1/4/10

I'd Been Getting A Vibe of Discontent

By Robin Thomas

...from other students at Stanford, yet noticed that many people didn't seem to question why they felt that way, and so didn't talk about it. I have a hunch that the Silicon Valley-ness of Stanford contributes to an independent spirit that may keep students from being honest about their challenges, and so was interested to see what would arise if people were given the opportunity to talk about the untalked. So, I organized a simple meeting—a small group of people showed up in a room in Old Union and spent about an hour and a half talking about their personal lives. This is what we discovered:

We are not happy at Stanford. Maybe a more constructive way to phrase that is we don't feel fulfilled. In our discussion, it was repeatedly brought up that we worked so hard during high school to get to Stanford, and now that we're here, it's hard to find the same sense of motivation.

For some of us, it has been extremely difficult to develop sustainable, meaningful relationships with other students. Sharing in meaningful experiences, and sharing our feelings, often feels prohibitively uncomfortable. For some, it can feel as though one person has to make all the effort to develop and sustain a relationship.

For many of us, we try to find community through drinking, but any highs from alcohol are fleeting. Alcohol is an escape; it is far easier to pursue such a temporary escape than to deal with the thing from which you're escaping. It seems a great number of college students take the easy route.

For some others of us, we don't feel as though we're learning from our education. Rather, we're just passing tests and turning in assignments to earn a degree, to get a job, to make money, to retire, to finally do what we want to do sixty years from now when our knees are too bad to do it. It wouldn't be very motivational if college were "the best years of our lives," yet to feel so completely unmotivated is just as unfortunate. Our creative energies are being educated out of us, as classes teach us the "right ways" to enact change in the world, and funnel our inspiration into extremely specific specialties.

For some of us, we're pursued by feelings of guilt when we aren't embodying the hooray-Stanford-NSO-and-Admit-Weekend spirit. We worked hard to get the incredible opportunity to go to Stanford; it is difficult to be honest that it isn't everything it's cracked up to be to those who have placed so many expectations on us. It's hard to tell our families that life is hard, and we even find ourselves feeling guilty if we 'fess up to our friends on campus that we're having a bad day.

For some of us, we've been discouraged by how hard it is to find an organization to connect with on campus. The sheer magnitude of organizations can be overwhelming. The Silicon Valley inspires a sense that the independent start-up route is the way to go whenever a person has a feeling of initiative. As a result, we have infinite numbers of tutoring, environmental, and political action groups on campus, to name a few, all with more-or-less the same goal in mind, yet working separately. Imagine what could be accomplished with teamwork!

For me, these are the things that stood out. I would encourage you to add your own thoughts.

So how will we change the situation?

We will be honest with ourselves, and honest with each other. We'll talk about the things on our mind, and try to get the Stanford duck's legs out of the water. We will do things that are risky, scary, or outside of our comfort zones. I personally will hope to bring the myriad creative energies on campus together to synergistically bring about change in the world, teamworking together, and learning from each other.

Most of all, we'll care for ourselves and for each other, physically and mentally. When presented with the choice between something we "should" do and something that will make us happy, we'll go for the happiness. "Shoulds" are infinite, but happiness is beautiful because you have to be able to find it.

Take some time to smile and breathe.

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