Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up." The college experience is little more than four years of self-centered processing and focusing on yourself - your future, your opportunities, and your belief system.
College students are bombarded with questions surrounding their individualistic concerns. What's your major? What do you want to do with that? Are you going to graduate school? Do you have an internship? Do you have a job? What are you doing right after college? Where do you see yourself in five years? What is your dream job? All of these questions have one or two words in common: "you/your."
Over the past three years, a period where I am no different than the college student next to me, I have succeeded terrifically at being self-centered and failed miserably at being other-centered. I have built up my resume. I have over-scheduled my weeks. I have sought out leadership positions on campus. I have even, at times, ignored people when all they wanted to do was hang out. I have been too preoccupied, too busy "getting ahead in life" to notice those suffering around me.
While we're engaged in our self-centered pursuits, we may ignore or fail to recognize someone who has been sexually abused, struggled with anorexia, depression, or substance abuse, or in need of improving an area of their physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health.
Universities are degree factories, not other-centered factories. These institutions encourage doing well on quizzes, tests, exams, projects, and assignments to benefit yourself. They keep your mind locked in and focused on number one. We start to lose our ability to empathize in the process, however. We forget that what really matters down the stretch is not how many A's I got in college or how many students I did better than, but how many quality friends I made or how many people I was there for in their time of need. To be other-centered means to care for the brother or sister next to you. It means being the best son or daughter you can be, the best friend you can be, and the best person you can be, all the while devoting your time and energy to helping someone else's life.
People don't care about what grades I get because they won't remember it. They won't remember it because it doesn't make them feel better. Civil rights activist Maya Angelou said that "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
From here on out, I will do my best to cherish the dining hall workers and the work they put into creating an enjoying dining experience, be thankful for my teachers, check in on my friends and family, welcome the younger students to the University, and remember what is most important: relationships with others.