In my experience, the longer one spends at Stanford, the flakier one gets. Maybe the correlation arises because we get busier, dealing with real-life concerns like too many darn internships to apply to and a p-set we should have started four days ago. Maybe we do it because, hey, this person flaked on me once, and morality is relative, so I can flake on them. So we can just shoot the subject of flakery a quick text (So sorry but … ) and get back to the grind, supposedly.
Yet flaking seems endemic of a larger cultural problem. Like most things that inspire memes, there is sad social truth in the flaking at Stanford. The dubiousness of chronic cancellation can be veiled by the brevity of a label like “flaking.” It’s evocative of French pastry, after all. But when it comes down to it, flaking here is often about unhealthy over-commitment and individualism.
In terms of over-commitment, I won’t say too much besides this: If you are in everything, you cannot be present for everything. Also, we are not invincible.
Individualistic flaking is where things get interesting. Herein, our practice of unfailing flaking is a reminder that, although we’re all self-realizing on one sandstone-oasis of a campus, as members of some sort of community, we can fail to regard ourselves as a collective.
Students here are all on their own mini-journeys from class to class, from club to club, from coffee joint to coffee joint. No two people have the same schedule because we’re on individuated paths, trying to elicit from this university the resources we need to get to our desired destination, whether that be a job or fellowship or some intellectual nirvana, before the curtain falls, and we’re chucked into the real world.
To be fair, there’s something romantic about how we carve our way through university. Part of it is that we’re so darn free, at least at first, to decide what we’ll study, where we’ll do research and which organizations we’ll “commit” to. We decide quasi-autonomously which people will surround us as we construct something resembling a robust personality, or at the very least, a robust resumé, during these four years.
However, what happens when our potentially lifelong friend does not take precedence over that p-set due on Thursday? What happens when a dorm outing — and the insane amounts of money (think thousands of dollars) it costs our staff to organize it — goes to hell because of midterm prep? What happens when we ghost a club we joined because it no longer fulfills our personal plan — do we owe nothing to people simply because our commitment was voluntary, never mandated?
When I came to Stanford, I had braced myself for classmates who worked hard and put in the time for school — I was excited
Contact Megha Parwani at mparwani ‘at’ stanford.edu.