Dear first years

11 Sep 2019

It is inevitable to make mistakes at every step of the way. If we wouldn’t, we’d stay the same without any chance of improvement. When you move out of your home’s secure bubble and dive into student life for the first time, mistakes are overly frequent. I should know, I have made some.

Now, there is probably a Bob Dylan song that could securely guide you through the feeling of being young and lost. As a matter of fact, if you want to feel a bit overdramatic, you only have to look as far as ’Like a Rolling Stone’ to get a sufficient soundtrack to your messy life. But even if his songs can guide you through hard times and even if we probably all sometimes feel like him during the ’We Are the World’ recordings, most people in the world are not Bob Dylan.

The average lost person can’t turn their experiences into a song like Bob Dylan or Paul Simon or Johnny Cash could. We have to live through our daily struggles without ever being able to write a proper folk or country song about them. And that’s okay.

The beauty of art is that it’s not limited to the feelings of a single person. Everyone can find personal meaning in a book, a song or a painting — whether it meant the same to its creator or not. Art, in this sense, both connects and divides us. Because while we can all feel something looking at the same object, it is rare if not impossible that two people ever feel the same.

Advice and mistakes work in a similar way. While two people can receive the same advice or make the same mistakes, it is unlikely that they learn the same lessons. So while I and virtually anyone else who lived through the highs and lows of early adulthood can tell you about it, you still have to experience them yourself. Make your own mistakes and learn from them, even if it hurts. That’s normal — and you can’t run away from it.

Don’t be scared about getting lost. Generations of young people have lived through their personal experience of being lost and have found shelter in the same Dylan songs. They have made it out alive — not despite their mistakes, but because they learned from them. And so will you.

Every two weeks, Antonia will add the songs she writes about to the Spotify playlist below. This way, she creates a soundtrack to her time in Nijmegen. Click left and right for more songs.

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