“You can’t tell anyone what to value.”

https://www.lifeadvancer.com/traits-open-minded-people/
The economics teacher at my high school, who I only knew through his role as my assistant basketball coach, said this to me and it has stuck with me ever since. Thinking about it in terms of majors, it means that we shouldn’t denounce someone for choosing to major in Econ and “selling their soul to Wall Street” so that they can make a lot of money. It also means that we shouldn’t disparage someone for “taking easy classes” and going into education where they’ll make significantly less money. Different people value different things because of: How they were raised
  • How they define success
  • Their personality
  • Their experiences
  • And other very personal, very variable things
The only thing we can hope is that everyone is OPEN to their values changing. What does this mean? It means being open to: DISCUSSION
  • CONVERSATION
  • DISCOURSE
  • DIALOGUE
  • EXCHANGE
  • THE SYNONYMS GO ON for what is 2+ people sitting around a table talking and listening
with people who have different values from their own (which is, hint, everyone…it’s just a matter of how different) This discussion will never happen if we put our heads down and move through college like it’s just the next wrung of a ladder, the means to an end, a diploma-pumping machine (insert another tired cliche here if you please). If you wanted to do that, you should have just taken college online because it would have been a lot cheaper. “Oh, but it’s not as prestigious and I’d get lonely,” you say. Well, maybe that loneliness and that hunger to be pushed beyond the material would make you appreciate and take advantage of the prestige and tight-knit community of a place like Williams. Maybe a taste of online education should be a pre-req for admittance. The point of a college having a campus is to give the bright, hopefully unjaded 18-22ish year-olds a place to talk about and debate what makes life worth living and how to go about living life that way. The thing is: we’re probably not going to get this straight from a class…or at least not from the limited number of classes we’re able to take. That’s why we need to talk and reflect with our peers. To hear about the classes we’re not in. To hear about the lives we’re not leading. And to check and see if what we think is valuable actually is. Doing so will allow us to value and get value out of this fine education.

Liberal Arts

Division III knows the world is made of numbers.

Division II knows the world is made of ideas.

Division I knows the world is made of stories.

And they are all correct. The great privilege of a liberal arts education is being able to learn what all of these different ways of looking at the world have to offer. We can explore around and between the regions of human experience and knowledge that are often sharply divided and forcibly separated.

“Depth and Breadth” is the slogan that’s often used. Depth is fantastically challenging and rewarding. Depth is when you travel to the frontiers of human knowledge, and join the noble quest to expand them further, to map new territory and bring back the treasures you discover. However, I’ve been even more gratified so far by what I’ve gotten from Breadth. For Breadth is (to carry on the metaphor) a weaving, winding, wandering journey through the very heartlands of humanity. With Breadth you strive not to the frontiers and fringes of knowledge, but towards the center, the hub around which the great mental landscape revolves. This turns out to also be a difficult journey, though for different reasons, and is one that is arguably even more valuable than that of Depth.

Anyway, I’m writing this post to remind myself that, despite how difficult or trivial our journeys through academia might sometimes seem, it’s absolutely worthwhile for the discoveries that will be made, and for the people that we will become in the process.

The Fluffy Foxes and the Yellow Ducks

Today as I was walking into Sawyer, I saw a young kid (probably 6 or 7) using one of the computers and managed to catch a glimpse of their screen. On it was a short paragraph with the title “The Fluffy Foxes and the Yellow Ducks,” and they were smiling while they read it. Remember when all we had to do was write about our furry friends just for the fun? Well neither do I — except I guess I kind of just did.

Why I Make My Bed Every Day

If you ever walk into my room, I can guarantee one thing: my bed will be made. That’s because every morning since I’ve been here, I’ve made my bed as perfectly as I can. You might say I’m a little obsessive over the details of such a trivial task, but I don’t do it just for the sake of having a nicely made bed at night. I take such great care each day for a few reasons.

First, it’s the first concrete task that I can accomplish during the day. And if I start with one thing done before I even step outside, I can add another task completed, and another, and another all throughout the day.

Second, I know it’s probably the one area of my life that I  have total and complete control over. There’s no one else who will tell me I’m doing it wrong or that I have to do it a certain way — I’m completely in control without relying on anyone else.

Third and finally, if all else fails and I am not able to control my day or finish as many tasks as I would’ve liked, at least I’ll have a nicely made bed to fall into when I get home.

Date My Friend

I found myself at the event-of-the-school-year known as “Date My Friend” serendipitously. My friend invited me to Pub Night to celebrate Galentine’s Day. I expected to have a great convo about the perks of being single while we stuffed our faces with garlic knots and studied the upperclassmen as they sipped their college-provided beer. I didn’t expect to get an hour’s worth of entertainment that doubled as a psych-lover’s wet dream.

Roughly 100 people (who knows) crammed into one of the Dodd dining rooms to watch PowerPoints given by friends about friends and why they’d make a great girlfriend/boyfriend. Some big ticket items included height, intelligence (“5 classes every semester…crazy?…crazy smart!”), sexiness, kindness (as indicated by relationship status with mom), success as a child, pet preference, and other miscellaneous interests (gaming, nature, 🍑s) that could mean instant bonding..or deal breaking.

I wonder how many people actually get hit up on one of their myriad contact mediums that are flashed before us at the end for a split second (“LinkedIn…for business inquiries only”). I also wonder how many of the spectators are on the market or if they’re happily cuffed folks there for a laugh and a comforting “whew, thank god I’m not having to puff my chest and put on my best good-humored face as my friend shows off sides/snaps of myself to strangers.” Huge props to those who agreed to be auctioned off in this way and especially to those who stood to the side of their friend like a pig at the 4-H spring show, vulnerable to the eyes of bidders, fearful of what the next chapter will hold, yet fat with love for the country kid who helped them grow to be the quirky boar they are today.

I hope everyone can find love (or lust if you’re like my brother who thinks it takes two years for two people to truly love each other [red Wiki coloring]) at least once during their time at Williams. I’d like to know the success rate of “Date My Friend,” looking at metrics like the number of social media requests, DM slides, irl dates, hookups, and marriages that come out of it. In this world of conflicting advice about love, it seems to take on a modification of the “shoot your shot” approach: it’s a friend holding them up on their shoulders while they t-shirt cannon enough shirts for every fan in the stadium, hoping someone will like the color and try it on.

What Would You Do If You Only Had 5?

What would you do if you only had 5 seconds left to live? Would you pray? Apologize? Cry?

Now what if you had 5 minutes? What would you do then? Personally, I think I would call my family and tell them I love them, but that’s just me.

What if we had 5 hours left? This is the one I struggled with most. Do I try and get home to see my family? Do I go on a hike and see the sunset one more time? There’s just enough time to do something, but still not enough.

What if we had 5 weeks? 5 months? Enough time to do a whole multitude of things before the end, but all with the voice in the back of my mind telling me that the clock is counting down.

The one constant in all of these, for me at least, is that I would want to spend whatever time I have left with others that I care about. Forget p-sets and readings and sports and petty disagreements — none of that would matter.

So, with that in mind, I have just one more question: if you only had 5 more decades to live, how would you spend it?

Opportunity

Today, the Opportunity rover on Mars was officially declared dead. This May, a massive dust storm hit Mars and blocked the sunlight from reaching Oppy, who ran on solar power. This rendered her unable to function, and after sending out over 1,000 unanswered messages, her team at NASA has officially declared today the end of her mission. We leave her alone in space today, her purpose served. Maybe someday, when a manned craft finally reaches Mars, we can return Oppy to Earth, to a human race who is thankful for her service and the knowledge she has provided to us. Until then, I feel strangely sad for the end of this inanimate object. She has gone cold, existing without instruction in the vast expanse of space. Goodnight Oppy — hopefully, we will someday be able to bring you home.

Impostor Syndrome

I often wonder how many students at Williams suffer from Impostor Syndrome, AKA feeling like you somehow aren’t smart enough or qualified enough to be here. I would venture to guess that a lot of Williams students feel, or have felt that way at some point during their time here. What about the college’s culture and environment creates and perpetuates these feelings? Maybe we all take ourselves too seriously? Maybe we have nothing to do with it, but rather it is born from increasing societal/ capitalistic pressures? I have no answers or nuanced perspectives, but I do wish all of us Ephs would be more open to talking about the reality and plight of impostor syndrome here on campus and beyond.

Making a Place Your Home

“It all seems so very arbitrary. I applied for a job at this company because they were hiring. I took a desk at the back because it was empty. But, no matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.”- Creed Bratton, The Office

This is a really cool quote that I think encapsulates some of what I’ve been thinking about lately. A couple days ago, as we were sitting on the stage in Goodrich eating free food, Grace mentioned just how much these places were really starting to feel like home. I realized I felt that too; places like the fourth floor of Sawyer, the common rooms in Frosh Quad and mission, and Goodrich– places that were at one point so strikingly foreign– now were so familiar to me that I could barely remember a time when they weren’t a part of my life. It’s so crazy that all 2,061 (I think??) of us somehow ended up here in the middle of the Berkshires– for some of us, maybe going to Williams was always part of our plan, but for others maybe it was just a twist of fate or something they never expected. No matter the reasoning or decisions we made along the way, we’ve all ended up here, and are all somehow living and growing and learning in these spaces. For a lot of us, times spent here can be some of the happiest but also the most difficult and trying of our lives. But isn’t that so cool how humans work? No matter where we go– whether it’s a paper company or summer camp or Williams College– these places and these people that were once thousands of miles away and completely irrelevant to our lives somehow become huge parts not only of our daily routine but of who we are. When we let them, they end up changing us and inspiring us and ultimately shaping the course of the rest of our lives. So even though I can’t predict now what kind of person I’ll be at the end of my next three years in Williamstown, Massachusetts, I’m so glad (and lucky!) to be able to call this place and these people home.

Going to Shabbat For the First Time…

As someone who went to Catholic school K-8 grades, I’ve only ever been to one bat mitzvah in my time (and it was for my high school friend who went rogue and had hers at 15). So walking into the Shabbat service halfway through felt a little like stepping foot in a different country. I luckily found my friend Avivah, who greeted me with a warm smile and patted down on the open chair next to her. Rachel, one of the student JRC leaders, had to get up and hand me a prayer book because, like an amateur, I didn’t know that I was supposed to have one (let alone that it is a crucial part of the service..unless of course you know everything by heart, which was everyone, in which case the book is just for decoration). The pages flipped backwards and almost all of it was in Hebrew, a language so intriguing and ear-filling that I couldn’t actually process the English translation. But that didn’t stop me from burying my face in the book, flipping to all the right pages, and straining my few remaining brain cells that somehow survived the shock of the first week back to act like I was following along. No way was I going to be the sore thumb in the 20 person group who didn’t sing and who also stared at everyone while they sung. After botching up the knee bow and some more singing (which I was informed is actually “chanting”), the service ended and we filed into the brightly lit room where roughly 40-50 other people cheerfully awaited Shabbat dinner. I wanted to go to the service because 1) I was curious and wanted to experience it but 2) because I didn’t want to be that one moocher who comes just for the warm meal…little did I know.

After a welcome and another prayer, everyone took seats at beautifully set tables with family-style dishes. Although we didn’t get any special priority for attending the service and had to wait to be seated at an overflow table with paper plates, I wasn’t complaining: there was plenty of food (two cauldron-sized pots proudly bubbled on their own little table) and all of it smelled of spice…something I didn’t realize how much I missed until I swallowed boatfuls of curry at once and cried pathetic tears, mourning my lost tolerance from too much Mission dining. Someone announced that there was a green curry made especially for those people allergic to coconut. That’s an allergy? Talk about considerate. Everyone chatted about common Williams experiences and things that made them them because we were all pretty much strangers. It brought me back to First Days and how anyone just sat with anyone at meals and how always wowed I was by the high IQs and EQs of practically all the people I was meeting. I felt so lucky to be one of the 2000. Putting away my plate and looking around the room, that’s how I felt at Shabbat and how I imagine most people feel if not each time, at least their first time: grateful for being so well taken care of for very little reason at all, besides that they showed up. And even if I don’t “buy” the religion (as I don’t as much with my Catholic faith either anymore), I so value and appreciate most religion’s skill at bringing people together and making them feel accepted and at peace. I guess they’ve had a lot of years of practice; it pays off. 

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