Find Your Importance


by Alex Shapanka

Earlier this week, I had a surprise visit from Lindsay Tomson, a friend who graduated from Duke last year. As we drove around Durham, she expressed her nostalgia for college. But Lindsay wasn’t lamenting the loss of parties, late nights or freedom from responsibility. She missed feeling important and the sense of community afforded to us at Duke.

In leaving college, our established reputations remain…in Durham and with those we have relationships. Everything for which we worked is done. I won’t be planning concerts for 6,000 of my peers next year. I won’t help organize KVille. And I won’t be making suggestions through these blog posts. I won’t feel consequential.

There is hope, however. Think back to when we came to this school. Sitting in convocation, I listened to all your accomplishments. While it was a humbling moment, I couldn’t help but think those were all things of the past. Every accolade President Broadhead listed was something important you all did in high school. This was freshman year. It was time for a fresh start.

In a matter of weeks, we all began to navigate our new lives, finding friends and getting involved. Four short years later, we have communities and responsibilities. We have a place in this collegiate world. Soon we seniors will be sitting in life’s convocation, feeling like Lindsay – a freshman once again.

Staring the world in the face with endless opportunities can be an exhilarating feeling. Imagine the possibilities of where we might go, and know that what we can dream is only the tip of the iceberg. But let’s not be coy, it’s also as frightening as “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” was for our 6 year old counterparts.

It may come as a blow to our egos discovering that our impact at Duke is unlikely to transfer to the real world. If we go places without friends, it will also be lonely. Thankfully such moments are fleeting. We will regain a sense of importance and community. Don’t expect it to happen right away. Just as it did in high school and in college, that feeling of security takes time to develop.

I can’t say for sure since I haven’t been through it yet, but searching for a purpose will provide those things we lose by starting over. At least that’s how it worked while transitioning to college. Finding a reason for what we’re doing will give us solace in our circumstances. Each of us is necessary in our own way; we just have to discover how as we come to college and as we leave.