Life is a series of accepting things you never thought you would be old enough to face. Going to college, losing a loved one, becoming an aunt or a parent–these are events that we all know will happen in the distant future to the older, more mature versions of our selves that the current, younger selves never actually believe will happen. When they inevitably occur, we say “I can’t believe I’m finally here.”
We are constantly in motion, constantly aging and changing. We are constantly reviewing, refining and redefining who we are and our places in our worlds. We give up old versions of ourselves as we meet friends from other cultures, as we visit new corners of the world, and as we learn theories about humanity. We create new selves that are entirely unique from the self that existed last week, last year, last decade, regardless of the similarities they share. This self exists in the present, and it is a different self than that which existed in a different time. This year’s Symposium opening speaker Colum McCann built on this notion of change when he said “you can hold on to what you were and be something new at the same time.” You can be something that used to be you while simultaneously being something you now are.
This is easily pictured for immigrants, students studying abroad, or young adults who have come out of troubled pasts. They can hold onto the good that they saw at home, in a new land, or in a trait that brought them through the struggle while simultaneously allowing those experiences to drive the new them. It is a concept that remembers the past while moving in the present toward the future. When you are surrounded by darkness, all you can realize about your surroundings is that it’s dark, according to McCann. To see anything, you must either move, stumbling your way through the unknown, or hope for a light source to find you.
Since we are good Cobbers who know how to Become Responsibly Engaged in the World, we can rule out simply doing nothing. So what would this movement look like? For some, it could be a spiritual movement away from hatred, harm, and other sins towards Love, Forgiveness, and God. Others might take a technological view of this movement and gain inspiration for continuous innovation. Some might go on an academic journey into mathematics or philosophy in a way they’ve never experienced. Still others could simply find comfort knowing that the darkness will pass.
I remember the 2010 Christmas Concerts with the theme “Out of Darkness, Let Your Light Shine.” As a community, we mourned the loss of President Jolicoeur, yet this year we welcome a wonderful new president to campus. The loss of someone so special, so unique, brought us someone new and challenging in a different way. What would it mean for this campus to “hold on to what you were and be something new at the same time”? Most students never knew President Joliceour well, and many will not meet President Craft until graduation day when receiving a diploma.
And yet the campus as a whole needs to hold onto what President Joliceour taught us, the passion and drive with which she lived her life, while being open and receptive to not only a new face and motivation, but a new spirit leading the college as well. This change in the college will be noticed, but Concordia changes every year. Students graduate, others enter school, and faculty rotate in and out after various lengths of service. We all bring our individual journeys to this point in time to be a new institution of “Concordia” for this year.
You are now old enough to vote. You can get married. You can fight in a war and die for your country. You can get a tattoo because it seems like a good idea. Some of you could get a tattoo while your logic is impaired by alcohol or you could keep a minor out past midnight. When you sign a contract, you can’t claim, “I didn’t get it. I was confused.” You are responsible for paying back your student loans, even if you don’t get a job that can pay those bills, and most of you signed your names to documents promising you would do so. You are becoming a totally new individual, and Concordia is becoming a totally new campus as faculty, staff, and students are new this year. We are all leaving something and entering into something else; the difference is whether we will sit idly by waiting for someone to enlighten us or whether we will stumble around searching for reality in whatever way we can.
I am a senior majoring in political science and journalism, and I am minoring in music. Next year, I will study law at the University of St. Thomas, and I can’t believe my time at Concordia has gone so quickly.