After two years of telling my best friend that I would go on one of his glorious campus tours and then continuously putting it off like any good homedawg would, I finally went the other day. It was filled with bright-eyed juniors and seniors in high school trying to determine whether or not they would like to come to UC Berkeley for college. Other than the dude who walked by and yelled “Berkeley sucks!” at our group, the thing that stuck out to me the most was the high schoolers’ attitudes toward their decision. They allowed their underlying emotions to briefly take control.
While picking a college, people visit the different schools and try to determine how the vibes of the place sync up with their own pulses and how they see themselves fitting in as they walk around campus, effectively gauging what sorts of inherent emotions arise simply through osmosis. When I was a senior in high school, the sole reason I picked UC Berkeley was because there was something about its grittiness, its passion, its cast of characters and its atmosphere that indescribably sparked an electric jolt between my ribs that otherwise helplessly faltered whenever I stepped foot on any other campus. For many people, this important decision is filled with excitement and possibility, and it is made largely through listening to their emotions.
But, this practice of letting emotional satisfaction reign over logical conclusions seems to, unfortunately, wither as college and life go on.
At a prestigious university such as UC Berkeley, there is a premium placed on intellectual growth. We are supposed to learn how to think, how to perceive the world around us, how to analyze everything and how to control our minds in preparation for the taxing realities of adult life. This is something we should be proud of, because once we fine tune our minds, we are able to expand our view beyond ourselves and create progress for all, which is one of the greatest outcomes of a world-class education.
But, this pursuit toward intellectualism often overwhelms the pursuit toward emotional acuity and growth, which is equally, if not more, important. Harnessing emotional intelligence while at college unearths an awareness of beauty in the world that cerebral calculations tend to bury. And, it allows for people to perhaps be more self-fulfilled as they further diminish the possibility of regret or wasted potential.
Once people get to UC Berkeley and once they near graduation, decisions seem to mostly be based on realistic, logical conclusions. In one of my classes during freshman year, a girl in my class said she was passionate about being a fashion designer, but is instead majoring in biology because it’s more “stable” and “realistic.” I’ve heard many people say they wanted to live in Paris for a little while, for example, after graduation, but then never did it in acceptance of it being a dumb fantasy.
There are a million reasons your mind can come up with to deter you. But, although this may seem counterintuitive for brainy Berkeley people, sometimes your mind should simply be switched off. If you are able to learn how to continue to be emotionally aware like the people in the tour group, those indescribable itches that nag at you won’t have to be ignored “silliness,” but could be the seed for something extraordinary.
As an English and media studies major, the emotional growth I have undergone over the past four years has actually deepened my studies. The love, the personal discovery, the adventure, the loneliness and the inspiration that I have experienced has helped me understand what Faulkner is actually trying to say, what Scorsese is actually trying to show or what Mr. Kanye West is actually trying to express. My emotional growth has informed my intellectual growth. Here at UC Berkeley, there is a tendency to meticulously dissect everything, to approach life and art headfirst and to over-intellectualize things that are not meant to be intellectualized. There is, of course, merit in analysis and drawing connections in papers, but some things are simply meant to be felt to be truly understood.
This is not a tirade against education or a pretentious, narrow English major focus. Emotional growth will only enhance whatever is going on in your brain and whatever career path you choose. Appreciating a random encounter with a stranger on BART or delving into the loneliness felt on a Friday night in your residence hall room or listening to a Billie Holiday song in solitude with the cerebral walls lowered establishes a deeply human understanding that corresponds to any field.
It will help you as a doctor while taking care of a sick patient, it will help you design an appealing new bridge or building, it will help you understand the underlying reasons behind a historical event. It will help you understand the people around you, and ultimately, that is the core goal of any education.
There are countless smart people in this world, but, more than anything, we need more compassion, appreciation, beauty, excitement and willingness to embark on risky, sometimes illogical endeavors to truly unleash our individual and collective human potential.
Taran Moriates writes the Monday column on the dos and don’ts of college. Contact him at [email protected].