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Looking down to look up

February 23rd, 2012

As I was sending out some emails recently, I noticed something that scared the bejesus out of me – almost all of the email addresses ended in ’14 or ’15. What was even scarier was that the email addresses with ’12 in them were graduating this year. When did I get so old?

I certainly don’t remember becoming an upperclassman, but it looks like I’m there whether I like it or not. Thank God I’m not a senior yet, because I don’t think I could handle that. But my email address ends in ’13. That’s next year. Wow…

For me, college has been a lesson in life more than any academic pursuit. As they say, a majority of the learning is done outside of the classroom. My friends have been the best support over the past three years; but, I have also developed unique relationships with another group of people whom I think of as my mentors.

These are the people who, when I was a freshman and sophomore, guided me through the ropes of college. It can be an obstacle course at times, so it’s always nice to have a helping hand.

But now that most of these people have graduated and I am the upperclassman, I worried that I would no longer have anybody at JCU to look up to.

Over the past couple weeks, though, I have learned something very important: sometimes you have to look down to look up. Just because someone is a class or two below me doesn’t mean he or she can’t be a role model.

Allow me to share a few instances where I was impressed by my younger classmates. Friends, I salute you.

In one epic display of Valentine’s Day confidence, I watched a freshman gent bravely approach an attractive young girl sitting at a table with six other guys during the dinner rush in the caf. He went straight up to her, handed her a rose and a box of chocolates, said “Happy Valentine’s Day” and left. Kudos. Lesson: bold is beautiful.

Another young lady I know is known to be a bit of a tease to the male population. However, I have spoken with her extensively and she never claims to want anything more than what she offers. This kind of harsh honesty seems to confuse and maybe even hurt some people, but I really can’t fault her for being true to herself. Lesson: Be true to yourself.

My third example is a dynamic freshman duo that goes together like peas and carrots. While they are seldom sober, they highlight perhaps one of the most important lessons of college: live it up.

One of my closest friends at Carroll also happens to be a year beneath me. He is the Virgil to my Dante – a spiritual guide through the quagmire of corruption that is university life. Lesson: God is there, and He probably has a great sense of humor.

Another youngster has a view on life that just screams HAPPINESS. The irony is that although he is low-key, he’s one of the most talkative people I know. Every morning he salutes the flag and every night he says his prayers. I realized how healthy his outlook on life was one day last week when he,  my roommate and I were hopelessly lost on the streets of East Cleveland. What was supposed to be an easy eight-mile run quickly turned into an adrenaline-pumping labyrinth of a 16-mile run. But even in the worst neighborhoods of the city, this young American hero smiled optimistically and helped keep our spirits up. Lesson: It doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty – the glass is there, so you might as well enjoy it.

Naturally, as a jaded junior, it’s sometimes easy to forget to enjoy the little things. Rather than laughing something off, it’s easy to take it way too seriously. And I know I can always count on one 2015er to remind me that the simple things just aren’t worth over-thinking. Lesson: Let life roll off your back because it’s really not worth the worry.

One of my best friends didn’t even exist in my life until I was a sophomore; she helped teach me one of the most important lessons I have learned yet: Love purely, unconditionally and uncritically.

Then there’s Chuck. Everyone can learn something from Chuck.

And these are just a few of the many people who might not have the same number of years as we upperclassmen do, but they certainly have plenty to offer. Take a note from them, and don’t be afraid to look down to look up – you just might learn something.