Last week, I had a borderline panic attack.
I think we all experience something like that from time to time, at different levels of severity. It feels like acute procrastination — you think so much about all the things you should be doing or should have done that you don't have time to do anything. Eight hours later it's 3 a.m.; you're wide awake at your desk with a long list of unchecked tasks.
I normally use my space as a columnist to reflect on political or social happenings, as that's where I feel I'm doing the most good and being the least narcissistic. But let's face it, there's something self-centered about putting 700 words of your opinion on a page and honestly thinking anyone should read it. Maybe self-reflection is more honest.
So, today I'll talk about something entirely different: sanity. I'm beginning to learn a little more about it, and maybe my story will help you, too.
I suppose it all started in high school, when I decided that somehow I'd keep my backup spot on the wrestling team after getting a leading role in "The Sound of Music." Even though I was a terrible wrestler, I was afraid of passing the team in the hallway. They'd probably hate me if I quit, even if they were just jealous of my freedom and normal-sized meals.
Then the burden of tasks escalated. Student government here, forensics there. The endless resumé building and extracurricular idolatry that has stolen far too many high schoolers' golden years. I found myself with a stellar college application but no idea what I wanted to do, or what I was good at.
I remember putting civil engineering on my Common Application as my major. An interviewer at UT asked me, "Why civil engineering?" I realized I hadn't asked myself that question before; I guess I just thought it was smart — it's a steady job and a good income.
See, that's what our high schools and colleges like UT teach us is "smart" — to go for a steady job and a good income. They treat the love of money, disguised under words like "comfort" and "stability" and "providing for a family," like the only thing that matters.
For me, the thing that matters most in my life is music. I play with a band called Cereus Bright (shameless plug: we have a show at The Square Room this Friday), and we're starting to see some real success — playing shows throughout the Southeast, touring with The Dirty Guv'nahs.
But when I miss class to play on the radio or travel to another city, I say that it's for a "job opportunity." I've been made fun of to my face for having bad priorities and not doing what's smart.
Music isn't the only thing that is good in and of itself. A good story is good even when it makes you outraged or sad (think "12 Years a Slave" or "Death of a Salesman"). Good relationships, conversation and learning don't have to make you money to still be good things.
In fact, I'd say these things that are good in and of themselves are what make money a good thing — because money lets you have them. You need economic security to be safe and healthy, to have time to play music or support the ones you love.
Let's face it — almost all of us are going to spend the rest of our lives working a job. Our college education has (hopefully) taught us how to get that job and how to perform well at it. It's taught us how to survive in the modern world.
Our university is teaching us how to make a living without helping us learn how to live. They're spitting us out just as directionless as when we came in, just with a degree and an anxiety disorder.
I guess I don't really have a cute way to wrap up this column. I just want to offer a reminder that the good things in life are often far simpler and easier to find than our education can make us believe. You don't need a stellar resume to get good friends, and you don't need a degree to love a good story or song.
Often when we're feeling uptight or depressed or lost, I think it's because we've forgotten the difference between living and surviving, and forgotten the good things.
Evan Ford is a junior in philosophy. He can be reached at email@example.com.