HEARTS OF OAK: Senior’s parting thoughts

Jonas Kane

About a year ago, I was sitting on a picnic table in Solitaire, Namibia, a town that 12 people regularly call home. In a place so small that the daily news is written on a large chalkboard, to say that everyone who lives there knows one another’s name would be a slight understatement. 

For the world outside of those 12 people, though, the town is simply a small and comfortable rest stop on the way to visiting the natural wonders of dunes, canyons and untouched landscape that the sparsely populated country of Namibia has to offer.

As some of my friends and I were among those travelers out in search of Namibia’s beautiful scenery and all of the transcendental truths it might hold, I happened to find myself resting in the town’s small campground one evening last April. 

During our stay, I made conversation with a handful of fellow travelers, all from different stretches of the world, of different ages, with different experiences and with different goals in life. 

One of the travelers I talked to in Solitaire was a middle-aged French-Canadian man who told me about his travels in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and China. While sitting at this picnic table, he related his burgeoning desire to cross all the way over to Kenya after his time in Namibia. 

He told me about going on travels with his wife back when he was married. Things didn’t work out, but he chose to keep traveling anyway, whenever he could take time off of work to hit the open roads…or dunes, or skies or boats.

Conversing with him, I sensed a sincere exuberance for life that is always a joy to behold in another individual. Although not as pleased as possible with his work or romantic life, he still took the time, in his later years, to see the world and the sights he had always wanted to see.

For me, it was a small proof that seeking out new discoveries in later life need not be a pipe dream.

Now, it might seem odd that in my final article for a college newspaper I’m writing about a French-Canadian and the second-least densely populated country in Africa. 

They, of course, have nothing to do with memories spent frantically studying in Bartley, drunkenly sweating in a packed Maloney’s or stealthily playing pong while sneaking glances out the peephole for persistent RA’s in an apartment on West.

What they do have to do with is finding some semblance of happiness in life; while I have no idea if my French-Canadian friend lives a completely happy life, he makes the effort, a little bit at a time, to do something that brings him joy.

Finding happiness through meaningful conversations is the last topic I wrote about, and while that is an essential part of a fulfilling life, it is also important to cultivate happiness in our day-to-day actions, as part of a constant progression.

Don’t think of college as a time in which to cram everything in, be it studying or drinking. While studying is important, if you pursue academics to the point of a lacking social life, you’ll ultimately find that what you work for is in vain.

If you decide to party with a carefree lack of restraint, you’ll probably end up looking back on your college years with a perverse nostalgia for that forgotten time when you could black out weekly.

Think of college, instead, as a time not only to get a degree, but to further the education we attain throughout our lives. Education is not something that simply stops after four years.

In a practical sense, we have to keep learning in order to be appealing in the job market. 

But education, of course, encompasses a much broader list of topics. It includes classes and books, for sure, but it also includes the places we go, the people we meet and the meaningful connections we form in our lives. These are things that need not stop after four years.

To be truly happy, we have to keep learning throughout our lives, whether it be by traveling over dunes, jumping out of a plane, taking a class, watching an artsy movie or even just having a thoughtful conversation with an important person in your life. 

The last of these, of course, is ultimately the most important of all. For everything we learn in life is not of much use if we have no one special with whom to share our knowledge.

——————–

Jonas Kane is a senior English and political science major from Harrisburg, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]