Some wisdom for beginning college

Authors’ note: Arthur Martins’ article in the August 13 issue of the campus, “A call to action: Middlebury, it’s time to prioritize our mental healthcare,” caught the attention of the Scott Center staff, and we are grateful to him for writing such an honest accounting of his experience at Middlebury. As the new school year opens, we wanted to affirm his messages on his experience and about seeking out people on campus for listening and support.

Dear Middlebury students,

You do not have to have things figured out. Let me say that one more time: You do not have to have things figured out. In fact, college is the best time to bask in the unknowing. Your 18 years of experience is being radically challenged with every person you encounter, every academic article you read, every new relationship or breakup, and every destination you visit. You will encounter paradigm shifts that may rattle you, or you may encounter things that will intensify deeply-held parts of you. Either way, you are transforming: molting, budding and blooming.

There will be inevitable growing pains. This process of growth can look messy at times. And that is okay ―  it is supposed to happen. That is why one of the best things you can do for yourself is to not only understand these growing pains but hold space for them. The more you can do that, the more you can find the eye in the storm of these next four years. 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

There are countless ways to hold space for the growth and the messiness of the “unknowing” that you will experience. Experiment with tried and true methods of mindfulness and renewal such as meditation, journaling, a yoga class, prayer or just time in nature. Pick something that works best for you, and make it as much a priority as turning in an assignment or attending team practice. Hold tight to it. This, when done right, will not be at the expense of your academic life, but rather that will make you a better student, professional, friend and person.

Schedule times of the week when you are away from your phone, computer and other distractions to be present with yourself. Go inward and check in deeply. When you are not doing well, know that there are resources on campus that are here for you. Too often, we hear students say they wished they had spoken to a counselor, chaplain or mentor when things were difficult, but felt they had no time. In reality, we make time for things that we think are important. Understand that your wellbeing is just as much a priority for you as your academic achievement. Reaching out to a counselor or chaplain will never be an inconvenience!

Knowledge is multidimensional and involves the whole person. It is not enough to ask for grades, performance and a great career. True knowledge and success incorporates your passions, your dreams, your personality, and your wisdom as much as a skill set or being book smart. Invest in your whole self in these next few years, and have certainty that the return on that investment will be a wiser, better and truer you.

May you befriend the deafening unknown and ride the adventures ahead of you!


Your Friends at The Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life