University students need to “wake up”

“Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” These are the famous last words of Laurence Fishburne’s character in Spike Lee’s classic film “School Daze.” Those words resounded through the audience’s mind like they do now: with an urgency that disturbs me. This campus needs to wake up.

We are a city full of sleepwalkers, resigned to the routine of our daily pursuits, and it has cast an alarmingly dreary shadow over our lives. Don’t believe me? Look around on any given day. Just sit on a bench or in the Union and watch the mass of zombies carry their backpacks full of books that they think are a validation for their time spent.

Ask anyone about their plans for the day. They’ll tell you that they’re going to study, or write a ten page paper for the professor that doesn’t know what s/he is doing. They’ll tell you that they’re going to the movies, or to the Rec, or to the bar or to bed. And they’ll tell you this and expect you to understand the misery of their plight. We are college students, after all. We pay good money to do all this work and go through these routines, because that’s what college students do.

We live comfortably in our little university bubble of existence and think everything is fine, or at least that everything is how it is supposed to be. And we don’t even realize that life is passing us by, and that we are sleepwalking through it. We think that this will last until graduation, when we leap into the “real” world, and we’ll magically come alive with a vitality that will justify the misery of our last four or five years. Unfortunately, that is an illusion.

We, in our university bubble, actually have an advantage over those already caught in the day to day trials of survival. That’s right —- survival. Not living.

Our advantage is that we have the opportunity to set the tone and pace of our lives in advance, to clear the path somewhat before embarking on the next part of the journey. Street magician David Blaine stresses the value of remaining conscious of the wonder of our life and world every day. We can take so much for granted that, when truly looked at, is found to be quite amazing.

Wake up. Every day, take a moment and look at what is going on around you. Notice the leaves in the trees and on the ground. Notice the changing colors and energies. Notice the squirrels darting about the grass, looking for their lunch. Notice the group to your left sharing a great laugh. Notice that you can walk, or that you can see, or that you have the opportunity to learn something millions will never learn, or even hear of. Notice the fact that you can taste the food you’re eating, and notice how that makes you feel.

In short, notice life. Because getting caught in our routines can end up in our forgetting to live. Put your books down for a moment and decide for yourself what really matters to you in life.

Decide if you’re happy with what you came up with. And when you’re satisfied, put that at the top of your list of priorities, and don’t let daily trials take precedence over that. Because whenever those daily problems pass, we are still left with ourselves and the responsibility for our own lives.

We hurt ourselves by allowing the desires of others to dictate our experience of life. Maybe you’ll say that your parents made you come, or that you don’t like your classes or maybe your life just sucks. That does not mean there is not an opportunity to have a great time. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t something valuable to learn, or that there isn’t always a reason to smile.

There is always misery when we look for it, and there is always joy when we let it in.

So wake up. Wake up and see the sun. Wake up and know that you have another day to live and leave your mark on the world. And then go to class.