Like many other Stanford students, once you get me started, I have a strong opinion about many things. Yet, in everyday life, there are several questions to which my answer can be unexpectedly impartial. What do you feel like eating? Which movie do you want to see? What do you want to do now? Any of the above. No preference. I don’t know, and I don’t care.
During the last week, I had one of those glorious spring-quarter days that reminded me all over again why I love being at Stanford. The sky shone a brilliant blue, I felt myself surrounded by great people, I biked across campus after class feeling exuberant about what I had learned and what I had yet to do. Why would I ever want to leave this place?
I’m going to begin this column with a confession. Since coming to Stanford, I think that only a handful of days have gone by in which I haven’t talked to some member of my family. Okay, so from my standpoint that wasn’t a confession. It was more of a declaration of fact. Simply put, my family is important to me — yet I’ve traveled through my time at Stanford observing a range of complex attitudes that college students can have toward their families, particularly parents or parental units.
A week ago, I had an experience that raised fresh questions for me about the digitally interconnected nature of the Stanford campus. One of my classes required some collaboration for a group project, and the night before an assignment was due, one of my peers proposed that we all meet to discuss logistics — but via Gchat, not in person.
Despite my slight panic at being a senior next year, entering the Draw this spring made me bask in a newfound sense of complacency over having found my rhythm at Stanford. I was finally drawing tier one; I finally knew the lay of the land on campus, and my days of confused shuffling in and out of freshman draw groups seemed but a distant memory. But in truth, every year at Stanford brings its own new situation that presses us to keep meeting new people and new challenges regardless of how settled we feel.
It’s impossible to give 100 percent to every task, 100 percent of the time. For me, this truth begins to sink in around the middle of each quarter. As a perfectionist and as someone who has a difficult time saying no (two descriptors that I suspect apply to many other Stanford students), my inability to put in a top effort, every time, for everything I do, sometimes distresses me. The math itself is distressing enough: say 65 percent of my time and energy go toward being a full-time student, but my extracurriculars would like as much as 40 percent and my friends at least 20 percent. And then factor in internships and future planning and random tasks, plus the nagging feeling that it’s never enough, that I should be doing more — wait, where does that leave any time for me? We’re already over 100 percent, and the last time I checked, no amount of idealism can counteract the fact that time machines don’t exist.
At one point or another during my time at Stanford, I attended one of those assemblies in which the speaker attempted to break the ice by having students self-identify with a number of questions. Are you from the U.S. or overseas? Did you go to a public or a private high school? Are you a techie or a fuzzy? I’m sure that his only purpose was to exhibit the diversity of Stanford students, but this last one made me recoil.
To what extent is college cliquey? In the best of worlds, I think we’d all like to believe that it isn’t. We’d rather ignore the strange pull that the group mentality can have over our social lives, influencing us to linger in surface-level conversation and to puzzle over the dynamics that exist between our different sets of friends. I know that, from a personal standpoint, I first arrived on campus sighing in relief to be free of the social hordes that had characterized my high-school days. I anticipated college as the kind of place that would enable me to mingle with more different types of people, but on my own terms.