When I first stepped on Fairfield’s campus just three short years ago, my only goal was to graduate. My father who attended Fairfield 30 years prior as the child of Irish immigrants had instilled in me that a college education was a gift not to be wasted. Going to class and studying were truly the only items on my agenda when I moved into Jogues in September. As someone who was interested in the pre-med track, I felt the pressure to achieve academically in order to secure my future career path.
I had my sights set on the future; my undergraduate experience was a means to an end. If I made friends that would be an added bonus, and if I participated in any extracurricular activities they would be in the aim of getting into medical school.
This hyper focused perspective is a funny thought when you look at where I ended up: quitting the weekly newspaper to be President of the whole student body. Both have been jobs that have definitely eaten into my library time – and yet also given me amazing friendships and a profound sense of purpose.
At the high school I went to it was not cool to care, it was popular to be apathetic. It wasn’t until I joined my high school newspaper that found a group of people who were committed, driven and compassionate. We were lead by our eccentric paper adviser who we called Lopes. He was not humanity’s cheerleader, he did not make light of the problems of the world, but he had this unshakeable faith that anything can be fixed. That sometimes people were limited by money, time, or lack of consensus, but people were committed to lessening the amount of suffering in the world.
Lopes implored us to recognize our agency in this great task. He taught us the goal of journalism was to ensure the world was never limited by truth. If things needed to be fixed, people ought to know; if things were going well, people ought to celebrate. Armed with this guiding principle we wrote, edited and designed a monthly newspaper.
If you weren’t lucky enough to have a Lopes in your life here is the essential lesson to glean: it is cool to care.
In high school I had been afraid to show my hand, to reveal my interests, to expose myself and not be accepted. I didn’t want to put effort into something and have it not work out. I was afraid to care in the event that I failed. Lopes taught me that effort is never in vain regardless of the outcome.
As the feminist writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde wrote: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
One of my favorite politics professors Dr. Cassidy has a speech I’ve heard in each of his classes. He asserts that at college there are two types of education: the education you get in the classroom and the education you pursue. Going to class and studying are only one part of the equation, it is also important to get involved in the business of caring.
Join a club, run for student body president, write for The Mirror – do something that you feel is worthwhile. Ask yourself, “what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”