Focus on friends, not resume, at Tech

In the grand tradition of Tech, I procrastinated on this editorial. I waited until the night before I was supposed to hand it in to start writing. Furthermore, I will admit that I will probably be scrambling to put this together until the bitter end. This is not the first time I’ve done this and not the only venue where I have done so. However, in defense of my procrastination, how does one even begin to encapsulate one’s college career—the volatile four, five, six or even seven years of one’s youth—into 800 words?

Last night, after staring at a blank Word document for more than four hours, I posed that question to my friends on Facebook. The responses, while humorous, reflected the more negative stereotype of our alma mater, ranging from a reply of “(apply str(repeat 800 “FAIL”))” to the more straightforward and obligatory “Tech sucks.” While I wish that I could write otherwise, it is almost impossible to not express how knockdown, drag-out horrible and difficult Tech is at times. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar or probably isn’t academically challenging him- or herself hard enough to speak on that matter.

I love Tech, in an unhealthy relationship kind of way. Tech tore me apart, as I’m sure it has done to many others in the past and present. After four and a half years, I will leave with memories of sleepless nights caused by my senior design project, perpetual bags underneath my eyes and a stomach lining that has probably been worn away by thousands of cups of coffee and other kinds of beverages that shall remain unidentified. At its worst, Tech even sent me to the hospital for a stress-induced lung collapse, yet I still love my alma mater.

In an editorial written almost two years ago, I attributed this unhealthy relationship to a form of masochism unique to Tech itself. I wrote that Tech students were by nature responsible for being “enactors of our own misery,” and instead achieved happiness from what struggles we commiserate over. In retrospect, I somewhat disagree with that idea. True, we are responsible for our own happiness, but the emphasis should be on a matter of how define we what that happiness to be. True, we are here at college to learn in order to land a great job or get into an amazing graduate school. Yet one should always strive for balance along the way. As students, we often forget in the midst of classes, exams and extracurricular activities the importance of balance in each aspect of our lives.

When I first came to Tech, my goal was to take full advantage of every opportunity to become “someone that other people would respect.” As such, I let my ambition define who I was, what I did and how I went about doing it at every waking moment. I dedicated my time at Tech in the pursuits of making good grades, getting leadership positions in a variety of organizations, starting clubs and doing anything that would have looked great on my resume.

With my lung collapse last spring, I realized what I had neglected in pursuit of this dream—the people around me. I had sacrificed late night chats, parties, violin solo performances and so on in pursuit of something that in the end had no greater meaning and sent me to the hospital. However in spite of all this, my friends, peers and mentors were still there to support and encourage me. The experience made me realize that, in ten years, college becomes less about all the nights you stay at the library, the grades you make or the leadership positions you take. It becomes about the people you were with, how they made an impact on you and how you impacted the community around you.

Tech to me is not entirely about misery. It’s about finding something lasting and beautiful from the struggles that we endure through the relationships we create. My counterbalance has been the people around me and the experiences I have shared with them.

Despite all the horrible things, I leave with a deep and abounding love for Tech, the lessons learned and the experiences garnered. My only advice would be to strive to make a positive impact in everything you do and everyone you meet. Consider the time you have and how to make the most of it with the people around you. Tech is much less of a pain when you have people around you to change you for the better and when you have the same changing effect on them.