Pushing the pause button

by Justin Steinman | 6/9/96 5:00am

Sometimes I wish there was a pause button on the remote control of life.

Part of the problem of going to a school like Dartmouth is that we live our lives at such breakneck speeds that we never stop to truly appreciate what we have. Rather, we are always looking toward that next paper, that next meeting, that next project.

But if we had a pause button, we could stop the action and treasure all the wonderful things a school like Dartmouth has allowed us to do.

If you take a moment during the ceremony today and look at your classmates, you will realize that we have had the opportunity to go to school with some of the most amazing people on this earth.

Dartmouth seems to attract high-energy overachievers and we simply seem to bond together. Many of my favorite times at Dartmouth have been sitting around with some of these overachievers and talking. Not working, drinking or planning the next 15 years of our lives. Just chatting about whatever -- an academic debate about something we read in class, a recent news item or an important personal issue.

Too often, though, these conversations are sandwiched between our work, our activities and other obligations. We are so focused on what we have yet to accomplish that we never stop to value the present moment and the people with whom we are sharing that moment.

Each one of us has had a unique Dartmouth experience, yet we all share some of the same Dartmouth memories. Everyone has been to a Homecoming bonfire, eaten at Thayer Dining Hall, spent countless hours in Baker Library and walked across the Green (or the White) when the temperature is 30 degrees below freezing and there are 15 inches of snow on the ground.

But I don't think I know anyone who was able to get a 4.0, lead a student organization, go to all the fraternity, sorority, coed and off-campus parties, participate in three other student organizations, go sledding down Freshman hill, streak the Green, lead a DOC trip, go off the rope swing, run around the bonfire 96 times, spend a sophomore summer night at the Bema, climb to the top of Baker tower, pull an all-nighter, have coffee with everyone he or she wanted, and still find time to sleep.

Each of us was probably able to do some of these at some point. But I doubt any of us was able to partake in every single facet of Dartmouth life.

However, we should not regret missing some of these experiences. Instead, we should celebrate how many we were able to enjoy. Dartmouth, like life, offers too many roads for us to follow. We can't take them all, so we should choose the most appealing and then thoroughly enjoy that path with no regrets.

As we move out into the big and nasty real world (or the safe haven of graduate school for the smart folks), I think that is the one lesson we can take with us. While we should always follow our parents' advice and "reach for the stars," we should also take the time to appreciate what we have achieved and what we already possess. In other words, we should all stop and smell the roses, instead of relentlessly rushing on to supposedly bigger and better gardens.

So as you sit here today at graduation, as President James Freedman, David Halberstam, the valedictorian and others offer us their thoughts on our futures, I urge you to hit your own personal pause button.

Stop for moment and truly realize what you have accomplished by making it to this point. Think of all the work you did, the brilliant professors you have met, the good times you have had and most importantly, the friends you have made.

And I bet if you do pause for this moment of reflection, there will be a genuine smile on your face when you cross that stage to receive your diploma.

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