Finals week and priorities

Well, classes for Sophomore year are officially over, and we’re hurtling fast into finals week. I have major assignments due Thursday and Friday, and exams to deal with next week (the plight of every college student…).  Only problem is, I’m having trouble concentrating. Somehow the vast world and all the people within it seem so. much. more. interesting. than a Neuroscience lab report or a statistics exam.

Intellectually, I realize that I need these subjects and more in order to understand my world and interact well within it. I’ve grown up under the paradigm that intellectual achievement (particularly in science, but really in any subject) is the key to success, and for the most part I still believe that. Yet, in these last weeks of the semester, it feels more important to develop relationships and create lasting memories with graduating seniors and other people I won’t be seeing for a while.  My long-term focus has disintegrated; I want to live in the moment and soak up everything that the beautiful spring weather brings with it. I have a life ahead of me to learn statistics, but these beautiful people and warm, watercolor sunsets are only here now. I won’t be able to get those moments back once they’re gone.

This isn’t a new feeling, and I expect it’s something that most people run into at some point. When is it important to focus on goals and push through frustration? When do we have to leave behind the supposed right and wrong way of doing things, and live the life we want to lead? Ideally, I’d be able to do both (once again I’ve returned to that buzzword, balance), but right now that’s not working out so well for me.

And I feel ungrateful. I feel as though I’m not taking advantage of the incredible opportunities I’ve been given at this school. I worry that I’m being complacent and not fighting through what is (hopefully? theoretically?) productive suffering.  Let’s be honest, a few exams can hardly be considered true suffering. So am I being lazy and avoiding my work? Probably. But if the point of being in Amherst is to learn and find meaning within the world, I have to ask myself which of these two paths is going to teach me the most.

I don’t know if this post has a point; maybe it’s just another form of procrastination. But I do think there’s something here that I’m going to need to puzzle out if I’m going to make it through two more years of college and who knows how many years of school after that. Right now, my mind keeps going back to a song I heard at the concert in Marsh last night (and yes, I went to the concert instead of doing my multitudes of work, and I don’t regret it). Picture this sung by a folky voice, dim lighting in a room heavy with poignancy and departure, a faint smell of incense on the air. “I want to be good, but I want to be free.”

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