I used to think that everything important had been solved. When I found out about the discovery of penicillin in third grade, I pretty much threw in the towel with regard to scientific advancement. Alexander Fleming had been there, done that. Abraham Lincoln already solved politics, Britney Spears had written all the hits that would ever exist and all the spots for Sea World trainers were filled — what was I going to do? There was nothing much — in my third grade mind — that needed to be fixed. No vacancies in the world.
More than a decade later, it’s amazing to be sitting here in my Stanford room, surrounded by books, papers, ideas and a million problems to solve. I’m not just talking about personal quandaries (though they tend to crop up en masse as we get older), but perspective on a world that begs for so many different solutions in so many different spheres. Apparently penicillin, Abe Lincoln and Britney Spears didn’t fix it all.
Obviously a 21-year-old like myself shouldn’t think the world is problem-free. It’s a healthy progression to understand the world as a more complex and difficult place as we get older — and to question the foundations of everything we think, taking advantage of our lives as students. But in the midst of week six, as Daily columnist Emily Cohodes discussed on Tuesday, most of us are solving all too many academic problems. And it is times like these that I yearn for the days of times tables and cursive worksheets and very direct answers. I was so good at those! Probably.
These days, between completing problem sets, papers and readings (maybe), older and wiser people tell us to find balance and take care of ourselves. I’m often compelled to greet these suggestions with an angst-filled, “You don’t even go here!” Perhaps you’ve had a similarly visceral reaction to their quaintly unrealistic advice during busy weeks.
But what will I think of my college self a decade from now? Much the same as my current vision of Annie the third grader, I’ll probably think that I had it so easy — being part of an academic environment where my main job was to learn. And to you, future-pantsuit-business-lady-self, I hope your vision of the world has continued to expand, to be unsettled and complicated. Also that your professional shoulder pads look awesome.
All of us are fortunate that we’ll be able to make a difference in the world with our education, and we should have to earn that by going through our fair share of difficult weeks. Like Emily suggested, try to eat real meals with friends, exercise or breathe deeply and appreciate your surroundings. And certainly use friends or the Bridge Peer Counseling resources to talk. Think also to your own fierce future self — what will they think of the you today?
Contact Annie at firstname.lastname@example.org