I am in my fourth year here at Carleton, and like many other students at this point, I have reached a new level of appreciating a good cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night (keeping in mind the golden mean of Plato of course).
I think I have a relatively normal life, but I leave that up to you to judge. As a philosophy student, I think my day-to-day work likely looks a little different than a lot of other students in different programs. Perhaps this will be of some insight to see what exactly philosophy students do.
To start my day, I have my usual coffee and oatmeal. Or, if perchance the weight of my life does not weigh too heavy on me in the mornings, I will actually make eggs and bacon. Or as I seem to always groggily say- “econ and bags” with my morning mixing up of words. I either watch Netflix or listen to music while I get ready in an attempt to move my spirit into an awakening for the day. It is critical that my mind be vigilant, you see, so of course, I do everything in my power to find some kind of focus.
This is usually when I realize that I have a discussion post due in a few hours. Since I have gotten so sick of staring at my own four walls of my apartment during Covid, I pack my bag and head to a different four walls of the MacOdrum Library on campus. Yes, a change of scenery is always good for me, especially when surrounded by books. I have always been a lover of books, and I sometimes hope that the knowledge held in libraries somehow seeps into me while I work.
But I’m a little ahead of myself. As a philosophy major, a part of my school work actually begins on the bus ride over to campus. This is where the most challenging work actually begins, in my opinion. That is the work of the philosopher: contemplation. What shall I say? What will I write about? What argument could be made here?
This is where the rabbit holes start.
I am currently in a philosophy of art class, and lately, it has led to some brilliant spirals into contemplation over the value of music. As I pass by the Rideau canal with my headphones on listening to Taylor Swift’s new album, I debate the importance of distinguishing between pure music (music that has no lyrics) and music that does have lyrics when considering if music communicates emotion. It seems too easy to say Taylor Swift clearly expresses emotion- she spells it out for us. But what about Chopin? That guy uses no words, and yet I find myself more emotionally moved by his work. Why is this?
The hours in the day go by; I research and score what seems like hundreds of pages to inquire what other people have said on something I have an inquiry about…
… Hm… I’m sure Plato has said something about this….was the whole point of this paper to say that “it depends”? Not again…Oh no, this philosopher rambles too much…Oh wow, I never considered this before; maybe I should write about something completely different? No, I don’t have time for that- focus Emily….How should I end this paper? It’s gotta be something wistful….
Soon enough, it’s dark out and I am heading back home. Music drowns out the thoughts as I make my way home, along with an appreciation that I actually didn’t forget that discussion post again.
After dinner, the existential dread sets in, and I dabble with absurdity, but to stave it off, I watch something like Seinfeld or The Office. The classics, of course. There is no better way to turn off the train of thoughts than mindless and mildly comical TV.
I should remind readers that this is not a completely accurate portrayal of my everyday life all the time. Some days I am modestly productive in my classes, some days, I catch up on a month’s worth of laundry, and other days I have a social life. I think this is one of the important things to note as a philosophy student: I never get bored. I have much freedom to spend my days as I like, and albeit I often do spend most of my time doing philosophical readings, it is always something new and exciting to contemplate and research. I try to feel grateful with each passing day that I am not an engineering student because I know that my inquiry to a science professor on the “nothingness” inside an atom would not be as appreciated as it would in my philosophy classes. Though the philosophical mind can sometimes be a burden in the sense that I am ever searching and questioning, I do have a sense of satisfaction over the fact that I am on a long journey of meaningful learning in my life.
I have digressed from my schedule of daily life, but let us be honest with each other– did you really want to know what a philosophy student ate for breakfast, or did you really expect something more….philosophical?