This is a personal essay. The Pilot welcomes letters to the editor, personal essays, and opinion articles from the whole community. Please submit to pilot@principia.edu.

By Coben Lutton

You all might know me as the kid that sits down in class with his Chicago Bears sweatshirt, sweatpants, and slippers on, with a hoodie pulled over my head. You all see how I fall asleep in a class and how I never pay attention.

I’m sure you say to yourselves, “That kid is insanely disrespectful – sleeping in class and not paying attention; this dude is a complete stuck-up snob.”

I don’t blame you all for viewing me this way. I would, too, if I saw a kid like this walk into a class. I also would like to take this time to apologize to my teachers if it looks like I never pay attention in your class.

But, I also say, never judge a book by its cover.

If I tell you my story, you’ll see why it’s one of those rare ones at Principia, and why me being sleepy in class has nothing to do with the legendary tax of participating in Prin extracurriculars.

I have never been fortunate enough to have all the cool luxuries like toys or phones. I grew up in a financially struggling family. I was always taught to work for something on my own without anyone’s help. I realize, now, it served a purpose. Since the age of 17 I’ve been financially independent – completely on my own. That means my parents never paid for anything – including school, a car, insurance for the car, and anything else you can think of that a teenager needs. I am responsible for paying for it all.

At Principia College, I live a very different lifestyle than a lot of the kids on campus do. Every single weekend I go down to St. Louis and work at Raising Cane’s for 30 hours each weekend. I did this so I could pay for my Prin Bill, my car insurance, and my MMA training that I get to do off-campus four times a week. You might think this is a lot for a college student at Prin to handle, but I beg to differ; my biggest strength is that I can manage my whole day and am able to get the most I can out of the time I have each day.

The closure of campus because of the pandemic caused everyone problems. Principians I’ve talked to have all types of different – and difficult – circumstances. One has no WiFi connection so he has to do all his homework at his friend’s house. Another got a part-time job but was able to go live back home during the coronavirus. And one had to stay on campus because if they returned home, they wouldn’t be allowed to come back to school again.

Like everyone, I have experienced a huge impact on my life because of the closure of campus. While most students could – and did – go home, I had to find a home. I wasn’t allowed to stay at Prin, and I couldn’t go back to my dad’s in Colorado or my mom’s in Seattle. Now I have to pay rent for a place to live on top of everything else I have to pay for. So, I now work full-time overnight shifts Monday through Thursday at Amazon in St. Louis, as well as going to school full-time remotely.

We all experience different circumstances, regardless of global issues like a pandemic or a recession. All the more reason not to judge someone by how we first see them – like me, with my tired demeanor and the clothes I wear. Rather, get to know them – and me.

I think humans judge at first sight because we are lazy. By “lazy,” I mean it’s easier for humans to judge someone without having any social interaction with the person, than to really see who they are. It’s easier for us to sit back and stereotype the person than it is to talk to them and get to know them.

Take the time to get to know someone and understand their story. You may actually learn something.

•Featured photo at top shows Coben Lutton ready for his all night shift at Amazon. Photo courtesy of Coben Lutton.