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Finding spontaneity at Duke

taming of the shru

Early last week I woke up to this text from my little sister. “Mom and Dad are taking me to DC for the weekend! I wish you could come!” Groggy from just waking up and lacking the judgment of a fully awake human being I replied, “I am coming!”

This would be answered by a frantic series of emojis, exclamation points and general glee. I talked to my parents and friends later, and it was decided—my friends and I were road tripping to DC.

This weekend was a lot of firsts. First time driving for more than 35 minutes at a time. First time crying to Adele on I-95 and then blasting Eminem 100 miles later. First time I prioritized doing something fun with family and friends over getting all my homework done. As expected, the weekend was a great time. We tried out fun chocolate bars in the city, visited national monuments and slept in like the sleep deprived college kids we are.

To be fully honest, I later found out that I had some important meetings in DC that meant I would have had to drive up anyway. However, it still felt like a spontaneous trip. The fun I had exploring the city and spending time with people I care about became the primary objective of the weekend, and the meetings were almost an afterthought. It also taught me an important lesson about what we value most in life and balancing all of one’s commitments. Sometimes it pays to be whimsical and to set aside time to just enjoy life.

Of course, not everyone can or should just pick up and leave Duke. Spontaneity can be a late night drive to pick up milkshakes. It can be calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time with whom you want to reconnect. It can be going to the Arts Annex and trying to make a clay pot from the pottery wheel even though you have no experience.

The point is that having fun or being spontaneous doesn’t necessarily mean that you must give up your academic focus or other commitments. Too often, we think about life and decisions as sacrifices. There is the famous myth that in college you must choose two of the three S’s: sleep, social life and school. There is definitely a hint of truth behind that, but to simply accept the idea that you can only choose two pieces is defeatist and untrue. Living life “to the fullest” is basically the most boring, cliché idea that exists, but I think it somehow implies that you’re living on the fringe, bungee-diving, backpacking and whitewater rafting all over the world. We operate under the assumption that we’re all held back by our commitments, and that the most ideal way of living would be to simply walk away from a “normal” life and do something completely unheard of.

Hiking and road tripping are great getaways. They have the potential to let us recharge, remind us of what we care about and are usually pretty fun. However, my trip this weekend didn’t make me think that if only I road tripped more and got off campus more, then my life would be more fulfilling. Instead, it encouraged me to think a little more consciously about how I was allocating energy in my life, if I was focusing on making time throughout my day to incorporate something that brings me or people around me joy.

Part of what makes Duke special is that every person here is incredibly different. Special snowflakes, if you will. There are different things that make us tick, emotionally and academically. But if there is anything that drives me and what I’d guess drives all of us is the famous Christopher Morely quote, “There is only one success, to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

Shruti Rao is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays. 

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