My freshman year I was part of a special integrated class. We met for six hours a week, read on average a novel and a half a week, and spent hours discussing what we read and relating it to our lives. It was by far my favorite class I’ve taken at Ball State. Without question, I learned more from those readings and discussions than I’ve learned in all of my other classes combined.
I was remembering today that we read Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience by William Blake, who apparently looked like this:
Looks aside, he was evidently a pretty good poet. I don’t remember what all he talked about in his poems, but the titles have always stuck with me. Looking back now, five years later, I can see freshman me singing my own Songs of Innocence (though I would have scoffed at you if you’d told me so). I came to college from a small town, like most students here. I had my troubles and triumphs growing up, but not a lot of exposure to the outside world. I had ideals and grand visions for myself. I very likely thought I knew just about everything. I still thought the world was fair, that hard work and wishing would get me whatever I wanted, and that people generally have good intentions.
A lot happens in college beyond academics. I’ve watched friends fall in love and get married. Some are divorced, some have children, some are still building their lives. I’ve fallen in love, had my heart broken, made lifelong friends, traveled the world, had my beliefs shaken, reinvented myself, grown, matured, lived, learned. . . . And I wouldn’t change a thing.
I came to college thinking I should feel like a grown up, but I didn’t. Now I’m supposed to be a grown up, but I know I’m not. At the same time, I can feel a shift towards my own Songs of Experience. I’m not a total pessimist: I still think the world should be fair, hard work and wishing will get me most things I want, and it turns out that people really do generally have good intentions. I still have my Songs of Innocence that I cling to, but my Songs of Experience have much deeper meaning and have shaped who I am today.
I know many of you are trying to choose a university to go to. Some of you already have. Let me tell you that in most ways, the university you choose won’t matter in the end. What will matter are the people you’re going to befriend and love, the adventures you allow yourself to have. The sooner you learn that academics are secondary, the sooner you’ll get to the real learning.