The Places You’ll Go
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”
The famous opening lines from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” are well suited to an article about starting college. My AP English teacher, from whom I had the privilege of taking classes three out of four years, read this book/poem to our class on the last day of senior year as a sort of sendoff. Looking back on that day (which, impossibly, was almost a year ago!), I understand more than ever why the gesture was appropriate.
“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Arriving at Vanderbilt was the embodiment of these few lines. Suddenly, every waking minute was full of potential, and the number of choices seemed infinite (and often overwhelming). I was most definitely “the guy” who would decide where I’d go, which was certainly freeing, but could be difficult at times. I had no idea that from the day I arrived at Vandy to the day I left at the end of my first year (Thursday!), I would indeed go to Great Places; I’ve been to New Mexico to march with thousands of servicemembers through the desert, and to New York City to sing in an amazing classical venue with the Melodores. I’ve met people from all over the country, and some from outside it, and despite my inherent opposition to socializing, made some lifelong friends. I’ve spent way too much time in Featheringill Hall, and not enough exploring all the opportunities Nashville has to offer.
While I may have come to Vandy bound for Great Places and destined to “join the high fliers who soar to high heights,” Dr. Seuss warned me of another feeling I’ve certainly had at school. “Wherever you go, you will top all the rest,” he says, “Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.” Vanderbilt is an incredible academic institution with lots of professors who care about growing their students and unlocking their potential. That being said, it is also home to 6000 of the brightest and best college kids in the world, and anyone bringing in an inflated ego has a rude surprise in store. You will not be the best, reader, possibly not at anything you choose to do at school. Being top in your class at high school means nothing anymore, not at Vanderbilt. I’ve been crushed at times this year, completely demoralized by overwhelming classes and the realization that I can’t succeed at everything.
Luckily, Dr. Seuss has a remedy for this situation. Instead of waiting in “The Waiting Place,” where “Everyone is just waiting,” you will escape all that waiting and staying. Bring in the right attitude and Vanderbilt will be an environment where you can excel. Don’t expect to be the best at everything, or to never face disappointment. My RA told us that we would fail at something at the beginning of the year, and I foolishly said what I’m sure most students at Vanderbilt were thinking: “Not me.” Don’t think “Not me.” Instead, think “How will I learn from it? What commitments will I make? How will I excel despite failing?”
College is your chance to be what you want to be. Decide what to be and go be it!