This week marked the six-month anniversary of Commencement 2011 and also of my copy of Metate showing up in the mail. As Pomona nostalgia set in hard, I found myself reflecting on my four years on campus and the months since. I found there was one idea that could have made my experience at Pomona even more amazing. The message is simple to say, but personal experience has taught me time and time again that it is far more difficult to apply: if you are unsatisfied with the results that you are achieving, then get better.
After spending the first five post-graduation months hunting for jobs, I can confirm that the “real world” is, on the whole, less fun than Pomona College and that finding a job after graduation can be the worst transition. During the first couple of months of unemployment, I cast blame almost everywhere, including toward former professors, Pomona College as an institution, the CDO, and the economy. I eventually realized, however, that I could only throw myself a pity party for so long without blaming myself, since no one else exists for the purpose of making me or you better. Beyond just my post-graduation job search, I realize that I should have reached this conclusion my first year.
First-years: are you having trouble making friends? Do you not like the friends you do have? Get better. Get better at small talk; get better at approaching people you know tangentially; get better at just wandering around random dorm hallways, and see who’s sitting out in the hall from one of your classes or from that party last weekend. Don’t let yourself leave your first year without a group of friends that you’ll actually call for meals when you don’t all live together.
Sophomores: have you hit a “sophomore slump” now that the magic of your first year is over? I did. My advice: get better. Get better at going into office hours, get better at asking for help, and get better at taking responsibility for the expectations that come with you being smart enough not to wear your lanyard around your neck anymore.
Juniors: finding your social life curtailed by you or your friends going abroad? Finally getting fed up with the hook-up culture and the lack of a dating scene at Pomona? Get better. Get better at making friends with other people on your abroad program or those who have lost their friends for a semester too. Get better at having a dating relationship that extends beyond a one-night stand without venturing into a weird form of pseudo-marriage—this is one area in which the “real world” far outclasses Pomona College.
Seniors: are you not proud of your thesis? Are you stressed about finding a job? Are you feeling pressured to live up to the achievements of your peers, whether that be in terms of job prospects, grant applications, or thesis length? Get better. Go into the CDO and get better at writing a cover letter or a resume. Get better at judging yourself based objectively on your own accomplishments, not the successes or failures of others. And if you don’t like where your thesis stands, make it better. Take it from someone who didn’t: you’ll regret turning in a half-baked thesis way more than you’d expect.
No matter your class year, the worst thing that you can ever do to yourself is let life happen to you. Nothing will be entirely in your control forever, but we often control the outcome far more than we give ourselves credit for. Here’s a task for everyone to use as practice in taking power over their own fates: get better at appreciating what an incredible situation you’re in as a Pomona student and all the amazing opportunities you have access to. It’s never too late to appreciate your Pomona experience, which is why I bought a plane ticket to Claremont. I’ll be on campus the weekend of Feb. 9. Until then, fellow Sagehens, I encourage all of you: get better.