I want to take some time with this column to give a few words of encouragement to the students at UT, because they don't hear them much.
When I was in fourth grade, I wanted to trade on the stock exchange. That was my dream job. In fourth grade. I wanted to do this because at my school we played the stock market game in fourth grade. You probably know the drill: break up into teams of three or four and decide how you want to invest the $100,000 you start with. Whoever wins gets a pizza party or something. A lot of fourth graders took it surprisingly seriously. One kid in my group got stock tips from his dad at the breakfast table and gave us a sophisticated, balanced portfolio. Others walked around the room and nonchalantly looked over the shoulders of kids.
It was a passing dream, however. I've wanted to do a lot of things throughout the years. I've wanted to be an astronaut (who hasn't?), an Air Force pilot, a research psychologist. I almost went to College of Charleston to major in marine biology. This whole time, everyone was telling me I could do all these things. Everyone kept saying I could do whatever I wanted. They said follow your dreams, and I know that's what they were telling you too.
Then I got to college, and suddenly dreams had to pay a certain salary for me to pursue them. Or dreams were too competitive. Dreams were unrealistic. Dreams didn't really fly in this economy. Advisers and professors tell students to channel their pursuits into more lucrative avenues, even though it means giving up what they really want out of life. I must admit that, for me, my adviser and most of my professors in the Department of English have been very supportive regarding what I want to do, but I've heard many others say they gave up their dreams because of faculty "advice."
None of this sounds very encouraging, but I'm getting there. My point is: Don't let other people crush your dreams. You've worked too hard to make it this far, so reward yourself.
I know you've probably heard all this before. I just want to stress that you really can do whatever you want to do, and don't let your advisers or professors or anyone else tell you otherwise. Astronauts exist; if you want to be one, then don't screw it up for yourself. I say that because if you are sitting in an office someday staring at a screensaver of space images—brilliant renderings of hydrogen bending to gravity, and the green planet from the moon's perspective—wondering why you're not out there and wishing you could take it all back, you only have yourself to blame. Maybe someone told you that you couldn't be an astronaut, but you believed them. Either that or you didn't want it enough, and dreams have no time for people like that. If you didn't want it enough to sacrifice your money and time, and probably a little of your sanity, then I don't want you going into space in the name of my country. So now you're sitting in an office looking at a storm on Mars, and you said you'd never be here.
Of course, there may be other factors. Money complicates things, and death complicates things. Love complicates things, too, but in beautiful ways. A lot of people fall in love in college, and they might get the idea that it limits their opportunities. In some ways it does, because now you have to consider another person's dreams. But if you really do love each other, you'll work it out. Just be honest. Be honest with yourself and with your partner. And if you can't work it out, then you at least know something else about what love is, and what it's not. I don't want to get too much into that discussion, so I'll just end with this:
I want to do something with words, whether that means writing my own or editing others' (both of which I've done at this paper). I believe you only get one swing at this life, so you better be honest about what you want from it. That means never being in that place you said you were never going to be in. Richard Ford said the same thing about love; it's about never being in that place you said you'd never be in, and never being alone. Never that.
— Robbie Hargett is a graduate in English. He can be reached at email@example.com.