Friday, November 20, 2009

This Is What A Forty-Thousand Dollar A Year Education Pays For.

I swear I do go to college. Really, I am on my way to achieving a BA in a program dubiously titled "Professional Writing," which, if one takes these words at face-value, means that I will be able to find a job in which I "professionally write" after graduation, and not have to live in a cardboard box and slip slowly into a delayed and drawn-out alcoholic death because I have already deemed that I will in no way be possible of writing the Next Great American Novel. American Eagle may be looking at a future manager, but I would probably strangle myself to death with a cable-knit sweater.

With today's economy and job market, I have already started hoarding boxes so although I may have to live in one, it's going to be a motherfucking cardboard castle. My spacial reasoning skills and my father's dreams of me becoming an architect will finally be coming true, just in a very bass-akwards way.

Don't get me wrong-- I love what I do; I just am doubting the fact that it is financially solvent, and passion for something, without an outlet that offers monetary gain, doesn't feed or clothe you, unfortunately, which is one of the great injustices of life.

Anyway, let me walk you through the past 12 hours at good old Camp Champ. After this, if you have children, or are planning on having children, you may decide to no longer remit money for their higher education fund. I'm sorry. But really, as I was telling my parents last Sunday, I have decided that on the immediate surface, if you don't get into particulars such as effort, intelligence, and aptitude, the only difference between people who graduate high school and people who graduate college is that college graduates are over $100,000 in the hole, have some vague notions on Plato's teachings and writings, and have a sense of entitlement.

Last night around 10 PM, I remembered the fact that I had not one, but two writer's journals due for Copy Editing. On further investigation in my inbox to find the subjects of these entries, I also discovered a 7 page scientific paper titled, I am not shitting you, "Sandy deposits study offshore Lithuania, SE Baltic Sea." I tried editing it, really, I did, but around 1 AM, it started to feel like my brain was leaking out of my ears, and even the Long Trail Blackberry Ale I had picked up to self-medicate and help myself through the process was no longer holding any appeal. I ditched the "sandy shores" and "Juodkrante–Preila site" and wrote one of the journals, before my body decided to call it a night and close my eyelids for me.

As for an important interlude, let's be clear on what a college student's diet looks like: Between being warp-speed busy all day with study abroad forms and meeting, discussing finances with my mother (possibly one of my favorite things in the world, right up there with puppies and non-anaesthetised dental procedures,) class, and my, I don't know-- crazy desire to actually communicate and spend time with my roommates and friends, and having forgotten to grab food before leaving my apartment, I was subsisting on cigarettes. As I explained to a horrified professor, this past summer I came to the realization that smoking suppresses my appetite. Hungry, but have no food? Easy-- I always have a pack on me. (As my professor said, "That's horrible, but I remember that you were poor this past summer," which is possibly an understatement, but by June I had already figured out that even $10 for a pack of my Djarums was still cheaper than groceries.) Around 9, I finally got dinner, AKA: delicious honey barbecue wings from Wings Over. Not eating all day, smoking, and then ingesting half a pound of wings may not have been the best idea ever. But going home and chasing it all down with a beer was possibly the tipping point.

I woke up this morning, reminded of the painful, cruel fact that my body and artisan, fermented beer do not play well together. I liken it to what labor pains probably feel like, or your appendix exploding. Basically, fold up, clutching your stomach and gasping, cold-sweat, and writhe around a little. That's what I looked like. It's one of those great debates in life: I can drink American piss-beer like Coors and Bud and Keystone and feel fine, or I can drink something that actually has taste and craft to it and want to die 9 hours later. Seeing as I like to play a little game called "Me vs. My Body," (props to Meg at 2Birds,1Blog for that catchy title, as well as being the founder/a co-player of this game,) my tastebuds sometimes make the masochistic choice for me.

Between my death-throes, I looked out my window and then rolled over and looked at my clock, saying "Fuuuuuuuuuuccccccckkkkkk," even before I saw the time. Sometimes you just know. Sure enough, it was 9 AM. My cell phone, which has been dramatically prolonging it's own death scene for the past week and a half, (first front display, then battery, then screen,) decided that the little part of it that would die over the night was the alarm. Otherwise know as, my alarm clock. I slept through Tech Writing and our new invention groups. It was one of those moments where you just sit there and literally hang your head in shame going, "I am a horrible student; Warren is going to be so disappointed, and I don't deserve to sleep in for this extra hour."

I thought that this would, in some twisted way, allow me time for the rest of the Copy Editing homework I had given up on around 2 AM. So I went back to the "sandy shores" of Lithuania, and promptly realized that I was utterly delusional if I thought I could slog through it all before catching the bus to class. Yeah, I edit a fuck-ton, but there is something about an academic, scientific article numerous pages long that just stops me in my tracks and demands to know who the hell I think I am. I am not a scientist. I am not even a great copy editor. I'm more of a big-picture person, and copy editors are all about minutia and the titles to parts of sentences that I was supposed to have learned back in the 8th grade when really, I was making Tyrannosaurus Rex arms with Nora across the classroom with our hands curled into the two-finger air-quote sign. (Yeahhh...good times.) But ok. Bullshit another journal entry, and call it a morning. Sometimes, like when you have a minimum word limit, being verbose is an excellent character trait to have.

When I walked into Copy Editing this morning, unwashed, bedraggled, and feeling an overwhelming urge to curl up in the fetal position on the floor and give in and say, "You win, Life!" my professor looked at me, concerned, and said, "You don't look so good." If she wasn't a genuinely nice human being, I think that would have roughly translated to, "Wow, you look like shit." I can't contest. I'm a wake-up-and-shower person. Foraying into public looking like something the cat dragged in and then gnawed on is against the very grain of my fiber, but sometimes, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

My professor then also asked me if I wasn't functioning due to lack of sleep. I looked at her, surprised, and said, "No, I actually got 6 or 7 hours!"

"Oh," she said. "You've got some really dark circles under your eyes and just don't look good."

This, people, is what happens when I actually do my homework. It literally makes me ill.

But my favorite thing about college has to be the people. Where else in the world would an acceptable, passionate, engaging conversation topic be "Can you drive from Champlain to Tibet?" And, only at our tech-enamored school would someone pull out a iTouch and actually search the possibilities on Google Maps.

The answer, by the way, is yes-- sort of. You can drive, but you also have to kayak, and jet-ski. All I know is that whoever got to write the directions for this trek has a sense of humor I would kill for. Also, a nice little subtly passive-aggressive gig going. Aha! This is one of those rare, mythical "professional writing" jobs! My life would be made if I could do something like this where your primary objective is to answer impossible questions in the most creative, smart-ass way possible, and still get paid for it. Possibly my favorite directive is #104: Jet ski across the Pacific Ocean.



I made the argument that rather than lugging a kayak, car, and jet ski around the literal Earth, you could quite easily accomplish this 40 day trip with one prime piece of human ingenuity: The land/aquatic vehicles they use for tours of Boston called "Duckies."

And yes, this is life at college.



  1. So if there's one thing I know, it's that Mark Twain knew more about life than I care to cite here, but the greater point being that your schooling is secondary to your education. School will always demand something and you will always think to yourself, "really? Do I really need to do this?" and the answer will be no. The education you're really getting is staying up late at night, wearing yourself to the very bone and realizing you're not going to get where you thought you were. That's life. Until you get to the point where you can look at the troubles around you and just not worry because you're in control, no degree, no class, no teacher can make an impact on you because you're still caught up in what the majority thinks is important. You don't think you have what it takes to be the great American Novelist, but you do. You don't think you have more than those kids that don't bother with college, BUT YOU DO. You're experiencing what most don't. You're being what most arn't. It's about appreciating being verbose. It's about being unapologetic. You know who was a terrible student? Einstein. You know who used to stay up and get drunk and just write about troubles instead of dealing with it? Hemingway. Read, "A clean well lit place" and tell me that's the makings of an A student. You know as well as I do that being an "academic" has nothing to do with being a writer. Own up to it. Be what you will and stop worrying so much about other people because lord knows once what you want to be and what you are come together you're going to blow the lid off of whatever you're reaching for. So suck it up and just do it already.