Opinion | Jan. 21 10:42 am EST
Tamkin

Don’t mind the life of mind

cindiann / flickr

I am going to begin by saying what I have tried not to say (or write, or think) for the past several days: This was my last first week of classes. I spent more time than I would have liked trying to think about what that meant. And it was in that mindset that I came across Derek Turner’s recent post on life of mind.

In this post, Derek (very eloquently) poses the question:

“Why is it that we don’t spend more time planning our post-graduation lifestyles beyond our employment? Think back to the last big life-change you orchestrated—going to college. Remember thinking obsessively about what clubs you might join, what your personal schedule might look like, and how you would reprioritize your life? Well, why aren’t we doing that for our lives after graduation?”

With all due respect to Derek, I am going to have to (not quite as eloquently) disagree.

In one sense, he’s right: I did spend a ton of time planning my collegiate lifestyle before I’d ever reached it. I did obsess over clubs and classes and who I was going to be. I planned everything out—I was going to try out for Mock Trial, to be the most diplomatic delegate in Model UN, to double major in history and political science, and to study abroad in Paris. I was going to be the sort of person I thought should be going to Columbia.

I never did try out for Mock Trial. Or Model UN. I joined the newspaper on a whim and followed where its newsprint path might lead. I majored in Russian Literature & Culture and studied in Petersburg. I have no idea if I’m the sort of person who should be here. I do know, however, that I’m a person who does. And that I probably would have been much happier at the beginning of college if I had taken that attitude. And I will probably be much happier post-graduation if I try to take it now.

It is, of course, worthy to strive toward a life of mind. But, in much the same way that, though we need to go out and try to find jobs, we cannot go and plan out our entire careers, we can not—and, I would argue, should not—go out and try to be certain people. We should just be after we graduate.

And before, too.

Emily Tamkin is a Columbia College senior. She is a former Spec editorial page editor. There is a gym above her dorm room, and its thumping treadmills are, unfortunately for this qualine, all she can think about right now.

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COMMENTS (8)

  1. Leila • January 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm • Reply

    A wonderful post on carpe diem. Thanks.

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  2. Columbian • January 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm • Reply

    Although I do agree with much of this post, I truly admire those who choose not to embrace mediocrity and still run after all of these goals and ambitions.

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    • alum • January 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm • Reply

      embrace mediocrity? seriously? kid, you overestimate yourself and your value to this world.

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      • Columbian • January 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm •

        It’s very easy to believe that being ambitious is overestimating. Well, maybe the world needs people who overestimate themselves. There are truly exceptional people who actually shape the world. I am certainly not saying I am one of those people – which is why I said I agreed with much of this post – but I refuse to cherish mediocrity just because carpe diem makes me feel good.

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      • alum • January 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm •

        mediocrity is a matter of perspective. yes, we should all strive towards high ambitions in life but for a kid who comes from a poor working-class background, that might just mean earning a lot of money as a ‘corporate slave’. or for that girl who has dreamed of being a singer who isn’t very good at it but still decides to pursue that dream. none of these people are going to ‘shape the world’ or ‘change the world’ but that doesn’t mean they are mediocre. mediocrity is a matter of perspective and circumstances. live a happy healthy life that is true to YOUR goals and values and not others. but don’t call others mediocre because they didnt become a hi-flying diplomat or social worker.

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  3. DFT • January 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm • Reply

    ET, you’re the best! I definitely agree with your post – my college experience has been largely similar to that reality. I guess I should have clarified my post more – my main concern is being cognizant of one’s priorities in life after college. Much like you had the priority of being active in student life on campus (even though the details changed), I think it’s important for us to think about what we consider our top priorities as we enter a life that may not sustain as much breadth of activity as at Columbia.

    I give for my Columbia moment.

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    • ET • January 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm • Reply

      DFT, you’re the better best, and there is much to be admired about both your post and your mentality.

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      • ABCDEFG • January 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm •

        I am the best and everyone should admire me!!!!!

        Nice post though!

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