A Wash. U. reality check

Mariana Oliver | Op-Ed Submission

If we were to calculate our age by the amount of stress we endure as Wash. U. students, how old would we really be? I ask this because I often forget that I go to school with people who are (at most) only 23 years old. We walk around attached to our cell phones or BlackBerrys, and even when we are with friends, we are obsessively checking our e-mails. Who knew we were so important?

Between all of your planning and organizing and leading and, oh yeah, classes, when was the last time you took the time to sit down and really talk to someone? By this I mean that you had a conversation without once checking your cell phone, watch or e-mail.

We got into this school because we are driven and motivated and, as a friend once put it, always looking ahead instead of around. But at what point does this self-driven motivation become unhealthy? I can’t remember the last time I took the time to ask someone what his or her interests were. The questions here always involve what we do rather than who we are—oftentimes, the first question we hear from a new acquaintance is, “What’s your major?”

Unfortunately—or fortunately, perhaps—our majors cannot neatly summarize our passions. We all have way too many interests—interests that don’t always fit neatly into our coursework. Making and revising my own versions of AFI’s top films is not a major, and yet it is an activity that I genuinely enjoy. I was very taken aback the other day when, standing in line to get food, a friend asked me what I wanted to do. At first I didn’t understand the question, and thought he was asking about my schedule for next semester. But that wasn’t the case: He was referring to what I was actually interested in. Perhaps we don’t create enough opportunities to have those sorts of conversations—the kinds of conversations that address our real interests as opposed to those regarding classes we feel ambivalence toward and often disdain toward by mid-semester.

Beyond being so busy that we have put time limits on our conversations, many of us have also—possibly without being aware of it—given up certain hobbies that played a significant role in our lives before college. The examples are endless, from playing Frisbee golf to cooking to attending mass. I find that as I go through college I create less time and more excuses for why I can’t sit down and watch a movie for fun, or pick up my guitar (which is probably horribly out of tune) and play a few chords.

Eduardo Galeano, author of “The Open Veins of Latin America,” pinpoints this sentiment when he says, “I love these places where we may have time to lose time. It is a luxury in this world.” Perhaps “these places” seem so rare only because we choose not to priortize them; we have somehow forgotten how necessary and even healthy it is to make some time for those things we have deemed luxuries.

The education we are getting at Wash. U. is phenomenal, and I feel very lucky to be here, but at the same time I want to be reminded of reality every once in a while—a reality that is not all about grades. We don’t necessarily have to create or join a club in order to do the things we like: sometimes a lack of structure or organization can be a breath of fresh air when the way we lead life at school is all about self-imposed order.

Mariana is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at oliver.mariana89@gmail.com.