step into college. You have to know pretty much your whole life path. Really, you’re just a kid. You’re eighteen years old and you’ve got the world at your feet – the world is your oyster, as they say. I really do feel that it’s important to take the time in college and that’s why I really like the fact that William and Mary doesn’t make you choose a major until sophomore year. How are you supposed to know before then, without even having taken a class? That’s just ridiculous to me. As far as being in touch with myself, I think that just comes from being honest, being secure, being confident in yourself. Which is a difficult thing, to be honest, especially for college students. Even in high school. Really, kids of all ages are in a competition with each other and they feel like they have to be the best at everything. When you take a step back and look at it, you’re not going to be the best at everything. You’re going to be better than some people at some things and worse than other people at some things. There’s always going to be people better than you, there’s always going to be people you are better than. You just have to find out what you like to do, what you want to do. Be honest with yourself, be confident in your decision whenever it’s made. And more power to you, once you make that decision.

Can you tell me about a time in your life when you did feel confident and secure in a decision that you made? And you’re happy with its results?

After freshman year of high school, I had to make a decision about whether I would quit one, or quit both of basketball and baseball to focus more on academics. The high school I went to was pretty academically rigorous, so a lot of kids were quitting sports to focus on school. Or they were shifting schools entirely – kids were dropping out of my high school to go back to their base schools. I had to make a decision about whether I was going to stay in my high school, keep playing sports, or focus on academics alone, or if I would switch schools entirely. At the end of the day, I decided to stay. I played basketball and baseball all four years, I stayed in my academically rigorous school. In all honesty, I probably didn’t do as well as I could have – academically and athletically. That’s just because when you devote yourself to multiple things, you spread yourself out. At the same time, I don’t regret it at all. Sports were so much fun, important in teaching me the life skills – responsibility, character, hard work, teamwork, determination. So many great skills that you can’t learn from a textbook, you have to learn by experience. By staying in the academically rigorous school and not transferring out of there, it taught me a lot about myself. When I set my mind on something, I’m not going to quit, no matter how difficult it is. It showed me the power of resilience, that I could get through something as difficult as that. Having passed through that I really feel like I’m a better human, a better individual, better student, better athlete. Better person on all counts because of it, so that’s a decision I’m really proud of.

That’s really good that you learned to prioritize both of those at least to some degree, because I, too, went to an academically rigorous high school and I ended up focusing more on academics than anything else. I sometimes regret that because of the effects it had on me, but luckily, college is going great. So…this might be a tough question. But I have a lot of friends who are seniors, so I always just wonder this about people I interact with. Do you have some sort of…vision about where you want to be by the time you get to senior year? I don’t mean it in the sense of what your major is or what you want to do in your career path. Because as you said, that’s what everyone tends to focus on since that’s what is externally visible, but I guess I mean it more of a sense of personal growth.’

I guess, growth wise, 6’3”, 215. That’s a joke.

Just looking at the seniors that I’ve interacted with, the OAs and other upperclassman, you sort of get the sense of the maturity level that they gained throughout college. Just the ability to conduct yourself in a respectful manner, in a way that not only are you being respectful to other people, but they also treat you with respect. That’s a really important thing to learn because when you’re with your friends and relaxing in a dorm room, you can goof off and mess around. But in terms of the workforce and joining the adult lifestyle, you really have to be more put-together, more serious, more mature. By senior year, hopefully, I will have acquired some of that. As far as goals and the type of person I want to be, being more well-informed is important to me. Right now, I’ll read a major headline once in awhile, if it’s something like Hurricane Irma, but other than that I’m not too up-to-date about the going ons in the political and economic world. Being more well-versed in those sorts of issues would be important. I think it’s important to be a knowledgeable citizen. I don’t want everyone to read the newspaper in the morning before they go to work, but I think you do have a responsibility to do your best to stay well-informed. By senior year, I feel like everything is going to be so emotional if it’s anything like high school. Four years in one place is a long time to spend, so regardless of where you are you’re going to miss it. Especially in Williamsburg, which has such a quaint appeal to it that I’m sure the seniors miss it after they go off and miss all the friends they made here, the faculty they’ve been in contact with, and all the clubs they were a part of. I think that’s going to be a sad, sad goodbye. But for personal growth, only experience can provide that. I don’t want to go into it with too much expectations; whatever happens, happens, and let that shape me into who I’ll become.

I tend to think of it as I want to have an outline for my life, but I don’t want to write the essay. Because the essay-writing happens when you’re actually living through everything, and if you try to box yourself in or pick a certain path, you will be missing out on all the other opportunities.

Yeah. There’s a book called The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo—

I’ve read it!

You have? Well, I always think of that one scene where the shepherd boy goes to the happiest man in the world, and he sees this big palace the man is living in, who has all these expensive things. The happiest man in the world gives him a spoon with a drop of oil on it, and says “go look around for an hour, but don’t spill the oil, whatever you do.” So the boy goes around but he’s so focused on not dropping the oil that he doesn’t actually look at anything. He goes back to the happiest man in the world, who asks him “well, what did you see in my house?” He says, “I didn’t see anything, I was so busy concentrating on not dropping the oil. The man says, “go back and do it again, but this time make sure you see the wonders of everything.” So the boy sees marvelous sights, fabulous antiques. He comes back and the happiest man in the world asks him “what happened to the oil on the spoon?” So the boy looks down and he sees that the oil fell off. So the happiest man in the world gives him this advice, he says, “if you want to be happy, you have to look at all the wonders of the world, but never forget about the drop of oil on your spoon.” That’s what I think of. You have to make sure you’re doing everything in life, seeing the sights, but at the same time staying grounded, staying true, staying humble, staying close to your friends and family, but at the same time putting yourself out there and trying to enjoy the world. That’s a great book, though.

If you had the chance to give a message to the world right now, what would it be? And why?

That’s tough, because I think everyone thinks they have a message to say, but no one wants to listen to the messages. If I had to, though, I guess I would say “be happy.” A lot of times we get down in the dumps because we’re trying to compare ourselves to everyone else or study for that test for twelve hours in a row or running 7,000 miles to be the fastest kid on the cross-country team. At the end of the day, if that makes you happy you should do it. But there’s a great line by the Canadian philosopher Aubrey Graham – also known as Drake – which is “the moment I stop having fun with it, I’ll be done with it.” In life, it makes no sense to do things you don’t enjoy, ever, because life is too short to waste any time at all. If you’re not enjoying something, if you’re not enjoying the place that you are at, if you’re not enjoying an activity that you’re doing, if you’re not enjoying a class that you’re taking – it just makes no sense to fight it and keep pushing yourself. There’s no reason to bang your head against the wall over something you don’t enjoy because there are so many things you could be enjoying in its place. Life’s too short to waste the moment. The great Ferris Bueller said “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it.” I think that’s important, because life really does move fast. I can’t believe I’m sitting here as a college freshman. I still feel like I’m going off for my first day of summer camp or something. It feels surreal to be here. I guess that’s just life. One day I’ll blink and I’ll be 40, 50, 60 or something, because that’s just how time goes. Father Time is undefeated.

Now you’re scaring me. You’re going to give me a mini-existential crisis when I get back to my room. I’ll be like ‘when did I become a junior?’

It’s crazy stuff. Time flies when you’re having fun.

No, but I agree. I think it’s important to take that step back and actually appreciate what is happening around you. It’s like that idea of living in the moment. It’s really true, because you miss out on a lot of the actual enjoyment and beauty in life if you’re just focusing on what your next step is.

Right. That’s very tough to do, though. Living in the moment is very tough to do. Pretty much at any point in time when you’re not living in the moment or 100% concentrated on that, you’re reminiscing about the past or dreaming about the future. There’s that good quote – I know I keep spitting quotes out – but Master Ugwe from Kung Fu Panda said “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why it is called the present.” But it’s hard not to reminisce about the ‘good ol’ days’ or dream about where you’re going to be 10, 20, or 30 years from now. We just daydream about that when really, there’s so much to enjoy right now. And really, I feel like social media plays a big part in that, which people don’t understand. I’m not on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but I see a lot of my friends and they spend half the day just scrolling through that. It’s good in the sense that you get to interact with people more easily and it’s an easy way to communicate or look at old pictures. At the same time, every moment you spend on one of those social media platforms is time that you’re thinking about the past instead of looking at the world around you, especially in a beautiful place like Williamsburg. You see kids with their noses in their phones and faces glued to the screen. There are definitely pros and cons, but like everything in life, it should be enjoyed with moderation.

So what influenced your decision not to have any of those? I just think it’s interesting because it’s not what most people do.

My first reason is because my older sister didn’t get a Facebook until she was a sophomore in high school. That was when my parents finally let her have one. So I knew I’d have to wait at least until I was a sophomore since she set the standard for me. But when I actually became a sophomore, I thought that I had already gotten so far without one, so did I really need it? So I never got a Facebook. And Facebook, in my high school, was very dominant. But after a while I just wondered that if I clearly didn’t need it, why should I even bother? It ended up that e and maybe ten other kids in my grade didn’t have a Facebook. We used to bond together over our lack of information about homework assignments and study groups and all these materials that people would be posting online. Finally, we just learned to live without it. It really does help me at least try to live in the moment more. It’s important to spend less time looking at the phone or the computer and actually have face-to-face conversations with people. That’s where you develop your social skills and your ability to communicate. When you’re texting someone it’s so easy to think for thirty seconds about how you’re going to respond, but you aren’t picking up on facial cues, you aren’t learning how to use proper body language. In college, Facebook is a little less used, there’s more Twitter and Instagram from what I’ve seen. Twitter I sort of understand, if you’re an adult and you want to get news quickly. Kids mostly just use it to make fun of things. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy poking fun as much as the next person. But if you’re funny online, you may as well try to be funny in person. It’s a little harder to get laughs than on the internet, but it’s still worth it. Social media is just one of those things I never got. It’s a mark of pride, in a way. ‘I’m not on social media. I’m not like the rest of you guys.’ But no, it’s not really a big deal, I mean you can deactivate it at any time.

Yeah, it’s just that very few people actually do.

From what I hear, it’s a tough decision.

I didn’t have a Facebook until senior year of high school, but I’m definitely glad I waited that long.  

I was strongly considering getting one senior year, especially towards the end. I felt bad about losing contact with all the kids from high school, the ones I spent four years with and made so many great memories. At least for me, you start to forget people. It’s sad but true. The kids you used to say hi to in the halls – you forget names, you forget faces. On Facebook, those people keep popping up from time to time. That’s definitely one advantage – it’s easier to keep in touch and stay active in your social circles. At the same time, I think it’s important to branch out and make new friends with people in college. Maybe I’ll get one – we’ll see. Even my parents are trying to get me to get a Facebook now. For a lot of parents, they don’t want their kids to join social media, but it’s the opposite for me. There are pros and cons to everything, so I guess it’s hard to say.

Yeah. I really liked what you said though about how everything is good in moderation. People often forget that. People – well, this is going to be some form of generalization – but I think people like to make generalizations about whether things are good or bad, and that part of what is important about face-to-face interactions with people is that it allows you to see the depth of human experience and how people may hold an opinion but there’s a reason why they have that opinion. If you see that sort of opinion on an online forum, you may immediately shut it down and decide never to talk to that person again. But if you have that sort of conversation in person, maybe there’s more room for discussion and understanding why people feel a certain way.

That goes back to what I was talking about earlier, with being secure in your own ideas and in yourself. In order to be able to have those conversations with someone you don’t agree with wholeheartedly, you really need to be confident in yourself, confident in what you believe – but also open, in the sense that they might have a good idea as well, and there may be a middle ground that you can reach. My personal motto for life is comprised of three things. Be kind, work hard, and think for yourself. If you do all three of those things, you’re on your way to living a good life. Be kind to each and every person you meet, regardless of what they look like, how they speak, what kind of background they have – and be open to them. Work hard is an individual thing – it’s something that only you control – but if you’re not working hard, you’re wasting this opportunity that you have on Earth. Think for yourself – regardless of what anyone tells you, everyone is trying to influence you in one way or another. And they will. You are a result of these experiences. People are a result of the experiences that they have. But at the end of the day you have to use those experiences to formulate your own thoughts and opinions. Your parents have raised you, thus far. You have to use that information, the way they’ve raised you, but then go off on your own and make your own decisions. That goes back to being a well-informed person, in order to make well informed decisions so that you can think for yourself. Being confident in your own individuality is really the end goal. But college, especially, is a tough time in a young person’s life. There are so many external factors going on. At W&M there are so many clubs to join, we have a cereal club, and it goes from something silly like that to something serious, like Greek life, which is a huge time commitment. If you think that rushing a sorority is the right decision for you, you should definitely go for it. But don’t join a sorority because you feel like you have no other options and you think you’re being pressured into it. Be confident in who you are, as an individual. Don’t let external influences dictate your life. It’s tough in college because you’re young and it’s the first taste of freedom, the first time away from home. It’s very difficult to adapt to life. You hear stories all the time of young people signing up for credit cards because the company says they’ll give you $500 right now and five years later they’re $50,000 in debt because they weren’t responsible. Obviously, they’re young, but at the end of the day they should know that they’re on their own now and they need to make responsible decisions. It’s a mad, mad world, so you have to do the best you can.

 

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