Naidu: One and same

Nov. 1, 2017, 12:01 a.m.

I’m barely into it, yet in the heat of a constant struggle right off the bat.

I prepared as best as I could. Yet, after one sequence of events, I already know it’s going to be rougher than I’d envisioned.

I can’t let up.

If I do, I’m screwed.

This is a typical water polo match.

This is a typical quarter at Stanford.

I’m sure a quarter at Stanford is analogous to other sports or extracurricular activities. But the similarities I see in particular between 10 plus weeks at the Farm and 24-30 minutes in my water polo cap and suit are striking.

From the first whistle, water polo is a sprint to the middle of the pool to secure possession. A quarter at Stanford is no different: we all frantically try to decide what our ideal schedule will be from day one, “shopping” classes that range from Sleep and Dreams to computer science. In fact, we’re sprinting even before the quarter starts because enrollment opens about six weeks before the next quarter begins.

Midterm season is another prime example of such similarities. This became most evident to me last week, when I had a midterm, two problem sets and then a second midterm all in a 24-hour span. In water polo, the final two minutes of the third period can often be the toughest for me in the match: I’ve already finished grinding through a substantial amount of hard work but have no choice but to keep going. The end of the period is right around the corner, but if I look too far ahead, the other team will pull a quick counter attack or two on me and make the final quarter irrelevant with the game out of reach. Midterm season is very similar. Last week, it didn’t matter I had already done my first PWR 2 paper the previous Friday, just learned the second to last concept in Econ 50, or was finally getting the hang of utilizing Poisson random variables for Econ 102A – I had to buckle down and just grind for those exams.

More than anything, though, the quarter system mimics a water polo match in the simplest way: regardless of what stage I’m at, I have no choice but to keep treading.

In water polo, even when I’m resting during a stoppage of play, I still have to tread water or else I drown. When my teammate is attempting a penalty shot on the other end of the pool, if I stop my eggbeater kick I’ll sink — there is no standing on the bottom. I just have to keep treading.

The quarter system is no different. On Friday, even after all of my exams last week, I had to make sure I knew what I was going to write about for my PWR 2 paper due in a week and a half, had to review the new concept I’d learned for the next unit in Econ 102A, and already had Econ 50 reading and a quiz due for the following week. There was no immediate heavy workload, but that didn’t mean I could stop working, or else I’d fall behind — I’d sink. I just had to keep treading.

With both water polo and the Stanford quarter system, I enter knowing I’m in for a dog fight. They are wars that will push me mentally or physically (and sometimes both) in ways that I knew I was prepared for but still find challenging. With water polo, it’s a grueling battle, but when it’s over, I can’t help but feel proud that I endured another match and gave it my all and fought every possession. It’s what happens after the first whistle that makes the final horn such a sweet sensation.

During the quarter system I, just like every other student, often have to make the tough decision every Friday or Saturday night — do I go out or do I study? While hopefully it’s the former for at least one of those nights, the quarter will often reach a stretch where the answer is the latter for both nights for many weeks at a time. We’ve all faced that dreadful stretch of a quarter at least once. We stay in not because we don’t want to socialize with our friends. Not because we want to test our ability to calculate the marginal rate of substitution for Econ 50 or have a burning desire to help Karel find all of its beepers for CS 106A. Rather, we do it because we have to do it to survive. We do it, so come exam time — the fourth period of the game — we are prepared as best as we can and have no regrets once we turn in that test or paper. We do it so we feel nothing but pride once the onslaught ends.

Throughout an average quarter at Stanford, there can be some pretty tough moments. But no matter how little sleep you get the night before, or how many problem sets or papers you have due the next week, remember one thing:

Just keep treading.


Contact Zach Naidu at znaidu ‘at’

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