I’ve heard the words “I wish I would have” uttered far too frequently during my time at Stanford. Quite honestly, that is the saddest combination of words in the English dictionary. Too many students graduate Stanford with regrets or graduate with the realization that they let four years of college — the best four years of their lives! — slip by in a whirlwind of psets and papers, midterms and meetings that all blend together into a cacophony of meaningless sound and fury.
Please note that this is not coming from a nostalgic senior trying to impart some advice on those students who still have time to do college right. This comes from a junior who actually did figure out her priorities before it was too late and has decided to live her time at Stanford according to her own desires and what she wants to do and not according to what she should do.
This year I had a refreshing change in thinking from “What is that person doing? I should be doing more. Why aren’t I doing more? How does that person do it? Why can’t I?” — I think it’s safe to say that every Stanford student has experienced some version of that train of thought — to “What is it that I want out of my time at Stanford? What is going to make me happy? I’m going to do what makes me happy and successful, even if it’s slightly irresponsible.”
What directed this change of heart and way of life? Sports and country music. Seriously. I’ll start by explaining the country part because that’s a little more straightforward and also a tad bit more trivial.
Have you ever really listened to some of the lyrics in country songs? They’re lessons on how to live your life and a direct message to Stanford students that it’s ok to take a break and reflect. Swing by Sigma Chi’s Country Tuesdays and you’ll hear some words of wisdom coming from the speakers: “Everybody chasing something/ I don’t know why they’re running” (Kristian Bush) or “I’m in a hurry to get things done/ Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun” (Alabama). As silly as it may seem, embracing what these two artists have to say into just a small part of your existence will make it a much happier and hopefully less stressful one.
And now the part that actually is relevant to a sports column. The second reason for my change of heart and slightly bohemian mindset in life is Stanford sports.
My time as Managing Editor of Sports for The Stanford Daily, as stressful and exhausting as it was at (most) times, led me to the realization that I can only do so much. Although I may want to keep up with the rest of my peers at Stanford and emulate the amazing things that they do, I am only one person and what I do should excite me and inspire me, not frustrate me and cause me stress. It was during a particularly late night at The Daily, when articles were in late, I had a midterm the next day and my editor was MIA that I paused, took a deep breath and made the decision to simply let the stress fade away. “All you can do is all you can do. But all you can do is enough” (Art Williams) became my mantra and the job of sports ME became a lot more enjoyable and less stressful.
If I hadn’t had that realization and recommitted myself to making the Volume 246 sports section the best it’s ever been I would not have cultivated meaningful relationships within the Athletics Department and developed the section and writers as successfully as I had wanted to. I would not have realized that this job is fun and that no matter how unorthodox it might be or how much my school work suffers because of it, I want to pursue a career in sports and want my Stanford career to be shaped by my involvement in The Daily. Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon once said, “sports is the toy department of life.” Nowadays sports are a lot more than just entertainment. It provides a career not just for the athletes that play the sports but also for countless other individuals that work in the sports industry. It’s a rare industry in which a passion can become a profession.
All of my professional contacts and mentors at Stanford are through Stanford athletics. All of the life lessons and real world experiences that I’ve had at Stanford have been through Stanford sports. It’s safe to say that I’ve found my niche at Stanford, something that not everyone who graduates from here can say. Because I stopped worrying about what everyone else at Stanford was accomplishing I was able to justify spending so much time forgoing classwork to better The Daily and spend time in the Stanford Athletics offices.
I’ve mentioned before in columns that I used to be a USC football fan before I saw the light. But strangely enough, I might not be writing this column or even working for The Daily if it weren’t for my Dad giving me a USC football notebook at the age of eight. Since I couldn’t attend the away games, I would watch them on TV with my dad and I would write down a play by play account of everything that happened in the game. I did this for about three years until my blossoming flair for sports journalism subsided. When I started writing in that book I didn’t know where it would end up, but I knew that it was fun. Now, I sit here ready to move on from my stint as Managing Editor of Sports and become Executive Editor, delving even deeper into the world of journalism outside of “the toy department”.
It’s hard to justify at times prioritizing The Daily over schoolwork and I struggle with balancing the two constantly. But I made the decision that my time at Stanford would be filled with more satisfaction and less “I wish I would haves”. My change in mindset may no longer motivate me to stretch myself thin and work myself into a panic attack (this is a good thing), but what it has allowed me to do is to engage in a culture that is energizing and exciting and adds life to my time at Stanford. I encourage everyone to adopt some semblance of this mindset, because “there ain’t nothing wrong with being irresponsible” (Curtis Grimes).
On behalf of all the editors and readers, we’re gonna miss you Ashley, even if we don’t share your love of country music. Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu