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Musings on the syndrome of the duck


I have gone to Stanford for exactly a year now, and my report from the field indicates that the floating duck syndrome attributed to it is not a myth as I had hoped. It is real. Very, very real. Like, very syndrome-y. And as much as I hate it, I am a floating duck too. I want to look like everything’s dandy, because, well, who wants to look like an utter mess? Certainly not me! I want to seem well-adjusted. Heck, I want to look like a kid with a future in my pocket. Don’t we all? Don’t we all want to look like Stanford students? But that’s the issue, and I get it. See, I still have the vestigial organs from the kid I was in high school. The girl who did too many extracurriculars I didn’t love, who stressed way too much over a freaking B, who had no social life a) because I went to an all-girls school and b) because I was obsessed over that freaking future of mine. A lot of us, I suspect, were kids like me. Kids who put the future ahead of the present on their priority list, which is smart, but in other ways, stupid. Now that I’m at Stanford, you think I’d be over all that crap, right? And I am, in a lot of ways. But not all. The floating duck is my kind of vestigial organ. So to speak. Because that imagery is weird. It’s the mask I put on to tell myself, perhaps more than anyone else, that I got a future on my shoulders. Here I am at Stanford, surrounded by a bunch of kids who talk about the startup they’re making right NOW, or the internship they have this summer, or their plans to be famous or rich or successful that all feel so urgent, so impatiently desired … in a place like this, is there any patience for a future put off? The future is now — that is the status quo, and I’m into it. I’m going to wear my future on my face and suffer the present inside. Because that’s how I get by. By the promise of the future. And the problem with that, well … it’s easy to see. When you spend too much time grooming the future, you make the present unloved and shameful … and I realize now, all too helplessly, that the present I am burying will someday turn into that glossy dream of the future, except that in truth, that glossy future will be nothing more than the offspring of my crappy, neglected present.

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