Esther Weathers '11
2011 Senior Class Speech
by Esther Weathers ’11
Commencement – May 22, 2011
How did you find out about Whitman College? Every year I have been asked that question in some shape or form. It is the question most international and students who live abroad hate because the answer is always the same….the internet, duh. That’s how I heard about Whitman. How I chose Whitman is another story.
I was looking at the Princeton Review site and they had a list of these rankings, one of them was “Dorms are like Palaces” and Whitman just happened to be on the list. Now I knew that if I was going to travel across the ocean I was not going to live in some “Dorms are like Dungeons” place. So that’s why I applied, because I didn’t want to live in a dungeon. Though my reasoning for applying is not the most common, my reason for attending was far more empirically based. Next thing I knew I was here – never saw the campus, didn’t know what liberal arts meant, and definitely did not know the exact location of Walla Walla. I took a risk. A chance. And never have I regretted making such a decision, this was probably the best decision of my life.
That’s just my story. We all have stories about how we ended up here and at the time they were the biggest decisions we had to make. College is often thought of as the time where enlightenment occurs, where all the answers just come to us. This year for my birthday a dear friend of mine gave me a card that said, “Not all who wander are lost” – very befitting for a senior. But that quote got me thinking about the last four years of my life. Every year I thought I had it all figured out only to find out in the following year that I had absolutely nothing figured out and was faced with more questions.
In freshman year the first major crisis was whether or not you will make friends. It sounds silly now but back in the day it was the questioned that haunted you even before you got to campus. You end up making friends sooner than you thought and life is set – the ride should be smooth from here. However, life hits you another curve ball.
You become a sophomore and are faced with a bigger question – What are you going to major in? Okay now you should definitely be good to go, you have your friends and you have your purpose in life. But then junior year comes and suddenly half of your friends are gone because they are studying abroad and at this point you wonder whether the “insert major here” was right for you. This identity crisis of where are all your friends and is your major applicable to the world occurs at this point but somehow you figure it all out. Ready or not senior year comes.
Three years in college and now a senior you should know all the tricks of the trade: how to write a 10-page paper in under 24 hours, when to play the senior card so that you can get that extension or certain tables in the library, and how to live it up but still make it to class looking fresh. Despite knowing all these things senior year is the worst. It’s the worst because it comes with the illusion that you will have all the free time in the world and be one of the yoga-doing, only-have-one-class senior. Reality is that you have your orals, writtens, thesis, classes, and future all to figure simultaneously. And the real reason you are taking a yoga class is because that is the only time you have to exercise and you might as well get credit for it.
Somehow we survived this crazy year and theoretically should have all our questions answers. However, we now are faced with the hardest part. The last big question you face in college is “What’s next?” Where will you live? What will you do, and what about your friends? Some questions you will have the answers to and others you may not.
We all come with the idea that answers will be revealed while we are in college; however, the secret to college is that it is a place to wander and find questions. By being lost we are able to uncover things that we never expected and become people we never thought we could be. The word lost usually has a bad connotation; however, today I want to challenge that. Being lost allows you to experience and change constantly rather than always knowing what we are doing before we do it; it makes life mundane and takes the color out of it.
On days like these, it is about reflection of the past – it is easy to get caught up and ask the hard question “What’s next?” But the truth is by asking such questions we take away from the moment. We always want to talk about what happened and always want to discuss what could be. Today I ask you to not get stuck in the past or worry too much about the future. It is fun to reflect on our experience, and we should, but we should not be stuck in them.