|• Fall 2002||Magazine Archive & Search • Muhlenberg Home|
’Berg senior reflects on
I n a recent episode of Larry King Live that commemorated King’s 25 years on the job, King spoke about the importance of listening and he said, “I never learned anything when I was talking.” Coming from a man who talks for a living, I thought it was a curious thing to say until I realized he referred to the nightly interviews he does in which he is the questioner, not the focus of the segment.
The fundamental reason Larry King Live has been on the air for 25 years is that he can listen. Using what he hears, he asks edgy questions of arguably the most intriguing people of our time. It is his ability to listen that allows him to have success at his job, a skill I’d argue most people were never taught. We are taught to speak up for ourselves, to express our opinions, to be bold, go far, change the world. But how are we to know how to change it if we don’t understand the world first?
I just started my fourth and final year (to the happiness of my father’s checkbook) at Muhlenberg and I can say that the best skill I’ve learned here has been how to listen. From the first night I spent on campus, I’ve been listening to sounds that have transitioned from unfamiliar to background noise. I’ve heard the dumpsters emptied behind Prosser Hall around 5 a.m. more times than I’d like to recount. I’ve heard David Rosenwasser propel his passion for Irish literature towards a group of intrigued students. I’ve heard the Haas bell ring every hour day after day, clanging from Walz Hall to Egner Chapel, and beyond.
And it occurs to me that, after three years of listening, three years of observations, and three years of watching, my voice has now been prompted. No longer am I the inexperienced freshman, eyes widened daily by the “big gun” seniors, people soaked with intelligence and intrigue I could only hope to mimic. I am now the oldest on campus, part of the only current class that remembers Uninvited Guests, the 1990s at Muhlenberg and the sand volleyball courts across from the library, before they were turned into parking spaces.
It’s fall again and that means there’s a new pale freshman class wandering down Academic Row. At times I have to resist the urge to stop them and reassure them things will be better. I’d like to tell them that their bouts of homesickness will dull and become bearable, that the people and buildings they pass daily will slowly become familiar, part of the habit they will learn to rely on for the next four years. I cannot, though, because like some of them, I once believed I would never belong at Muhlenberg. I remember weepy phone calls home in which my mom reassured me that things would get better, it would just take time, the only ingredient I was unwilling to grant myself. It’s ironic that now the very words that never comforted me are the only ones I can offer.
My nostalgia isn’t original; I believe that almost every graduate of Muhlenberg College has had similar sentiments at the end of their stay. I feel trite offering the typical “it went by so fast,” though it did in a way that complicates and challenges the notion of getting older. If four years of college can go by so fast, what’s to say the next few won’t disappear just as quickly?
I find myself, while enjoying the comfort of knowing who I am here in my final year, awaiting the next unfamiliar situation coming up in nine months. Whether it will be in graduate school, starting a new job, or even living in France, I’m going to find myself in the unknown. No doubt I will feel lonely and I may even want to turn back to what I know and what is comfortable. I know I’ll miss Muhlenberg; the Garden Room tables have been my dinner tables for the past three years, various classrooms and offices of the CA have been the locations of countless moments of self-discovery, and I’ve worn a path down Academic Row going to meetings and events.
Despite the fond memories and the urge to stay in the comfort zone, I’ll move on. Somewhere else will become home and someone else will become a friend. Muhlenberg is the parent that must let me go, the parent that I must leave. Despite the intimidation, I’m going to fall back on the abilities that I’ve developed over four years, put an ear to whatever ground I find myself living on, and listen.
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