UCU-itis

By Eugenia Melissen Ferrer

Raise your hand if you have been thinking about your future from day one at UC.
Raise your hand if you are doing an internship or are in the process of securing one.
A more tricky question: is it inevitable that the success stories of our fellow student or friend, who are being offered amazing jobs and getting into Oxford, fill us with jealousy?

Perhaps I should start this story differently.

Once upon a time, there was a UC-student in the making. He was smart and curious about the world around him. Perhaps a tad eccentric. In the course of his life he also became unusually used to praise. Praise wasn’t what he lived for, but it was nonetheless a powerful shaper of his personality.

The budding UC-student slowly became accustomed to belonging to some sort of elite, to which intelligence was the secret password. At night, James (as I would like to call him) had vivid dreams of himself in the future. The future was always bright and involved famous universities, prestigious jobs, an exotic wife and interesting hobbies. He would go on to make a change in the world and he would do everything in his power to make his life meaningful.

Of course, there is no harm in all of this and I realize that I am generalizing a bit. Some UC-students might dream of abandoning academia the moment they have finished their third year. Perhaps travel a bit. See what happens. Others might not be competitive by nature or value different things in life. Also, this is not a sketch of myself.

I guess all I am trying to do is diagnose a case of UCU-itis: ambition. Now you yourself can determine to what extent you want to let it overpower you. In itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition. It is a powerful motivator and a sign that you have a zest for life.

As with all things, however, you can drive it to the extreme. And that is when you lose sight of reality, or at least of the present moment. I am the first person to become a bit shifty and uncomfortable at the sight of magazines with texts such as ‘live in the present’, ‘embrace now’ and ‘letting go’ stamped across the cover, but to the budding UC-student, this advice might help tame his virus a little.

Why does James, now accepted at UCU, feel a pang of guilt if he feels he is not being ‘productive’? Why does he link his sense of self to his grades, refusing to settle for less than an A? And wouldn’t it be a relief to gently release the grip perfectionism has over him or to stop obsessively planning for the future?

There is a flu going around on campus and it is called unbridled ambition. It is up to you to decide how much you are going to let it influence you.

 

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