Lessons Learned and a Pre-Graduate Goodbye


(Mario Weddell/The Observer)


Mario will leave Fordham with an undergraduate degree and four years’ worth of captivating stories to share. (Mario Weddell/The Observer)

After four years of college, I’ve learned some things.

I know that wasn’t a groundbreaking first sentence, but years from now we’ll probably see that on a university brochure somewhere. It’s definitely a selling point. In these four years, I learned a little about myself, a bit about other people, many Wikipedia facts and nothing about sleep. Mostly I’ve learned that I want to slow down.

Throughout high school, I was the pedal-to-the-metal guy who had his morning commute calculated down to the millisecond. I preferred to eat fast, drive fast and walk fast. I did everything fast.

If I gave myself too much time to relax, I got in trouble. I was the guy who couldn’t show up to class too early or he would stick all the teacher’s pencils in the ceiling before she arrived. I was the kid who finished his assignment too fast, then snuck into the student activities office when no one was looking and created a huge poster commemorating himself as the “Student of the Day.” I was bored. So I preferred running late because that never gave me enough time to do anything stupid. At least that’s what I tell myself, since mostly I just never got enough sleep to be on time.

But now, I hate rushing. Sometimes when I’m behind schedule, running down the street, I pray that a bus will graze me. Not tragically, just enough to give me an excuse to take an hour-long detour through Central Park, and still seem like a hero for showing up late. I value time more now.

I’ve learned that I like talking to people who are older than me. I never used to take the time to actually listen to someone. I engaged in conversations the same way that people order food for delivery. It didn’t really occur to me until a few years ago that professors are just older students, and parents are just children who have children. I know that may seem obvious to some people, but it came as a shock to me.

All the best conversations I’ve had in New York have involved older people who had some knowledge to share. I remember the night my friends and I met a Quaker on the sidewalk who explained why an “Irish coffee, no coffee” was the best drink to order when going to a new bar. He also explained that Viagra was great for men over 50, because now he could make his wife un-mad at him again when they argued. He told us that getting old is great because nobody remembers what is true anymore, so lying gets easier.

I’ve learned a bit about relationships. Despite this high-octane world of short-lived romances we think we live in, everybody still wants to feel special. I have friends who think that getting with a stranger at a party is the most exhilarating thing that could happen to them, but nobody ever seems too proud when that does happen.

Maybe we’re afraid of intensity. We like to imagine that velocity and intensity mean the same thing in this world, but they don’t. There’s a reason epic film moments occur in slow motion. Few things are more intense than fully experiencing all the moments in a measure of time. Really getting to know someone is scary. It’s exhilarating, too.

I’ve realized that the idea of success in New York is different from everywhere else. Here, we picture success in extremes. You have to be the best at something. Everywhere else I’ve been, success just meant moving to New York.

I’m not very good at saying goodbye. I usually end phone conversations by saying, “I’m going to hang up now.” At parties I bounce between groups of people, quietly moving on to the next group when I’ve run out of things to say. Then I can tell the same stories and hope nobody from the first group notices.

I’m saying goodbye now, but I haven’t run out of things to say.