Academia – Literature

Reflection on pilgrimage

Abby Pittman


            The word pilgrimage is defined has multiple definitions; the first—based on—is “a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.” The next definition is one that I believe is more applicable: “any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage.”

When one thinks of a pilgrimage, one tends to think of a religious experience such as a journey to Mecca in Islam, or a journey to Israel in Judaism. However, a pilgrimage in the past was more than just a religious journey. In Chaucer’s the Canterbury Tales, the goal of the pilgrims varies person to person, though they are all attempting to atone for their many sins to earn the grace of God, which was very popular in the Old Catholic traditions.

Though religious pilgrimages have decreased in popularity, other activities that may not be exactly the same but still have the basic idea have popped up in their absence; things such as summer camp, church retreats and most importantly, college.

College is the ultimate modern day pilgrimage; it’s a period of four years where anything and everything is acceptable, because it’s all in the name of the ‘college experience’ and getting an education. Drinking, drugs, sex, all of these things are pushed under the rug because it’s the expectation of what happens at college.

Everybody knows what happens at college—parents, coaches, professors, yet everyone turns a blind eye because that’s ‘just what you do in college’.

For many, college is the first time kids leave home for a significant period of time, and college is this weird grace period where you have all the freedom in the world, without having any responsibilities. Literally the only requirements are go to class and if you’re an athlete, go to practice. And even that is avoidable at times.

Drinking, partying, sleeping around, all of these things that are and have been associated with college are not only now the norm for students, but expected from students, and it is acceptable because it’s once again, all about getting the college experience, and in the end hopefully you’ve held the right persons hair back at that one party sophomore year and you now have contacts and a solid network when you actually go out into the real world, trying to find a job.

People look back on college and consider it the best four years of their life, and why not? In college you have the beauty of being completely free without anything holding you back. You get four years to be completely selfish, to take classes in whatever subject you want—including Chaucer—and sleep as much as you possible can while raging every single weekend with the cheapest and hardest alcohol you can find.

Though this kind of pilgrimage is a drastic change from the many religious ones of the pasts, I believe it still qualifies as a pilgrimage. Your taking a four year ‘trip’ to find yourself, to discover what you want to do in life, and who you want to be in that life, and hopefully meeting great people and lifelong friends at the same time. Your all taking the essentially the same journey, just as the pilgrims of the Canterbury Tales are, with a goal in mind, and four years to complete it.

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