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The wisdom gained from my mustache

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MARCH 28, 2016

I spent much of my college years thinking about all the wonderful things I would accomplish in the future. Maybe I will one day direct the next “Pulp Fiction” or write the next “The Sound and the Fury” or cook a dinner that isn’t a frozen, pre-made meal from Trader Joe’s. But by taking such a wishful, forward-casting view, my dreams were continuously delayed, forever remaining in accepted idealistic thought rather than in concrete action.

Forgive me, but I am now going to employ a corny technique of referencing a wise thing that my father said to me in a thinly-veiled attempt at grounding my statements in sentimental, revelatory truth. He told me: “You’re no one’s apprentice. You have fully arrived. You are who you are right in this moment.” Despite this seemingly being what must have been going through Darth Vader’s mind when he made the decision to go all batshit cray, it emphasizes the idea that we college students are not inferior to anybody and that we are capable of amazing things right this very second. We are no longer naive, inexperienced fetuses that must be submissive to the wiser folk. Although more personal growth is always imminent, our current experiences and attitudes are just as valuable as any others, and they deserve to be captured in whatever medium is calling us.

There’s always been this idea of a hierarchy in my life. Older people seemed to have more talent and power, and my job was to impress them. But, truth is, once we reach college, we’re all on the same level, and they should be trying to impress us instead of the other way around — we are, after all, the ones with the new ideas, the passion and the untapped talent that is waiting for that open door. We are no one’s apprentice and we are not laughable amateurs.

But, most importantly, my dad’s quote is a plea to acknowledge the right now. Talking about what you want to be in the future, one day, hopefully, if everything lines up correctly, suddenly turns into regret about the past, as “I want to be a musician” turns into “I always wanted to be a musician when I was younger.” And because I am apparently on a roll with the quotes, I’ll add another one, this one being a lyric by Incubus that served as my senior quote in my high school yearbook that appeared right below my little 18-year-old self smiling all adorably with a blue bow-tie: “If not now, when?”

I recently took this advice to heart when I decided to embark on the journey toward a solid mustache and soul patch one-two K.O. punch combo. And, although this new facial hair is questionable at best, the important thing is that I decided to finally do it, and the same goes for anything else that has been nagging at your massively-sized brain for eons. Make like Nike and just freaking do it, brobies, whether that be growing a sparse stache or recording the next Sgt. Pepper. Today. If you don’t right now, then you may never will.

A friend of mine wrote a Facebook post that discussed these ideas in connection to the recent death of rapper Phife Dawg, citing the fact that he was only 21 years old when he helped A Tribe Called Quest record the seminal album The Low End Theory. He wrote: “I feel like, these days, society really pushes you to delay your dreams and goals, because you feel too young and foolish to be ready to do anything big.” To me, there seems to be this imaginary threshold that we continuously seek to cross over that falsely signifies that we are now able to contribute to the world at large, but in reality, many young people impact the world all the time. It is certainly possible, and the only threshold is the one built into our own minds.

It’s easy to let aspirations slip into the obscurity of future potential, because it allows for a sense of self-fulfillment without any effort. It’s like ravenously eating a ton of ice cream for the 300th day in a row, leading to some serious cellulite-ridden thighs that are not prepared for the upcoming beach season whatsoever, and telling yourself that it is OK because next week you’ll cut yourself off from the rainbow sprinkles and hit the gym.

Perhaps this procrastination also stems from fear. It’s easier to think about or talk about being a fashion designer or something of the sort, but actually doing it leads to the risk of your dreams falling flat or giving life to the lurking anxieties of constantly being found out as a phony. What if what you create simply just isn’t that good? Leaving aspirations as a vague possibility or interest allows you to be that thing without actually being that thing, all while remaining in your blissful comfort zone of inaction.

College is not just a warm-up stretch in front of the starting line, it is the gun firing off, telling you it is time to run. Forget about the future. What are you doing right now, right this second — today? You don’t want to be a writer, a designer, a researcher, a coder or an impeccable Minesweeper player. You are a writer, a designer, a coder or an unbelievable sweeper of the mines. Present tense, damn it.

Taran Moriates writes the Monday column on the dos and don'ts of college. Contact him at [email protected].

MARCH 27, 2016