I’ve been thinking a lot about going with the flow recently. One of my downfalls is that I have a tendency to become too obsessed with what I envision, which can make me inflexible and anxious when things don’t go as planned. This applies to major life changes, like college admissions, and very trivial things, like planning a sandwich day and then discovering the dining hall has absolutely no bread.
A lot of different things have been said about accepting fate. Go with the flow. Leave it to God. And also admitting that sometimes it’s just not a sandwich day, and that that’s fine.
I’ve also seen one of those pseudo-inspirational quotes (if you love it I apologize in advance) saying “Only dead fish go with the flow.” I have a few problems with this- the fist being that it’s patently false. Fish frequently go with the flow. That’s what makes it so remarkable when salmon swim upriver to spawn. The second is that I think the quote’s moral is very ill-advised. “Fight fate or you might as well be dead.” “Make your life one of never-ending struggle and pain just because.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with ‘the easy way’, and what’s more, life is rarely divided so simplistically into an easy way and hard way. The ways are all just… different.
As someone who has gotten a lot of practice making things difficult for myself, stepping on my own feet, and getting in my own way, I can tell you it’s very overrated. I’ve recently been feeling quite one with myself and very accepting of my feelings, decisions, and habits- though I still struggle with pretty frequent episodes of anxiety and feeling down.
Allowing myself to take things as they come and pick my battles- pick battles that are meaningful, and not arbitrary struggle- is something I’ve been working on and will continue working on.
And that’s kind of how I’m getting into my clumsy segue to the actual list. As you know, it’s my last semester at university (they don’t teach segues here) and my last chance to choose classes. At the beginning of this semester I was still torn about whether or not I was going to do an intensive or not intensive major in Chemistry. As it happened, the way the three classes I would still have needed for the intensive major were structured made it well nigh impossible for me to fit them into my schedule. So I had the chance for once to take my one random but required Chem class and to follow my bliss for three other credits. And for once I’ve actually focused on taking classes that are 1) not too much work and 2) courses on fun and interesting and unusual (for me) subjects.
So I have lots more time for ballroom, pleasure reading (separating from Orbis will be painful), movie-watching, socializing, and working. But I have my regrets. I think we all do when a big chapter of our life is beginning to close. One of those is a list of classes I, for one reason or another, didn’t take during my time here, and wish that I had.
- Cognitive Science of Morality: Questions about the philosophical significance of psychological findings. Topics include the role of emotion in moral judgment; the significance of character traits in virtue ethics and personality psychology; the reliability of intuitions and the psychological processes that underlie them. Tried to get into this class but it was capped. So he suggested I take it when he teaches it a year and a half from now. Yeah, unlikely. He seems like a good professor, the class seems cool, but yeah, he seems like a bit of a little bitch. Psshhh, maybe I’m just bitter.
- Introduction to Glass Blowing: This doesn’t count for credit which makes me incredibly incredibly sad.
- History of Art: Any of them! I shopped a French Art History class freshman year but little me had no idea at the time how to write a full length paper about a painting and so I dropped the class. And then I never got around to taking another one. Which is very sad because I love art and don’t know much about it intellectually.
- Life Worth Living: Comparative exploration of the shape of the life advocated by several of the world’s normative traditions, both religious and nonreligious. Concrete instantiations of these traditions explored through contemporary exemplars drawn from outside the professional religious or philosophical spheres. Readings from the founding texts of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Marxism, and utilitarianism. This is one of the highest rated classes at Yale but you need to apply well in advance and the one time I did it didn’t work out (I believe I was a sophomore at the time and it favors people further along at Yale). I’ve not ever taken a philosophy class, and this seems like the kind of one I would favor- lots of backgrounds from lots of cultures rather than a lineup of tortured Germans.
- Films of Alfred Hitchcock: An examination of Hitchcock’s career as a filmmaker from Blackmail to Frenzy, with close attention to the wide variety of critical and theoretical approaches to his work. Topics include the status of the image; the representation of the feminine and of the body; spectatorship; painterliness and theatricality; generic and psychoanalytic issues. I’m an out Hitchcock fan and I was so sure I was going to take this course this semester. But it’s held in a basement with no windows and smells so strongly of mildew that i couldn’t breathe. I had to leave so rudely while we were in the middle of watching Sabotage the first day of class.
- Italian, Spanish, and Russian: I got to French L7 at Yale, which involved reading Baudelaire and the laws of Marie de France, but there are so many more languages I would love to learn! Unfortunately, languages are very time-consuming and difficult courses to take. All of Yale’s language programs (with the exceptions of Indonesian, Zulu, and Kiswahili) are very intense.
- Random history: Egyptian Religion, Vikings, Ancient Ships. There are so many fascinating-looking history classes at Yale and I’m always intrigued by them but never took any of the most random ones. But I did take one about the city of Paris post-1789- and wrote a paper on how the sewer system influenced the development of the city both physically and politically.
- Boundaries of the Body in Law and Literature: I shopped this one last year but ultimately put it aside in favor of other classes that fit my schedule better (like Law, Tech, and Culture, which I don’t regret at all!). But the professor seemed super nice and crunchy, and she led a meditation at the beginning of class every day (being pretty crunchy myself, I was very much game).
- Isotopes: Advanced applications of isotopes to chemical problems and the theory associated with them, including kinetic and equilibrium isotope effects, tracer applications, and dating. Not a very well-rated class but supposedly pretty easy. Also taught by my favorite octogenarian, Professor Saunders. I wish I had taken this last semester instead of Chemical Biology, which it overlapped with. Chemical Biology and Biochemistry was not a good combination (they complimented one another surprisingly little) and the professors of Chemical Biology were rather bored.
- Child Development: Or any of the other courses that involve classroom visits with kiddos. Downside is that it’s a serious time commitment.
- Feminine Voices in French Literature: An exploration of women’s voices in French literature from the Middle Ages to the mid-twentieth century. The specificity of the feminine voice, the plurality of feminine voices, love and sexuality, and social and professional identity. Authors include Marie de France, Marguerite de Navarre, George Sand, Maryse Condé, and Marguerite Duras. So sad that this never fit into my schedule.
- Policing in America: This is an important thing to know about. And maybe it would help me feel less knee jerk animosity toward cops?
- The Horror Film, 1960-1991: Or so many other film courses. I never took one!
- US National Elections: Also important and weirdly incomprehensible.
- Listening to Music: Development of aural skills that lead to an understanding of Western music. The musical novice is introduced to the ways in which music is put together and is taught how to listen to a wide variety of musical styles, from Bach and Mozart, to Gregorian chant, to the blues. Kind of like the music class I’m taking now, except that the one I’m taking now is entirely art music of the 18 and 1900s. I would love to be able to listen to music (and not just classical music) more intellectually and appreciatively.
- Sages of the Ancient World: Comparative survey of ancient discourses about wisdom from China, India, the Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Topics include teaching, scheming, and dying. I always want to hear what the sages have to say.
- Psychopathology and the Family: The influence of the family on development and maintenance of both normal and abnormal behavior. Special emphasis on the role of early childhood experiences. Psychological, biological, and sociocultural factors within the family that contribute to variations in behavior. Relations between family and disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, anorexia nervosa, and criminality. Family therapy approaches and techniques. I tried to take this class once but it was so full they capped it at seniors. And now that I’m a senior it doesn’t fit well. Of course, there’s the worry that the professor would try to blame the parents for anorexia, and then I would have to kill her.
- Intellectual History Since Nietzsche: Major currents in European intellectual history from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth. Topics include Marxism-Leninism, psychoanalysis, expressionism, structuralism, phenomenology, existentialism, antipolitics, and deconstruction. I am also interested in the tortured Germans.
- Introduction to Writing Poetry: I missed the deadline to apply to this one which is sad because I don’t write poetry at all. And it’s supposed to be easy. Taking something out of my comfort zone but easy seems like the best senior spring tactic.