Written as a speech for the IA-Theta Brother Mentor Fall 2020 Retreat:
This is the part of the retreat where a wizened old alumni shares a few words, and seeing as I’m the only alumnus here, I guess that makes me the wisest. So to help you in your quest, the prompt I want to spend some time on is: “What would I do differently senior year?”
If you’ve attended Hoop, you can probably hear the answers to that question echoing through the years. With few exceptions, they’re usually something like: “I wish I’d gotten to know you better,” “I should have spent more time with the chapter,” or “I would have spent less time studying.”
This will be true for you too. We always look back and regret the things we didn’t do. This isn’t because of your lack of ability or that you missed some accomplishment, but because there isn’t enough time. You see, a strange thing happens senior year. Time suddenly moves incredibly fast and becomes extremely limited. Before you realize you need to stop and look around, the semesters are gone and you’re at the end of your undergraduate experience.
In an effort to help you use your remaining time well, I have 4 thoughts I hope will help:
First, avoid senioritis like it’s worse than COVID-19. Senioritis wastes time. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying well-earned sabbath, but if it’s to the point of slothfulness, wake up! If you don’t manage your time, it will manage you. It will have no mercy.
Second, accept that you’re no match for the relentless march of time. If time eventually wears mountains down to hills, do you think you’ll be an exception? Acknowledge your limitations. This will give you some breathing room. It’s freeing to realize you don’t have to be Atlas holding the world on your shoulders.
Third, savor the moment. I know, you’ve probably heard this hundreds of times, so much so you’re probably numb to its actual meaning. But why do phrases turn into clichés? Because they register with people. Because there’s some truth to them. So take this one seriously, because this is a tool you can use. Next time you’re experiencing a memorable moment with brothers, take a minute to absorb it. This will crystallize it into a gallery of memory you can visit for the rest of your life, but it also slows time down. By intentionally holding the moment, you’re not allowing time to run the moment away from you.
Lastly, learn to ride the time wave well. Time is the biggest of waves, and if you’re living, you’re riding it. So are you going to ride it with style? Sure, you’re just one of many surfers who get to call a small section of this massive wave your own, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave your mark. Are you going to be a surfer who rides the wave straight down, or are you going to be the surfer that goes into the barrel, skims their hand in the water beside them, and carves curls and twists in their wake for other surfers to be inspired by?
And, if I can extend the surfing analogy without breaking it, think about this: do you know how much work it takes to catch a good wave? You have to paddle, and paddle, and paddle, then you wait patiently, observantly, for the perfect opportunity. Finally, you get a few minutes of real surfing. So be sure to put in the work to maximize those precious few moments of real surfing. Your future selves and those around you will thank you.
I hope this helps you in negating those common regrets mentioned earlier, but I know I still haven’t answered the initial question yet.
So what would I do differently in my senior year? I would actually ask myself another question. I would ask: “What would I do differently freshman year? …sophomore year? …junior year?” I would force myself to pause and reflect. Personally, I would act with more integrity. I would be kinder, and I would give more of my time to others. I would live with more intentionality, and I would be more reliable and responsible. And know what’s really encouraging? It’s never too late to start doing any of these things.
By asking thoughtful questions of your experience, you can help your present self live a better life. But you can also help your younger selves. Not in the time travel sense, but in the little brother sense. You have younger brothers surrounding you who would greatly benefit from your hard-earned lessons. You’ve done the work. You have the experience and the tools. Use them! Set yourself and others up for success. If one of you does this, it will make a difference. If all of you do this together, you will leave a lasting impact on the chapter for years to come.
We all have second, third, and sometimes even fourth acts in life. We go through these different stages, and it’s important you don’t check out as you near the end of this stage. How you finish this first act will indicate what those other acts will look like, whether as a father, a husband, a friend, an employee. You’re setting the pattern, and it will show up again. Make it count.
As I leave you, remember that you’re enough, and you’re needed. The Chapter needs role models, leaders, mentors… the good kind. What will you leave as your legacy?
Ride the time wave well.
Meet the Author
Avery Johnson ’18
UNI Admissions Counselor
Brother Mentor Coordinator