Once I entered senior year, I felt as though I was dubbed with a flashing neon sign constantly poised directly over my head reading, “Ask me any question and receive the wisest, most well-planned response.”
Amid the classic questions regarding my post-graduation plans, my new location and how I will pursue my interests, classmates, mentors, professors and friends have peppered me with many more philosophical questions. When they do ask these profound questions, they will often pause and wait for me to deliver an appropriately well-thought-out response because I am, after all, a senior, and that automatically means I have most of my life sorted out.
These seemingly casual questions, ranging from my biggest regret, my most joyous occasion or my most classic college story always catch me off-guard. But the hardest question of all is one I usually stumble through with a 30-second rambling response of the most cliched phrases strung together with the “likes” and “ums” that my favorite professor, Barbara Mujica, worked so hard to eradicate from my vocabulary. The question: What do you wish you could tell your freshman self?
I am always puzzled by this question, because I have to think that as soon as I figure something out, I always tell it to myself. At the same time, I cannot go backward, and, though I have been tempted by the thought of reliving a few moments differently, that would not be true to the Georgetown education. Because even though it is easy to try to sum up four years of education, it is not a worthwhile task.
Hindsight is 20/20, and it is a lot easier to look back and draw conclusions to make sense of different decisions than it is to actually forge through those decisions without knowing the outcome. In fact, despite my anxiousness surrounding all of these seemingly unanswerable questions, they have helped me to begin to realize what is perhaps Georgetown’s greatest gift of all: its emphasis on the process of becoming rather than the outcome of being.
During commencement weekend, we celebrate the many accomplishments of each senior, the unity of our senior class and the memories that we have made every day on the Hilltop. But at Georgetown, our celebration does not stop there. With excitement, we look to the future on graduation day. We consider how this education has made us better men and women for others and what we can do now to impact society.
What makes the Georgetown experience so unique is the idea that we rely on all the conversations, interactions, assignments and experiences that the past four years have provided to make ourselves better for the future of our society. The continual desire to be better, do better and give better forces us to never become complacent or stagnant in our growth.
I have been so lucky to be surrounded by a support system of peers, professors, mentors and friends who ask me to do not just what is easy but what is rewarding, not just what is popular but what is right and not just what is normal but what is exceptional. Having people on campus continually reminds me to give back in whatever small way I can.
So, no, I cannot go back in time and tell my freshman self to get excited about the amazing classes she would get to take, to take advantage of Washington, D.C., right from the start or to not worry too much about when she would find her best friends because that would take the college out of the college experience. Just as we crafted the right paths for ourselves on the Hilltop, amid a number of failures and success and a course of trial and error, we will continue to do so as we transition into this next phase. I am confident that as Hoyas, we will push ourselves to continue to become our best selves rather than settle for simply being who we are.
Janie McDonough is a senior in the College.