Art by Sacha Irick
The tide has come in, which means they’re kicking me out.
If I could write Rogue Wave for the Graphic the rest of my life and still manage to provide and care for a family, I’d do it. But life moves on, and I must wander off into the cold darkness that is post-grad life.
I could reflect on my four years at Pepperdine and end with something rah-rah for those of you who have read my column. I could talk about how we are all waves, ebbing and flowing in this life, and that the transient few years we spent here together made a beautiful symphony of our own individual surfs crashing against the sands of time. But just reading that metaphor made me audibly groan, so I’ll spare us all.
The world I live in and know isn’t easily labeled with a stale truism loosely based on our school’s mascot. There’s no trope I can write that will linger with you long after your hands have put this paper down, and it would be intellectually dishonest of me to wrap up my column with anything other than a basic fact: life is hard.
I’d rather focus on one word and one very simple idea. That word is self-awareness, and yes … it’s hyphenated.
Self-awareness on the most cellular of levels is an awareness of how your actions affect others, how the words you choose have power to lift someone up or tear them down. It’s the simple awareness that you’re talking too much at a party, or that you’re continually changing the conversation back to your problems when a friend comes to you with struggles of their own. This is the base of the self-awareness totem pole, and its mastery is pivotal to living a fulfilling, selfless life.
The next level is a personal self-awareness of your own hopes and dreams, aware of what you want your life to mean. This is where Pepperdine helps a lot. Purpose, Service, Jamba Juice, Leadership. It’s an awareness to realize you are creating a body of work with every day and the drive to utilize those days to paint something of worth.
Finally, and most importantly, the highest form of self-awareness is an acknowledgement of the sentimentality around you every day. Everyone says life flies by, and we’re always waxing nostalgic at thresholds of one era to another. David Foster Wallace once spoke about constantly being aware of the simple things around you, reminding yourself that “This is Water” at all times. For him, that meant remaining cognizant of the ubiquitous things around you, even when they seem so obvious and unimportant (There, I worked a waves reference into this after all). The truth is, it’s hard to remember eras as they pass as much as it is to remember the ways in which those eras made you feel.
We see childhood as waiting in line at Disneyland for ice cream and still being able to put your arms around your father’s leg and hug him because you were just that small.
We see high school not as a 90s sitcom opening credits scene, but as a series of incessant lunch hour weekend planning among stale mashed potatoes, cafeteria trays and now distant friends.
We see college not as writing your wrist into carpal tunnel during an Elkins exam, but laughing with friends as you cruise through the canyon, or walking down lower dorm road toward the Caf when the sun is sinking into the ocean in the distance.
I’m not asking you to be overly dramatic about everything. I’m simply asking you to remain present in every moment of your life and to embrace every feeling you have: joy, sadness, anxiety, excitement; they are all unique representations of your existence.
We ought not to shy away from certain emotions as much as we do. I’m scared to death about post-grad life. I’m scared to fail, scared to be average or mediocre. I don’t want to be lonely. I want others to like me. I want to be happy.
But even amid these fears, we can frame our mindsets in a way that embraces the fact that we are still alive, that we have another moment after this one and that God has given us a palate of emotions that help us realize, every day, we are gloriously human.
Not every one of you reading this is going to the moon, campaigning for President or winning an NBA title. But the beauty of life is that we’re all capable of maximizing our potential and embracing the basic emotions that all human beings can readily experience. No one is stopping us from loving life right now in light of its ups and downs and caring for others like Jesus did, no matter their backgrounds, beliefs or actions.
It is in this conscious, self-aware joy that we can find peace.
I may have taken a class about Jewish graphic novels while I was here and a class about International Relations, but this is what I learned. This is what I’ll take with me. I hope you do the same.
And I never got that SBX-3000 smoothie, by the way. I guess my power to incite change at this school was greatly overstated.
Follow Ben Holcomb on Twitter: @BenjaminHolcomb