By Maggie Ray
This past weekend, Batten’s second-years headed off into the woods to conquer New River Gorge National Park in Frank’s name and also to eat french toast at the crack of dawn in fellowship together, amen.
I want to take this moment to speak to all of the first-year grad students at Batten: I have some important and invaluable advice for you that I discussed during the portion of the trip when they made us all date each other (more on that later). Around this time next year, you will feel proud of having survived your first year and also in mild disbelief that you are about to go a whole ‘nother round of it. You will receive an invitation to sign up for the Batten 2014 Retreat, and you will experience the following thoughts: “Oh man, that sounds pretty fun. I should really work on my resume though, interviews are coming! Also, I could use this weekend to get ahead (or, let’s face it, catch up) on my reading for _________ class. I don’t know if I can swing this.” And here’s my advice: don’t do that.
One of our bonding activities during the retreat was kind of a mini-speed dating session in which we got to pair up with our peers that we don’t know particularly well and answer interesting and difficult questions like “If a turtle is out of its shell is it homeless or naked?” and “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” for 60 seconds. I’m going to pass on to you what my answer to the second question was (if you’d like my thoughts on the first question, please see me). A long time ago, someone much smarter than I helped me make a decision by saying, “Don’t do what you want to do, do what you want to remember having done.” And I can tell you something true: in 20 years, you’re not going to remember that awesome weekend that you updated your resume and caught up on reading. But you might remember the time you fell out of a raft in the middle of some rapids in West Virginia or karaoked in the woods with some of your favorite friends (a little Shaggy never hurt anybody). Or that time over smores when your peers that you never really gave much thought to opened up about how important his family is to him, or how her sister changed her life, or how she just got out of a really long relationship and is trying to figure out what’s next. (Smores will do that, smores get personal.)
It’s tempting in a rigorous graduate school to keep your head down and ensure that you have every word read before lecture and every practice problem finished before discussion, but I would ask you to consider what else you want to get while you’re here at Batten. In my time here, I have made friends that I am confident will be in my life 30 years from now, I have discussed the most pressing problems of our time with some of our country’s senior leaders, and now I have white water rafted through a gorge. These experiences have shaped my education as much as any assigned reading ever could, and they are the memories I will have long after I’ve forgotten the Lagrangian method (#SorryNotSorry).
Policy is about people, and it’s about trying new things, and sometimes it’s (apparently) about eating incredibly delicious food for free.
Can you tell that I’m glad I went?