Carrying on: She doesn’t even go here

September 8, 2011

My name is Emma and I am an overachiever.

Last week I went out for dinner with a mixed group: some friends, some acquaintances, and a couple of total strangers. During the chips and salsa course, I was chatting with one of the unfamiliars, following the standard get-to-know-you protocol of a first encounter: who are you, what do you do, etc. I think I was explaining one of my extracurricular activities, when one of my friends at the table butted in, “Yeah, Emma is pretty much that kid Max Fischer in Rushmore.”

If you haven’t seen the 1998 Wes Anderson dram-com flick, the Wikipedia entry for Rushmore calls Fischer “a precocious and eccentric 15 year-old … both [his school’s] most extracurricular and least scholarly student.” Ouch, right? I don’t deny it—I am extracurricularly involved. I write this column, have a radio show, I’m a WGTB Music Board member, and I’m the Publicity Director for the GU Art Aficionados. I’ve been a Writing Center tutor, a Voice editor, and this past summer I had four internships (seriously). Listed out like that, I know it sounds ridiculous, but who at Georgetown isn’t over-involved?

It all started two years ago, during my first SAC fair. A freshman eager to continue my high school passions and define myself at Georgetown, I signed my net ID at about 50 different tables. I’d been captain of my high school soccer team, so I tried out for club soccer. I knew that I just had to be part of the Corp. Unfortunately, every other incoming freshman girl also wanted to play club soccer and also had to be in the Corp, and I found myself painfully denied by both.

My father has always called me a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Although he means it as a compliment, it has always tormented me. In a world where “runner-up” is basically synonymous with “loser,” it’s hard to feel like you’re good at a lot of things but never the best at anything. These early rejections just served to emphasize that apparent weakness. I could have resorted to binge drinking and master cleansing to fill my extracurricular time, but I decided to look for my niche elsewhere instead.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I liked—art, music, and writing. I had written for and edited my high school paper, so I went to an open house at the Voice. I ate free pizza, met cool people, and have been involved with the paper ever since. When my friend asked me to do a WGTB radio show with her, I agreed, started going to meetings, and became a music board director. I began tabling for the GU Art Aficionados, and before I knew it I was running for a position on the board. Just by doing what I liked, I was able to discover who I was.

At Georgetown, we live in a world of Max Fischers. Everywhere you look, people are starting organizations and running marathons and spearheading efforts to relieve hunger in seven different third-world countries. It’s easy to get sucked into the overachieving scene, but it’s even easier to feel like nothing you do is worthwhile or good enough. At the same time, it’s important not to become bogged down by too many or too meaningless responsibilities. In Rushmore, Max Fischer was vice president of the Stamp and Coin Club, founder of the Bombardment Society, president of the Rushmore Beekeepers … and he failed out of school. The lesson there isn’t that you should stop spending so much time putting on plays and starting up clubs, but that you shouldn’t do things just to build your resume or to make others happy. Sign up for what you like, continue doing what you love, and you’ll be satisfied. It’s actually that simple.

Some lucky people go through life knowing exactly what they want to do and how they want to do it. But there are other equally successful people who find the most meaning in multiple fields. Former National Football League cornerback and Major League Baseball outfielder Deion Sanders once told Sports Illustrated, “I’ve always said I love football and that baseball is my girlfriend.” There’s no reason to pick one passion, and you might find that being well rounded is passion enough.

Initially, my instinct was to be offended by being called Max Fischer. I don’t wear a red beret around campus, I don’t have a crush on a wildly inappropriate elementary school teacher, and I (unfortunately) don’t co-star in a movie with Bill Murray. But the more I think about it, being Max Fischer isn’t so terrible.


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