Necessary tangents



Georgie Hunt

My favorite classes are the ones that hold the possibility for frequent tangents. An affinity for random digression does not arise from distaste for learning, an increasingly popular claim of having attention deficit disorder, nor perpetual boredom. An unanticipated turn in discussion from syllabi-signaled materials to reflective life lessons, anecdotes or a “Superbad” synopsis offers decadent delight in its most delicious flavor: unexpected.

The other day, in one such class of unpredictable possibilities, my professor shared with us a conversation she recently had with a Villanova senior. The anonymous senior, told my professor the details of his or her six-year strategy. It was the perfect picture of particulars we all have seen before. After graduation, we are going to get a good job – one on Wall Street perhaps. We are going to work for a few years. Only after we are established and comfortable with a roof over our life-sized Pottery Barn catalogue spread will there be any talk of square-cut canary diamonds. Maybe we will get a dog, so long as he promises not to eat the furniture and shed all over our black business casual clothing. Kids will come later when we have the stability to set aside funds for diapers and daycare. My heart! It suffocates under the deadweight normality of it all.

My professor told the story of her conversation with the senior in a tone of ironic stupefaction. She wanted to tell her former student, “Sorry. Life gets in the way of life.” The more detailed we paint our futures in our minds, the more we are disappointed and frustrated when the colors we concoct in our fantastic imaginations inevitability do not match the realistic hues of the future. Accepting the fact that we cannot assure ourselves the stability of specific details is not cause to abandon ambition, but we must not plot the present, robbing ourselves of surprise, in an effort to safeguard our futures. By planning, we must not deny ourselves the possibility of life’s beautiful tangents.

A friend’s father, a high school English teacher, has said that people with a plan are scary. There is something robotic and mechanized about the predetermined pubescent. Goals are worthy of their own approbation because of the ambition that fuels them, but excessive forward-focus desensitizes people to the present. As 18-20-something-year-old college students, we practiced and studied our entire lives to get into college. Once in, we practice and study in order to graduate out of one door and sign a contract into another. Do we deserve congratulations for our focus and ambition, or do we stare so straight ahead that we are guilty of neglecting to notice the present?

You could argue it takes a skeptic to say that all that you have planned is never going to come to fruition. On the other hand, you could realize it takes an idealist to dare to risk living life without a plan. Recently I read an article assigned with the attached professor commentary: “You are going to hate me for making you read this.” I am led to believe there must be something wrong with me for loving Garret Keizer’s article titled “World Enough and Time.” He writes, “But we weren’t too careful about what we wished for, and mostly I’m glad.” I want to thank him for telling me that he entered the world of adulthood armed with nothing more than the knowledge of what he wanted and wanting nothing more. The article set my heart palpitating faster because in some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read, it spoke that which I have always believed.

For all those college students without the six-year plan, it matters not where we are going. We cannot live today for the fulfillment of our 45-year-old selves. We have heard it said that these four years are about living in the moment. Living in the moment is not about acting irresponsibly tonight despite tomorrow’s looming consequences; rather it is about appreciating the inexplicable, boundless possibilities of tomorrow – the turns and tangents – and living in the midst of their magnificent potential. The article reminded me that what matters most is the abundant passion we pump into three lingering dots: “All I want …” As long as we can fill them, we will be fine and can afford to embrace a tangent or two.


Georgie Hunt is a junior English major from Pomfret, Conn. She can be reached at [email protected]