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ISSUE 120 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/17/2006

Ordinary Oles

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, November 17, 2006

William Carlos Williams wrote in one of his most famous poems, “so much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow.” Emelie Heltsley writes in Variety this week about the multitasking Ole; the multitasking Ole would understand this poem. How could so much depend on something so ordinary?

Sometimes we Oles, as praised as we are by the administration for our over-achieving ways and our accomplishments, feel very ordinary. But maybe it is just me. Maybe I just feel like an ordinary person who is trying to accomplish many things, all of them important to me and hopefully meaningful to those around me as well.

As an ordinary person trying to do so many things, it becomes frustrating and stressful when we cannot accomplish the things we want to, when we run into what may seem to be insurmountable obstacles. It is disappointing to study for hours for a test to receive only a mediocre grade. At least if we hadn’t tried, there would be a reason. As an over-achieving Ole, settling for a B+ is maddening. It feels like, “Thanks for playing, but you just missed the prize.” But the truth is a B+ is not a bad grade. Why can’t we all realize this?

The Ole secretly feeling ordinary and overwhelmed is only discouraged by the example of peers. How does it seem that some people never do homework and always get A grades? What is their secret? The competition may be good for some but only spawns despair in others. If they can do it, why can’t I?

William Carlos Williams was a multi-tasker. He was not only a modernist poet of some renown, but also a practicing physician who delivered over 3,000 children during his years of practice. He had a wife and two sons and was an active community member in Rutherford, N.J. And he published poetry, books, exchanged letters with other writers, and constantly edited his own writing as well as the writing of others. But he too felt inadequate in ways, that some areas of his life had been sacrificed in the pursuit of others.

Why are we set on a path to overextend ourselves? Are we bred this way, raised to believe that if we are not getting A grades we are not trying hard enough? And were we like this before St. Olaf or did St. Olaf make us this way?

I think that St. Olaf did not make us this way. However, St. Olaf nurtures the competitive, rewards those that sleep three hours a night and study all day and gives accolades to those who will not accept any less than the highest grade in the class. While I am not saying we shouldn’t reward those that achieve, but at what point should we say the demands are too great?

I would advise people to take a little time for themselves. As tempting as it is to go out after working hard all day, don’t do it. Keeping up social appearances is part of the multitasking Ole persona, but at some point, you owe it to yourself to skip Froggy’s and just go to bed. Go read a magazine in the library and go to bed. Watch a movie and fall asleep while watching it. And wash your hands so that you don’t get sick.

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