Whether it’s race, affiliation, gender or religion, college offers plenty of possibilities for pigeonholing. People can label you by something as small as your schedule of classes. Even the fact that you carry your class schedule while you’re on campus can have them smirking and rolling their eyes. And of course, there are your extracurricular activities.
So you want to join a fraternity or sorority? Have at it, but plan on hearing that all people do in those circles is party. You can’t go out, you say, you’re studying? Well, that’s what nerds do, right?
Maybe you’d rather chill and have a few drinks. Good luck succeeding, slacker. Or maybe you can’t study because you have to practice for the basketball game, since you’re on the team and all. It’s not like you could do much studying with that mindless head on your shoulders, am I right?
Or maybe instead of going to a party, you want to check out an indie movie or some new band. Figures you’d want to go to some trendy, unheard-of little place to prove you’re different when you probably aren’t, elitist hipster.
Maybe you’d rather curl up with a book. Oh, yeah, so you could act high-and-mighty by quoting a no-name ideal by some generic, pseudo-intellectual author that none of us knows? Great job, dude, great job.
Find one yet?
More than one?
You don’t say?
But you don’t do that. Of course not. People have so much going for them, man. So much. They just don’t understand, you just gotta dive into a person to know them, man. And even then, you still never know them. I mean, Nietzsche says that individual methods can never be truly understood, man!
You can’t even write a paragraph without running into something. Why? Because people still live through stereotypes. And the more they live through stereotypes, the worse the stereotypes become and the more prejudiced they become.
It’s a vicious circle. (Karen Horney said that, you know.) But have we strayed so far that not judging a book by its cover has become practically impossible? Surely, more people are living against stereotypes than living for them, right?
The only way to stop the stereotypes is by being well-rounded. And not because you want to show that you’re well-rounded, but because you actually have the potential to be.
Too many times, people push their interests into the background because they have to study or because they need to stop spending time on a silly hobby. But it’s not impossible to juggle interests and still succeed.
The idea that you can only be successful if you focus on something specific, like biology, or law, or chemistry, or physics, or English, or any subject, is trash. The fact that it’s being preached is only a part of the vicious circle.
So you’re an English major but you love playing guitar? Don’t stop playing, start a band; music is beautiful. You’re a biology major and you want to direct films? Get a crew together, why not? You want to be a lawyer but you want to write fiction novels? And you don’t think you have the time? It’s not too hard. Nothing is too hard.
Or maybe I’m just an idealist.
Shapan Debnath is a third-year biological sciences and philosophy double-major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.