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The Bell Curve Life

By Tiffany Kosolcharoen

Associate features editor

I want a simple life: a nice little home, cute kids, a guy to chat with for 80 years, a dog to run alongside me everyday, and daily sunshine. Yet, do I really? No matter how much we say my happiness is independent of others, we live life on the bell curve. In our case, at the 99.99th percentile.

Nobody aspires to live at the center of the bell curve life, where most people end up. We do not want to be an average Dilbert, holed up in a cubicle as a corporate slave. We do not want kids with average intellects or salaries at the mean of this bell curve. A little to the right, please.

Hopeless studying

Still, as I sit here writing this column instead of studying for a 6.041 test this Wednesday night, I wonder what it takes to make it on top. You see, I could be studying and studying. And studying. All this preparation could still amount to nothing at the time of the test, which some MIT geniuses could have taken on their first birthday.

Knowing that I won’t be scoring 100 percent, 99 percent, or even 98 percent, I am once again a slave to the bell curve. It’s what my neighbors get that matters. I’m hoping everyone does worse than me so that I can end up better than average.


I did the same thing during the World Championships of skating. “Stop ill-wishing the skaters,” my dad told me one night as I watched figure skater Michelle Kwan’s competitors perform. I was hoping that everyone but Michelle would fall so that my favorite athlete would win once again.

Yet, none of this squabbling makes us any happier. That’s probably why watching sports isn’t exactly the most stress-free, lazy-on-the-beach activity. Neither is reading the news. I’m asking myself: is it worth this increased blood pressure?

Think about uniforms at private schools. When everyone is the same, and the fashion bell curve appears to be eliminated, our “clothing communism” makes us itch to be unique. Notice how uniformed kids tend to decorate their hair, shoe-laces, and backpacks more heavily than non-uniformed students.

So if we will always try to create a bell curve for ourselves, are we always going to be subject to the negativity it creates?

Success of self

I’m learning to live life on my own personal bell curve. I define success as being better than I was at something in the past.

That means eliminating mediocrity and laziness. It means doing more than 6.041, the results of which I could never properly control due to the genius skew. That means getting enough sleep so that in the morning, I can wake up and be a contributing human being. That means reaching out to others, and learning to give -- whether it is my friendship, thoughts, or knowledge.

It is easy to live life in terms of other people’s definition of happiness. People often quantify happiness in terms of money: if you win the lottery, you’ll be happy. That’s not true, many lottery winners lose their friends over the battle for something so material as cash.

Honestly, I don’ t believe Bill Gates is any happier with his wealth. I’m guessing his concern for his children’s security is probably causing more of a headache.

Plus, a million dollars won’ t buy you health and a healthy life perspective.

I still want a simple life: a nice little home, cute kids, a guy to chat with for at least 80 years, a dog to run alongside me everyday, and daily sunshine. Although I shall continue to work toward my ambitions, I realize fulfillment does not depend on society’s bell curve standards.