Dear Elizabeth: My notes of wisdom


Elizabeth Wolfe '20, Associate Editor

In a commencement poem by Maya Angelou, she tells the readers, “Look beyond your tasseled caps and you will see injustice. At the end of your fingertips, you will find cruelties, irrational hate, bedrock sorrow and terrifying loneliness. There is your work.” The first time I read this, I suffered a delightfully terrible ambivalence, pulled between the yearn to act and the want to run. In the middle of these opposing forces, I felt helpless— how can I reach that point where I have a genuine impact?
And, if I don’t, what opportunities will I have missed? I don’t know how far my aspirations as a writer will take me— I may never even get off the ground. But they’ve brought me to this wonderful newspaper, so for fear my endeavours change or fail and this is the last time I’m ever published, here is the best advice I think we all need to hear with all the voice I have.
On Relationships
Pressed on me by my family since a child, I know finding the people who are best for you is an endeavour. Invest in it. I know I’ve found my best friends when they light me up inside.
For the ones that don’t work out, always be civil, but you’re not a bad person for having reservations. After all, forgive and forget only works if they apologize.
When any relationship consumes you, something is wrong. Always work to prioritize your well-being. Sometimes, people will make demands that you can’t fulfill, which is not your responsibility to feel guilty over.
People always make assumptions. If they don’t care enough to get to know you, then there’s no point in trying to change their minds.
At the end of the day, your family, whether by blood or choice, is your wolf(e) pack. Protect them as much as they protect you.
On Leadership, Dreams and Success
Leadership goes beyond steering the ship; you also have to protect your crew.
Never deny someone a conversation, and give criticism politely. You don’t have to hold your tongue, but without respectfulness, your message won’t be received well, if received at all.
Not everyone in a team will defend you. Sometimes you need to fight, but you’re not weak for just letting go. But no matter what obstacles I’ve had, every time I haven’t received exactly what I wanted, the situation turned out better than I could’ve imagined.
The world will need you and your goals in some way, somewhere.
Even if something turns out poorly, my dad always says, “At least you put yourself out there.” You’ve worked for everything you have. Your success isn’t an accident, so never stop working.
On Health
Whenever I’m particularly distressed, my family always reminds me that our home is a safe place. Whether it’s a physical place, a person or a group of people, have a safe place in life.
Your health is a priority, and the right people will understand and support you. If they don’t, that’s on them.
Bad days are coming for us all, or maybe you’re living in that right now. As someone who struggled with anxiety and depression for years, I’m being genuine when I tell you to never let go of optimism; I struggled the most when I did. Taking care of yourself is one of the most noble things you can do.
Besides medical remedies and other professional help, humor is a coping mechanism. A good laugh is as beneficial as a good cry. Sometimes, you can’t help crying in public— or, at least, I can’t— so don’t feel embarrassed, because someone else probably wants to join you.
If you need to say something, say it; stigmas only get worse when we pretend nothing is wrong.
Regardless of the steps we take to help ourselves, I believe it’s important to realize that no matter what, life never gets “figured out”; you always just have to do the best with what you have, so always be giving yourself more.
On Virtues
Similarly to my views on health, there is no such thing as a perfect state of goodness, but rather I believe we should always be improving ourselves even if there is no end.
First, regarding attitude, I’ve found in my experiences that pretentiousness is equally irksome as stupidity, so try not to fall on either side.
Better to be a little bubbly than stuck-up, but never mistake bubbliness for a dim mind.
The best sign of confidence is being able to laugh at yourself, and let it shine from kindness.
As we grow older and mature, my hope for all, especially my generation, is that we are sweet before we’re smart, humble before we’re successful and selfless before we’re wealthy.
Above all, compassion is our strongest virtue. Without it, every other quality falls short. Just make sure to throw some tolerance in there, too.
Complaining doesn’t make you a bad person (I’ve found it’s one of my worst habits)— be sure, though, to balance it with positivity at every chance you get.
Wrapping Up
That is all I have for you today. I pray nothing here came across as pretentious (see On Virtues), and that you found some value in my words. Writing to me is not meant to ostracize or preach; the best way I can describe it is as a tool for me to grow besides others. When Angelou told us to work for the world, this was the path I chose. I don’t know what I’ll be writing about in the years to come— hopefully something all parts funny and emotional and inspirational. Whether it’s telling my stories, newfound wisdom or someone else’s story and wisdom, I simply hope my aspirations will allow me to continue this path. So with that, until next time.