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To Those with Dreams Deferred by Selam G. '18

in which Selam of Pi Day Past rants about how things are arbitrary

My freshman spring, I had planned to put up this post about pi day, but for a Set of Inexplicable Reasons it did not go up in time and has been sitting in my drafts box since.

However, I still believe, fervently, in spreading the message that Many Things Are Arbitrary. For one thing (and this might make a lot of people mad), whether you are an INTJ or an Aquarius or Year of the Horse is Not Important and you don’t need to base your life plans or self worth on it. For another thing, whether you end up being a student at X or Y school is also something you can’t entirely control, and you shouldn’t base your self worth on that either. Don’t let people tell you what you can or can’t do because of arbitrary factors, but most importantly, don’t let yourself get in the way of your own ambitions, because that’s what usually happens. I know a lot of people were made happy and excited on EA day, and a lot of people were significantly less so.

Hopefully, these words from 2015 Selam can remind you that sometimes we get caught up in things that don’t actually mean as much as we think they do, and the world still turns and the sun still shines, and maybe we can benefit from focusing on that instead.


So I just (literally six minutes ago) got back from being a research participant at a hospital, which, to make a long story short, was like being on a 16 hour transcontinental flight, except they wake you up every hour and ask you to spit into a tube and run some tests.

Upon our first few minutes seeing a window to the outside world, one of the scientists wished us a happy pi day, and I realized that today was the day, and in t minus 30 minutes many of you will be receiving decisions.

But you know what?

It’s not actually pi day.

I know everyone was all excited because today was the One And Only 03/14/15, which is 3.1415. But it’s only like that on the Gregorian calendar, after all. On the Ethiopian Calendar today is the 5th day of Mekawit, 2007. On the lunar calendar, today is analagous to January 24th, the 24th day of the first month.

You know what else? Pi isn’t really 3.1415926….either. We just happened to choose that set of what we call Arabic numerals to denote our mathematical system. We could have chosen something else entirely–and who knows? Maybe through it we would have found different rules and laws by this point today, and proven other theories, and numbers like pi would not have been discovered yet. After all, mathematics is not inherently tied to the workings of the world, but rather, it is simply a language with which we interpret the world and utilize as a tool (you’re all probably starting to simmer with hatred for me now, but hear me out).

Okay, I’ll admit that the language of mathematics we use today is a pretty good system and has been created through a lot of people smarter than me experimenting with it. But humans sometimes like to define ourselves in ways we don’t actually have to be defined, the way we defined the year with the Gregorian calendar. Sometimes, we define ourselves by our schools or workplaces, or even our future schools and workplaces, which have not yet occurred. Sometimes, we like to define ourselves with not so great numbers, such as our GPA or rank. We like to decide on a cold, hard, set of ambitions that don’t actually have to completely define us if we would only let go of them for a moment.

If someone else had picked our mathematical or calendar system, today would not be pi day. But you know what? Today is still a day, and it is glorious, as you too might realize after spending 16 hours in a windowless white walled hospital room for science research (ugh). It is a glorious day, and it is cold in Boston, but I still find it beautiful outside.

Don’t let pi day define today. Don’t let whatever happens with regards to college decisions (ever) define you, whether they are what you wanted to hear or not. School and such things will pass. What would you say if you had to describe yourself without listing all your accomplishments, or your GPA, or all your academic endeavors? You are still a person. Today is still today.

The nice thing is that though a few arbitrary Greek or Roman people in history decided things such that today is called Pi Day, it has not yet been defined as a day in your life yet. It’s early (where I am) in the morning. You get to decide what you will do today, and how you will spend it, and how you will remember it.