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viewpoint

Some things you don’t have to do

| Monday, September 5, 2016

“You have to listen to this band.” “You have to watch this show.” “You have to go to this party.”

It took seven hundred albums, hundreds of hours of television and dozens of smelly, awful parties before realizing that I didn’t “have to do” anything. Since I arrived at Notre Dame my freshman year, my goals haven’t really changed: I want to write poetry and music, and I want to make friends and memories that I’ll never have the chance to make again. And yet, for my first three years of college, I found myself doing far less to accomplish those goals than I wanted. Instead, I had to listen to this band. I had to watch this show. I had to go to this party. Why?

Many of my repetitive, unproductive actions were mirrored my addiction to League of Legends, a video game, in my freshman and sophomore years. In League of Legends, your performance against others moves you up and down ladder of skill where each division forms higher and lower rungs that always appear within reach. At the top of this ladder are the professional players. Even when I very clearly understood that I was never going to reach the top of the ladder, and even after I stopped enjoying the climb, I kept climbing — for hundreds and hundreds of hours. The next rung of the ladder and the feeling of progress attached to it was too enticing for my distraction-prone mind to escape.

Yet after League of Legends, I found replacements to stand in for the immediate feelings of progress I received. Every album I listened to was a clear step towards being a more accomplished music listener and each show I watched made me a more sophisticated viewer. If I went to all the parties, I was this much less likely to have missed out on “social experiences” in the shuffle. While I was caught up in these objectives, I lost track of my core goals as a student and as a person. I ended up moving towards unclear destinations that I had, in all actuality, very little interest in reaching.

It took me three years to finally orient my actions around my goals. It might sound infomercial-cheesy, but I’m happier now spending my time at the library moving on a path of my own choosing than I ever was soaking in “entertainment” for hours in my room. If you’re reading this, I hope you know that the only thing you really have to do at college is begin to understand what you want to do — and then get off your booty and do it.

Contact John Darr at jdarr@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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