A Letter to Seniors

Georgia Lyon

Dear Class of 2016,

You are at the beginning of the end of your time here at Whitman. You are probably attempting to make sense your college experience. Go ahead. Construct some meta-theory about how those OP trips to Smith Park or staring up at the sky with your friends on Ankeny has helped you discover some fundamental truths about yourself, life, and the universe. Trust me, I remember what it is like.

Less than a year ago, I graduated high school. I then moved about 33 parallel universes away from my home in California to attend Whitman College. Whether or not you knew it was me, you saw me dashing abashedly around campus, lanyard clanging loudly with my every step. And in this tumbling, bumbling, fumbling period of my first year, you used your experience to help me. Now, as someone who has a more recent experience in making a transition, I would like to help you too.

Whitman has most likely not taught you all you need to know about yourself, life, or the universe. In fact, it has probably taught you very few of these things. What Whitman has hopefully taught you, though, is how to learn. While you may never directly apply the knowledge you acquired in your Feminist Theories and Underwater Basket Weaving class, you will find that the mental flexibility that this class helped you develop will most certainly come in handy.

With this enhanced mental flexibility, you can hopefully swiftly pick up on what you need to know about your new environment to be successful in it. No matter where you go in life, you will always have many opportunities to learn, and what distinguishes the good college graduates from the great is how you take advantage of those opportunities.

Which leads into my second point, seek out opportunities. According to dictionary.com, an opportunity is, “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something”. Some phrases within that definition that strike me are “set of circumstances”, and “possible”.

The “set of circumstances” part says that to have an opportunity, multiple factors must align. Many of those factors are out your control, but some, like your open-mindedness, are ones that you can control. The “possible” part says that being ready to respond to the external factors that control your life does not guarantee you success, but it makes success more likely. For example, when I first came to Whitman, I applied to write for The Pioneer. I had no serious expectation of getting the job, having mostly done creative writing previously. I simply applied thinking that the practice of writing an application would give me a new opportunity. And what do you know, I was accepted!

Since then, my experiences working for this campus newspaper have taught me that the only way to learn to dance outside of your comfort zone is to step outside of it. New environments will always novel opportunities for growth. At first, the novel nature of these opportunities may leave you confused, overwhelmed, or sweating bullets in the middle of an interview (true story for most of the interviews I conduct when I write news stories). Even if you always feel certain skills to be challenging, you will learn to perform them so gracefully that others will admire your expertise. Then, you’ll have mastered dancing outside of your comfort zone, and you’ll be ready to thrive in the big, complicated, and often uncomfortable world that lies in wait outside the Whitman bubble.

So go forth and tackle it!


A first-year friend