Don’t mind the life of mind
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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