The Crimson White

The Most Important Lessons Aren't in Your Textbooks

Andrew Parks

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When I first came to The University of Alabama, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had little understanding of how things work on this campus as a freshman. The idea that everyone could only have a prescribed set of friends from their rung on the social ladder was alien to me. The concept that my application for a position in the SGA, which I thought at the time represented all students, could be altered illicitly in the middle of the night because I didn’t have the right Greek letters beside my name was something I struggled to understand. The fact that a full 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement, the Greek system at a university just two hours from its birthplace was still segregated was both shocking and appalling to me.

Anyone who knows me knows that I take a strong stance against these problems and actively work on them. But what many don’t know is that I’ve often made the same mistakes as those who perpetuate them. I’ve learned quite a few lessons at The University of Alabama, and the most important ones didn’t come in a classroom or from a textbook. They came from the raw experience of living here, dealing with these issues and learning about myself in the process. Those are the lessons I want to pass on to underclassmen in my 
senior column.

First, be honest. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard someone lie to cover something up or to manipulate someone into making a particular decision. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched someone take an insult and disguise it as a compliment by draping it in Southern charm and courtesy. Every time you commit an inherently disingenuous act, you lose a piece of your humanity. That’s a worse consequence than the truth will ever bring.

Second, don’t let yourself get so caught up in anything that you lose sight of yourself or your ability to think rationally. I have seen too many people, myself included, make a decision in a split second they’ve regretted and could have avoided with a little more time to calm down and think. Every decision you make has consequences. You’re the one who determines whether those consequences will be good or bad. When you find yourself asking whether what you’re about to do is what you’d want your future children to do, you’ll know you’re growing up, and that’s why you’re here.

Last, and most importantly, always try to do the right thing. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is right, and if the answer is “no,” make a change. It’s very easy to let yourself be swayed into doing or accepting something you know isn’t right by your peers and your ambitions. It’s easy to ignore the moral implications of your decision and accept a rationale you know is bogus in order to justify that decision to yourself and others – something I had to learn the hard way. It will always catch up with you. Regardless of any material consequences, there will come a day when you look back on your life and ask yourself if you did things the right way – if you’re the person you want to be. When that time comes, you don’t want to look back on a life full of regrets.

It has been a distinct honor to share my thoughts with all of you via The Crimson White for the last year and a half and to attend school at The University of Alabama. I want to convey to all of my fellow seniors my best wishes in your future endeavors, to all of the underclassmen my best hopes for a fulfilling college experience and to all of the family, friends, faculty, staff, administrators and colleagues who have supported me these last four years my deepest appreciation. Farewell, and Roll Tide.

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The Most Important Lessons Aren't in Your Textbooks