Opinions, Column

How BC’s Winning Culture Influenced Me

The winning culture at Boston College is prevalent throughout the entirety of our four years on campus. It gets more competitive as you progress and doesn’t level off after graduation. Winning is measured by how much we do, and is used a pillar to support the all-powerful resume. Like Hercules lifting the fallen pillar off Meg, which crushed her body, I too looked for one role which could support my resume and therefore qualify me for success. Part of this winning culture is that there is not enough success “to go around.” In fact, when asked about the winning culture in class, many of my classmates felt as though someone must lose in order for them to win.

I have often wondered why many of my accomplishments are met with, “That is great for you, I remember a time when I did [insert humble brag here]” instead of, “Wow, that is great for you.” Period. Again, I am speaking from personal experience. But, since coming to college, my desire to constantly to achieve—“Ever to Excel”—has been pushed to the upward bounds of what I thought was possible.

As I prepared to apply for jobs this year, I went into the Career Center with a long list of four years worth of accomplishments. The counselor literally looked at me and said: “What is the matter with you?” I was momentarily offended but laughed it off somewhat immediately after he followed the comment with, “But you certainly have succeeded while you have been here.”

Even as a senior with four years of college under my belt, my perception of success is still tied to resume qualities. What have I accomplished? What have my classmates accomplished? Can I do what they are doing? Are they doing what I am doing? How am I differentiating myself? How can I take it one step further? Is there a way for me to do more? Am I not doing enough?

I know that my notion of winning is influenced by my upbringing, family life, and so on, but seeing other people’s success triggers a flight or fight response where I begin to immediately categorize what I am doing “right” and what I am doing “wrong.” It may sound asinine, but I would argue that, even if one person feels this way, the culture itself can be categorized as one where “winning” takes precedent.

This is not to say that I am unhappy with this culture at BC. I am thrilled to partake in it—this may be a narcissistic indicator of me seeing myself as successful, due to my over-involvement both at an academic and extracurricular level. Nevertheless, it reinforces my opinion. BC has granted me numerous life-changing experiences in the past four years—more than I was exposed to during my childhood. BC, and college in general, are places that bridge childhood to a more “real” adult experience. We are being prepared to leave the Eagle’s nest. We are not thrown into the jungle of the real world but we are also not in the arms of our parents.

Yet, this culture of winning is the frame of reference for how I have learned to perceive the world. I may be watching too many episodes of Billions or House of Cards (maybe even too many Game of Thrones reruns) but from what I can tell, we live in a dog-eat-dog world. I do not know about any of you, but I would prefer to be the Doberman Pinscher as compared to the Shih Tzu.

Hence, why I am writing this article: While we should embrace parts of this education, we need to know that, in the moments when the BC bubble starts to cloud, the departure is not going to be a passive process. To be honest, I do not have any advice as how to leave the bubble; the techniques vary by person and the reasons fluctuate even more. I wrote a column earlier this year about leaving the flow of college life, but different things work for different people.

The winning culture has coerced me to reach my full potential. There are many cultures that stress other factors, like family, relationships, religion, more than America’s and BC’s does, but that is what makes this world so unique. While the experiences I originally used to prop up my resume have given me so much more than a title on paper, without this unyielding pressure for success, I wouldn’t have wanted them to begin with.  

April 11, 2019