Hard work pays


By Boswell Hutson

When I was younger, probably like most of you, I idolized my older cousins. I’m an only child, and outside of my close friends growing up, peers my age were relatively hard to find. So instead, I looked up to my cousins. That’s probably not a terribly unique concept — I’m sure many of you have experienced it.

My cousin was a swimmer and a damn good one at that. In fact, he was an NCAA All-American swimmer and came closer than you or I will ever come to qualifying for an Olympic Games. As a child, it always amazed me to walk through his bedroom whenever we came to visit and gaze at the medals upon medals on his shelves.

I wanted to be like him. I wanted the medals on the shelves and all the shiny trophies, but I didn’t have the athletic talent of my cousin. Instead, I was a slightly-above average left-side midfielder — even that is generous.

One particular Christmas, when we were over visiting his family, I went to open the door to one of the rooms in his house, and I noticed a small piece of paper taped to the doorknob, on it was written: “Hard Work Pays.”

When we returned home, I shook the shackles of the car door and ran to the printer to print off as many strips of paper as I could and promptly proceeded to write “hard work pays” on them and put them everywhere. Literally…everywhere. I taped one to the toilet handle, I put one on the bottom of the bathroom mirror, and perhaps most importantly, I taped a full 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper and taped it to my bedside nightstand, so it would be the last thing I saw before I closed my eyes every night.

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I still don’t know why my parents never took these down. Surely they thought it was weird reading that after every day, plastered over everything like some kind of ridiculous self-help scheme. Maybe they thought it was just some cute childish thing or that it was just a phase, but I think they let them stay stuck to those surfaces for all these years because even at that age, they understood how important those three words really are.

Now, I’m about to graduate college and enter the real world, and unlike Benjamin Braddock from “The Graduate,” I feel more prepared than I’ve ever felt for anything in my life, due in part to those simple three words that have been embedded in my mind ever since that Christmas holiday.

At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, college has taught me that if someone is willing to work hard, they have at least a fair shot at doing anything they want to in this world. I came into school from a small town, wanting to become a lawyer, and I’m exiting thinking I might actually have a legitimate chance to work in the music industry, something I am truly passionate about.

If someone had told me that was even an option four years ago, I would have probably cut them off and called them an idiot — but lo and behold, here we are. None of this would have been possible without the self-motivation to take risks, step outside of what is comfortable, and most importantly, work really damn hard when you find something you love.

Other peers from my town are going on to become engineers at Microsoft, well-spoken journalists and cutting-edge scientists, and I can confidently say they’re doing these things because they worked hard enough to afford themselves the opportunity.

The University of Illinois offers to bridge the gap from improbable to plausible for anyone willing to try, and for that I am incredibly thankful.

I’ve by no means made it to a stable point in my life — I’m not even an example of success yet. But more than anything, college has set me up to actually follow my dreams, an ability not so easily afforded to many around the world. We really are lucky for all this environment has given us.

So please, future students of the University, realize the power that lies inside you. The University has set you up, now it’s your job to use it to make anything possible. The tools are all here.

My cousin was right — hard work does pay. Maybe all of us aren’t going to have boxes and boxes full of medals to show for it, but maybe we’ll have a newfound passion, talent or at least a degree to vouch for it. There are times here when I wish I worked a little harder (I’m looking at you, Latin 101). But all in all, I think I enjoyed my time here so much because of the time I spent devoting to my interests. Maybe that meant not studying enough for that World Music exam, but in the long run, it’s probably worth it.

It’s been real, U of I. We sure had us a time, didn’t we?

Boswell is a senior in LAS.

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