I find it curious how people choose their words to describe someone or something. Person A looks at that guy incessantly playing Halo in his dorm room and describes him as “quirky,” while Person B sees that same person as a “total loser.” Although I tend to fall into the latter’s perspective in that particular example, I’m trying to work on not categorically dismissing people with one harsh and arbitrary word. Take, for example, the word “obsession.” Last weekend I heard pundits describe Andre Agassi as obsessed with tennis since as long as he could remember. Granted, Agassi was crying for so long after he lost that commentators had several minutes to speak, but most everyone watching would agree that Agassi had an obsession for tennis, and the thousands of screaming fans envied him for having such a passion. Well, here’s a secret: we all have a passion, and we are all capable of pursuing it if we just learn not to let everyone else suppress it.
The same people who, with a smile on their faces and envy in their hearts, called Agassi obsessed would probably use the same word to describe that “creepy” guy who spends all his time at Mendel Hall looking at cells under microscopes. This time, however, they would use the word with disdain and make fun of him with their friends as they watched “24” like they’re supposed to. In doing so, they’re not only watching Jack Bauer save the world and dismissing the importance of biology and scientific research; they’re also letting the world around them suppress their own obsessions.
There are plenty of unhealthy obsessions. Most of these are why we have restraining orders in this country. I have watched enough movies on Lifetime that feature men obsessed with the women they covet to know what happens when obsession is grossly misdirected. For the purposes of this article, let’s leave these examples of obsessions for another discussion at another time. While we’re at it, we should also throw out of the discussion people who are obsessed with illegal pursuits and certain celebrities. Everything else is fair game.
Passionate about something you’re studying? It’s okay to admit it. Obsessed with Villanova basketball? How about any and all reality shows featuring high school kids on MTV? Fantasy baseball? Tom Cruise movies before 1999? If someone calls you obsessed with these things, don’t pretend to have never seen “Cocktail” or not know the name of that rookie shortstop who the Dodgers just called up. Instead, take it as a compliment.
Villanova is a perfect place to watch how obsessed people go about their lives. I took a couple of Astronomy courses sophomore year and was amazed how passionate the faculty is for their subject. Professor DeWarf spent seemingly all his time either teaching us about the stars, watching them through the telescope on top of Mendel or doing research about them for his journal. Every department has teachers like him, but it’s not just faculty members who show their passions on a daily basis. You see Jay Wright as cool and collected on the sidelines, but do you have any idea how much time he spends on the recruiting trail, getting ready for games and practices and getting fitted in his Armani suits?
Pursuing your passion may be more difficult than you think, especially if you are hesitant to give up the parts of your daily life that are ingrained in the psyche of college-aged Americans. Some people may be worried that others will dismiss your ambitions because they seem strange. To them I say, good. The stranger the better. Chances are, while they continue to watch passionate people like Andre Agassi crying after his career ended with a longing envy, you will give a knowing smile, able to understand just how people feel when they find something to be obsessed about.