During the first semester of my sophomore year, I took 17 credits and dedicated many hours to student government, the student newspaper and several campus committees.
I lived what I believed and preached: combining scholastic performance with participation in multiple extracurricular activities helps mold a well-rounded student. And only well-rounded graduates, with certain skills and the ability to effectively communicate with others and market themselves, wind up getting decent employment after graduation.
I still believe that. But over the summer I learned it actually takes more than academics, an active campus life and the gift of gab to get the most out of our college experience.
During an unforeseeable but refreshing epoch of my life between my sophomore and junior years, I spent more than a month away from home strictly to work and spend time with my friends for the first time. I didn’t take any classes. I did an internship at The Link at 107.9 and labored many hours at a fast-food restaurant.
My hometown friends asked why I wasn’t coming home. I didn’t have a ready answer, and wasn’t sure what challenges and lessons summer housing at Queens would present. But I knew there was no way I was spending another summer wearing a button-up shirt and tie to an office job five days-a-week, just for the sake of my resume. The pay would have been much better, but the opportunities for growing as a person wouldn’t have.
I never would have learned how to budget my money to make every dime of small a paycheck last two weeks – and that working hard brings success in whatever realm you choose.
I never would have built strong friendships with several of the residents who spent the summer here – creating a network that I know will grow long after I leave Queens.
I never would have gained an understanding of how each person’s life experiences shape the being they become, if I hadn’t sat down with people and listened to their life stories.
I never would have made an amazing rap song with Max Kaczynski and Whitley Holbrook (sorry for the shameless plug).
It wasn’t all peaches and gravy; I faced some financial challenges that I am still paying for.
“I’m so broke; I wish my momma would buy dinner for me tonight!” I vividly remember hollering this sentiment out of the window of my car while sitting at a drive-thru ATM. The screen on the automated teller machine told me I had $12 in my checking account. My gas gauge told me tank only a fourth full.
Although my savings account is still empty and this campus is shrinking on me, I don’t regret my decision. This summer served as a growing period for a young man still discovering the intricacies of independence, and what I want to be when I grow up.
Just as I finished writing this column, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died, and a speech he delivered to Stanford students six years ago was replayed on TV. Allow me to clarify that I am not mourning the death of this business mogul but I agree with the points he made about the value of quality work. Here are two portions that struck home with me:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle….
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”