Often, I’ve sat staring at my course packet or problem set and wondered: “What am I doing?” Not in the sense of what my assignment is about – though I am often lost on that topic as well. The thing I question is why any of us is doing what we do on a daily basis. I’m not just talking about college assignments, though those form a part of the answer. I’m not talking about social life or political views or genetics or hobbies. I’m asking, “Why? Is my life goal to be ‘successful’? What does that mean? Is my goal to have fun, make change, or just to survive?” There are no answers to these questions, and I know that’s a cop-out, but it’s true. What am I doing?
Some people grow up knowing they want to be a marine biologist. They read books about sharks in elementary school, they chose the ocean for their eighth grade research paper and they know they want to explore Williams Mystic. A person like that may “know what they are doing” in colloquial terms, but do they? Questioning this is not disparagement, but rather a perhaps nihilistic curiosity. Do you need a life plan to know what you are doing? Or can you just wing it?
Another related question is, “What am I doing here?” I’ll zoom in on something extremely relevant to everyone at the College: our education. Education is said to be the building block of a human life. Without it, most people would be left struggling in the dust. It is the remedy to social ills, the fix to our problems. Thus, education is a centerpiece of the answer to the question. What are we doing with our education?
Do we attend college so that we can get a job to support ourselves? Some people would say so, though perhaps not the faculty here. This isn’t a cynical view – it’s a realistic view. Many of us claim to be here in the name of “education and learning,” and I’m sure plenty of us put it on our applications, but there’s a larger goal all of us should hope to attain: a job. Like it or not, we all need money just to live. Not everyone will turn into a financial consultant or a banker at Goldman Sachs, but jobs of all stripes are what make the world economy, and thus ourselves, go round. Everyone’s been there: There is definitely some sense of getting a “good education” here for future job prospects. However, there is another side to this question.
Do we instead walk these hallowed halls to focus strictly on learning? Not everything should be so career-focused. The College is a place for widening our horizons, for broadening our base. Where else can you study art history, cognitive science, gender studies and linear algebra at the same time? We come to learn about anything and everything, to sharpen critical thinking skills and practice our arguments in the form of theses. We involve ourselves with athletics and student groups, debate salient issues and confront both local and global problems. Our institution is one of the best at doing this (no matter what David Kane thinks) and we should not shy away from this facet either. After all, the College is at its core a place for scholarly enlightenment.
So what are we doing? Our life is not solely defined by our years at the College, though they certainly play a role. It hurts to think that in 150 years, we will no longer be doing anything at all, but that fact makes the urgency of this question all the more relevant. We need to focus on what makes us happy, and balance that with what makes us survive. We must balance the necessary from the wanted.
What am I doing? What are we doing? Who knows? Nobody will know. It’s just a question that perhaps I, and you, will continue to ponder. There’s so much more to be said, and I encourage others to weigh in on their interpretations in the Record on what we are doing. I can offer only one platitudinal, time-old, clichéd, answer: Living life to the fullest, being the best we can be. That’s all we can hope for.
Solly Kasab ’21 is from Great Neck, N.Y. He lives in Sage.