It’s not because I want to attain “success.” Whatever that is. Perhaps it means a grade point average or a good job after graduation. That’s not nearly enough though. There is no possible way that I could justify to another person any of the hours I put in working, coding, reading, all so that I can get some job after I graduate.
I’d be lying if I said that I never worry at all about the future or that I don’t see the correlation between working hard, getting grades and getting a job. Sure. But if I worked less, if I did less, if I went somewhere else, I could be just as happy. Other people are just as happy, perhaps more so. People love their jobs, and they didn’t have to go to Princeton or somewhere like it to get those jobs. And, after a certain point, how much money does a person need to live an entertaining life?
I’m not overly worried about what will happen when I graduate. I’m probably a lot less worried than all my friends at other schools. It might be bad, it might even be wrong, but the mere virtue of having survived four years of this place supposedly gets us a foot in the door. At least, that’s what I’m told by people in the “outside world.” I’m somewhat inclined to believe them. So why put in anything beyond the minimum?
I don’t work, solve, read, write, code simply to be competitive. No, there are people here who are unbelievably, and I mean unbelievably, smart. There’s no competition there, which is fine. Princeton has humbled me in that respect.
I don’t do it because I “feel the need to challenge myself.” I hate when people say that. I feel no compelling need to constantly challenge myself. I think that’s why we’re all inclined to procrastinate, isn’t it? Sure, challenges are nice. But “challenges,” as a blanket statement, is not my driving force.
And I won’t give you that corny old answer. I won’t sit here and tell you we do the things we do because we are passionate about them. It’s simply an overstatement. I think that’s a word thrown around too easily these days. People are always saying they are “passionate” about this or that. I never really understood what it meant for someone to be passionate about anything until I took a class taught by Howard Stone. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I suggest you attend one of his lectures some time.
I have classes. I find the material exceedingly interesting; it certainly makes the work seem worthwhile. But I’m not going to tell you that I’m passionate about each and every one of them.
So where does that leave us? Why do we have busy schedules and lots of work? I think the answer for me is that I just like that stress in my life. It is inherently exhilarating. Sure, I like to take days off and do nothing or do something completely outside of here. We all do. And I don’t think that time is, as Mathabane suggests, “construed a waste of time by most students, time that could be allocated to reading or meeting or studying.” That doesn’t mean I can’t like a fast-paced busy schedule in the same way. I may complain about it. But I still just like the feel of it. I feel sluggish if I go too long without it. I think we all do, to varying extents.
It isn’t really the same as the feeling of accomplishment or of importance. It’s more like a higher stakes version of Sudoku or doing crossword puzzles in ink. I couldn’t tell you why people like those any more than why we choose to live like this.
I’m not saying that this “stress” is this driving force behind everything I do. However, as Mathabane says, “We like for our lives to be fast-paced and complicated; it gives us the feeling that we are as industrious and prolific as we believe the top students in the world ought to be.” I say, I don’t care about being industrious, about being prolific or about what any of the other top students in the world do. I just want my life to be fast-paced and fun.
Kinnari Shah is a chemical and biological engineering major from Washington, N.J. She can be reached at email@example.com.