Sam had a lot of time to himself over the summer, and it made him quite reflective about life, liberty and … he can’t remember the third. Join him as he attempts to process his new chapter of being a big, bad (almost) upperclassman: starting with flake culture.
So … um … about last February.
I promised to take you “Out and About.” I promised to show you “The final frontier: the outside world. Or at least, a portion of it.” I promised to take you on a linguistic adventure only rivaled by semantic journeys, to —
I’m sorry, what was that? You never did read my one single contribution to The Stanford Daily? Okay, that’s fine.
To cut to the chase, yes, I joined The Grind last February. I told two lovely editors and a collection of similarly bright-eyed frosh that, “Oh yeah, I can definitely write a piece every two weeks!” Hell, I thought I could write four pieces without even breaking the lightest of sweats. So I wrote one piece (which I was told was quite a hit with some students’ parents), promised one that I called “an extravaganza of karaoke” (which required seeking executive approval to even approach it), and then proceeded to do what every Stanford student does every 47 seconds: I ghosted these people like they were carrying more red flags than a communist.
Do I feel bad? Well, yes and no. Of course, I feel bad, because I made a commitment. I made my bed, and shouldn’t I have laid in it? Or at least even reclined? Shock of all shocks, The Daily (and The Grind) went on with my absence, and I would say that most clubs here are unsurprised when a member has to dramatically announce to their comrades, co-heads and God(s) that no, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can do this. It’s not you; it’s me (and my unit count). Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel like a total piece of fecal matter every time I don’t complete something that I promised, whether that be a Grind piece, a chore for my family, or the smallest of errands for a friend.
I don’t say this to sound overdramatic, or insulting, but it’s weird to think about how easily Stanford students drop commitments. What’s the term these days, “flaking?” Or is it “ghosting?” No, these aren’t rhetorical questions (they’re written ones!), I genuinely don’t know. Nor do I think I cared about the difference when it took me three weeks to schedule dinner with someone at the beginning of spring quarter last year because our schedules just kept getting messy; or when my two-week hiatus from the Chaparral became a four-week break; or when I realized that I was 25 minutes late to a study session I had helped schedule at Ricker, only for my friend to walk through the door about an hour later; or when, or when … yeah, you get it. I guess it’s normal for college students to, shall we say, overcommit. Oh yeah, 20 units, no problem. Screw it, add a job to that? Um, yes, please. Engage in a beautiful, months-long romantic relationship on top of all that with not just that special someone, but your dorm room neighbor, only to watch it blow up and make you realize the truly beautiful suffering that is the human experience and sharing it with someone (unless, of course, that person is a upperclassman, RA or both)? Hell yeah!
We are all guilty of saying we’ll do something and then failing to do so. Bonds, promises and commitments are as easily made as they are broken. Yet I feel that we forget the impact of not following through on something. The extra work your friend will have to do. The time out of the day someone made just to spend time with you. Economists call it the opportunity costs, I call it the wouldas, couldas and shouldas: the valuable things that others give up to give you their full attention do not come back like plants, or old fashion styles. They’re gone, and it is something that we should naturally feel apologetic for.
But I can’t help but think about the need to sometimes break your rules. To try new things means to try out a passion. You are learning more about yourself, what you want, and like, and feel. So if you said you would join a group, only to watch that dream of yourself becoming a new person crash and burn before your small, naïve little eyes, then don’t feel bad if it’s because you don’t have the passion for it. The great thing about Stanford is that everyone has such varied interests. So if you don’t want it, be a good little participant in the free market of activities and let someone who wants it more take advantage of that opportunity.
And to quote the old adage, life is what happens when you’re busy planning your McKinsey internship. I try to make a conscious effort to calendar/schedule my events, but let’s be honest: we all wish we could make life a highly planned symphony. At its best, our schedules are a coordinated jazz orchestration that never sounds the same twice but has some semblance of structure. At its worst (and most normal), it’s an experimental slugfest of percussion and melodica that you have absolutely no freaking idea what’s coming next, let alone where you are, what you want and why the guy next to you smells like skunk. Wait … not skunk. That’s pot. Definitely pot.
Like Thanos, it is inevitable that you will have to say you’re not going to be able to make something, or miss a deadline, or a date, or an event. Of course, you don’t want to do this all the time (there is a level at which you just become a schmuck), but I think we all find times when we have to cut ourselves some slack. A lot can happen in a short amount of time, so to never be flexible enough to change your plans, to reschedule or to just never get an extension means to never allow yourself the best opportunity to respond to life’s uncertainties. And isn’t a lot of our time spent adapting to unforeseen events?
But, I have one huge, big, massive, super-ultra-mega caveat to this all. Family. Friends. Partners. These are the people that, I believe, you can choose. But they, too, can choose you. So whatever you do, remember this: with those you love and who love you, the thing that matters is not blood or fancy words. It’s being there when it counts. It’s showing up when it matters. It’s getting the phone call at 2 a.m. to help someone and being at their side by 2:30 a.m. It’s letting your actions speak louder than your words, it’s supporting them in the ways they never knew they needed help. And it’s fighting for them, no matter what, because you know they’d do the same for you. Trust takes years to build and seconds to destroy. And to ensure that you never break it, but continue to grow and build that bond together, always do what you can for those you care about. Because if you don’t do it for them, I will ask you one last thing: who do you expect to do it for you?
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