With Volume 238 of The Daily coming to a close, I thought I would finally get a little bit introspective. Over my past 11 columns, I’ve tried to make you laugh. Hopefully, I succeeded. If I ever slightly offended you, then I think I did my job, too. This column is (usually) ironic. However, because this may be its final edition, I’m going to pass up the jokes about sororities to touch on something important to me. Indulge me just this once while I try to prove my worth as a political science major by passing along a life lesson.
If these past two and a half years at Stanford have taught me anything, it’s that you can truly accomplish anything you want to do here. Actually, I take that back. I’m enough of a cynic that I can’t get entirely behind that Lythcott-Haimsian worldview. Let me rephrase it this way: this university offers you all of the opportunities you could possibly want to succeed in whatever your initiative may be, so try. You might fail—sometimes disastrously—but at least you tried. You’re only going to be in this place once in your life, so make the most of it.
I find myself thinking back to a conversation I had with someone truly important to me at the foot of the Eiffel Tower a few months ago. We talked about making a difference in the world, and I argued a rather cynical view at the time—that one person alone simply couldn’t change the world, so why bother trying? There was definitely a copious amount of French rosé involved, but that alone can’t make up for how blatantly wrong I was that night. Granted, I still think my first point is potentially valid. Honestly, I’m not sure that one person can change the world. Yet it was in the second part where I was so tremendously wrong—the “why bother?”
It’s a good question; I’ll give it that. If I don’t think a person can singlehandedly change the world, then why even waste my time trying? Here’s my big revelation: it’s not all about changing the world. That conversation in July helped to spur a complete reformation of my worldview. Sure, I’m still pragmatic to the point of cynicism, but I’ve realized an important point: one person doesn’t necessarily have to change the world, but one person can easily change someone else’s world—and that might be just as important.
So how can you accomplish this? Just how can you change someone else’s world? Start small; start personal. Be a good friend. Have a meaningful conversation. Be there for somebody when they need you. Ask out that cute girl you’ve spotted around campus. Call your parents a little more often. Fall in love. There are more than a few ideas to get you started.
Or you can take the route most traveled by Stanford students: do something crazy. That’s how I’ve decided to make the best use of this newfound energy. This summer, I’ll be embarking on the Mongol Rally. What’s that, you ask? I’ll just be driving from southeast England to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It’ll be four weeks, 13 countries, and 10,000 miles—all to support a Stanford student-founded nonprofit, Gumball Capital. I know how crazy the whole venture sounds. Why should I take a month out of my summer to do the “insane trip by a college student for charity” thing?
I’ll tell you: because I want to change someone’s world. Maybe I can change the world of the person in poverty somewhere in the Third World who will be the nameless beneficiary of the money I raise. Maybe I can change the world of someone I meet on my journey along a third of the world’s circumference. Maybe I can change the world of one of you by inspiring you to do something to make this world a better place for someone else in it. I know you can do it. It’s why we’re all at this school in the first place.
That conversation under the Eiffel Tower—and many others before and after—helped to change my world. This column is my little attempt to change yours.
Shane is sorry he had to get all super serious on you there, so e-mail him at [email protected] and he’ll be more than happy to give you the usual dose of wit and charm.