As Much As You Put In

by Jessica Derr on June 25th

As Much As You Put In

by Jessica Derr on June 25th

I have never put much weight in the occult. To me, graveyard walks are a pleasant way to spend an evening. Ouija boards are not the earpiece of the dead, but a tool to push my cousins’ buttons. And The Long Island Medium, one of my mother’s favorite shows, does little more than make me roll my eyes and groan. 

Upon hearing that there was a room of psychics, mediums, and fortune tellers post-prom my senior year of high school, I experienced a very similar reaction. But my friends were eager, and I rationalized that this would be a rare opportunity—I’d never pay for their “services” out of my own pocket.

Because Arcadia is such a small campus, you truly can find your community and make tangible change in your area of interest.

- Jess Derr

And so that is how I found myself sitting before a tan-skinned, middle-aged woman dressed in peacock-blues and purples. She had her hair swept up into a scarf, as though she had googled what fortune tellers wear. Many of her colleagues used tarot cards and crystal balls, whereas she opted for a pendulum that swung over a small placemat to reveal the future’s mysteries. The fortune teller told me I had 3 questions. Like my friends before me, I spent my first two on silly, far-off things. Would I become rich and famous? Would I write a book series that gets an HBO adaptation? But then, a bit more soberly than a skeptic like me would have liked, I asked what had been plaguing me since I had made my verbal commitment to school to play lacrosse months prior: “Will I have a good college experience?” 

Sensing the sudden anxiety that had bled into my voice, she met my eyes over the spinning pendulum and offered me a smile, the most genuine and reassuring thing in a room of chotchkies promising pale intimations.”You will be content,” she said. “But remember, you get from college as much as you put in.”

As much as I hate to agree with a woman who’s side hustle is waving around a little doodad and claiming she can predict the future, here I am, a soon-to-be college senior, doing just that. Academics have always meant everything to me, and I wholeheartedly believe that people should take them seriously (especially considering that they are paying to take classes). But if you only spend college moving drone-like from class, to the library, to your room to study and sleep, you will probably look back on your college experience and think “Oh God—I missed something.” There are, after all, so many skills to learn and experiences to be had that can only be gained outside of a classroom. 

Sigma Tau reading to Roslyn Elementary School students and talking about setting goals.

As hokey as it sounds, college is an equal opportunity to immerse yourself in what you love and try new things— regardless of whether you were the president of three clubs, a member of the orchestra, and star of the track team in high school, or you were someone who had to be dragged into the bleachers to attend a homecoming football game. Because Arcadia is such a small campus, you truly can find your community and make tangible change in your area of interest—whether it’s helping animals, like through Arcadia’s People for Animal Welfare (PAW), or helping fellow students by becoming an Orientation Leader or Resident Assistant. 

I came to Arcadia as a lacrosse recruit. Like many other freshmen, I toured the club fair during my first week, and scribbled my email on a few sign-up sheets. Ultimately, I forsake all those to focus on my sport. All throughout highschool I was involved in other things, but lacrosse reigned supreme over my time and energy. Why should college be any different? 

Now, I love lacrosse. It’s been an enriching part of my college experience that has allowed me to meet new people and better myself every day. It has taught me discipline, work ethic, time management, and that I am stronger than any mental or physical limitations that I might face. But lacrosse is not my single passion. Alone it does not fulfill me. 

Getting involved is no binding marriage. If you join a club or organization and it doesn’t click for you, you can walk away, no strings attached, having gained a sharper perspective of what you are interested in for next time.

- Jess Derr

I wish I had taken the chance earlier to do the things that did help fulfill me. But fear held me back— fear of straying outside the role I’ve always played, fear of appearing awkward, fear of rejection. It was only when I was an upperclassman that I felt confident enough to tread into new waters. I contribute photographs and writing to the literary magazine, Quiddity, and support my fellow writers and newfound friends through their various events. In the Writing Center, I help people grow as writers and create work they can be proud of. By being a peer mentor, I get to help freshmen navigate a huge life change while also getting to gush about one of my favorite book series, The Hunger Games.

But perhaps the biggest step toward involvement I’ve made in my college career is running for office for our University’s English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta. Despite not having the best of luck running for positions in high school—and my recommendation letter for Sigma Tau, which stated that I “[would] not turn into a leader in the organization”—I decided to run for president. I am now the leader of a delightful, clever group of people that share my love for literature and writing and get to partake in fundraising and volunteer projects that better both our university and our local community. 

Usually, I am not one to take things lightly, but there is comfort in choosing to do things on a whim. Getting involved in school is no binding marriage. If you join a club or organization and it doesn’t click for you, you can walk away, no strings attached, having gained a sharper perspective of what you are interested in for next time. In this way, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Like running for Sigma Tau president, many of the activities I am now deeply immersed in began as casual dalliances, not knowing at the time a fragment of what they would give back to me: leadership and interpersonal skills, meaningful relationships, and stress relief from my studies (while still helping build up experience in my chosen field). But perhaps more importantly, I get to be my authentic self, exploring various areas of interest that reflect this instead of  playing at the 2D caricature I thought I had to be.

For this reason, I would implore anyone to take a step outside their comfort zone and get involved, whether it be choir, intramural sports, or a volunteering group. There is something for everyone. Initially, it may be scary or strange, but most things worth doing usually are. When you look back on your four years at school (and believe me, people aren’t being cute when they say time flies), you don’t want your only memories to be papers, tests, and late-night cram sessions in the library. It all comes down to what a wise pendulum-wielding woman once told me: You get from college as much as you put into it.