An opportunity of choices

Maria Nann

When my high school boyfriend and I broke up, the first thing I did was cut my hair.

We’re talking drastic shoulder-length to above-the-ears change, and I was excited. Scared, but excited.

The second decision my newly free self made was to go to a different college than I had planned to attend. And I was excited about that, too. Scared, again, but excited.

And when I came to school, I promised myself I was going to try new things – join groups, participate in activities. I wanted to protest, chant and be free. I wanted to have a voice, and I wanted to be heard.

So I went to protests. I marched up and down the streets of Kent, chanting alongside a hundred other people, some of whom I knew, most of whom I did not. It was emancipating, like I was my own person, taking a stand for something I believed in. And I had done it with people who held the same beliefs as I do.

I went to meetings, and although I sat quietly in the back, the number of people gathering for a specific cause or reason still impacted me. I didn’t speak out, but I listened, and I heard intelligent people defending a cause important to them, whether it was important to me. And I learned that every story has two sides, and we should all be sure to hear both sides before making our own decisions.

I went to my first dance club, and it was quite the experience. I had never been much of a dancer. During high school dances, I was always the one sort of bobbing in time to the music but never in the center of the dance floor. Bur here, amid the sweaty, over-perfumed crowd, it was different. No one knew me, and 98 percent of the people there would never know me. I could do anything I wanted. So I danced for the first time in my life, and I had fun.

Everyone tells you that college is about studying hard, or about discovering yourself, or about getting acquainted with the freedom of having a social life controlled only by you. But college is really about one thing only – choices. The decisions you make during college will have an effect on the rest of your life because they affect the person you are becoming, the person you are going to be.

I spoke out, made myself known. I found myself in uncomfortable situations and learned to work through them. I put myself in other people’s positions and discovered things not only about them, but about myself, as well.

I learned that it’s worth getting up at 4:30 in the morning to watch the sun rise, even if it means you’re going to be exhausted by 10 that night. I learned that you don’t always have to be right to be correct and that admitting you are wrong isn’t a sign of failure, regardless of how low it makes you feel. I learned that life without conviction is meaningless, and that you don’t have to change the world to have an impact on it, even if you may not realize it at the time.

I have no regrets – just things I haven’t done yet.

You don’t have to protest or go dancing to get the effect of college. But this is your time to choose what’s important to you and what you want to do with it.

This is life. Whether we’re ready, it’s here and it’s happening. Embrace it.

Welcome to it.

Contact columnist Maria Nann at