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Advice from 10 years ago for Syracuse’s incoming freshman class of 2020

Well, I certainly feel old.

I arrived at Syracuse University 10 years ago. That’s scary to think about, really, when I consider that I’m still fairly “young” at just 28. But 10 years ago, right around this week, the scariest decision I’d ever made was to leave home and go away to college. At this point, this week’s incoming freshman class at SU can certainly relate.

When I stepped foot on campus, I wasn’t this person many TNIAAM readers know, and perhaps have watched grow a bit over the course of my time here (hopefully?). Like many, I told myself it was time to “find” who I was. To rewrite the narrative of whatever I was in high school. To become an adult.

I sort of did those things. But not in the way I assumed at that time. College freshmen (and people, in general), are far from perfect, and I certainly made my mistakes. Those mistakes also allow you to discover the right choices, if you’re willing to let them.

Kids, gather ‘round. Freshman year, you’re going to meet a bunch of people on your dorm floor on day one. You’ll think these people are going to be your best friends throughout college and you can’t believe how lucky you were to find these awesome lifelong pals by way of random room selection.

You probably won’t speak to these people past next May. Hell, you may not speak to them past September. Still, speaking to them at all is how you find your way to the people that are actually your lifelong friends.

One night in October of 2006, a group of “friends” had bailed on me, and I was sitting in my dorm room in Brewster. Alone, drinking a Keystone Light, I wondered what I was doing at Syracuse.

That internal conversation would end, I’d find other plans, and as a result of these “friends,” I wound up meeting my actual best friend that night. We’d be roommates for the next three years and he stood next to me as a groomsman in my wedding.

Talking to those same “friends” freshman year later led to me being introduced to a girl in class as a second-semester sophomore. Over eight years later, that girl and I just celebrated our third anniversary.

Other “friends” over my time at Syracuse inadvertently introduced me to more lifelong acquaintances, and even a little on-campus music magazine/blog called 20Watts. It’s still around today, and it’s where I got started as reviews editor (and podcaster) as a junior. That experience led me to create my own ACC football blog once Syracuse announced it was leaving the Big East. That blog led me here. Hopefully you see what I’m getting at by now...

This post isn’t about the “friends” at all. It’s just about the decisions you make regarding them, and regarding everything you do and everyone you meet at Syracuse. You don’t have to make every decision correctly. Just see everything as an opportunity, not just an end goal. That person you speak to offhandedly may lead to the person that introduces you to the person that helps you secure your first internship. Or the internship that leads to your first full-time job. Or maybe they introduce you to the person you marry.

Talking to people may also lead to none of these things. But that doesn’t mean those interactions lack value. It goes for life, too. It may sound odd coming from me, a writer that appears (to some long-time readers) to lack much optimism. That’s fine. I’ve had missteps along my path, and I may not always take my own advice. I still believe in it, however, since I’ve seen that it works.

So, Syracuse class of 2020, hopefully you buy into this one bit of advice during a week when you’re likely inundated with “adults” telling you plenty of it. Or if you’re not going to actively follow me on that, at least go to a football game? Please?

When you’re a senior, whether Dino Babers succeeds or fails, I hope you’re sitting in the student section at the Dome with your best friend. Maybe the stands are packed. Maybe they’re as empty as they were for my final game against Rutgers (a nice upset by Doug Marrone, by the way). The outcome didn’t matter for us that day, though. We were just thankful we had all of those times together watching the Orange, win or lose. And it was all because we started talking to people freshman year.