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Unfashionable Nonsense: Black Holes and Expectations

Trivial yet relevant personal information: I was once a freshman. In fact, I was once a first quarter freshman, back in the old days when Peet’s in Tresidder was not Fraiche and the Axe and Palm was new and professors complained about W. in present tense. As you can surmise, times have changed.
Now, like most freshmen, I had expectations about what I would be “someday.” I remember seeing some juniors–identifiable by their world-weary smiles and the menfolk’s scruff–talking about dinner plans at said Peet’s location. They talked about PA restaurants with the confidence only old age and experience brings. If you blindfolded them and handed them a Rum and Coke, they could tell you whether it was from Old Pro or Nola just by the smell of it. I was sure they could.

But, now I am a junior, and not a fall quarter junior, but a spring quarter one, so far over the hill I can’t even remember the climb. I’ve stayed here both summers and lived off-campus, and while I know, in fact, my way around Trader Joe’s like Liz Lemon around a donut shop, I sure as hell can’t ramble on about PA like those students did. Now, it might be that students were just better educated in the past. Maybe in IHUM they taught “Local Dining Environs” right after the section on fighting communism. Or maybe I just dreamed up the sagacity of those students, and pressed my own expectations of my future left on them. I thought, after all, like most freshmen, that I would become cooler when I was older. I thought that awkward turtles evolved into suave turtles. It turns out that their awkwardness just becomes entrenched.

It was from another one of those patio tables at Tresidder that I watched an Obama rally in White Plaza with a friend, J. Tandler, before the primaries. While “feminist” is a term a lot of girls our age shy away from because “people will assume I’m a bitch/I’m a lesbian/I hate men/I agree with Title IX and want the football stadium shuttered so we can have a women’s underwater ping-pong team instead,” Jax hasn’t been known to shy away from anything she believes in because of other people’s opinions as long as I’ve known her and probably ever. She supported Hillary, but while we were watching this rally, she admitted she was having doubts. It goes without saying that this rally featured some Black Eyed Peas song and balloons. It seemed the vision this rally was giving of an Obama administration was one where everyone was happy and trees sprouted gumdrops and the whole country would spontaneously break into “Kumbaya.” What kind of pervert would vote against that? Who doesn’t want Black Eyed Peas songs and balloons for four years?

Well, of course, that’s not exactly what happened. Some people are happy–then again, some people will complain about the sky being blue if you give them the chance–and I still have to buy my gumdrops. You can’t always get what you want, as the Stones tells us.

Truth is that the cards were already dealt. All the conflicts this administration has faced were long-standing. The Republican party was never going to be on board–that’s what an opposition party is.  Not even the Black Eyed Peas can change that.

And I was not going to spend all my time trolling PA so that I knew it like the back of my hand–I was never the type of person that would have done that. In the choice between loitering around here and trekking a mile and a half there, I wasn’t going to make it. It wasn’t thermodynamically favored. I didn’t have the activation energy.

It’s possible that the laws of the universe would temporarily be suspended, or the laws of politics, or just the personal law of my own character. But laws are laws because they simply are unlikely to be broken.

Sometimes, in an act of willful self-delusion, we imagine a world of total freedom, and total unpredictability. Anything can happen, we suppose. And while it’s true that anything is possible in some formal (read: impractical) sense, it’s also more or less true that the sky will be blue tomorrow, the Republicans will oppose the Democrats, I will not leave the Stanford campus for days and someone will be complaining about the Axe and Palm.

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