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The point of pointlessness

Nostalgia is inherent to this part of the year. The holidays, a full year to reflect on and exams to procrastinate for can always provoke a hearty reminisce. Personally, as Christmas approaches, my mind usually wanders to childhood and the extreme lengths I went through to fool my little sister into believing in Santa—and pretty much anything else. (One time I convinced her that the song “Cotton Eye Joe” is a true, woeful lament about a blind foundling who ran away from his foster home. WHERE DID YOU COME FROM, WHERE DID YOU GO?!)

I was always a really weird kid. In fact, I used to thank people for calling me weird. I also insisted for about four years that people call me “Bean.” The only video of me from my childhood is of me saying that caramel is for old people. Things haven’t changed much as I’ve aged. Caramel still sucks. I still put huge stock in the strange, the weird and the random. And as I’ve entered college, I’ve come to truly appreciate all things pointless.

What?! Pointless?!! The very idea can feel foreign to the high-achieving college student. Since we were Baby Einsteins, we’ve all likely been racking up extracurriculars and volunteer hours, taking all AP classes—all with the clear point of getting into college.

If you’re like me, you foolishly expected college to be free of this excessively goal-driven behavior. I whole-heartedly believed in the ethereal land of self-discovery and exploration that was purported by movies, parents and Asher Roth songs. But those days are long gone. Now college is where you groom yourself to be the best candidate for whatever you want to do post-grad.

I’m not saying that having goals and working to attain them is bad. Caring about things and working to do well are possibly the most important attributes of a successful person. The problem arises when we take it too far—when everything has to have a goal-directed point. When we get so caught up getting what we want that we lose sight of ourselves. It can go beyond picking an unnecessarily difficult course of study to be impressive (seriously, how many of you are HONESTLY enjoying that chem major?). At its worst, our pursuit of what’s best for us can turn into full-blown self-absorption.

In my time here, during late-night realtalks, the main complaint that I’ve heard from Duke students is that there is a lack of real sharing on this campus about serious issues. The main reason people cite for this lack of depth? Everyone is always busy, and sometimes discussing your past or issues that you are facing can feel like you are burdening those around you. As a culture we have become so obsessed with our own goals that we seem closed to discussing the goals and problems of others. This can lead to those in need feeling stressed, ignored and alone.

During my time at Duke, thanks to organizations like Project BUILD, Peer For You and my amazing sorority, I have not personally experienced this feeling. Yet I have felt another side of excessively pointed behavior. At Duke I have based most of my decisions around what makes me happy, but I have found that this is not a good enough explanation for many people. And when others decide that my reasoning for my behavior is subpar, they find it their right to ascribe their own. There must be some clearly articulated, tangible goal that I am driving for. Every behavior must be thought-out and properly justified.

As a Baby Einstein myself, I once let goals govern most everything I did. But after a while, having to explain every behavior to myself and to others became exhausting. So I changed majors. I stopped doing things solely to look good (whether to future employers, to parents or to friends), and started engaging in activities that truly make me happy. As a part of this, I applied to write for The Chronicle. My goal? That beyond perhaps making people giggle, my column would be completely and utterly pointless.

Next semester, I will be stepping down from my post as a Socialite. Masquerading with this label has been an amazing experience. But as much fun as I had, it didn’t serve to forward me in some sort of long-term goal. I didn’t expect my writing in The Chronicle to land me a job or make me popular or get me a boyfriend (in fact, I expected the exact opposite of all of those things). The fact that I wasn’t trying to go anywhere with my columns left me free to say whatever I wanted and to truly enjoy writing for the sake of writing.

I hope I’ve interjected some randomness into your life. Some weirdness, some humor and perhaps one too many dinosaur references. And as I leave The Chronicle atop the back of a glorious pterodactyl, all I can say is this: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Just because something doesn’t directly contribute to achieving a goal, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing. There is a point to pointlessness.

Lillie Reed is a Trinity junior.


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