It’s funny. I am confronted with the final article of my Brandeis Hoot career. A time and place I thought at one point would never come, yet also a time and place, in some moments, I could not wait for. Beginning my time at Brandeis I was sure that senior year would never come. That it was so far down the road I would never be in a situation where I would have to spend a moment thinking about what to write my senior opinion piece on. But, I always dreamed of concluding a particularly unique, tough and formative experience with the capability to provide some kind of influential wisdom to those around me.
So, I look back at my time at Brandeis with a careful eye. Parsing through each detail, no matter how small, in an attempt to uncover what these four years have taught me. Yet, I seem to come back to this column: “Tommy Time.” It began in my first year here at Brandeis in cooperation with the then-Opinions Editor, Sasha Skarboviychuk ’22, who asked if I wanted to start a column that resembled “Dear Abby.” I had no real life experience, but as an overconfident and undeclared philosophy major at the time I jumped on the opportunity to provide my life advice to those willing to ask for it.
The column was short lived due to the pandemic, but it was an outlet for me. I got to write about how I saw the world, relationships and why someone may be “crying in da slut cave.” It gave me new perspectives with which to see campus from and drew me to new people from whom I learned tremendous amounts. I will always be grateful for that and indebted to those people who gave me so much.
I look back at who I was then and laugh to myself, saying: Who was I? Who did I think I was? Believing I was in any position to give life advice to others when I was nowhere near finding who I was. Thinking I had the whole world figured out and planned to the finest detail to ensure my own success.
In these past four years, I have changed in many ways, my plans for the future have changed and so have those goals which I thought were so clear and unchanging as I graduated high school. Rather than seeing me achieve those goals I see myself changing who I am and changing what I am aspiring to be and do. Change is the only constant I can find and from that and I think I have found my final question to answer as the author of “Tommy Time”: with so much change occurring, what did you end up accomplishing in your undergraduate career?
Well Thomas, that is a good question. Think back to who you were in high school for a moment. You were a jealous, competitive and hard-working student. You worked to prove to others that you belonged in any Advanced Placement (AP) class or as a part of leadership in any club or sport. Your resume reflected that as well. You took eight AP courses, one less than the maximum and a fact you never forgave yourself for, were the Vice President of Model United Nations, Vice President of the National Honor Society, captain of the debate team, manager and member of the varsity tennis team, senior member of Mock Trial, Secretary of History Club, had a part time job all while being a son to your parents, friends to those who were close to you, brother to your own sibling and boyfriend to someone who gave her all to you.
But you were never satisfied. You wanted better grades, to be President and not Vice President of many clubs and to be the coolest person in the class of 2019. You lived with a chip on your shoulder and saw everyone as competition—even those who loved you unconditionally. And for what? All of those things as you look back at them are now nothing more than words on a page. You needed to take better care of yourself then and stop doing things because it would “look better on an application” or make you “a more competitive student.” You need to let yourself grow on your own terms.
That is where Brandeis saved you, Thomas, that is where you dropped the facade, be it through sheer chance or some conscious act, and finally acted truthfully to who you are. You realized that yes, you love foreign diplomacy, but did Model United Nations to build a resume. You realized you filled your application with a version of you that contains shreds of truth as to who you are but pushed away the rest of you. So you finally embraced who you are. You explored yourself by exploring what Brandeis had to offer to you over these past four years.
You joined rugby despite having zero experience or knowledge of the sport, you joined The Hoot even though you had never written an article in your life and you began doing community service without having any real history in service. But having no experience in those fields provided you with something great—the ability to grow in the unknown.
You became the captain of rugby because you loved the sport and found yourself on the pitch and you became editor-in-chief because you loved writing, no matter how silly the topic of the article, and could finally express yourself in words.
You let yourself grow in all directions because confining yourself to one field riddled with competitive tendencies was not healthy. You learned to keep all of your doors open because pigeon-holing yourself into a single identity does not grow you as a person.
Now then, did you ever find who you want to be? Sort of! I know who I am and I know who I want to be, but most importantly I know I am not there yet, never will be and need to keep working on myself if I ever even want a chance to be who I want to be.
You began writing your “Tommy Time” column because when you came here you thought you knew who were, you thought you knew where you going and knew how to best live life. But you are leaving with something far more powerful—the knowledge that it is okay to always be changing and not know what is next.
Brandeis has taught me a lot in its classrooms, professional office spaces and meetings. But nothing will compare to what it gave to me outside of all of those. So here I am concluding my final article for The Brandeis Hoot. Shocked that senior year is upon me and that I am writing this article and also lost as to whether or not this counts as influential wisdom. But neither matters, because the people at Brandeis and the organizations I have been a part of have made me confident in the person I am today.
So what have I accomplished? I have found myself among the people and things I finally allowed myself to be a part of and I will always be grateful for that.
To The Hoot, thank you for teaching me to express myself and allowing me to do so without restriction. To the next leaders of this club, good luck and may the fortune of finding yourself in letting yourself go come to you as well. I love you all.