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Since we’re here to learn (ft. Stanford Marriage Pact)

Courtesy of Sarah Panzer

 

Courtesy of Sarah Panzer

I want to start this piece by transparently communicating my intent of writing it.

I am raising questions because I care about you. I speak in terms of “we” throughout this piece because a) I care about us, and b) I, too, am grappling with many of these questions myself.

Before I begin, an important disclaimer to reduce the number of qualifiers in this piece (I hear code is good for optimizing efficiency, and I’m a fan of efficiency):

while (words_remaining_in_this_piece > 0 ) {

all_statements_in_this_piece = my_personal_opinion;

}

So here it goes.

As students, our primary duty here is to learn. As of now, much of our focus on learning rests in thinking. We are willing to spend long nights solving p-sets. We are willing to watch lecture videos at the gym (or even the football games). We are more than willing to think. As human beings, while we are thinkers we are also meant to feel.

Here, we simply do not engage in as much feeling as thinking. How do I know this?

Ask someone how they feel. Chances are they answer:

“Fine” or “tired.”

It could be that all of us feel fine or tired all the time.

But many of us at this school not only speak more than one language but can also code in at least three. And we know how to share ideas, in writing or in discussion, so eloquently. Yet how do we only have the capability to describe feelings in just two words: fine or tired? What happened to all the other words we learned in kindergarten? Like sad, happy, angry, jealous, excited and confused?

We too often say that “it’s not a big deal” and it’s “just personal” when it comes to engaging with problems that have to do with how we feel. We are so open to talk about all the work we have yet to do and that one midterm that all of us “failed,” but when it comes to “personal” problems, we are hesitant to share. In fact, we proactively trivialize these problems with an “Oh, it’s nothing important; my classes are going fine, but I’m just dealing with some personal stuff.”

When did we let it be “just” personal stuff? When did we decide that our academic problems take precedence over our own personal feelings?

Courtesy of Sarah Panzer

We are people. Personal problems are the most raw, natural problems we experience as a person.

And at times when we do engage with feelings, we brush it off so easily:

“I don’t mean to cry, I’m just being emotional right now.” “It’s just a feeling. I don’t know for sure, but it’s just a feeling.”

If you are feeling emotions (which happens! Surprise!), yes, by definition, you are emotional. If you are hurt, you cry. No, you don’t know for sure — we don’t know anything for sure (this is the one thing that we perhaps do know for sure), there is always a risk to every decision — but your feeling is your feeling. It’s not “just” a feeling, it’s your feeling. And that matters.

Coming from the Midwest, I used to say that people in California don’t know what they’re talking about when they say they feel cold. I revisit that statement. If you feel cold, you are cold. It’s how you feel, and that matters.

Perhaps we do feel. But perhaps we are so scared to confess that we do. Or perhaps we’ve forgotten that it is okay to feel. Feeling, like thinking, also takes practice.

We endlessly joke about how Stanford students flake. The question is: What are we flaking on?

Courtesy of Sarah Panzer

I see people so easily spend long nights to finish papers and p-sets. When’s the last time you spent all night talking to someone?

I see people forsake their meals to study for an exam. And these meals are usually ones we planned on having with people. Alas, we have the dreaded “Let’s grab lunch.”

We’re not flakes. When it comes to papers, p-sets and exams that help us think like a Stanford student.

We’re flakes. When it comes to people that help us feel like a person.

 Courtesy of Sarah Panzer

We’re so gifted on this campus with such a wonderful community of people. We come with talents, perspectives and upbringings that are incredibly different from one another. And this environment, working in tandem with the point of life we are at — where we’re “growing up” and “figuring things out” — gifts us with the opportunity to question our own interests, beliefs and values.

 

This process, at times, comes at a cost. Sometimes, it is friendship. Sometimes, it is personal happiness. Sometimes, it is the occasional self-doubt that keeps you up at night.

But alas, these feelings also are a valid part of who we are as people. Before we are students, we are people — human beings that have the capability to think and feel.

And as students we are here to learn. And learning is not easy.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Panzer

I know the Stanford Marriage Pact is all in good humor — I participated in its inaugural year, so I get it. I didn’t do one this year because of the following:

I believe love comes before marriage. (Frank Sinatra does, too; he also says it’s like a horse and carriage).

Love is hard. Love takes work. But it’s worth it.

I don’t see why we think it is possible — let alone okay — to make this feeling, which perhaps is the most intense of all feelings, easier with an algorithm. I’m a big fan of optimizing efficiency (as noted in my disclaimer), but sometimes we confuse our desire to be “efficient” with complacency.

Since when were we so afraid of challenges? Since when did we settle for easy? Why are we so afraid to fail?

So what did I learn this quarter? A lot. Most importantly, I learned to love challenges. I learned to love feeling. I learned to love learning.

And with learning, there’s always room for growth.

Courtesy of Sarah Panzer

It is true that timing is everything. Perhaps this final week is a time where we do need to prioritize our roles as a “student” over all else. But that isn’t mutually exclusive with being ourselves: being human.

Again, all of the words in this piece comes with the intent of care for you. I’ve been focusing too much on thinking about truth – and how honesty in words matter – that I’ve forgotten why I feel so strongly about it. I care about words, because it is used for people. And people matter. You matter to me. I care about you. I care about us.

A person I care for told me I can’t make myself, but should let myself be kind.

I believe in us. And I want to help us be better. It won’t be easy, which is why I want to do this together.

Here’s to more growth for all of us! Sending my love your way.

 

Contact Inyoung Choi at ichoi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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