By Jake Schweitzer
Frankly, I can not believe that four years have passed since I began my education at Binghamton University. To me, it doesn’t seem real; I still remember waking up and being packed into my parents’ car, before being driven four hours across the state while the sky was still kissed pink-rose, thinking it was just another day before high school. The anxiety and, to a lesser extent, homesickness, really hit me a week after staying in my cramped, three-person dorm in CIW. Beyond the unideal room situation, I knew practically nothing about Binghamton beyond the brief tour I was given. While I did know some distant acquaintances that went to this University, we always stood on the periphery of each other’s lives, meaning that any close friendship between myself and them was highly unlikely, despite my best efforts. Nonetheless, I took solace from the fact that this was a new setting, and over time I gradually became acclimated to my new home, made new friends, and pushed myself to do well in class. Over this time, I’ve read books ranging from Jonathan Haidt to Marcus Aurelius, and think I have learned a lot from my time here. Therefore, I want to leave Binghamton University with some parting advice for those that may have been in a similar situation to me. Who knows, you may learn something from the advice I provide. They go as follows:
- Understand your limits. Entering Binghamton for the first time felt like an ambitious undertaking and, the truth was, it wasn’t something to be overwhelmed with. Between the academic aspect of doing well in classes, knowing practically no one when first arriving here, and trying to get by day-to-day, managing my time was extremely difficult. I noticed, especially during my first two years at Binghamton, that you had to understand “time management” in order to succeed. While this in and of itself is sound advice, it is missing an important caveat: manage your time with things that are actually worthwhile or can provide you with feasible benefits. Sometimes this could include doing work or simply engaging in hobbies that you find enjoyable. However, if you find yourself being stretched thin, even with your schedule in order, only for you to engage in something you have no interest in, why do so? From my own experience, this results in you becoming stressed, tired, and miserable. Don’t just simply “manage” your time; understand HOW to use such time effectively. Find what works for you within your abilities and stick with it.
- Assume good faith. It is very easy to become lost within the machinations of one’s own perspective. We can think of this in a political sense. Given that we live on a college campus, the dominant school of political thought skews towards the left, although there are certainly some voices (albeit few) from the political right. At the very extreme ends of the spectrums, the most polarized voices from the far left and far right engage in a dualistic sense of thinking that reminds me of the religious wars of old. Does someone hold right-of-center views? Then obviously they are evil bigoted authoritarians, says the polarized far-leftist. Does someone hold left-of-center views? Then obviously they must be evil communists, says the polarized far-rightist. From this point of view, it’s merely a battle of good versus evil, a “cosmic war”, if you will. Of course, this can be applied in a more general sense, when we automatically assume a drastic extreme about someone or something without evidence. The solution to this social ill that you may encounter on campus and beyond? Assume good faith; assume that the person you are interacting with can teach you a thing or two, or that their perspective is not influenced by a genuine sort of malice. Try, instead, to truly consider things from their point of view. Not only does this sort of thing help with understanding political opposition that you disagree with and humanizes their perspectives, but it can be applied in everyday life. Think of this when you may be having difficulties with roommates. I know I have had such issues at Binghamton.
- Reject iconoclasm. Iconoclasm is defined as the destruction of images or statues for some religious or political goal. The term has often been applied to mean that such images are denigrative to the practice of one’s faith, and thus must be destroyed. Obviously, when I am discussing iconoclasm, I am not referring to the literal destruction of icons on campus or even the mass trashing of Binghamton Review issues that I’ve seen firsthand. Rather, I use iconoclasm in the sense that some simply seek to have their own opinions validated, and those that choose not to conform to this validation are to be excommunicated from the social sphere, or, as some people say with varying levels of seriousness, become “canceled”. Again, while this could be applied in a political context, it could also be applied to an absolutest mindset that is inculcated within us from a lifetime of comfort and yes-men. My point is that you, as a Binghamton student, should not expect such affirmation constantly for every opinion you hold from everyone under the sun. Rather than holding a desire to remove any opinion that does not automatically validate yourself, as would be the norm for iconoclasts, approach such arguments as being a vehicle for understanding. The added perspective could give you a real sense of gravitas to the opinions you hold, why you hold them, and a good look at the true face of those who disagree with you. It may even convince you that perhaps you hold your views based on irrational premises and that it is better for you to adjust or change your argument for your benefit.
These are rather general recommendations, though I think that, had I had this advice before coming to Binghamton, I would have been better off knowing such information. Nonetheless, I see it as my responsibility to pass what I have learned to you, the average Binghamton student. Always remember that you can succeed and that you are not alone.