VIEWPOINT: Seize Opportunity in Our Choices

JESUS RODRIGUEZ/THE HOYA

JESUS RODRIGUEZ/THE HOYA

On Aug. 28, 2013, then-President Barack Obama stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to address a crowd of tens of thousands in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. That event happened to coincide with my first class at Georgetown — “Microeconomics.” It was my first day of college, and I faced a dilemma: Should I see the President of the United States acknowledge a momentous day in our nation’s history, or should I begin my collegiate career with perfect attendance? Deferring to my inner goody-two-shoes, I decided to go to class. Ironically, the professor opened with a lecture on opportunity cost: the loss of potential gain when an alternative decision is made. At the very least, I left that class with a deeper recognition of what I had just given up.

I have frequently returned to that dilemma throughout my four years at Georgetown. Should I attend an event or go to class? Should I go to class or spend time with friends? Should I spend time with friends or sleep? Should I exercise or sleep? Should I eat or sleep? I eventually learned that the biggest mistake I could make was to get overwhelmed by my choices and do nothing. In the words of Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” There are rarely right answers to the scenarios listed above — except when sleep is involved: always choose sleep. What matters is that we make a choice to do something and jump in wholeheartedly.

Like many first-year students, I interpreted “do something” to mean “join every club in existence.” As a result, I soon found myself playing a club sport, writing for an on-campus publication, participating in student government and attending weekly College Democrats meetings. It was overwhelming. With guidance from great mentors, I realized that it was okay to scale back. I learned that “do something” does not mean “do everything.” If I was going to make a difference, I needed to identify what excited me and devote myself to that.

I found my calling in the movement to end campus sexual assault. Though the opportunity cost of following this passion has sometimes manifested itself in poorer academic performance or less time spent with friends, it has always been worth it. I dedicated myself to making Georgetown’s campus a safer, more respectful and compassionate place for survivors of sexual assault, and to me nothing could be more important. I hope I am leaving Georgetown better than I found it.

To new Hoyas, the best advice I can give is to do something: You define what these years will mean. Though this school will sometimes beat you down, remember that we will never have these opportunities again. Also, remember that when you are evaluating opportunity costs, sleep always wins. Always.

To returning Hoyas, you know as well as I do that this school will sometimes succeed in beating you down, but realize that it does not need to be this hard. The exclusivity and stress that drive our campus culture are often self-inflicted. Your mentorship is vital. You have so much to offer your fellow Hoyas. Try to open doors for the people just behind you, and better yet, pull them through with you. Together, we can make the Georgetown experience more inclusive and rewarding for all.

And to my fellow seniors, thank you for demonstrating to me the opportunity cost of not attending Georgetown. I am the woman I am today because of you. In four years, you have taught me a lifetime of lessons about perseverance and hard work. I am humbled to walk across the stage with you tomorrow. I cannot wait to watch you go out and set the world on fire. Hoya Saxa, now and always.

Olivia Hinerfeld is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.

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