Envisioning a future at Williams: the possibilities ahead for a first-year student

A few months ago, I was talking with a good friend of mind and she told me that she had never seen a sunrise. I remember staring back at her in disbelief and wondering how could one possibly go through his or her whole life without ever seeing the sunrise. I mean, really, if not just once waking up early to enjoy the sheer beauty of the breaking day, then at least having done so accidentally. An all-nighter maybe, or even morning restlessness. When I verbalized my doubt she thought for a second and then said, “No, I really don’t think I have.”

It is amazing how often we go through the days, weeks and months of our life without actually enjoying the millions of things that are going on around us. Sunrises, for example, happen every 24 hours (depending on the time of year), and each one is completely different than the next. Yet some people have never taken the time to see what amazing beauty a sunrise really is. In fact, by the time I turn 19 (October 8, in case anyone wants to celebrate with me), I will have had the chance to see 6,940 sunsets and I will have will passed up seeing all but about .5 percent of them.

The thing that really baffles me is that there are other people who will pay a lot of money for a photograph or a painting of an exquisite sunrise but will not simply wake up a few minutes earlier to enjoy the real thing for themselves.

Perhaps it is the frequency of the sunrise that makes it seem less valuable. “I can always see it tomorrow” is, I am sure, a common excuse. But if I told you that tomorrow would be cloudy, then would you wake up to see the sunrise today? Or maybe sit out after supper and watch the sunset, an equally beautiful and underappreciated spectacle?

Who knows?

But what if I told you that you had only four more years of your life to watch the sunrise? What if I guaranteed you that in four years the sunrise would simply no longer be available for your viewing? You would probably wake up and start seeing those daybreaks. Maybe not right away, but as the years passed and the days counted down, you would probably make a point to see as many sunrises as you could.

I often look back on my life, as short and incomplete as it is right now, and think to myself, “Damn, I wish I had done such-and-such.” The thing itself is not as important as the fact that it was a missed opportunity. A chance to do something, something that I probably would have enjoyed doing, that I passed up for whatever reason was convenient at the time.

“I have too much work.”

“It’s late.”

“It’s early.”

“I just ate.”

I have found that it is easy to sit on your ass and let things happen around you. Being lazy takes very little skill, very little drive or motivation and in most cases there is no room for error. If you don’t push the limits then you are assured not to go to far. Unfortunately, opportunity knocks but once.

I have been here at Williams for 11 days and in that time I have gone on a WOOLF trip, been to four classes, auditioned for the choral society, gone to six department open houses, eaten 21 meals in four different dining halls, met what seems like a million new people (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors and professors alike), taken a swim test, joined the Frisbee team and gone to more parties than I can count. And after 11 days, I am still just getting started.

As the schedule page in my handbook becomes darker and darker I begin to wonder if perhaps I am overextending myself. I am just a freshman, after all, and my time management skills are not quite up to par. But then I think, “When else am I going to get that chance?”

In four years, I will not have an awesome group of women to play Frisbee with every afternoon, and I will not have time to drive around picking up compost. I will not have unlimited access to a climbing wall, a swimming pool, a weight room, a photo lab, concerts, lectures or workshops. And a 24-hour social life will certainly be a thing of the past.

Some of us have four years of Purple Valley sunrises ahead of us just waiting to be viewed. Some of us, unfortunately, have fewer. And unlike the sun, which will (hopefully) rise and set for the rest of our lifetimes, the things we have access to here at Williams will not be available forever.

So now you are probably expecting me to end this article with some sort of enlightened advice which will help you all become better people. But I don’t like to preach, so I will end my article with this: I am probably not going to wake up tomorrow morning and watch the sunrise. I may not finish my environmental studies reading tomorrow night. And there is a very good chance that I will pass someone on campus tomorrow and I will have no clue who he or she is and I will not introduce myself.

Hey, no one is perfect.

But I will go to class. And I will do as much reading as I can and I will join the chorus and I will play Frisbee and I will drink coffee in Goodrich and watch football games on Saturdays and fill every minute of my time with things that may not seem that extraordinary to any of us.

But if you ask your parents or your grandparents or even your older siblings whether or not they did everything they possibly could in college they will most likely say no. And if you then follow up that question with whether or not they wish they had done those extra things that they didn’t do because it was “too early” or “too late” or “too time consuming” they will probably answer, yes.

So, the sunrise tomorrow morning is at 6:39 am. And I hear it is going to be gorgeous.