“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” -Albert Camus
It’s easy to be cynical. Our world is populated by West African deaths gone ignored, political regimes exerting force and oppression over their people, and the horror that is the word ISIS. Corruption, stagnation, decline. It’s a familiar pattern for anyone who’s paying attention. And those who aren’t paying attention? Well, that might be even worse. Ours is a generation too busy snapping Instagrams of their Pumpkin Spice Lattes to even notice that there’s a whole world out there with bigger problems than Taylor Swift’s genre classification.
Yes, it’s easy to be cynical. What’s not easy is to keep living with persistence, passion, and hope for better things to come. And though I’ve learned a lot during my time at Drake, the most essential thing I’ve learned is the importance of hope. I’m sorry if this sounds like the kind of lesson gleaned at the end of a Hallmark movie, but that doesn’t make the point any less valid. The thing is, I’ve spent so much of my life stuck in the middle ground between my learned cynicism and my natural idealism that I failed to realize neither philosophy is really the answer. Undoubtedly, the world is absurd and unfair and sometimes downright terrible. But that doesn’t mean it’s without merit. And it definitely doesn’t mean we should give up on it.
You might think a wise professor sat me down and explained this truth to me or perhaps I heard a rousing speech from a Drake speaker about taking action and creating change. You’d be wrong. It’s not that I haven’t had great professors or heard some fascinating speeches, but the most inspirational and enlightening force in my Drake education has honestly been the actions of my fellow Drake students. I’ve met future educators dedicated to bridging the achievement gap and becoming an advocate for all students. I’ve learned from social justice crusaders working in Des Moines, and sometimes even around the world, who fight for fairness. I’ve worked with writers who are driven to bring about gender equality and social change. My hope is that by dedicating my current and future life to work in non-profit communications, I can do a little of the same.
I say this as a huge fan of French existentialism, but the world is not without meaning and our lives are not without purpose. At Drake, it’s become clear to me that we’re all a bit of an absurd hero, battling against the forces of the world, trying to make a difference. Unquestionably it’s a tough battle, but if anyone’s prepared to take it on, it’s my Drake peers and classmates. I’m not saying that all of us at Drake will change the world in big, dramatic ways. I’m not even saying that we all believe that we can actually change the world. But we’re sure gonna try. And who knows? Maybe in the struggle for the heights, we’ll find some meaning after all.