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Gabbing with Grace: “if,” not “when”

Grace Sherban
Managing Editor Grace Sherban continues to ponder life’s hard hitting questions in the latest “Gabbing with Grace”

I would not consider myself a future-oriented person. Whether I’m considering what I plan on eating for dinner tonight or how I will spend my life after completing my undergraduate career, the future has always seemed to be a thousand miles away… even when it’s not. My actions tomorrow could change my life in some inexplicable way that would upend any plans that I do not even have yet. 

If this is your first “Gabbing with Grace,” hello and welcome! If you are an avid reader of this silly little column, we are starting back up right where we left off last semester: unraveling the forever-knotted spool which is my innermost thoughts on change, the future and whatever nonsense my mind conjures any given week. 

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been noticing the phrasing and word choice in conversations which has formed the basis of my thoughts for this entry into my ever developing oeuvre. 

Being a college student, I am surrounded by people who are future-oriented, almost to a fault. After hearing their conversations about where they see themselves in the future, I have noticed there are two different words people use when describing their greatest aspirations: “when” and “if.”

“When” users walk a very fine line: on one hand, the mindset of speaking things into existence can be a great motivator. On the other hand, they are not prepared to fail if they have never considered failure a possibility. They are so positive that what they say will come true, they don’t think of the possible ramifications that “when” can cause on their fate. 

“If” users are, for lack of a better term, more pessimistic. A line from “Spiderman: No Way Home” expresses this sentiment far better than I ever could: “If you expect disappointment, then you can never really be disappointed.” High expectations can help push people to do their best work but what happens if these expectations are just too high?

In conversation, the choice to use “if” or “when” is not an entirely conscious choice but it nevertheless speaks volumes about the type of mindset the user holds. 

“When” sets unrealistic expectations. If someone were to say, “Well when you go to grad school, you should do (blank),” I have a few issues with this type of statement. First, the person saying “when” seems to be telling the other person what they should do with their life. By saying “when,” people are hinting at the expectations they hold for those they converse with. 

If it wasn’t clear, I am an “if” user. There is just something about that word which feels less definite, yet optimistic. “If” keeps people grounded in reality while simultaneously allowing them to aspire for greater opportunities. Going back to the previous example, listen to the difference if I were to say,  “If you go grad school… yada yada.” The power is being put in the hands of the person who will ultimately make the decision and no assumptions are being made. 

You can tempt fate with “when.” But, you can inspire fate with a simple “if.”

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About the Contributor
Grace Sherban
Grace Sherban, Editor-in-Chief
Managing Editor Grace Sally Sherban was born in the early hours on Tuesday May 20, 2003. She spent most of her childhood hooting, hollering and joshing around while constantly reading and watching movies in between. She continues to do much of the same now while double majoring in Communications and English so she stays busy between all the hooting, hollering, joshing around, listening to herself talk, class, walking in the rain and work. Grace’s biggest goal in life is to write a comprehensive novel about the 1955 Academy Awards Best Actress race and its implications on the movie industry. To request the slideshow on the 1955 Academy Awards Best Actress race, she can be reached at [email protected]

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