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Destler Dodge

Doing things is exhausting. At any given moment, it’s pretty tempting to stay home and veg out to your favorite show or video game. But let’s be real: when you look back on your college days, I can guarantee that you won’t be fondly reminiscing about that one Saturday where you binge-watched season three of "Friends" in your bathrobe.

There’s no place like higher education when it comes to doing cool shit. College takes a bunch of willing and interesting people and gets them into the same dorm or class. Not taking advantage of this unique community isn’t just wasting an opportunity, it’s something that can profoundly harm you in the long run.

In a community as large and diverse as RIT, there’s a club or group for everyone. Do you like helping your community? There are many service fraternities and groups like Recover Rochester that you could take a look at. Is your faith important to you? There are clubs like Cru and Hillel that’ll keep you connected to your religious community. Are you a bearded HAM radio enthusiast who wants to keep the government out of his beekeeping business? There’s the Beard Enthusiast Club, the Amateur Radio Club, the RIT College Republicans and the Bee Keeper’s Club for your idiosyncratic enjoyment. 

One of the best parts about finding a club or organization is finding like-minded people. In high school, you might have felt like the only person with a particular passion. When there’s only a couple hundred people in your class, there’s a lower chance of finding someone else you click with. But RIT has tens of thousands of students; there have to be some other people who are on your wavelength.

Finding people to connect with isn’t just a part of the college experience, it’s vital to a well-balanced and healthy life. In a University of Chicago study, subjects who suffered from social isolation had higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that can increase your risk for depression, obesity and other chronic illnesses. A similar study found that social isolation is associated with a higher rate of mortality when compared to people with strong social relationships.

If you can’t do the things you want to do now, then when are you going to do them?

In this way, loneliness is damaging to your health in the same way binge-drinking or smoking is. By choosing to not get involved, you are choosing an unhealthy lifestyle. I understand that everyone’s situation is different — be it for financial, academic or personal reasons, some students genuinely don’t find it easy to join clubs and meet people. But the reality is that this stage of your life is probably your most free. If you can’t do the things you want to do now, then when are you going to do them? After you graduate? When you’re working full-time on your career? When you’re bedridden and hooked up to a catheter?

All of this being said, don’t give yourself a stroke trying to be some kind of club-going social butterfly. Doing things in college is like investing in the stock market: if you don’t put much in, you’re not going to get much out of it. Also like the stock market, you’ll want to jump out the window if you go overboard. In the end, it’s the quality of the relationships that matter, not the quantity; if you surround yourself with people you don’t connect with, you’ll ultimately still be lonely.

When it comes down to it, college is another step in a journey of self-discovery; it’s almost definitely the biggest step you’ve taken so far, and possibly one of the biggest steps you’ll ever take. You’re not going to grow as a person unless you expand your horizons. You’re not going to be remembered if you don’t make an impact. And nothing about you will ever change unless you take initiative.

So instead of succumbing to your bed and flipping open your laptop, have the conviction to defy your anxieties, do cool shit and access the wonderful community that RIT provides. And becoming a more connected and well-rounded person isn’t just more fulfilling, it’s essential to your well-being.

After all, nobody fondly remembers the TV shows they watched, no matter how good they were. They remember the things they did and the people they did them with.