One band that I really developed a strong attachment to over my five years at Oswego State is R.E.M. I had heard of them all through high school, but it wasn’t until my freshman year that I became fully entranced by Peter Buck’s jangling guitar and the beautiful, haunting voice of Michael Stipe.
Last fall, when R.E.M. announced they were breaking up after 30 years. I thought it was serendipitous that the band I listened to through college was ending right before I graduated. All through these last two semesters, I kept thinking about one song and its strong connection to my experience here. That song is called “Find the River.” Any R.E.M. fan will tell you that trying to figure out what their songs are about can be a maddening exercise; these are the guys who once sang “I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract.” But this song in particular keeps insisting that the “ocean is the river’s goal.” There’s a portion that goes: “I have got to find the river/Bergamot and vetiver/ Run through my head and fall away/ Leave the road and memorize/ This life that pass before my eyes/ nothing is going my way.”
It’s about finding the path that you think your life needs to take in order to be fulfilled, like river, water pouring into the ocean. I could be wrong about this. Deciding what to make of any college experience is the same exercise.
The five years I’ve spent here feel like a lifetime. My life before college feels like decades ago. That’s not to say my college experience felt like a sentence; far from it. I’ve made a lot of friends, had a job I absolutely loved, and now I will graduate with few regrets on how the whole thing went. That kind of positive college experience doesn’t just come at you out of the blue; you have to seek it out for yourself (hence the incredibly pretentious connection to the R.E.M. song).
It wasn’t always this way. There was a point a few weeks into my junior year when I thought about leaving Oswego. “Nothing is going my way” was an apt description. But I knew there were some good things, such as writing for The Oswegonian, which made me hesitate to make such a radical life choice. I stayed, and got more involved in writing for the paper, which is the best decision I have ever made.
That is the key to making the most of our time here at Oswego State. You have to find something that stimulates our interests, whether it is an activity, club or other people. There are opportunities everywhere that allow us to flourish in our potential. Everyone needs to find their “river,” so to speak, that will lead them to a place that will not only make them happy in the short-term, but will also increase confidence in what they want to do in the future. I found it with working with The Oswegonian. Not only did I make a ton of friends, I became more confident in the fact that I wanted to stay in the field of journalism. My sophomore year I was scared to death of covering simple events on-campus, I never in a million years thought I would be able to intern at a local paper like The Palladium-Times. But again, maximizing the opportunities that we take advantage of is imperative.
It’s a weird feeling, finally being done with school. It will be even weirder in August and September when I don’t have a school to go back to. I will miss a lot of things, including my friends, some professors and having a forum for my crazy opinions every week. For now, my future will be looking for a job and tackling the mountain of student loans I need to pay back. A lot of people I know are worried about graduation, since our futures are not set in stone. I see graduation as an opportunity. You can’t spend your life worrying about the inevitable, you have to take them when they come, and recalibrate yourself with the changes tent pole events, like graduating, can bring. Graduation should not be considered a sign of a part of our lives ending, it should be considered as the beginning of the next chapter. That’s how I felt at my high school graduation, and that has not changed.
So the bottom line is, while you are at Oswego State, for the love of God, do not waste it. There is nothing worse than living with regret over what you did not do with your life; it can consume most people. At the end of “Find the River,” Stipe sings: “Strength and courage overrides/The privileged and weary eyes…Pick up here and chase the ride/The river empties to the tide/All of this is coming your way.” R.E.M. is not wrong, everything can come your way if you take control and make it happen. Because finding the river and getting to the “ocean” is not the end, you do not just tread water, waiting for someone to show you where to go with your life; the lesson while you are in college and life after graduation is that you don’t just let the tide carry you to where you want to go; you still have to do some actual swimming.