Four preteen girls stood at the top of a cliff at a water park. The three taller, louder girls debated about who would jump first, each walking to the edge and chickening out.
Then seemingly out of nowhere, I — the fourth, smaller, quieter girl — volunteered. I was afraid too, but I managed to jump off the peak and land safely in the water below.
This event happened over 10 years ago and has stuck with me all this time. For years, I knew there was something important about this moment, but I couldn’t figure out exactly why it meant so much to me.
As I was starting to think about this column, though, it finally hit me. By jumping off the cliff, I did something scary and came out the other side in one piece. Likewise, in my four years at Penn, I learned that I shouldn’t shy away from challenges.
The most gratifying experiences I had in college involved jumping off metaphorical cliffs. They were terrifying, they took a lot of courage and they were things I never imagined doing. But they were also immensely rewarding.
One of the first of these risks took place at the start of my sophomore year, when I agreed to lead a 45-minute long service for the High Holidays. I was terrified, and I tried to back out at least once. I don’t speak Hebrew, and I didn’t know most of the melodies. But after I led the service, I’m glad I stuck with it.
Junior year, I decided to travel to California to conduct primary-source research for a class. I’m not the biggest fan of flying because my grandfather died in a plane crash, and the entire week before I went, I could barely sleep. But the two days I spent researching on the West Coast were among the most intellectually stimulating days I had in college.
And then there were the many, many times when I took leaps of faith at The Daily Pennsylvanian. Fall of sophomore year, I became the legal affairs reporter knowing I had a lot to learn about the courts system. But I taught myself what I didn’t know and discovered that I had a real love for the beat. The next fall, I chose to leave the familiarity of the news department to become the paper’s Editorial Page Editor. Even though I was a little overwhelmed at first, it was absolutely the right decision.
In her speech at the Class of 2011’s convocation, Penn President Amy Gutmann said that her unofficial rules for making the most out of Penn were to “keep your mind open” and to “aim high.”
“Do not let criticism faze you; do not let setbacks discourage you; do not let change frighten you,” she said.
I may not always agree with Gutmann, but I couldn’t agree more with these statements.
Sometimes, taking chances means falling flat on your face. Sometimes, lofty goals won’t be met. But nothing ventured is nothing gained. And there’s nothing more satisfying than completing a task that you previously thought was impossible.
To future graduates: In the time you have left here, make sure you undertake projects that scare you — whether you travel for research, run for an extracurricular leadership position or do something completely different.
And to my fellow graduates: I hope you also managed to challenge yourselves during your time at Penn. More importantly, we all need to make sure we continue to take risks in the real world. Though we’ve completed major parts of our education, we’re not done learning. What a better way to continue our growth than to reach outside of our comfort zones?
So here’s to jumping off more cliffs — and landing at the bottom as stronger, smarter and more mature people.
Thanks to my family, friends, professors and everyone else who offered their guidance and support over the last four years. Naomi Jagoda, a former Editorial Page Editor, is a College senior from Westchester County, N.Y. She hopes to follow her own advice.Comments powered by Disqus
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