My final thoughts as we continue to inch closer to graduation day

Duke Archive.


Alexander Wolfe | Staff Columnist

I didn’t decide to come to Duquesne until 17 days after I’d put the security deposit down at 11:59 pm on May 1st of 2017. It was originally a safety among safety schools for me, back when where I went to college seemed like a life-defining decision. In some ways it was, but in many ways it was just one part of a continuation of everything that had already come along.

Yet despite the fact that I arrived at Duquesne as a third or fourth choice, and very much treated it accordingly at first, I can’t help but look back fondly upon my experiences and some of the non-COVID ways my life changed after moving into a 50-year old dorm with unrenovated dorms.

If there was a single worthwhile theme that hindsight seems to draw out, it’s that in the long run, the choices you make and the habits that drive those choices matter. The payoff for doing hard work, rarely appears quickly. Without sounding like a Monday motivation podcaster, I have genuinely discovered that the effort to read the book (sometimes), attend a supplementary lecture, or put your passion into your work is usually, but not immediately, worth it.

It’s this idea of passion that I think many of us get hung up on. We seniors are graduating into a world that is both opening fast with exciting new opportunities, and in which at least a third of all employees describe their work as unfulfilling or meaningless. No amount of university core curriculum can prepare us for utterly meaningless work, it will forever be a terrible bane of contemporary society.

We’d all like to hope that a degree is what gives us the tools to pursue our dreams, but it’s never that simple. We have to first, know what our dreams are, understand what we need to do to achieve them, and then actually go out and do it, but it’s that first part that I think the most people struggle with. I suspect plenty of us have dreams that aren’t stamped onto a diploma, and the data tells us that a good majority of people work in fields that have nothing to do with their undergraduate degree, so was there a point?

That answer is really up to you. For me, I was able to travel across the world, make lifelong friends, and study something I was truly passionate about, so I feel quite fortunate to say that even in the face of COVID, the past four years have been worth it.

Unfortunately, I know plenty of people who wouldn’t be too quick to say the same thing, but if you’re one of those people, I encourage you to explore that reality. You should have something now that you didn’t have four years ago, so it’s worth exploring yourself.

Duquesne has undeniably given us some modicum of freedom to explore ourselves, even if only for fleeting moments, so if you have a fulfilling memory of some kind, explore it. Something that I came to understand as the years went by was that I had an expectation that Duquesne would do a lot more for me personally.

Because I was paying tuition, I was entitled to some kind of special treatment, or because I was studying something unique, everyone should be interested in whatever it is I’m doing. This kind of pettiness couldn’t be further from the truth, because the reality was much simpler.

Tuition was merely the entrance fee, like a fee to enter an amusement park, the real choices that determine your enjoyment come from how you spend your time. If you chose to earnestly, if not naïvely, use your classwork to prepare yourself for life after graduation, you’re probably leaving with a better plan and a better mind.

So as we crowd around a screen for commencement and we put on the blue robes for pictures on A-walk, enjoy a moment of reflection. Reflect on whatever you’ve achieved, whatever you’ve learned, and how you’re going to bring everything together at some point in the future.

Reflection has shown me how tremendously thankful I am for my opportunity to write for the Duke these past four years. From interviewing faculty to covering the Westboro Baptist Church to receiving disgruntled emails from administration vice presidents, I’ve had a ridiculous experience writing for the newspaper. I’ve written a lot of articles that people have read, and a lot that people haven’t, but having the opportunity to spout off in a column for the past three years has been a great part of my undergraduate life.