Sunday 14th October 2012

by sophie

How ironic it is that 2 weeks ago I wrote an article on How Women Can’t Have it All, when I was, in fact, on my way to breaking point.

These past 2 weeks have been hellish to say the least.

The workload at Columbia has always been tough but I never envisioned how brutal it would be taking 2 graduate level courses along with 3 other programming intensive classes. Perhaps there are some who can handle it, but I do not have the build for it…

As a disclaimer, I have never placed too much value in letter and number grades and so the stress was really purely situational and not the blame of perfectionism, etc.

On the other hand, I am am a bit of an academic “purist” and have always loved learning for learning’s sake–thus placing a great emotional investment in what I study, especially towards Computer Science and Philosophy, which are my two main interests and have become part of my identity. And so perhaps that is even more of a burden than the pursuit of numbers, as it pains my soul not to learn what interests me well.

And identity, I realize, is integral to the issue. All my life I have been involved in very artistic and expressive pursuits, and so it has always been a secret fear in the back of my head after I started seriously dedicating my studies to the hard sciences I would lose part of myself. Close-minded stereotypes and assumptions of Engineering students I discovered existed after arriving to college did not help. So I imposed concrete, tangible markers on my self– a minor in Philosophy, Writing for the Spectator– to make sure someone, something else aside from me would be putting checks on my identity and keep it from slipping away to monotony.

On the one hand, dance (ballet classes and student groups), writing (for my blog and for the Spec) and philosophy (the Ethics class which I am taking, which I adore), have been saving graces in overwhelming times.

I remember one morning waking up so exhausted and sleep deprived that I had the terrifying revelation that I could not get myself to feel anything at all. I wandered through my morning in a stupor–unable to empathize with any human being. It was incredibly disorienting. The moment I finally regained my sense of humanity was when I walked into my ethic professor’s office hours. In the sunny room, in the mahogany Philosophy Hall, we had a great conversation on normative ethics and I finally felt myself again.

But on the other side, I realize that I am stretching myself way too thin just to hold on to these societally imposed, arbitrary markers on myself. And so I have withdrawn from my position as a blogger at the Spec*, and have dropped my Philosophy minor, even though it pains me to do so. Health comes first, existence precedes identity (arguably). I can still grow as a writer on my own time, and read great works at my leisure, perhaps auditing courses as life permits.

Dimensionality comes foremost from dimensionality in thought and an open mind– which can barely be achieved when it is overworked and undernourished.

I hope to keep these things in mind, as I learn to worry less about the labels I place on myself. Quality over quantity.

Thank you friends and family for being infinitely valuable.

Take care.

* On a separate, but related note, I have learned a valuable lesson from writing for a web publication– please be insightful but always respectful whenever commenting on the Internet. Anonymity need not make assholes of us all.

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2 Responses to “Where I have Been and Other Things”

  1. Joy Hughes says:

    “anonymity need not make assholes of us all” Every time I read you I get a quotable quote to add to my store. You are becoming my favorite writer. Good to take a break from writing for deadlines and just write when you are bursting with something to say.