What matters to you and why?

Opinion by Hannah Broderick
Dec. 14, 2016, 12:22 a.m.

As we slide into the end of fall quarter and the start of winter break, I can’t help but reflect on the past nine weeks. At first, this reflection took the shape of a list of memorable experiences and a collection of unreturned plastic cups from the Theta kitchen. But then I decided it would be valuable to push back even further. And so I landed on a piece of writing that, at the time it was written, felt like a terrifyingly succinct version of myself. Created as part of my application to Stanford, rereading and then writing a second version of this work brought me a strange degree of self-clarity and reminded me of writing’s immense potential for internal understanding.

Written in December of 2014

What matters to you, and why? (250 word limit.)

I used to believe that self-perfection was the necessary first step toward society harmony. It seemed only right that one’s affairs should be in order before one attempted to move outside of oneself and do the work of the greater good. For a long time I focused on internal improvements in the hopes that well-grounded individuals would build a unified people. It took time for me to accept that this was the coward’s way out. Affluence and opportunity allowed me the leisure to create my person as I saw fit, and I took advantage that this was a right denied to no one. I was careless for many turnings of the earth around the sun.

To be of matter is to exist in a tangible form, one that is pre-created. To be of care is to exist in every and any form. Cares are personal and showcase the prowess of one’s hands to mold and heart to act. My cares are not so glamorous as they were born and raised to maturity in a body of no consequence. I care that Bill, the desk monitor at Hawaii Mission Houses Museum, finds companionship among our collective and branching histories. I care about words and the ways in which they reveal ideas and shape our footsteps. I care that the simple pleasures of the past remain present in the lives of my unborn children. I am full up of innumerable tiny cares, but I no longer care for self-perfection.

Written in December of 2016

What matters to you, and why? (250 word limit.)

I used to think I didn’t need anyone, that I could move through the minutes, and hours, and days of this life untethered and limitless. Indeed, I saw reliance on others as a form of weakness, the least forgivable sort of crutch. People seemed needy, foolish, and tangential, mere accessories to the turning of the world. And then somewhere along the way I nearly lost the person closest to my heart and the color of my life shifted. I realized the immense and overwhelmingly important joys of harmonizing laughter, stirring soup for someone else’s lips, and riding shotgun through tunnels with windows down and music up.

Sitting here in the Lane Reading Room, surrounded by varying shades of winter-wear, watching the girl across from me pour over a book on Renoir, listening to Josephine Gucht, drinking a chai tea made by Natalie, and reading a hilariously logistical email from my dad, I know it is people that matter most. In all their ferocity and pain and longing, it is to know them that gives purpose to this life.


Contact Hannah Broderick at inbloom ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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