People in college go on spring break, shaking off their mid terms and getting ready for the final approach to the last semester before summer. Things are different for me, different for anyone who doesnít fit the mold of a student. Iím not sure what I want to become, or how to do it. ďJust do your workĒ, ďgut it outĒ, ďkeep your eye on the prizeĒ.
The problem, of course, is that college isnít offering something to me at this level. As a freshman, the class Iím doing best in is the only one Iím actually being challenged in Ė biology. Iím a declared English major, and my SATís for the reading section were fantastic. I was placed in a 150 level course first semester. However, the powers that be force me to take Freshman Composition 101 second semester. Itís hard to do well in classes where you feel smarter than your professor.
I canít move on without getting past this class. I wanted to test out of it, and just buy my credits, but my academic probation officer has informed me of the perils. If I tested out, then Iíd have to drop the course. If I drop the course, then I go below 12 credit hours, and I lose all of my full-time student scholarships.
Philosophy is the dumbest course Iíve ever had the pleasure of sleeping through. Thereís something melodic about the teacherís blend of South African and French accents that, however shrill, seem to put me to sleep better than Ambien and an afternoon of golf on the TV. Itís also hard to do well in a course when he refuses to give you a new syllabus and also denies the virtue of Blackboard.
The social atmosphere of Frostburg revolves around a keg. Whereas coastal colleges can enjoy the beach, or urban colleges and the city; we have nothing but the weather and discounted beer. You can see it on everyoneís face on Fridays. They know thereís nothing to do except lower their life expectancy. Hopefully weíll have robotic livers within the next 30 years.
Iím not sure what Iím going to do with my life. I donít want to fail on my own student loans. Iím not sure how I can recover from the academic grave Iíve dug either. According to the last academic report, Iím failing two classes. Itís Philosophy, and a toss up between Political Science and Freshman Comp. Withdrawal time is nearing, but thatís a last resort that will cost me a lot of money in grants.
Iím not sure what I can do.
Looking back, I wonder how dark the times must have been. Not that I remembered the emotions, but from the writing it seems like I was depressed. Humans have a tendency to forget what amounts to nothing in retrospect. You get by however you can.
Five years later and you look back at college wondering what happened to your dreams. Thereís a palpable friction that makes everyone in the dorms look tense. Itís the vibe everyone gets from looking at others that thereís something they should be doing. Not that they could, but they should.
People graduating - hoping to become surgeons, veterinarians, bank managers, and business tycoons. Hope keeps them to the books; hope also keeps them from falling apart. Ever told a college student that when they get out of school, theyíre going to be utterly impoverished and grasping at straws in an overcrowded job market? You get the common response: they sigh, look around (usually at the ground) and concede your point. Then, 30 minutes later theyíre at a party.
You just turned them into an alcoholic.
Of course, my major wasnít without its share of pipedreams. Being a writer, my father would tell me, is as simple as writing and networking. Iíve only been trying to network for the better part of 3 years. Not too many serious publishing houses like stories about peeing in a girlfriendís bed, or cutting off a Cubanís finger. Perhaps Iíve not found a target audience. Perhaps my writing sucks. In either case at least my hope to succeed in the real world was never too strong.
Iíve always held that I live on the right side of luck. Iíve had it since I was a child, nearly dying many times. Iíve won lotteries, pools, bets, and odds. I could see myself being a professional poker player if I could get myself into that world. Sometimes, though, it seems like whatever dreams I muse myself with are fleeting at best.
So I resign myself to drinking a longneck in my room and writing about what Iíve done with my life; and more often than not, what I havenít.
Friends graduate, even when theyíre not in college. They graduate to a new position in life. Marriage, divorce, business relocation. Hell, they graduate to new friends. The best you can hope for, just like in college, is that if you ďkeep your eye on the prizeĒ, then one day youíll graduate too. Then you can act like a dick for having matured superficially.
American society promotes constant progression. Itís never enough to sit and watch the world age. You need to be always moving toward something better. The American Dream is exhaustive and generally fruitless for many. Work until youíre 70; then you die quickly and quietly.
These people graduating from college seem to have the youthful ambition to take on the world, without realizing that institutions have kept them from looking at the world at large. They emerge from their microcosms with blank stares and squinted eyes, like a newborn.
They face all the similar problems as a newborn. Learning to cry when something bad happens that they canít control. Learning to move around in an unforgiving environment. And, of course, some of these newborns will find themselves drinking bleach and dying too young.
But then there are the many that make it to kindergarten, an entry level position in another institutionalized setting Ė a business. Again, they start out at the bottom of the food chain, working their way up.
After years of hard work and little reward, the child goes onto middle school Ė a promotion and financial stability. Here the first true experiences with relationships happen as the manchild starts to realize that they need something more.
After that awkward period of transition between being a boy and being a man, you enter high school Ė youíre a manager-type at the office. You feel like the big man at work and at home. You finally have a social group you feel you belong to, and your buddies are whoever share the same interests as you. Youíve either got a steady girlfriend (the equivalent of marriage), or youíre looking around desperately.
Then thereís that lovely summer, the period of transition. Itís during this time that your job is starting to take off, and youíre moving up the corporate ladder. Nowís the time to either commit yourself to your girl, or dump her in the hopes of finding a better one. Your friends are moving on as well, not able to do fun things all the time. People scattering to opposite ends of the country.
And now, all of a sudden, youíre at the top. Youíre a CEO. Youíre back in college. Back to hitting the books every night and working all day. Only this time, youíre too old to drink Thursday through Saturday. You head up your organization tirelessly, trying to do everything possible. Hoping for the day when you donít have to work.
Well, hereís the news: youíre at the same place at 55 that you were at 21. The only difference is that now youíve wasted what time you had, with little chance of breaking the cycle.