Well, I can talk about anything for five pages. That’s a weird and different experience for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been encouraged to read about the accomplishments, research, and innovations of others, and write about that. For pages and pages. In those pages and pages, I’m not allowed to express much of an opinion, but I have to write well. And “writing well” isn’t defined at all by a style that is my own, but by some generic style that involves a lot of impersonal language and citations that make it seem like I know what I’m talking about, even though I have no clue and I don’t care and I just want to go to someone’s crappy dorm room and drink cans and cans of some terrible, local beer that tastes like perfume. Or at least that’s what this college has taught me.
I’m at a loss.
And isn’t it sad that I am, because if anything, I’m supposed to be discovering my voice in the process of my academic experience. The idea is that I glean from the innovations and ideas of the past, and incorporate those ideas into my own style of living, however that may translate.
I am now in my third year of college, and I’m at the point in my academic career where I’m trying to figure out why I’m doing what I’m doing, because I’m starting to feel like a hamster. Or one of those really time-consuming old fashioned cakes that demands exact ingredients but just winds up tasting really dry and reminding you of how grandma can’t chew any food. Why did I come here? And how is that making me a better person? Which experiences have I had since I’ve been here that have contributed to my betterment, and which ones have brought me down? I have actually been thinking about this a lot lately, especially at this time in my life where all of the different paths that I’ve chosen for myself are tearing me in different directions.
I’m trying to hold down a part-time retail job so that I can earn some extra money, some for spending and some for saving, and so that I don’t have to go home, another place that seems to suck the joy and enthusiasm out of my life. I’m in an a cappella group, which takes up a lot of my time. 2
I’m taking drum lessons, something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m trying to explore the world and meet new people and date and make mistakes and do all of the things that people my age are supposed to be doing. I seem to do these things with less ease, because ever since I can remember, I’ve been told that it’s not okay to mess up.
On top of this, I have classes. And they aren’t really classes that I want to take. They are classes that I have to take, for a major that I chose. I chose this major for my life and my future, but these required classes don’t seem to have anything to do with who I am or what I want to do.
Granted, I am not closed off to academic adventures. I generally love learning new things. But I become overwhelmed when these adventures turn into pages and pages of dry reading and writing that make me wonder why I was ever curious to begin with. If this is what discovery is – this $150 textbook, this oversaturation of information that I’m supposed to understand, this monstrosity of academic language (that is poorly revised, I might add) – then I don’t want to discover anything. How am I supposed to be curious and fascinated with the world when everyone is telling me to learn in a certain way, this way that is actually inhibiting my will to soak up knowledge?
It makes me never want to pick up another book in my life. It makes me want to hide in my room and not go to class. It makes me want to pack up my dorm room and run far, far away and hitchhike across the country and never come back.
If this is preparing me for the world, then the world must be a terrible place. A soulsucking, 9-5 kind of place where all that is ever respected is inaccessibility.
In addition to this, I see another side of the spectrum that I can’t stand. At the end of the week, once everyone has killed themselves trying to write what is almost humanly impossible, but what they are told they need to do in order to learn and make the most of their education, they feel like they need to blow off some steam. And so they get inhumanly drunk. They get so drunk that they do all of these things that they can’t remember, and things get broken and people get broken 3
and really, to me, everything looks pretty broken. Then they wake up next to someone they don’t know, which is weird because it’s this school and everyone knows everyone anyway, and they go to the dining hall with everyone else who feels crappy and wakes up next to people they don’t know, and they eat an omelet and then they do more work and repeat this process. Also, this has nothing to do with what I’m talking about, but I just noticed that the library’s Spellcheck does not recognize the name of this college. Furthermore, it won’t let you add it to the vernacular. I feel like this is just a metaphor for how hopeless this place is.
And conversation? Meaningful interaction? Relationships? Screw that. Nobody cares about that shit. They just want to get drunk and fool around with random people who don’t mean anything to them and not risk letting anyone into this part of themselves that is vulnerable, beautiful, and locked far, far away. Like a pearl. Or cookies in a diabetic’s closet.
So after getting the real college experience, this is what I see. This is my introduction to the world. I see a lot of obligation, a lot of demands on people that are impossible. I see a lot of fear of real connection. I see a place where sayings like, “do what you love” and “find your passion” are just clichés. They don’t really mean anything. And I see people who are being taught to live their lives this way. They are going to start to believe that meaning doesn’t exist. There are these two extremes – soul-crushing work and debauchery. No wonder our world sucks. These people who are learning these things are taking over important jobs. The world is in their hands, and they are completely screwed up.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had classes here that made me feel passionate about the world, or that sparked a curiosity in me that nothing else could. I have. But I believe that they are the exception, and not the rule. For the most part, I think that many people who aren’t incredibly left-brained would have extreme difficulty with the way that college is structured. And I want to know why we put ourselves through this. When we interview for jobs, is it admirable. Do people 4
look at a diploma as something that says, “Look, I survived 2 – 5 years, and sometimes more, of incredibly tedious work, but I made it through, and I was inebriated a lot along the way too, so that means I’m not an entirely dull person”? Do they think that’s really admirable? Because I don’t think it is.
I often wonder why we do a lot of things in society that we hate. I have seen a lot of obligation in my life, and I wonder why anyone would want to make something so precious and so relatively short so complicated. I don’t.
And then I start to wonder if the world is really made for me at all. Maybe I was just born with an unfortunate combination of interests and personality traits and life experience that makes it hard for me to exist in the way that everyone else does. I will probably never find happiness and live somewhere in North Dakota. But I have hope that this isn’t the case. Somehow, I feel like there are a lot of other people who, whether consciously or subconsciously, feel similarly. Maybe they’re just afraid that no one will agree with them, that people will tell them that they’re crazy, and then they will push more people away and their lives will suck more.
But I know something else. I have known great happiness and simplicity at times in my life, and that was before I knew what roasted fennel was. It’s actually quite good, and I hadn’t tried it until I came here, but I automatically associate it with angst. It’s like my Madeline cookie, minus the sentimental French childhood part.
Mostly, I just wanted to put this all out there. Because it’s been weighing on me for the past three or four years of my life (I went to art school before this, so I consider myself well-versed in college life). And when I express my opinion, a lot of people just tell me that I’m cynical, or am seeing things that aren’t there, or am somehow unable to get what I want out of my college experience. And I have taken those opinions to heart, and I’ve tried to go for what I want and leave the things that I don’t want behind. Sometimes I do feel better. But I don’t think that problems go 5
away just because you ignore them, and I feel that what goes on in American colleges – and the attitude that follows later in the workplace – is a problem. It’s a problem that people inflict this sort of unnecessary stress on themselves. As a matter of fact, right now I feel pressure to type exactly five pages of this paper. I’m thinking to myself, “I just have to find things to ramble on about for another three quarters of a page,” when I’ve really said all that I wanted to say.
So, now I’m going to talk about squids. Squids are really interesting animals. I don’t really know much about them, but I think it would be really cool to be one. I mean, given that I don’t end up in a plate of calamari or in the deli section of your local supermarket, I think about all of the fun first dates I could have, and how much more logical I’d be. You know, I bet that I would have an easier time at college if I were a squid. People would be so interested to talk me, and I’d never have to deal with awkward silences or rejection. Life would just be easier for me. I’d wake up in the morning, and I wouldn’t have to shower, because I’m already in the water, or do my hair, because I don’t have any. I wouldn’t have to wear any deodorant, or worry about pulling my black shirt over my head in such a way that deodorant marks don’t get on it, which actually really stresses me out, because I’d already smell ridiculous and fishy, and no amount of Dove or Secret or even that special medicated stuff for people with really freaky sweat glands could ever save me.
And now, I really don’t know what to say, so enjoy a Haiku poem by me:
Use your Facebook login and see what your friends are reading and sharing.
Now bringing you back...
Please enter your email address below to reset your password. We will send you an email with instructions on how to continue.