As I near graduation, I have been trying to come to peace with my time here. While I am grateful for the knowledge and friendships I cultivated, I am not particularly proud of my romantic encounters. I was often driven more by ego than affection. I went out many drunken nights with instrumental mindset of gleaning pleasure from others. Along the way, I have hurt some, including myself.
The carnal hook ups often left me hollow. Although some rendezvous turned into fun flings and meaningful relationships, the majority of partners in crime became awkward strangers. My expectations of intellectual and spiritual exchange that was supposed to follow physical union came unfulfilled, and I also began to care less for these higher dimensions of intercourse.
Even to those I professed to love, I have not been true to my words. I parted with my first girlfriend at Penn without a good reason. I stalked and harassed my second girlfriend when she left me, which in turn scarred me as she haunted my psyche. I would like to believe I am maturing, however, as the relationship I am in now may be the healthiest one I have been in.
If anyone whose lips I touched still holds a grudge against me, please forgive. I wish I had known that pleasure is sweeter when it is given then taken and had engraved these words of St. Paul in my heart before my first kiss: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
Although I am ultimately responsible for my missteps, I also blame my socialization into the Greek Scene and Penn’s ethos of “work hard, play hard.” Locust Walk is like the Autobahn, a highway without speed limits. There is no limit on how fast one can drive one’s life here, and a few students crash every year. In the past year alone, four Penn students have committed suicide. Counseling and Psychological Services is so overbooked that the average wait time for an appointment is several weeks. Workaholics are lionized here, and I have foolishly taken seven classes one semester because all the overachievers seem to overload. I also joined numerous student clubs I cared little for because everyone else seems to be in clubs. Competitions for academic and social prominence are stiff, as business and science classes impose rigid curves. The vibrant Greek life ensures that those privileged at home will perpetuate their privilege at school.
Many other elite colleges have implemented speed limits to protect student sanity. Princeton encourages incoming freshmen to take a year off before college and even pays some of them to do so. MIT has a pass/fail grading policy for the incoming freshmen, and the median grade at Harvard is an A-minus. Georgetown does not allow dual degrees for undergrads. Fraternities have been banned at Amherst and Williams. Like its peer institutions, Penn need not be so laissez-faire in its governance of student life. Wharton MBA students agreed upon a grade non-disclosure policy during recruiting to foster a more collegial atmosphere. Penn’s reputation is renowned enough that even if we relax internal competition, prestigious firms and graduate schools will still come.
One of my biggest regrets at Penn is not taking time off to participate in the meditation retreat my former housemate organized before his premature passing.
One of my best decisions at Penn was slowing down for a semester to take an experiential monastic seminar called “Living deliberately,” which demanded vows of silence, abstinence and simplicity in return for life of serenity and joy. Perhaps if Locust Walk becomes a walk again, we will no longer be “specialists without souls, sensualists without hearts.” The life of the mind will return to pre-professional Penn, as many great thinkers including Aristotle, Jefferson and Kant have been fond of walking. We may also dispel the cloud of depression hovering over us, not through more counseling and medication, but through deeper communities. Just as Rome was not built in a day, ideas and relationships take time to build, although the latter can also burn overnight. If we rush less and take our time, our minds will be cooler and our sex hotter.
JY Lee is a fifth-year College and Wharton senior from Gangnam, South Korea. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @junyoubius.
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