I have this notion that our actions fall in one of two categories: they’re either rooted in the actions of “love” or “work.” Think of your daily routine: you study in the library to work; you relax with your friends because you love them. It seems pretty basic now, but over time it gets a little more complicated. Love and work may start to compete with each other: tribulations of long distance relationships or the decision to go on vacation or finish a business project occur because of the ongoing tension between love and work.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that Brown is a place where love and work can flourish in harmony. It took me a long time to realize this.
The first two years of college, I wanted to be Mr. Social, and I definitely succeeded. I joined a bunch of clubs and made a lot of friends. I always had somewhere to be and someone to see, but I was doing pretty much everything to distract me from working. I didn’t take work seriously. And while I was in my various clubs, I didn’t make much of each experience. I felt like I was there only to meet new people, regardless of the club’s mission. I actually goofed off in and got kicked out of some clubs. Sure, I was embarrassed, but I felt that I was on the right path towards being happy. As long as I had people to whom I could say ‘sup on Thayer and with whom I could get lunch at the Ratty, I was okay.
Then I hit this lull where I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything here. I was a B student, and I wasn’t really learning much. Furthermore, I didn’t feel like I was making authentic friends. I knew a lot of people, but it felt more like they were extras in the movie of my life. I thought that I wasn’t making deep friendships or, as I thought about it, people to invite to a wedding.
The biggest butterfly effect/turning point of my academic career occurred during the first semester of my junior year. While registering for courses, I accidentally set this really easy class as S/NC when I meant to do so for a harder class. Rather than maintain my usual work ethic, which would have put me in jeopardy of possibly failing the harder class, I changed my routine and tried to study for four hours a day, every day. It was from this experience that I started to become invested in what I was studying. The more I learned, the more I felt like I had something worth saying to people. I always had passions—The Simpsons, The Grateful Dead, my shitty sports teams—but for the first time in my life, I developed academic passions: film, social psychology, psychoanalytic theory, art history. As I became more excited about these topics, I was able to combine work and love.
For me, the best example of combining love and work was the Open Curriculum, specifically the GISP program. I created a GISP on Freud and other psychodynamic theorists and I was able to find the students who had the academic interests as I did. During the semester, there were students who attended our class sans course credit, and we continually received emails from those interested in taking the course the next year. There’s this indescribable excitement when I find people with the same academic passions. My biggest piece of advice is to create a GISP based on a topic you love. It will open your eyes to new ways of learning, excitement, and happiness.
I’ve learned some sad truths in the past years. Not everyone enjoys his/her concentration. Not everyone learns a lot from his/her concentration. I’ve interacted with people who just never want to talk about what they’re learning. I love finding people who want to teach you about what they’re studying, or talk to you about the clubs that they’re participating in. I’ve also enjoyed having mind- and attitude-altering conversations concerning taboo topics like religion, God, love, etc. If you love to learn, it no longer becomes work.
During my time at Brown, I felt like I was able to do it all. I won First Pick Video Competition. I went to beer fests, naked parties, and secret bakeries. And if you were wondering which kid asked James Franco to smoke pot at the 2011 Ivy Film Festival—hi.
I also learned never to take good timing for granted. The Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, and I got to cover and interview some of their players for WBRU. My closest friends were on my same freshman hall. This year, I ended up next to some god-sent neighbors. I had Fiery Cushman as a teacher. These highlights of my Brown career were sheer luck.
Finally, I’d like to address the students out there who wanted but did not experience a college relationship. The college relationship is the only thing with significant value that I didn’t achieve at Brown. Maybe a few years back, I was too immature for one, which made me a little blind to those who were interested. Perhaps the two circles of a Venn diagram containing “people who I like” and “people who like me” never overlapped. That being said, I look back at not having the college relationship and see that this gap in this “resume of life” isn’t too painful: what a girlfriend at Brown represented, for me, was someone who embodied the beauty that I see within Brown. The fact that I really wanted this single consistent person to share Brown with means that Brown is worth sharing. The idea of a romantic partner is someone who could share in my friends’ laughter and quirkiness, to listen to our brilliant musicians, be entertained by our comedians, and marvel at all the incredible activities that our student body puts on. We can share the phenomenal lectures, Hillel, Nelson Center, Spring Weekend, and other things that exemplify the best parts of Brown. My personal belief is that you must love yourself and your friends before you truly love a romantic partner.  Maybe this theory resonates with seniors who never had a college relationship, maybe it doesn’t. The point is that we might have wanted something without realizing why we wanted it. When we step back and realize the reasons, we may be able to smile.
I feel very blessed to have achieved what I have achieved. I have friends whom I love—not just for who they are now, but also for who they are becoming. I thank those friends who encouraged both my serious side and my goofy side. Ultimately, I was able to become the nerd I always wanted to be, to enjoy my work so that it didn’t feel like work.
My wish for all my fellow seniors is that you find love—not just in your friends, partners, and children, but also in your careers, and in pursuit of improving the world around you.
Thank you for reading this and being present during my journey. What a long, strange trip it’s been.