Over the summer I had the opportunity to meet a fellow College of William and Mary student off campus. Since it was our first time meeting, we decided to begin discussion with the standard, ‘what’s your major’ exchange. After whipping through that, they decided to go one step further by asking me, “So what are you about?”
I was a bit taken aback. No one has ever asked ‘what I was about’ on campus before. Many different emotions went swirling through my head — I started internally freaking out trying to pick a simple way to describe my entire life and reputation on campus. Finally, I ascribed a one-word identity to myself and immediately felt cheapened. The conversation went on for a few more moments and then we continued with our lives.
The strange, emotionless question angered me. It got me thinking about my relationship with College culture. What am I about? What do I do here? Am I actually a part of the school if I can only see myself in one specific area? It seems a bit harsh to characterize myself using one organization, but maybe that is how we all categorize ourselves here on campus.
Defining ourselves is important. In many ways that is a benefit of being in college. We are surrounded by like-minded students who are academically challenged and versatile. By separating ourselves into subcultures it can be easier to find our own identity, apart from the rest. And so that is why we tend to define ourselves as shortly and starkly as possible.
There is nothing wrong with being a proud member of what you represent, and sporting that all throughout your career here on campus. The danger, however, comes from not allowing your interests to mix with each other and by only surrounding yourself with those who have the same one-word interest. Broadening our horizons on campus can only lead to a more connected and wholesome student body. One where collaboration takes precedence and we use our interests to support the well-being of our fellow students. It may seem harmless to ask each other in simple conversation what we ‘do’ here on campus, but it is much more complex than that. By forcing ourselves into categories and circles, we can never truly allow ourselves to see beyond the group with which we associate.
Instead of, “What are you about?” we should be asking, “What are you passionate about?” That way we get our minds out of the framework of submitting to a club itself and we can start to actively pour ourselves into the role of those organizations. We can also connect to fellow students better, knowing that our passions can be nontraditional to our major, because we are all curious humans with a million interests.
As we gather together on campus yet again, bracing for a new school year, it is time to ask ourselves the ultimate question of re-identity and the pursuit of knowledge. Screw stereotypes and worrying about what you ‘are about’ on campus and just pursue things that make you and your community healthier. Start sharing your passions with every student around you and embrace the college community. Welcome this semester with open arms and take new chances.