The most conventional definition of “persistence” invokes some sort of struggle or challenge. To persist is to actively withstand, to toil and, in turn, to triumph. A dandelion pushing through an expanse of asphalt, claiming a crack as its own, persists. A young man fighting the magnetism of particles in a block of wood persists. Hikers trekking up the slope of a mountain, blanketed in dark, persist. Prospective corporate employees, pitted against suffocating odds and pressed for time, persist.
But persistence can also carry a passive meaning; sometimes, it simply involves continued existence. An undying flame persists. A discarded newspaper stubbornly pressing its face against the transparent plastic of a trash bag persists. A single paper straw may dissolve in little time, but thousands of paper straws used by thousands of students stubbornly crowd out their plastic counterparts, reducing pollution; they, too, persist.
This second form of persistence, though less flashy, is arguably more difficult. To carry on with no end in sight, with little recognition and with no definable payoff, is exhausting. Imagine corporate recruiting on repeat, or an axe that never reaches the other side of the block of wood, or a mountain without a peak. There is little room for celebration when the finish line is not yet visible.
A term at Dartmouth begins as an exercise in the first brand of persistence, but as we become desensitized to challenge, it gradually devolves into the second. The transition from one to the other starts now, in the sixth week of the term, as we wade through midterms and papers with the promise of final exams on the horizon ahead.
We invite you to stop and take a real break by reading the Mirror — to see what our staff have to say about persistence, corporate recruiting, muddling through and horrible ways to pass time.