Welcome, newcomers, to the beginning of your ride as a Cedarville Yellow Jacket. In many ways, college is like a bike ride. Everything starts out well, the wind is blowing through your hair and the sun is shining, but after you reach the first hill you start to think, “What have I done? I’ve made a terrible mistake.” You keep pedaling, however, and a few miles down the road you think back to all those doubts and you wonder what happened to the space in between.
It flew by, because you stopped focusing on those doubts and turned your attention to the menial task of pedaling. Soon, you will realize, you are nearing the end, sweaty, exhausted, and in dire need of a nap, but nearing the end nonetheless.
For now though, as new students, you are experiencing freedom for the first time in your life. College is as exciting as it is terrifying. The beginning of college is a joyous occasion, and then classes start, a routine develops, and the luster wears off. You might wonder where all the fun went, because all you are doing now is homework, but do not fear. Part of the learning curve with college comes with figuring out how to balance your education and your social life.
Chances are, new student, you will hear an oft repeated phrase along the lines of “Cedarville is a greenhouse.” While true in many ways, Cedarville is a great place to grow in knowledge and faith, that phrase underlines a bone-deep human necessity that we have to change and grow. To do that, we have to break down the stability and comfort we grow accustomed to in our lives.
There will probably come a point in your Cedarville life where everything slows down, you settle in, and life returns to some normalcy. You learn how to get to Bill’s Donuts in Beavercreek, or that there’s pickup basketball almost every Sunday afternoon at the gym, or that the time you save walking across the frozen lake from the Stevens Student Center to your class in the School of Biblical and Theological Studies is not worth the hazard or the fine. You will learn of legendary SGA Chaplain Steve Clark from the upperclassmen, or that there is a record store in Yellow Springs, or you might learn what a record even is.
You will learn so many things outside of the classroom, and you will begin to feel like you belong in this place, yet in those moments of relative comfort, whenever they arrive, you must struggle to find a sense of change in your life, because as is true of human nature, and especially of our nature as Christians, we never truly arrive, and we never truly belong.
We are meant to seek change, even in minor ways, because it keeps our spirits healthy and clean, much like how a stagnant pond is filled with algae and will often smell, but if you place a fountain in the pond and keep the water moving, the water will soon clear.
College in modern times is as much a rite of passage into adulthood as it is an education, but remember, we are all college students. Regardless of major, we are all college students. We all have tests, we all have papers, and we all have homework. The assignments might look different. Your professor might grade tougher than your friend’s professor, but that is no reason to complain.
There will be nights you have to stay up late working on a project, and your roommate or friends in your hall are all in a room watching the game, or the new episode of your favorite show is on, and you have to miss it because of your homework. It can be easy to harbor bitterness in those moments, and it seems that all of your friends are out to rub it in that they are free from their obligations. Yet your friends are trying to enjoy themselves, and we are in college to get a degree, after all.
One night in my freshman year, my roommate was complaining that he had to write a 700-word essay answering the prompt “What is Justice?” for his composition class. I had nothing to do that night, and his complaining was bothering me to the point where I told him, as if I were I child challenging another child to race on the playground, “I bet I can finish writing that essay before you.”
Should I have tried to motivate him in other ways besides competing with him over a composition essay? Sure. Was I just trying to make him stop complaining? Absolutely. Since then, I have spent countless nights complaining about assignments that I have known weeks about. I am aware that makes me a hypocrite, but with hindsight I see that my complaining has done me little help, and that the people I have complained to have just as much to complain about as I do, even if the nights I am busy are not the same nights they are busy.
Dear fellow students, freshman or senior, struggle alongside other people and avoid the enmity and strife that comes with complaining. It’s not worth it.
Finally, there is chapel. We are required to go to chapel every day the sun rises during the week, and while that may have been a deciding factor in your college choice, there will be days when chapel feels like a burden.
Maybe you’ll hear from a friend that the speaker for the day will be boring, and that all your friends are skipping so if do go you will have to sit next to your brother unit by yourself, or that composition paper you have to write didn’t write itself after you went to sleep like you prayed it would.
While skipping chapel is not the end of the world, there will be days in chapel when it is a chore to stay awake, or days when, in your opinion, the band chose all of the worst modern worship songs. I urge you, fellow Cedarville student, on those days, to fight to stay awake and to pay attention to what the speaker is saying.
As I have grown older, I have learned that every minute is an opportunity to learn and to change, and with that mindset, whether if you continue at Cedarville for all four years, or if you leave before you graduate from here, your college experience can help you understand who you are, and help you mature into the person you want to become.