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Chores as an asset to life

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I am looking forward to washing dishes this summer. Actually, I am looking forward to grocery shopping, keeping the living room presentable and even making sure the toilet paper doesn’t run out. Though I joke about being born in the wrong decade (the ’50s may have been better suited for my homemaking aspirations), I think there’s more I’m looking forward to than simply keeping things in order.

True, these are chores. But imagine the exhilaration of responsibility.

No longer living at home, a self-defined schedule, freedom to choose classes, people and activities to spend time on — as high schoolers, Stanford offered us a promise of such autonomy. This was (and still is) an alluring prospect; after all, autonomy is a state most of us are taught to aspire to. It is what we associate with adulthood, with having your shit together, with fulfillment. However, it is naïve to think that Stanford truly grants us this full autonomy.

The Stanford Bubble is real, and it doesn’t only refer to the geographical separation of the campus from the rest of the “real world.” On campus, we are pampered. We rarely, if ever, need to clean up the spaces we use, prepare our own food, fix our own light fixtures. That is not to say we shouldn’t — we should be respectful of common spaces and (hopefully) know how to use the kitchenettes. But the University provides enough resources in terms of dining options, fix-it requests, wonderful staff and more that we are no longer required to take responsibility for doing certain mundane tasks ourselves.

This is partly to further other elements of the University’s promise to its students. If, most of the time, our day-to-day needs are met, then we have more independence in matters like friends, schoolwork or a job. We are to grow intellectually and socially in college, and this would be a more effective use of time than doing chores. I do think, however, that if the University purports to give us this selective autonomy, then it should do a better job — particularly when it comes to awareness, prevention of and response to mental illness.  Mental health is not a luxury. It should be considered a “day-to-day” necessity the University directs sufficient resources to, but that’s another story.

Though this selective autonomy can have clear benefits, it undeniably removes an important component from the equation of maturity. In the midst of such pampering, it can be difficult to develop a sense of self-sufficiency. Knowing how to cook something other than pasta, how to change a bike brake, how to remedy headaches and scrapes are small things, maybe, and not as strikingly conducive to intellectual development — but it is small things like these that ensure we are ready to go about life on our own.

If we can’t escape the Bubble, then, we should at least be aware of it. And perhaps not let ourselves get too comfortable.

Contact Axelle Marcantetti at axellem ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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