Shiralkar: Switching lanes

Columnist Parth Shiralkar switches his routine, optimistic but realistic. 

Parth Shiralkar

For as long as I can recall, I’ve been entering text for my column submissions directly into the content management system of the newspaper, an act that falls under the umbrella of similar not safe for work activities — like testing code on the live production server or test driving a sedan in the Grand Canyon. Today, on the last day of my internship, I decided to change that.

Friday ended in a bittersweet farewell with my erstwhile colleagues, with the acknowledgement that this is a crossroads to another wild array of possibilities while sharing the soft sorrow of leaving the only quarantine companions I’ve had these past few months. Regardless, over a couple of nice longboarding and trivia sessions, I slipped into a headspace to switch lanes.

It’s not easy, growing older in 2020. An empty plate bothers me — I need to be doing something, all the time, to keep my mind at ease. This sudden shift of gears from working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — elbows deep in work —  to long and discontinuous hours of reading papers is… uncomfortable. I should actually be branching out into more hobbies, carefully reworking my bedroom’s quaint décor — not that it needs much reworking — but instead I stay up at night, wondering if anyone really reads the stuff I write.

I’m hoping to have a quiet research semester, peppered with a few quiet outings by myself, maybe the odd trip downtown, perhaps a long trip to one of those famous idyllic spots in the Midwest everyone keeps raving about. Despite my heroic efforts at optimism, I’m heeding the advice of the good-natured Stoics and leaving untouched the possibility of disaster. Especially after the recent jump scare by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the idea of financial self-sufficiency and having several backup plans is a prominent one in the back of my head.

Without the blessing of the albino squirrel, I think, hoping for an unscathed semester is a dubious venture. On my regular walks on campus, I keep an eye out for the albino squirrel, lest I miss its silent endorsement to keep on hoping. But then again, of all the productive things I think I’m doing, leaving the most frugally-worded movie reviews on Letterboxd is perhaps my favorite. It does — and this seems to be a common sentiment — have a slight bearing on my perception of myself. Suddenly, I am no longer just reading about faintly snobbish film dudes, I am one of them.

Which brings me back to the ever-present existential dread I’ve learned to counter only by adapting to my circumstance. See, for example, my attempt at being a more responsible Daily staffer by drafting my column locally before letting it loose in the content management system. It is but natural to feel the thrill of the unknown, and I’ll have to find similar ways to keep myself busy as I — along with a clueless multitude of people — navigate these strange and murky waters.

Stay safe and wash your hands.