“What were you doing when the last decade began?” This was the question friends kept asking me in the days surrounding the start of this decade. It seems like the finality of watching 2009 change to 2010 makes us feel like it’s the perfect time for reflection; that somehow the end of one decade and the start of another is almost like a tent-pole firmly planting clean beginnings and endings in our lives.
The real question we should all be asking ourselves is not what we were doing when the last decade began, but what we hope to accomplish in this one. Despite the fact that there is that comforting stability in beginning a new decade, there is no clean slate, and we still have to clean up problems that began in the last year or even earlier. Our country is still dealing with a crushing national debt, two wars and an economy reeling from near-collapse, not to mention the problems of health care, higher education costs and inequality that have perplexed our nation for far longer than a mere decade.
How can the average Rider student possibly solve these problems? Poverty, for example, has been an unfortunate aspect of human civilization since at least biblical times. I am not suggesting that one student is going to instantly come up with a solution to solve such an ancient dilemma. I have two suggestions that might help us all make the most out of this new decade (and maybe the next few ones as well).
Be passionate. Turn everything in your life into something that will occupy you, to consume, fill and nourish you. Let this passion pour over into your entire life. Do not drift aimlessly through the halls wondering what will happen. Make something happen. Do not merely complain to a friend about a problem you notice. Reach out and be part of the solution. Let not your passion remain private; share it with those you know and love. Make it infectious. Have the courage to let it fill you not only in private, but on the athletic field, in the classroom or in the concert hall. Do not phone in the performance; do not write a paper the night before. Think and meaningfully reflect about what you are performing, writing, learning. What does it mean? How is it part of a greater tradition, a small part of the great fabric of human history?
Stay committed. I suppose it’s easy to start out with the best of intentions. A month ago, most of us made New Year’s resolutions, and by now some of us have forgotten what these resolutions even were. Many people aspire or fantasize about the idea of running a marathon or becoming president, but few carry through beyond whimsical fantasies and turn it into ardent commitment. I am asking you, asking all Rider students, to be the few people out there who are committed to your goals, to your aspirations, and to your passions. Sometimes we say that it would be easy to give up, be cynical, or stop dreaming. Don’t say that. Remember that sometimes things will be easy, and sometimes failure is what precedes success. As someone once told me, “No is the first step to yes.”
Imagine if we all had this passion and were committed to it — just think about what we’ll be saying on New Year’s Eve in 2019, remembering that 2010 was the year we started to dream, discover and triumph. I know that is a moment of reflection I am already looking forward to.
Junior voice & piano performance major