Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Why TV Shows Aren’t A Complete Waste of Your Time

I used to think that watching TV shows was a complete waste of time. But I just changed my mind.

Exhibit 1: Hilarious TV show.

What changed?

I realized that watching a good TV show clears my mind.

These days, I always have at least 10 things circling like vultures around my mind at once: research ideas, problem sets, upcoming meetings, graduation, grad school, summer jobs, summer housing… It’s way too easy to get distracted by an “urgent” email while I’m working on a research problem—Mac Mail’s red email indicator kills productivity without fail—and the closer I get to graduation, the more thoughts of post-Stanford life start to pop up at inopportune times (i.e., all the time). It gets harder and harder to clear my mind and focus.

Enter the TV show.

When I’m watching a good show online—i.e., on my own schedule, with no commercials—I get lost in the characters’ world, a sense of flow not unlike what I feel when I’m reading a good book. The characters are crucial: I empathize with some, laugh at others, and the effortless endeavor to psychoanalyze—to make sense of the ridiculous antics, jokes, and drama—washes away all the other thoughts floating around in my head. And once the episode ends, I can jump right back into my work, thinking of nothing but the show. Turns out it’s a lot easier to forget a silly TV show than 10 stressful thoughts about my future, and when that’s gone, my mind is clear.

There are many other ways of achieving the same effect of flow, of total engagement, mind and body. Read a book. Meditate. Play a sport. I’ve tried them all, and they all seem to work. But few diversions have been as widely maligned as watching TV, and it’s comforting to me and surely some others to know that TV shows, correctly wielded, have a place in even the busiest of lives. Watching a good show with friends is like meditating, but more social and more hilarious.

The show that made me rethink TV was Community, a parody of student life at a community college. It fits the “good TV show” mold beautifully—clever, light-hearted, attractive—and it’s got me hooked. In a good way. I think.

-Joel

P.S. For those friends who don’t check Facebook, I’ll be starting a PhD in EE at MIT this fall! Just got my new email address (jjean@mit.edu), and the parka is on its way…

MIT in micro-bubbles (Courtesy of Manu Prakash)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Stanford Bubble

I spent the first 18 years of my life trying to get into college and the last 2 trying to get out.

That’s not to say that I spent my freshman and sophomore years at Stanford biding my time, waiting for the perfect moment to drop out or run away or take some other equally dramatic action––that would be a terrible waste of all those palm trees on Palm Drive that I’ve invested in with my tuition dollars––but rather that I’ve long wondered how best to break free of the Stanford Bubble, in mind and in body.

For the uninitiated, the “Stanford Bubble” is a term often tossed around in reference to the once-in-a-blue-moon frequency with which students get off-campus. The phenomenon stems from the immense size––Stanford, CA is its own city, with its own ZIP code, 94305––and the self-sufficiency of the Farm, and usually refers to the day-to-day physical insularity that students here experience and bemoan jokingly, but it applies just as well to the psychological disconnect that grows with every passing day on the campus of any university, so-called “elite” or otherwise.

I'll try to avoid this...

I'll try to avoid this...

It comes down to a loss of perspective. The exigencies of the quarter system force upon us a terrible triumviral ultimatum: academics, sleep, a social life––choose two. Keeping in touch and up to date with the world beyond 94305 isn’t even an option. And sometimes we get so caught up in the relentless rush of midterms and problem sets and meetings that we simply forget why we came to college in the first place: to continue our education and to make our visions of the future into reality.

But I really can’t complain.

See?

See?

I’m where I want to be, doing what I want to do––i.e., going to Stanford, making new friends, learning a lot, working my ass off, running all over the country. But the weight of the world lies squarely on my shoulders when I think about everything I want to and believe I can accomplish. I do my best to live 100% in the moment, but when “the moment” is 7 hours into a problem set that strains the limits of both my understanding of PDEs/circuits/signal processing and my ability to conjure up reasonable-looking answers, I still can’t help but wonder why I’m spending $200,000 and 4 years of my life “learning how to learn.”

It’s only when I reconnect with a friend I haven’t seen in a while or fly home to my family in Ohio that I can take a step back, recover perspective, and find my center, so to speak. It’s those moments that drive me, that revive me, that propel me forward into every new day with an extra spring in my step. No day is ever better than today, but I still can’t wait for tomorrow.

-Joel

Tagged , , , , , , , ,