Tamara Keith: On Balancing Life and Studies

Last semester certain aspects of my life got way out of hand. So, in an effort to systematically assess what had gone wrong, I looked around me and took stock. Dirty dishes were spilling out of the sink, a funky fungus was growing on my bathroom ceiling, and I couldn't walk through my bedroom without tripping over some long lost something-or-other. It became apparent that I had real trouble balancing the mundane reality of my messy life with the important issues I was toiling over in my 12 units of philosophy classes.

When you're reading a book that's trying to prove the existence of God, you don't want to get up in the middle of the argument to scrub the floor around your toilet. When you settle down with a nice collection of Hume and realize that there's no way to be certain that the sun will rise the next morning you don't want to rush to the window and dust your mini blinds. When you read the passage where George Berkeley poses the now famous question "if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?" you don't really feel like watering an already dying house plant.

After reading Descartes' first Meditation (the one where he calls absolutely everything into doubt including the external world and the human body) I had little motivation to clean up after myself. It's not like I could prove that the mess or even my apartment really existed. Anyway, I'd rather be reading Descartes and trying to solve the mind-body problem than scrubbing floors and cleaning grout.

In ethics class, I discovered that a whole bunch of big name philosophers believed that humans are motivated by the acquisition of pleasure alone and the only actions with any value are pleasurable actions. Last time I checked, making my bed and doing multiple loads of laundry aren't pleasing in the least. Sure, I enjoy living in a clean environment but when I did the math and weighed the pain of cleaning up after myself against the pleasure of cleanliness, the decision was easy. The mess wasn't going anywhere.

My philosophy curriculum makes it especially easy for me to find excuses not to clean up my apartment or take care of myself in general. However, it seems that the subject matter in most every field of study can present something more interesting than cleanliness. Except maybe Microbiology. If I knew my mold's genus, phylum and potential harmful effects, I might have more dish washing tendencies.

It has been said that the college life consists of three fundamental things: studying, sleeping and socializing. It's hard enough to do those three things and continue to be successful, but our lives include so much more. How in the world are we supposed to incorporate cooking, cleaning, self-discovery and making important life decisions into our already packed schedules? At some point something has to fall off to the side.

Rather than deal with the mess that had plagued my life for well over a semester, I gave up my cleaning deposit and moved...into my parents' house. Hey, it's bigger, cleaner, and if I hide in the basement I can concentrate on my studies more than ever before.



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