Farewell Column: An ode to parental advice

The staff of the Daily Campus at the 2017 Banquet. (Courtesy of Ellen Yang)

The staff of the Daily Campus at the 2017 Banquet. (Courtesy of Ellen Yang)

A lot of us arrive here without much figured out, but with a strong, pulsing urgency to figure it out fast.

And it’s not just an urgency to figure it out fast, but to figure it out right. And to figure it out on the first shot. And to figure it out at the same pace as our peers. And to figure it out in a way that delivers a stable career upon graduation. And to figure it out in a way that assures lifelong happiness in that stable career.

Outgoing Digital Editor Cheyenne Haslett. (Courtesy of Ellen Yang)

We’re lucky to be here— to be in an environment that drives us to move forward. That being said, there are a lot of decisions to make in these four years.

But what I’ve learned is that even when it feels like we’re spinning our wheels, sitting in a class on Human Rights Law or Press in America, wondering if this is it, the place we'll find our career— we’re not losing; we’re only learning.

We’re learning the effort it takes to work for what we want. And at the same time, we’re learning the balance between being the best and trying to do our best.

We’re learning that this is not the end; this is just the beginning.

My point is this: I’m graduating now. And I don’t have it figured out. But I have learned an invaluable lesson from four years of working slowly and subconsciously toward an abstract goal of having it “figured out.”

What I have realized— and I’ll warn you now, this will sound familiar—  is that these things take time. Some would even say they take a lifetime. And there’s infinite comfort in realizing that.

My parents are the reason I’m here. And again, this may sound familiar, I know. But what I mean is that my parents are the greatest source of comfort in every major decision-making process I’ve ever endured, throughout my whole life. They’re worldly, inquisitive, thoughtful, confident people and I owe them a lot.

So, for this senior farewell it only seemed right to take a moment and reflect on the parental advice that’s gotten me where I am. In an ode to that advice, I’d like to share some of the quotes that I will never, ever forget.

“Not everything happens for a reason. Everything just happens.”

This first one may seem a little bleak at first glance. But I assure you, it’s not. I was on the phone with my mom driving back up to school. I was tossing and turning details over in my mind trying to come to some kind of a decision. My car lifted over the bump in the train tracks right before the intersection toward North Eagleville; it’s the home stretch of bucolic greenery before a view of UConn opens up that always makes me laugh. It’s the campus, hilariously alight because of the angle from the hills slightly above, sparkling like an urban metropolis. Towers Dorm could be the Empire State Building. The streetlights at Buckley could be Fifth Ave. It’s confusing, to say the least, for a school that got its start in agriculture.

The Daily Campus 2016-2017 staff outside the Daily Campus building. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Maybe, I told my mother, everything happens for a reason. Maybe when Charles and Augustus Storrs decided to start a college, and a century later when I decided to come here, I started a journey that was already planned out for me. Maybe I should just take the easy choice here, because maybe everything happens for a reason.

Well, that didn’t fly with my mom, a mom who has never accepted a reversion to the status quo for herself, her family, or her kids. “Oh, I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. Everything just happens,” she told me.

The point is, things can happen the way you want them to, or they can happen the way other people want them to. And sometimes, you have to trust yourself to make the right decision more than you trust that everyone else will choose what’s right.

Sometimes, you can’t take the back seat. You have to go against the grain. You can’t tell yourself that this is the way it’s supposed to be— you have to make the situation what you want it to be.

“Pull yourself up by the ... shorts.”

This second one is a Harry Haslett original.

My dad has a particular skillset designed perfectly to calm my nerves. I lay out all my stressors and then he wades through them, giving me perspective and telling me to seriously, chill out.

He has a real knack for it. And lucky for me, he also has a real knack for absolutely butchering traditional sayings. This means that a pep talk from my dad doesn’t just offer clarity and perspective; it also lends some comic relief.

On this particular day, he was on his way back from a ski trip, my brother in the passenger seat, telling me how great his new skis were. Me, I was writing essay number two of three on democracy and the American electorate. It was day four of midterms. I was burnt out.

What was my dad’s response? Keep your chin up. Sometimes you just have to slog through and get your work done. Everyone does it— put it into perspective. Did I think he liked getting up at 6 a.m. to go to work every day? No, but isn’t it worth it to get to go skiing on the weekends with his kids? Yep.

He’s shuffling through this advice when he hits a wall. A bit of a block in the fatherly tirade. Words seem to be escaping him as he leads up to a grand conclusion and an age old saying… but just how, exactly, does it go again?

“You just gotta pull yourself, pull yourself right up by the” — here the words “boot straps” seem to be on the tip of his tongue— “by the, you know,” — and finally — “by the shorts. Pull yourself up by the shorts, Cheyenne.”

And is he wrong? Not at all. Because whether it’s by the bootstraps or by the shorts, we all eventually take this advice into consideration. We learn to pull ourselves up, settle in, work hard, and come out on the other end.

“Things come up, and you do them.”

This one really resonates with me, and originated during my mom’s own college years. She had a very relaxed friend with a particular talent for keeping a clear schedule, day in and day out. When friends would ask him what he did all day, he would simply tell them, “Things come up, and I do them.” We laugh about it, but it’s deeper than a joke.

It’s about keeping an eye to the future and understanding that even when you’re staring down the barrel of a big life decision, it’s never the end. It’s just the beginning.

For me, a person who takes comfort in setting goals and having a plan, there’s comfort in knowing that sometimes, even when you don’t have it all figured out, it still comes together. You try something out, then you try out the next thing, and eventually you’re on track to something bigger. In other words, “Things come up, and you do them.”

I’ve been very lucky to have the beautiful and supportive parents that I do. I’ve also been very lucky to attend this school, meet creative, inspirational, ridiculous, funny friends and, of course, make The Daily Campus my home. Here I offer just one reflection— just one ode to parental advice— but there are a record-breaking number of graduates walking out of Gampel or Jorgensen this year alone who are just as qualified, if not more, to offer theirs.

I sincerely thank everyone who has been a part of these last four years— and wish you all the best of luck with whatever comes next.


Cheyenne Haslett is the outgoing digital editor and staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at cheyenne.haslett@uconn.edu. She tweets at @cheyhaslett.