Finding Love in the Midst of Ambition
Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 02:02
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an op-ed by Susan Patton, who is infamous for a letter she wrote in The Daily Princetonian last year, in which she urged college women to stop focusing so much on their careers and to worry more about finding a husband.
She argued — both in her op-ed and last year’s letter — that a woman’s real happiness comes from the man she marries, not her career. As time goes on, the competition for eligible, smart men will become steeper and steeper. Thus, we better get a jump on it now and catch these eligible men or else be doomed to a life of loneliness.
Her piece is problematic. There’s the sexism and heteronormativity, but she also objectifies men in a strange way. Men — Princeton men, Georgetown men and those at other “elite” colleges — are prizes for women to lock down while they’re within our reach. If we focus on our careers, we’ll be in our 30s “competing” with much younger women for a shrinking pool of men. It’s also bizarre that she only focuses this attention on women; men are exempt from the rat race for a partner.
But I don’t completely disagree with Patton. Somewhere, deep down below her retro sexism, she has a point. All of us — men and women, gay and straight — should not be singularly focused on our schoolwork and our careers, but, rather, we should focus on being happy. Your career alone is never going to bring you complete happiness. Instead, it’s about love.
It may sound cliche, but there’s actually proof. In 1938, researchers at Harvard decided to follow 268 men from the Harvard Classes of 1938 to 1940 to see what made them happy, collecting information on their lives at regular intervals. Not all of them came from privileged backgrounds, and, 76 years later, they ended up scattered throughout the socioeconomic ladder.
The researchers found that while someone could have a lot of money, a good career and great physical health, he wasn’t happy unless he had love in his life. Love is actually all you need. The study also found that the benefits of love weren’t just reserved for romantic relationships, they also existed in platonic ones.
Too often, Georgetown students lose sight of this. Life becomes about GPAs, tests, internships, jobs and graduate school. Then, we squeeze intimacy into the moments in between. We schedule friendships between meetings. We connect with people for brief moments Saturday night only to ignore them Sunday morning.
But people matter. Those you interact with every day are important and interesting, and if you only see them as acquaintances and hook ups on your way to corporate or political stardom, you’re missing out.
There was a time I was deeply jealous of friends with better GPAs and more prestigious internships and extracurriculars than me. They would succeed and be happy, while I would fail. That was a silly way to think: I have so much more to offer the world than my GPA could ever reflect.
The most meaningful moments of my Georgetown career have been with the people I love. They’ve been moments of true, soul-bearing connection. Sometimes that means not doing as much as the prototypical, always-busy Georgetown student. But love — romantic and platonic — is too essential to the human experience to be missed for things that honestly aren’t as important in the long run.
Life isn’t about your “academic and professional goals” — at least, it’s not just about those things. It’s about the girl down the hall who becomes your best friend. It’s about the boy in your economics class who becomes your boyfriend. It’s about the friend who you swap secrets with in the middle of an all-nighter. Making those connections requires opening up and investing time. Forgoing those experiences in exchange for “academic and professional goals” means missing out on some of the most important experiences of your college career. It’s missing out on life.
Instead, embrace the people around you. Focus less on the things that seem to matter a lot now — GPAs, leadership positions, awards and honors — and cultivate relationships. Because love actually is all you need.
VICTORIA EDEL is a senior in the College. She is the former Online Editor of The Hoya.