The Columns

My W&L: Tanner Waggoner ’16

— by on September 5th, 2016

Tanner Waggoner '16

“It is the strength of community and society that really makes W&L more than simply another great university.”

Some people learn best with visual cues, others by audio, but I believe we all learn best by doing. Washington and Lee provides an enormity of resources for students to engage in personalized and practical experiences. The more I see, the more I believe that anyone who has attended this institution would be proud to say W&L cannot be matched by any other university. Each experience, whether it entails a roaring success or heartbreaking failure, brings us something new: a realization, a proactive habit, a reason. But whatever it may be, there’s one catch. In order to acquire new knowledge, the uncanny, teetering bridge of failure will more than likely be crossed. New things can be terrifying, mostly because they require us to travel tricky paths with plenty of backtracking when searching for our personal motives. If you really want to learn, or even attempt to discover what makes you happy, then don’t fear failure. With each new experience and piece of knowledge that comes along with it, you discover more about the world and yourself.

At W&L, I’ve experimented with a variety of subjects, taking classes ranging from philosophy to geology. Without such broad curricular requirements for a degree from a liberal arts school, it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have had exposure to half of what I’ve seen. Sure, I’ve taken classes that have put a beating on me, but those failures are part of the learning process. For instance, now I know I love geology, but not philosophy! Sports, extracurricular activities, social clubs–you can’t find what you love without experimentation, and you can’t experiment without stepping out of your comfort zone and accepting the fact that you might fail. Large or small, it’s sometimes difficult managing the oscillations between the highs and lows of this four-year roller-coaster ride. It’s this complex journey that brought me to an impressively simple guideline, one that we’ve all been taught since the first grade, but I recently recognized because–you guessed it–I’ve experienced plenty of failures by doing.

Essentially, I do my best to cherish the smallest of things in life. As clichéd as it may sound, every morning I make an effort to reflect on the fact that I’m awake. I was lucky enough to wake up at least one more time–not bad. Even better, I’m attending a world-class liberal arts college with what seem to be endless resources. Is there really any excuse for each of us to not put forth all of our effort and make the best of our experience? One thing led to another, and this mindset began to serve as my backbone; it’s what drives me to step out of my comfort zone and explore. I’m plenty content with my current situation, but that’d be boring as heck. I’ve got about two years left at W&L, and 80 on Earth (hopefully). It’d be such a shame to stop learning because you’re happy.