As a senior member of the Technique, I have known for a while, at least in the back of my mind, that I would be writing this swan song. I have wrestled with the idea that I am supposed to be gifting Tech with some final piece of advice that is somehow going to provide novel insight into life at Tech, some secret to survival that amazingly, in the past 127 years of this Institution, nobody has thought of yet. While I spent this semester entertaining the idea of referencing Disney, or attempting to find that one unique thing I discovered about Tech, it was ultimately one of the oldest facts about Tech I learned just this past weekend that I think summarizes everything I have been trying to put in this piece.
You see I had a conversation this weekend with a retired member of the GT Library. She was compassionate, reverent and most importantly, full of seemingly infinite wisdom. She had worked as part of the team that created Georgia Tech’s Living History, and unlike so many others who have been a part of the Tech community, she understands Tech’s history at a level that goes far beyond the same 20 or so traditions printed in every T-book. During the conversation she talked about many topics, but most importantly about Georgia Tech’s original motto: “To know, to do, to be.”
Now it sounds so basic, so pedestrian, but when compared to our current motto of “Progress and Service,” what the original motto has, and what the current motto lacks, highlights an important trend that I have seen in my time at Tech. While arguably, “progress” aligns with “knowing”, “service” with “doing”, somewhere along the line we, as an institution, (and I as an individual) seem to have forgotten how to “be.”
I came into Tech, like so many freshmen, with the idea that there is no such thing as too much involvement, the idea that a 4.0 was expected, and the idea that if you were getting a good night’s sleep then you weren’t trying hard enough. This led to what I like to call chronic over-involvement. The state where the only valid answer to the question “Can you…?” is “yes.” Now it’s not so bad to start out with you meet new people, you do great things, but then it gets to the point where you could probably jump start a car with the amount of stimulants in your system, and you are sleeping more in class than in your bedroom. In so many ways Tech tells us that this suffering is the price of a good education. If we are making “progress” and “serving” the community, then that is enough.
It is here that I challenge you Georgia Tech to do as I say, not as I did, to have the courage to say no. Most importantly, I challenge you as a campus to have audacity to believe that you are worth more than the suffering prescribed by Tech’s culture. I am not saying everything is going to be sunshine and daisies, that some days will not seem impossible or that making it through Georgia Tech is an easy feat. What I am saying is that it took an emotional breakdown, multiple trips to the Counseling Center and a semester abroad for me to realize my happiness was just as critical to my success as my extensive list of involvements or my GPA, and some students never come to this conclusion. So maybe it is time to stop focusing just on how Georgia Tech students can learn more and perform better, and instead focus on how just how amazing they can be.