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Looking Up: It’s An Every Day Thing


As I write these words, with a sparkling glass of lemon and Pellegrino at a café off campus, I’m anticipating you reading them. Because by the time you do (presumably Wednesday), I should be feeling much less time-pressed than I do right now, what with all the familiar “important” deadlines front-loading my week. This past weekend I was maxing out on my productivity capacity, and the amount of completed work arising from my waking hours was through the roof. And, even with necessary stints of eight-hour nights of sleep (a full eight often makes me more tired), I was truly exhausted. I was exhausted…but not remotely unhappy. I wonder if this situation is more fortunate than I thought.

On Sunday, I took one of my closest friends to a favorite bakery of mine (The Prolific Oven—please try their chocolate mocha cake) that he’d never been to. We were eyeing the cookies, drinking coffee and talking about the exhaustion-depression phenomenon. And about how I ask so many of my friends if they’re happy and all I get is “I mean…” and hesitation. And about how for the past several quarters, my friend has felt so lost about what he’s doing here, even though he’s doing all of it, all at once, at breathtaking speed. I’ve been thinking a lot about the flawed idea that basic, everyday joy—the kind independent of what happens or doesn’t happen—is a necessary sacrifice for a hypothetical great post-Stanford future. I hardly hear it, but I see it on my classmates’ faces: much confusion. Some are driving themselves toward a future they aren’t sure is what they really want or is worth the current incurred cost of daily pleasure.

But I don’t consider the present-future relationship to be a trade-off thing. Feeling all right isn’t contingent on anything outside yourself, so if you currently don’t, you’re certainly not guaranteed to later. I have that strong conviction, because I’m here, living. And sometimes I study my butt off, but the quality of my every day is a much bigger deal. Shouldn’t it be?

To that end, while the best days have little to do with any day’s actual events, there are definitely some small, reliably fabulous things in my Stanford-related life that I simply must share. I hereby present it in list form. Take a piece of it—seriously! It’s an important list.

6:45 a.m. workout, then 7:30 yoga class.

Someone told me that for most, “early” means…TEN O’CLOCK. I don’t know what that feels like. But before you wave it away, briefly consider: The machines are gloriously free, the dumbbells are correctly placed, the mats are open seas of blue, and the weight machines have observed an entire sweat-free night. And with a grand, muscle-toning, hand-standing yoga finale? Namaste!

Breakfast dates.

One of my favorite things in the world. Actually, all meals of the day are optimal potential rendezvous with my friends. But it’s spectacular to start the day with someone who makes you smile. Meet at the dining hall, the Alumni Café (their $2.95 muesli is divine), Coupa by Green—it doesn’t matter. I’m a sentimental sucker for new beginnings (restarting my Pokemon GameBoy game was my favorite part, all 20-something times), and a good friend is good company for that.

Walking to class.

“It takes too much time,” right? Yes, that’s what happens when you slow down. The little-known fact is that the biking-walking difference is worlds apart. While walking, the rate of chance-encounters with people you haven’t seen in months shoots through the roof. It’s truly novel. I abandoned my bike last winter, when I found myself collapsing amid my 9-5 schedule, and also got to ditch the mental rush that accompanied it.

The second, open floor of the Bookstore.

Because have you ever looked UP? There is so much air up there! The slanted ceiling soars with streams of sheer fabric that brighten the entire space. I didn’t even notice them until I was café-blogging about it. Then, looking down, you have the greatest view of the huge, awe-struck tour groups that pour in all the time. Try studying up there. No outlets means limited laptop use, and it’s refreshing.

The cafes off campus.

I’m writing this all at Douce France, one of my favorite cafes in the area, chatting with a woman from the Netherlands (after handing her kids some penguin stickers I had on hand). You see, the best thing about adventuring off-campus is remembering the world out here that goes on and on, before, during and after our finals, deadlines and assignments. Despite the fact that most of us are driven for the benefit of the world, sometimes it’s a healthy benefit to each of us, personally, to remember we’re free to the world two minutes away, too.

Nina has a mental library full of even more great little things, and you’re welcome to it all! Meet up with her there at ninamc[email protected]