The Daily Illini

Learn lessons from elders to avoid mistakes

By Ellen Barczak, Columnist

Picture this: 3-year-old me in a car seat, driving through downtown Chicago. She looks up thoughtfully and remarks, “Wow, the people who made those buildings sure had perseverance.”

In all candor, this tale seems a bit far-fetched to me. My parents swear up and down that it’s true, though.

I have always been one of those people who has felt and acted older than their actual age. I used big words when I was small, and to this day, even though I’m 19, I feel like my soul is about 35.

Old souls have it pretty good — we like to go to bed early, read about current events, crochet, watch documentaries and participate in habits that are generally considered safe (and perhaps boring). Adults like us because we act like them, despite our youth. The thing is, being an old soul can be lonely sometimes, especially when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by 20-somethings.

Participating in college shenanigans is practically inevitable, especially at the University or at any Big Ten school for that matter. I’ll be the first person to admit that doing things you probably shouldn’t can lead to some of the most fun and memorable times of your life.

However, there comes a point where some fun, illicit activity simply becomes foolish. It is at this point that we old souls hear alarms sounding in our heads and immediately withdraw from the situation. Some of our friends don’t, though. We are suddenly confused. Why would they want to do something that could really harm them? What logic lies behind their actions?

Ultimately, we want to be safe and happy, and we want that for our friends, too. Being an old soul can be poignantly frustrating when your 35-year-old soul says, “Think of the future,” but another 18-year-old soul says, “Who cares, I just want to have fun now.” It can be incredibly difficult to empathize with decisions the people you love make that only seem to harm them further.

This weekend, I was asked, as a columnist, what my most controversial opinion was. It was an excellent question, and one that took quite a bit of thought. I suppose my most unpopular opinion would be that adults actually do know better. The irony in this “controversial” opinion, though, is that it is basically a universal truth, yet you would be hard-pressed to find a student on a college campus who truly believes it.

Adults, parents, teachers, professors, they were all young once; they all lived through college and learned lessons along the way. It’s a cliche and you’ve heard them say it a million times, but they have said it a million times because it’s true.

If you could learn a lesson from another person without having to make a mistake yourself, why wouldn’t you want to do that? What’s the disadvantage?

As an old soul, I have tried to take full advantage of these second-hand lessons. I can say with absolute certainty that I am better off and more successful for having heeded the words of those older and more experienced than me. So when so many around me seem to disregard what could help them so tremendously, I become deeply confused.

Now, I’m not advocating for people to shut themselves in their dorm and only study and read the Bible. That’s also ridiculous. I am simply advocating for those wonderful 20-somethings in both body and soul to try to consider their actions from the perspective of those older individuals who love them more than anything in the world — their parents.

I feel like a mom sometimes. I help my friends sort their laundry, give them cold medicine, make sure they hydrate after long nights. And as the “mom” of my group, I can tell you that I care about my friends’ safety and well-being more than anything. I can’t even imagine, then, how much their real mom (and dad) cares about them.

Please, have fun. And please, be safe. The adults (and old souls) in your life only want the best for you; they wish you nothing but happiness, success and peace.

Ellen is a freshman in LAS. 

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