“Checkmate,” my brother announces for the third time in three hours.
In truth, I am accustomed to drubbings on the chessboard at the hands of my brother. He possesses a skill I sometimes lack — foresight. But I never stumble through a game; I always think ahead. If I use the appropriate strategy, why do I always lose?
First, I am an awful chess player.
Second, I internalized the mantra of every grandmaster: Always think three moves ahead. Unfortunately, a chess game rarely ends in the next three moves. I attain the immediate at the expense of the comprehensive. Instead of guiding me to victory, my short-term strategy inevitably leads to the capture of my king, after my brother has laid waste to my defenses.
A causal observer may think I play Kamikaze chess — a variation in which pieces are intentionally lost — because in retrospect my moves seem self-destructive. My problem, however, arises not from an inability to apply the three-moves-ahead mindset but the paradox of the perspective itself.
In practice, thinking three steps in advance is an iterated process. Once you have planned the next three moves, you are in a position to duplicate the technique ad infinitum. In fact, forward thinking unavoidably culminates in endgame thinking — every choice and their alternatives are carefully considered.
On the other hand, thinking three moves ahead can permit us to establish somewhat artificial endpoints, which are beneficial to the completion of the larger project.
An evenhanded approach melds the long-term focus with direct, immediate objectives. However, we frequently swing to the extremes of the spectrum when we should reside somewhere in the middle. We sacrifice the more for the now or we defer too much to what lies ahead.
Academic endeavors often reflect our propensity to extremism. Some students are career-oriented to a fault. Their time at Georgetown is dominated by post-graduation plans; for them life happens beyond the Hilltop. Others actively engage in their college experience without much of a vision for the future. They graduate and only then begin to think about life after college.
My time at Georgetown mirrors my chess mantra: Think three moves ahead. Of course, there have been benefits and drawbacks to this approach.
An emphasis on short-term goals has allowed me to accomplish a lot here — but my goals have often been truncated and nearsighted. I am attentive to my academic prosperity for its own sake, but not necessarily its role in furthering my life plans. As the close of my final year nears, I have struggled to find coherence in my classes.
In the past four years, I have “earned credit” in a smattering of classes, with a concentration in political science. My intermediate goal — to graduate from Georgetown — is almost complete. But, somewhere in the process, I lost sight of an overarching purpose.
I will not leave Georgetown with a tangible skill set. I do not know how to weld or invest or nurse. To that end, my future appears disconnected from my short-term achievements. Because of my hyper-focus on the immediate, I have partially neglected the distant — which is now not so distant.
As a consequence, I have devoted a substantial amount of time this semester to finding my center again and refocusing. Thankfully, my inner soul-searching has given me renewed energy. I have added context to my short-term objectives and most importantly, realized how they enhance my long-term aspirations.
I am excited for my next three moves.
David Freenock is a senior in the College. CHRONICALLY ME appears every other Tuesday.