Bethany GeigerFreshman orientation was a lifetime ago. I was a doe-eyed 17-year-old who showed up on campus with flowers in her long, flowing hair. Things have changed some (for one thing, I cut off all my hair).

Now, I’m preparing for my senior year. For writing an entire senior thesis, the culmination of my time at Simon’s Rock. I already earned my AA, and my BA is on the way. I spent last semester in New York City, interning for Random House publishing. I’m immensely more educated, more aware, more political…more. Just more. There is more of me.

Now, prove it!

Definitely Not a Q&A

Senior year marks the beginning of the end, so everybody wants to know everything. The questions! Gosh, there are so many questions. Not just the usual ones like “Wait, you don’t have a high school diploma?” No, now come the frightening FAQs. “What’s your thesis about? Will you miss Simon’s Rock?” And of course, the dreaded “What are your plans after you graduate?”

Way too many questions. Most of us skipped our senior years in high school. We politely declined the “Where do I go now?” phase. We knew where we were going - here. But now that we’re almost finished here, these questions terrify us.

Luckily, thought-provoking questions are encouraged at Simon’s Rock. It’s like the moment you walk into a new class. 

“I’m here to learn!” you announce (metaphorically).

“Cool,” says your professor. “About?”

About?

About what?

“I don’t know,” you respond. “You tell me.”

That’s not how it works, here.

You don’t get easy answers. You shouldn’t even be looking for answers. Ask any Simon’s Rock student and they’ll tell you that  memorization-and-regurgitation is not the way to teach individuals to think critically.

The Cycle Never Stops

In order to learn, you can’t be afraid of questions. Ask questions that unearth more questions. Don’t desire answers. Desire curiosity.

That’s why I’m not nervous about entering my last year at Simon’s Rock.

It’s true, the next two semesters are full of things I won’t know how to navigate. My thesis is obviously the major nail-biter. Somehow, this book-length essay will have to represent the things I’ve learned in the past three to four years. It’s a very final product. It’s very much like an answer. Concrete. All bound up and edited and actualized. It’s like... like the end of the Simon’s Rock way of life. The end of free and fearless questionings. The “outside world” very much wants concrete answers.

The thing is, of all the things I’ve learned recently, it’s that the cycle of questioning never stops.

I’d like to share some very wise words, which I heard while I worked at Random House last semester:

“Writers think that their first novel has to be them in between two covers. That is has to be this godly, complete representation of everything they are and everything they stand for. Really? It’s just your first book. Write it. Get yourself out there. Put a better one on the shelf later.”

It’s the same way with a thesis. And it’s the same way with a degree. It’s the same way with most life experiences, I think. Just do it. Get yourself out there. Once you’re there, you’ll have time to refine your technique. But be brave, to get there in the first place.

Outside the Box

True, there is now more of you, like there is of me: BA graduate (high school dropout). Majored in Theater and Children’s Literature. Magna Cum Laude (fingers crossed, anyway).

But those aren’t answers. After three (soon to be four!) years at Simon’s Rock, I don’t look at myself or my fellow students like that. We are heaping full of data points, which can then be strung together to form any kind of question a person could ask.

So yes, maybe I do have some fears about entering my senior year and writing a thesis to mark the end of it. Finality is a terrifying thing to anticipate.

Unlike most colleges, though, Simon’s Rock is a bit outside of the box. We do have to explain why we (most of us, anyway) didn’t graduate from high school ... because we were too busy pursuing a much more thought-provoking question than the one that was set before us.

If you are dissatisfied with an answer, don’t let it stay an answer. My time at Simon’s Rock is what led me to embrace the open-ended. Not multiple choice.

 

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