I found that the advice Mark Twain gave to students in his piece “Advice to Youth” was common sense, but something about it came off as condescending to me. It really felt like he was just another adult lecturing me about life. And it gave off this weird vibe–one where he’s a little bitter and forgot what it was like to be a youth. I’ve heard most of this advice from my own parents, and they’ve heard it from their parents, and so on and so on. His advice can basically be summed up as “follow the rules, be good” which is something young people hear often from older people.
I liked Zinsser’s piece better. It rang so true to me. Here at stony brook, science classes are very competitive. It’s frustrating. I hate how annoying the pre-med kids are sometimes, I can’t stand there listening to a person humblebrag to me about the x amount of hours they studied. It irritates me, why must everything be a competition? Why are you trying to one-up me? I’m not even a pre-med student! Two of my close friends are doing pre-medicine. And the exact same thing that happened between the roommates happened to them. Each of them separately talked to our entire suite about how the other studies so much, and how they’re trying to keep up with each other. They were both annoyed with each other for being competitive, yet they were both guilty of perpetuating the competition. I do it too. I get competitive about classes sometimes, it’s so easy to get caught up in the scores and it’s really unhealthy.
When I was younger, I thought that college classes would be a fun, rewarding experience. I was wrong (well, not entirely! I found one or two rewarding classes…in my 2 1/2 years here). I thought that I could be free of requirements and just take whatever suited me. NOPE. Here I am, frantically taking every DEC in every letter of the alphabet, trying to ace all of my classes while obsessing about how I should “boost” my resume. I’m tired of this. I’ve always wanted to take a year off to travel, and maybe work or volunteer in another part of the world, but I’m too worried about falling behind everyone in my year. I read this article and felt a lot of regret with how I’ve gone about my undergraduate career. It sucks, but I have so many classes to take and so little time. Just signing up for classes is pressure enough! You sit there refreshing SOLAR over and over again just so that you can get a spot in that one class that everyone else is taking. It’s too much. People aren’t taking philosophy “just because” anymore, they’re doing it for a DEC. Rather than take classes I would enjoy (sculpture, print-making), I am taking uninteresting classes that get me easy A’s (EST 201, MEC 280), because I don’t want my gpa to suffer anymore. Zinsser was right on the money when he said the latest generation would be fearful of risks and goal-obsessed. It’s sad, really.