Connor Matteson ’23 was one of many students who took a gap year as a result of the global pandemic. “I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with this time, but I knew that I didn’t necessarily want to be stuck in a dorm room taking online classes the whole time,” he said.
While away from Wesleyan for a year, Matteson certainly took a different path from many of his peers – he went out and wrote a book. That book, titled The World As You’ll Live It, will be published by New Degree Press in September 2022. His scope is ambitious. “What I am aiming to do with this project is to create a guidebook for the next 30 years for people my age, the age demographic whose lives will be affected by these big picture trends I identify,” Matteson said.
For example, Matteson anticipates a world where, among other things, the United States is not the sole superpower and where climate change is even more of an immediate concern impacting migration and technology. Matteson doesn’t make predictions of how it will all turn out – his goal is to create a primer for the big issues he sees coming down the road. He believes his generation, if armed with the right information, can approach these problems with an open mind and innovative solutions.
“It comes down to the argument that I make in the conclusion of the book – I have a lot of faith in the human spirit itself as a producer of both orthodox and out-of-the-box solutions,” Matteson said. “What I say is that there is a possibility of coming out on the other side of these major issues.”
A book was always in Matteson’s future, he said. The College of Social Studies major started writing as a kid, first becoming interested in fiction. In high school, he dabbled in writing screenplays. “As I got older and started becoming more aware of the wider world and really soaking it in … I wanted to lend my own voice, a young person’s voice, to the debate about where we are going as a species and what we can do in response,” Matteson said.
Matteson also is the founder of the John Quincy Adams Society at Wesleyan, an organization that encourages college students and scholars to explore United States foreign policy from a more tempered approach. Yes, the students gather and hash over big ideas, but there is also a social component that Matteson enjoys. “We’ve had a lot of fun and success thus far and there is still room to grow,” he said.
He is the first to acknowledge that at the age of 21, taking on some of the biggest issues of our time is a bit gutsy. But, harkening back to his gap-year work with the Creator Institute, an initiative founded by Georgetown University professor Eric Koester that encourages creative output, Matteson felt empowered to put his ideas into the world.
Because of technology today, you don’t need to “borrow credibility” from institutions, a phrase he learned from Koester. “Historically, that is how you distinguished yourself. ‘I went to Harvard Law School and I worked for this firm and because I was involved with these institutions, I am therefore credible. It’s a new world now where I can create credibility through a personal project, like starting a YouTube channel, or a podcast, or writing a book,” he said. “The point is, that you aren’t waiting for an opportunity to come to you. You are creating it yourself.”
Matteson sees himself one day working in Washington D.C. as a policymaker, either as an elected official or through some other avenue. “One of the best parts about being at Wesleyan has been being able to reach out to alumni who are active around D.C. I’ve been very impressed that when I reach out and say that I am a current student, you don’t know me, but we are interested in the work you are doing, would you potentially do a speaker event, and the response is positive, it definitely made me more grateful and appreciative that I go to a school like Wesleyan where the alumni do care,” he said.