The good, the bad, and the work

By Carrie Burkett ’16

Editor-in Chief

WE HAD EXACTLY one day of sunshine this week, and many Denisonians took full advantage of it, sunning on East Quad, donning long-forsaken running clothes and jogging down the hill, after a six month long winter.

I have heard many times that college is this sunny time in our lives, this one day between the rainshowers of awkward adolescence and the downpour of full adulthood. But I disagree. This way of thinking is very limiting, and suggests a rigorous set of rules and requirements which must be met for us to be happy. We must be young, we must be well-educated, we must have our whole lives behind us and happy, carefree days around us. If we are social butterflies, if we are academic wizards, then we may be content.

But this is too narrow a view. The rainy days can be just as fulfilling. We can be just as happy quadding on a picnic blanket as bent over a computer, pounding out an essay. Are they not both parts of the Denison experience, for which we or our parents are paying thousands of dollars a year? Are they not why we are here, to meet people, study what we love, and to live intentionally?

The month of April is filled to the brim with events. Some things cross campus lines—the academic awards convocation, the housing lottery, class registration. This month decides, for the majority of the student body, where we will live and what we will study next year. Others are much more specific events, put on by the graduating senior class, as they showcase the work they’ve been doing for not just the past semester or year, but all four years of their Denison career. And this fullness, this rushed feeling, is an opportunity for us to enjoy something other than leisure.

And, I would argue, this month is even exciting academically. Classes are rising to their crescendo. They are drawing concepts together, making conclusions. They can draw from almost ten weeks of material, and essays written now are more comfortable, more inclusive. We should glory in the toil.

Even though writing papers these days is hard and unavoidable work, it has a certain lustre simply by the fact that we are capable of it. Twenty page research paper? Yes, it’s near impossible. But you’re going to write one—at least one—this semester. And the feeling of knowing more, of being able not only to write a paper but an educated one, is satisfying beyond measure. And we will continue to grow, with or without our willingness, as we come to the end of practiced musical works, of complex technical courses, of intensive language courses. All these require something of us that has never been asked before, a willingness to both expand our horizons, tighten our focus, and encounter the depths of our chosen fields of study.

Not only that, but there is a certain pleasure in simply being here. With some modicum of agency, you decided to be here. You decided to spend these days with your nose buried in books. And you are devoting time to development of self, not development of leisure time. Let’s be honest: you already know how to kill time. You already know how to post on Facebook, and if it’s true that it takes 10,000 hours to become truly great at something, you’ve probably mastered Netflix. But the ways we are growing, the projects we are doing, they are things we cannot do anywhere else.

We can put homework off for hours, because it feels good to be doing easy things. And we should do easy things, and we should consciously enjoy relaxation. But that does not mean we cannot enjoy our work as well.