I’m old. I’m a salty, slightly jaded, very bitter, old college kid with a petulant streak in him that stretches from here to Virginia. My professors will describe me as one of two different things: 1. that young man with all that potential but no drive or ambitions or 2. a complete failure who’s resolved himself to set the bottom part of the curve just because. My friends and family will describe me as a bit pessimistic, definitely an underachiever, yet somehow also a driven and (I disagree on this next one but) a capable and highly intelligent young man. I’ve been through 4.5 years of undergrad and am staring down the barrel of one more year and I’m not sure either of those camps quite has it right.
So what is the purpose of college – or, more specifically, what is the greatest secret undergrad has to offer? I’ve been through 7 different majors, 1 major twice (in two different specializations and I’m finally settling on the third) and have come to the realization that the conveyor belt system that most large research institutions approach undergraduate studies with is simply not for me. I’ve learned that I hate busy work, LOATHE group work, and would rather give a 30 minute thesis defense at midterm to pass out of the remainder of a class than actually sit down and take a test to see how well I memorize (a practice that is quickly becoming irrelevant in the age of WiFi, 3G/4G, Google, and now, even SIRI will do everything from looking up information about themes in Medieval Lit to setting an alarm for a quarter to one). Hell, to be honest, I would rather take the time to sit down and lay out a way to revamp the way we funnel bodies through Undergrad to compete with the increasing irrelevance of anything less than a Masters degree than sit down and answer A, B, C, or D over and over again to prove that I am “learning” something (at least in a “liberal arts” major. The Sciences are COMPLETELY different… and thus there is a reason I steer well clear of taking those classes… though we all know I’m a physics nerd…).
Alas, all of this brooding about my shortcomings in the current system of academia has led me down a path of unhappiness and, to some extents, self doubt. So in an effort to avoid negativity toward the time I have remaining and myself because of said time, I’ve started trying to figure out what it is that I’ve gotten out of college that has been a positive.
See, I’ve been screwed twelve ways from Sunday during my time here (I take this as a way of making up for my general lack of a sex life over the past 4.5 years… it’s a joke, laugh… [and Mom, discussing a lack of a sex life is not the same as discussing a sex life so I’m still OK :P]). Everything that could go wrong with financial aid, advisors, and even having a professor/advisor lie to me and tell me he switched my major when he never did (thus reaping the wonderful benefits known as “NOT MEETING STANDARD ACADEMIC PROGRESS TOWARD (XYZ) DEGREE”) and then some. I joke around and refer to myself as the “This NEVER happens” guy because, at this point, it’s just funny. I also haven’t really helped myself. I rarely study and I almost always find a point counter to what the professor believes in a discussion because everyone agreeing means nobody is thinking. Hell, time and again, no matter how hard I bust my ass (or don’t), the results never QUITE come out how I want. But out of all of that, if I were asked to speak to a group of freshmen or high school seniors about college, what would I have to say? One cannot be negative about a virtual cultural requirement for a “good life” because… fuck dude, it’s required for living…
The thing is, the more I think about it, the more college seems like the darker/shadier parts of Hogwarts… and yet there’s this one little nugget… the Philosopher’s Stone, if you will… (yes, I said Philosopher’s Stone. I have a copy of the original UK print where THAT is the title… I just don’t know where it is haha).
The thing about this entire experience is that I came in a naive, small minded, boy and right now… I like to think I’m a bit closer to being an as-yet-untested-yet-capable man. But that’s a growth that is to be expected and comes with time. What is the true nugget of positivity that I have managed to wring out of this place is discovery of this dude named Justin Richard Plasket. I won’t pretend to fully know myself or anything close to that but throughout the crucible of my own petulance and the situations I’ve gone through during my tenure, I pieced together the guy I hope to be.
Rather than think of college/undergrad as a gateway to a future, take a new perspective – just for a bit – and think of it as the Greatest Experiment of your life so far (yes, even better than that one time you tried ‘shrooms in high school). That’s the gift wrapped under the shitty levels of stress (there are gum diseases/infections that crop up in college students directly tied to the level of stress they are under… no fucking joke…), the bad dorm food, the shitty advising that runs rampant everywhere, and the fact that at the end of it all, you did all of that for a piece of fucking paper. Take the time and find yourself because holy shit does that make everything seem worth it in the end.
OH! One more thing… If you graduate and become a teacher… DO. NOT. FUCK. YOUR. HIGH SCHOOL. STUDENTS. I don’t get why that is such a hard concept for some to grasp so I’ll just hope and pray that the knowledge that people will make memes out of you and there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT THAT will drive that point home. Case in point: http://www.quickmeme.com/Brett-Messenger/?upcoming
See ya, Space Cowboy.