Originally Posted: July 12, 2018
Hello from the 2018 Summer Edition of Hilltopics! For those of you who are new readers (I’m looking at you, slightly-terrified new SMU Honors student reading this at orientation) I’d like to provide a brief explanation. Hilltopics is SMU’s Honors magazine: an independently funded, student-run publication dedicated to printing high-quality material that students, alumni, faculty, and staff alike actually want to read. The yearly summer edition is a conglomerate of previous years’ top hits curated by the upcoming year’s new Editors in Chief. For this edition, the 2018-2019 Editors in Chief, Alex McNamara and Drew Sneed, have written abstracts for each featured piece outlining what made them choose that piece over others. These abstracts are for you, new readers, so that you can get a feel for the quality of work Hilltopics wants from you. As you’ll soon discover, that level of quality is high; we’re not looking for basketball game write-ups here. This is a place for something more.
You don’t need to be a current student to know that quality and college aren’t usually synonymous. Popular media represents the college student as a creature of cheap ramen noodles and dirty laundry, procrastination and bottom shelf liquor. Having been a student for three years now at the prestigious and, let’s be honest, incredibly expensive Southern Methodist University, I can confirm these stereotypes to be true regardless of socioeconomic class. Somehow, even here, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer still appears in party coolers, and oversized, free t-shirts atop Walmart sweatpants dominate as the class uniform for any courses starting before noon.
For the most part, I think we should be forgiven for these stereotypical forays into the low-quality world of stolen Chipotle napkins and essays started and finished between the hours of 2:30am and 7:52am. After all, in college everything is a first, which means mundane choices can be absolutely terrifying. Consider the process of buying a tube of toothpaste for the first time on your own: first find a store (will you walk to it? Can you drive to it?), then figure out where the toothpaste is (why isn’t it in the pharmacy section? It was always there at the Kroger at home!), then pick a brand (you’ve gotten Colgate in the past, but Crest is cheaper, and you’re broke, and do you really know if you should get fluoride or not?), then check out (do you try self-checkout or risk interacting with another human being in a lane?), then leave and find your way back without having a panic attack. That’s a dozen choices that you’ve very possibly never had to make before, so of course you’re going to be nervous, and it’s not your fault for buying the first toothpaste you see just so you can get out of there faster.
Unfortunately, the choices that we make at the beginning of our adult lives have a tendency to stick with us forever. The groceries we buy, the way we manage our calendars, and the way we dress ourselves during out time at SMU become habits that will subconsciously cement themselves for years to come, which, if we’re not careful, will turn us into 40-year-old adults that still buy one-ply toilet paper. The solution? When the terror of infinite choice dies down (and it will after a semester or two, I promise) start researching things from the ground up. Want to procrastinate on a chore or an essay? Research that toothpaste. Learn what fluoride does. Decide if minimizing plastic waste is important to your toothpaste decision and choose once and for all whether or not you want whitening power. Put all the thought you can into that one tiny choice, so that the next time you go grocery shopping it’s super easy to make the best possible decision with little to no thought. You’ll be amazed with the results. Even the smallest of changes in body soap or trash can liner can vastly improve your life and set you on a path to becoming a much happier real-adult.
More importantly, focusing on improving the quality of each part of your life will make you a more questioning adult. If you’ve ever been frustrated at a parent or coworker for using an outdated, objectively less effective tool (I don’t know, like Bing), then you know what it’s like to wish someone was paying more attention to improving the quality of their life. By getting into the habit of constant improvement now, you’re less likely to end up an old dog with no new tricks. In this way, the habit-setting period that we go through in college can be incredibly useful to us, as can every drastic change that we face later in life. Each time we move, start a new job, or end a relationship, we have the opportunity to rethink all the choices we are currently making and to optimize for what we wish we were doing better. Choose high quality in every instance that you can, and you will find yourself more confident in your decisions and your life than you ever knew you wanted.
That means if you want to write for Hilltopics, don’t do it because you think it’ll look good on a resume (it will) or in an interview (oh boy it will) or because your family would like it (good God they’ll love it; they’ll share everything you write on Facebook and your grandma will bring it up at Thanksgiving). Write for Hilltopics because you want to put quality work out into the world. Write for Hilltopics because you have something important to say and you’re upset no one else is saying it. Submit comics, poems, and art to Alex and Drew that capture a feeling you’ve never seen captured before. Sit at your desk in that tiny dorm room and write and draw to the very best of your ability and be proud of what comes out of your pen. When you’re done, email what you’ve made to email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe it’ll be printed in an issue published during the semester, or even next year for the incoming first-years to read and be inspired by. That is, if it’s quality.
Destiny Rose Murphy