Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Breaking the bubble: real life starts now

“I need people to do two-hour shifts every week. Your options are Monday 8   to 10 a.m., Wednesday 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., or Saturday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.”

Chrissy of the Blue Mountain Humane Society stares at me sternly from beneath her plastic-framed glasses. I inhale sharply. Just how enjoyable is it to walk 20 rabid dogs for five minutes each?

“I… um… I… need to think about it…” I start packing up my things and head for the door. Why was I so afraid?

Commitment: that’s the buzz word for this week’s column about volunteering. We want to first acknowledge that commitment is scary. Once you commit to anything, whether it’s a class, an extra-curricular or a sport : you have people relying on you to do your part.

Some shy away from volunteering for precisely this reason; it’s too risky. What happens when there’s a 20-page paper due the next day that determines your grade in the class? What do you do if someone in your dorm suddenly catches H1N1: the same person you shared a beer with the day before?

The implications of volunteering and the commitment of volunteering for a specific organization may seem intimidating. It can affect the spontaneity of the college lifestyle: particularly the liberal arts college lifestyle.

It’s hard enough having other students, the faculty, your parents, and the administration on your back. Why involve community members too?

Perhaps answering this question requires looking at the Whitman experience afresh. An important thing to realize about college: it is in many ways the start of “real life.” You are responsible for folding your laundry. You are responsible for waking up at 7:30 a.m. Sometimes you are even responsible for your stumbling-drunk roommate, even though you just met her last week. Perhaps most critically, though, you’re in charge of your time and activities.

It’s tempting to believe that you can take these four years, focus only on academics and socializing (or maybe just one of those), and then compartmentalize them as ‘those’ college years and live a more balanced life that includes service afterward.

It can probably be done. But it is much better to start thinking of Whitman as being a real life experience. Live now like you want to live for a long time. It’s really not just practice. It’s your chance to own your time and your passions.

So, perhaps we should push ourselves just a little bit to committing to our surrounding community. In the end, give that volunteer shift we mentioned at the start of the article a chance. Even if it’s 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Mondays, becoming part of this community will force us to consider adding volunteering as an integral aspect of later adult life.

A large part of who we are now will determine who we are in the future. And if we don’t start now, who knows if we’ll ever have the chance to walk rabid dogs, or tutor or dance with an octogenarian in the future?

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    Lynn MSep 24, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Who you are now and what you do now will not only determine who you are in the future but also what opportunites come your way in the future. One act, one connection often leads to another and the more you are involved the more opportunities you will have for many things (both social and professional). The key to being able to take on these extras is being organized in the first place. You can do it, you just have to have a plan and a system. Doing so will pay off in being able to do more and doing more will pay off in having more opportunities! Good luck!