BY RACHEL LAVICTOIRE / AJT CONTRIBUTOR//
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And how did we respond? With a slightly sarcastic, “You have a sleep schedule? Wait, I thought you were in college.”
As laughable and light-hearted as the response was, it also spoke to a lot of truths about this little microcosm that is college. The day a freshman starts his first day at a university, he forfeits all the norms he spent his whole life learning and growing accustomed to.
Here, we don’t have sleep schedules or eating schedules. The words “breakfast,” “lunch,” and “dinner,” are entirely obsolete and having chicken fingers, fries, and eggs at 2 a.m. is entirely acceptable.
We don’t have “hobbies” or “interests”—we have homework and graduation requirements. Our weekends start on Thursdays (or sometimes even Wednesdays) and our birthdays are national holidays.
In our world, rinsing is the same as cleaning, chatting is the same as venting, and the term “dirty clothes” is always up for debate.
And all of it—the atmosphere, the rules, the change in priorities—it’s all funny and silly and exciting; but it’s also the only method we all have for coping with the far more significant aspect of the college microcosm: work.
I see these four years as being very similar to a baby’s first year of speaking—on day one you know nothing, and somehow, by the end, you’re a master.
The average college student probably reads at least 10 textbooks cover-to-cover and probably learns at least 200 new words while in school.
We spend four years in a constant cycle: learn, study, take a test, learn study, take a test. And what’s most unfortunate about the whole process is watching a friend or classmate lose interest in a subject, simply because they are struggling to succeed in specific class.
You want to help them, but it’s difficult to encourage someone to pursue something when they’re struggling so hard with it.
This week, we finish the book of Genesis and as such, we read about the death of the patriarch, Jacob. But instead of talking about the Jacob’s death, I would prefer, instead, to talk about his life.
Jacob and his twin brother, Esau, were born to Isaac and Rebecca after 20 years of infertility. They were both blessings to the world, but Jacob was special in that he, the righteous one, received the birthright blessing from his father.
He lived 77 peaceful years in his homeland before fleeing to Haran. Once in Haran, Jacob spent a total of 14 years working for his right to marry Rachel because he had been deceived after the first seven.
He then endured years of infertility with Rachel and subsequent years of mourning for his favorite son, Joseph’s, supposed death. Jacob and his family made their final move when they went down to Egypt.
There, Jacob “dwelt in the land of Goshen, and acquired property in it, and they were prolific and multiplied greatly” (Genesis 47:27).
Through the life of Jacob, we see three stages: the calm, the difficult, and the prosperous. In his homeland, Jacob encountered little to no trouble. He was calm. He was a pious man who “dwelt in the tents,” and lived a happy life as such.
His life in Haran, though, was difficult. Yes, it was there that he fathered many of his children, but this was after years of labor, deception, and prayer. He was able to persevere, though. He knew he would become a great nation. G-d had come to him in a dream and said,
“Your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall gain strength westward and eastward and northward and southward; and through you shall be blessed all the families of the earth and through your seed. And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you” (Genesis 28:14-15).
And from then on, Jacob persevered. He fathered the men who eventually grew to be the 12 tribes of Israel, he remained faithful to G-d even after his son was taken from him, and he gathered his family in Egypt where he grew to be prosperous.
Nachmanides, in his commentary on the Book of Genesis, writes, “Everything that happened to the Patriarchs is a signpost for their children. This is why the Torah elaborates its account of their journeys. These all come as an instruction for the future: for when something happens to one of the three Patriarchs, one understands from it what is decreed to occur to his descendants.”
We, too, can do it. Just as Jacob was reminded of his destiny, I too, walk around campus here at WashU and am reminded of what I can become.
College life is full of reading and testing and stress. It’s a strange microcosm with strange rules, but it’s just that—a microcosm. It’s just one period of life.
We aren’t just working to work; we’re all working to become something.
Rachel LaVictoire (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a graduate of the Davis Academy and Westminster High School, recipient of the prestigious Nemerov Writing and Thomas H. Elliott Merit scholarships at Washington University of St. Louis and an active member of Temple Emanu-El and the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. She was recently named to the board of St. Louis Hillel.