The Young Adult Section: Square one

Opinion by Nina M. Chung
Jan. 10, 2012, 12:28 a.m.

The Young Adult Section: Square oneThis is going to be a simple column. That is what I have to tell myself as I sit down in front of the keyboard and write this column every week. I know I could spiral effortlessly into the black hole of unintelligible hyper-intellectuality, something only possible when we remove ourselves from real life. I’m tempted to be over-comprehensive and cover all theoretical corners to prevent potential criticisms against my ideas. But, more than that, I want to write something clear. I want to be understandable, in the hopes that you, my reader, happen to relate to me. It’s nerve-wracking sometimes. This column is around 800 words on an interior page of the Tuesday edition of one school’s newspaper — a little thing. Yet I still get remarkably nervous on Monday night about the next morning’s paper. Despite my desire to express something honest, something fascinating, something that I hope benefits everyone, it’s almost too much to expect that I could accurately share any observation of our lives in black and white type. Our very complex lives…


Here’s what is not too complex: Taylor Swift’s music, which filled my car over winter break. Swift is a self-proclaimed “boy-crazy country starlet” that sings about Romeo and Juliet, being fifteen, romantic moments and enchanting first acquaintances. Her music is crush-heavy, exaggeratedly dreamy and well-fancied by a surprising number of my guy-friends who would love to be a Swift muse. Overall, though, most would only blushingly admit to liking Swift, and shallowly at that. So why did I appreciate it so much over winter break? The past several weeks, I was with a young woman whom I love and regard as my little sister, a girl who has been navigating certain pressures in life I’ll never know. Unexpectedly, that music provided random relief as we held numerous karaoke sessions on the road. The subject didn’t matter — it was easy listening. At a time when all else in her life was hitting painful extremes, this kind of simplicity — like board games, trips to farmers’ markets, Zoolander, handmade Christmas cards — meant everything. It was like interrupting one’s thoughts, often dark and self-destructive, by just breathing.


As we get older, we build increasingly lofty infrastructures out of our lives as we pursue what we presume will be a better one later. It’s not always intentional (unless one chooses to live apart from society). Like our evolving schoolwork, from spelling tests to theses, our personal lives become frilled with higher stakes and bigger consequences. We grow up feeling obligated to other people and their standards and expectations. We have the power to influence their lives, as they do us. We overanalyze their opinions even while we muddle through our own. We make more choices and supposedly get wiser as we do. We think a lot, especially about if and how others are thinking about us.


But I was thinking about it…and realized that when I’m happiest, I’m not thinking. In fact, while at peace and/or laughing hysterically in tears, I’m sort of mindless. It turns out contentment isn’t complicated. And most of us would agree in words, before we turn back to how we actually live. By now, experience has taught us that the world is a convoluted place. And so, voila! We expect complexity, so we make create it. And in a way, we feel that’s the natural, mature thing to do.


Complaining about busyness has become a competition in disguise for so many of us students, when in fact our greatest difficulty seems to be sitting still, alone, quietly. By letting so many other voices into our heads, it’s now hard to be accompanied by our own. But many of us have seen, in our friends and family, how uncontrollably this tendency leads to crisis. This column doesn’t aim to explain all of the ways our lives in this modern world are complicated — they undeniably are. This column just wants to re-appreciate the simplicity we seem set on abandoning as we grow older and more expectant of ourselves and others. I just wonder if, before we get onto saving the world, we should recognize when we have to be saved from ourselves, first.


Goodness, however our personalities and passions define it, is something we pursue with every ounce of academic and extracurricular energy we have. That’s commendable. But what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy…is also the smallest, most immaterial thing in the world. That’s all I wanted to say. It’s childlike, really — which means it’s crucial. As I recall my most desperate moments and those of the people I wish I could rescue, I realize we have to return there to remember why we choose to live for the next morning at all.


Think that Nina has oversimplified life? Or secretly into Swift? Nina wants to talk with you. Email her at ninamc “at” stanford “dot” edu. Happy new year, Stanford!

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