Ask a fifth year

Drew Baumgartner

Dear Drew,
I have a couple of questions that hopefully you’ll be able to answer. First off, what’s the meaning of life? To be more specific, what is important to you in your life and what have you prioritized that has reaped the most happiness? Is there anything you adamantly recommend doing at Lawrence – the great hang-out spots, the creepy corners and the events that can’t be missed?? How do you think Lawrence and the bubble around it has – or has not – made you ready for life after Appleton?
Thanks for your diligent answers,
-Sara in the skies

I must say I was tempted to at least try to address the more existential aspects of your letter, Sara, but since those answers are likely incredibly boring, I’ll spare everyone some sprawling philosophizing and skip straight to your specifics.
It’s difficult to really index which decisions have reaped the most happiness, since many of the most rewarding priorities are by turns also the most frustrating. My specific priorities are also kind of meaningless unless you happen to find happiness in the same things I do. Still, I think I’ve picked up some more general advice that might help someone trying to prioritize.
The number one piece of advice has to be not to prioritize, at least not yet. The glory of a liberal arts education is that you can pursue every subject you have even a glimmer of interest in. Beyond that, there are student organizations for just about every interest imaginable – and room for more if you can think of one lacking representation.
My advice is to take on as much of this as you possibly can. Overwhelm yourself. Have so much going on that you’re forced to prioritize subconsciously out of mere necessity. You’ll end up deciding what you like without over-thinking it, something I’m all too prone to doing.
Understand that this is a dangerous policy – I’ve seen more than one friend crash and burn because they couldn’t dump enough dead weight fast enough – but I think it’s worth the risk.
The trick is to remember that most of the things – even the ones you like the most – aren’t absolutely necessary. If push ever comes to shove, know that you can drop about half of what you’re juggling. Hopefully, the process will be a bit gentler, and you’ll simply be able to gracefully pull away from the things you realize you aren’t that interested in or simply don’t have the time for.
Another huge piece of advice is to remember to keep free time in the mix. Too many people forget that even the best activities are better with a little time to reflect, or that spending a little time with friends is important for both happiness and sanity. Meetings, practices, rehearsals and classes are all great ways of meeting people with shared interests, but you can enjoy their company even more if you find some other time to see them, as well.
As for what I adamantly recommend, I think I’ll have to default to the old “different strokes for different folks” excuse. I know I’d never miss an IGLU concert, but that’s just me. It’s worth giving anything a try, so if you know some people going to a theater production or an art opening, be sure to tag along.
My only universal piece of advice is to try Stuc’s Pizza before you graduate. I only heard about it at the very end of my freshman year, but I’ve been back at least once a term since. It’s delicious. Order the deep dish with pineapple, onion and red pepper; you can thank me when you get back. Oh, and be sure to bring friends.
Finally, as to whether the Lawrence bubble has prepared me for life after Appleton, I must admit that it hasn’t, not even a little. Next year’s plans include living in Chicago with anywhere between one and seven other Lawrence alums in a kind of Lawrence University, South Campus.
I’ve known a great number of Lawrentians who went this route, and they’re all quite happy and quite in touch with each other – many of them living with anywhere between one and seven other Lawrence alums. It’s only a baby step into the real world, but after five years in such an insular institution, it’s just what the pediatrician ordered.