By Nick DAngelo
Speaking to a first-year student not long ago, I lamented that imagining life after Union was an ornery ordeal. Nonsense, she objected, life after graduation is even better. There is more potential, more to do and more to accomplish.
While that all may be true, it does not alter the senior’s feelings, and our conversation demonstrates the undeniable change in perspective that one experiences throughout a four-year academic career.
Yes, of course there is life after Union. That is the point of all this, right? To build a foundation, to create opportunities and to realize passionate pursuits.
But, there is much to be said for the oft-repeated argument that these four years are the best we may experience. While I never condone dreading the future, but instead favor charging toward it, there is no doubt that we seniors remain meek as we confront the finish.
Perhaps we can take comfort in the stories of ancient religious mythology, though, which draw some strange parallels to our entrance into the “real world.”
Mythology offers an explanation for a curious people, creating an aetiology for the challenges and hardships we face in our world. It should be no surprise then that we can find similarities between our present circumstances and those of the folkloric ancients.
In springtime, one can only describe our small campus as a little Eden: the blossoming trees and sprawling lawns, all carefully set against porcelain and shale facades.
It is a fabled portrait reminiscent of its 18th century heritage. And while that is hardly old by biblical standards, the age still evokes a comfort of permanence.
Couple that beauty with the limited responsibilities and the generous declining balance, and our college years are truly Eden-esque.
Yes, of course we work hard. This is not simply a life of leisure, but so much is provided for us here that it is easy to take it for granted. After all, isn’t that one of the lessons learned from Adam and Eve?
After their achievement of knowledge, Adam and Eve exited paradise and were thrust into livelihood. No longer provided for, Adam tilled and farmed, working to provide sustenance. And it is here that the Bible purports life to truly began: at the intersection of leisure and labor.
The ancient Mesopotamians had a different notion for the beginning of humankind, though. In a recurring theme of order versus chaos, human creation is achieved only once the sky god Marduk has slain the serpentine Tiamat, literally crafting creation through her body.
It is a motif that may also serve some graduates appropriately. Now entering true adulthood, where the stakes are higher and the expectations greater, are we witnessing the transformation from chaos to order? That chaotic college schedule of late nights and afternoon rising must be traded in for a more orderly system.
But who could forget the ancient Egyptians, who have yet a third explanation for the start of life? Humankind is grown through the tears wept by the eye of Atum-Ra, replaced by her god after she scavenges the primordial world trying to find the lonely deity a companion. It is sad to leave Union, and our lives may very well begin anew through tears shed.
Regardless of which myth you choose to favor, entering the “real world” does not seem enjoyable. Hard work, laborious demands and a longing to return to a life we must leave await us outside Union’s gates.
And yet there is still so much excitement for it. That excitement should exist, too. While change is often ugly and transitions often despairing, the metamorphosis from collegiate caterpillar to worldly butterfly is nothing short of remarkable.
All three of these mythic narratives, while sharing similar cultural and linguistic roots, also share something more. In each of these stories, life begins through some explained process of creation.
In many regards, we have been “creating” our lives over the course of four years. Surely, the actual creation of one’s life is an ongoing process.
Few things in the future are certain, and even few things for next year may be certain, but the foundation is created nonetheless. These are not a stagnant four years, but a process of craftsmanship. There is a higher purpose for our cause.
Perhaps we can be most inspired by the work of Yahweh in Genesis I who, after speaking life into existence, took a rest. I suppose that is a good place to start on June 16.