I'm about to graduate. My cap and gown are hanging on my wall, waiting to be worn. I'm up way too early, thinking about where I go from here --- I've been comfortably wound up in the four-year cycle of high school and college, with its annual epicycles, and that's lent a degree of regularity and predictability to an otherwise unpredictable life. I know a whole lot about anthropology, and a respectable amount about other subjects, but really, I think I went to college to escape the pointlessness of high school in my kudzu-choked hometown in central Florida.
I kinda miss the kudzu, now that I think of it, but I've learned there's a lot more than just kudzu to this world.
Five years of college, five years of working and going to classes, and I feel like I learned more from that balancing act than I ever did in class. I've always been the smart kid, but now I've grown up, and everyone who's ever copied answers from my tests is still in amongst the kudzu.
Holy shit, I don't want to be the smart kid anymore. I've gone to too many drunken get-togethers, hung out with too many stoners (who mostly were the smart kids in their own respective high schools). I've worked way too hard, gotten too many burns and cuts and scrapes on my hands to respect mere intellectualism.
The valedictorian at my high school is in his second year of med school right now, and engaged. Good for him. He's probably happier than a hog in shit right now. I'd probably think he's a prick if I ran into him again. He never copied from my tests, though we compared answers a lot.
All the late-night geek-outs, all the last-second paper revisions, all the sweating, every nine-in-the-evening cup of coffee until I was dry-heaving, it's all meaningless. I think I got more out of this last semester or two from getting involved with organizing events and panels and dialogues than I did in any of my classes. I worked harder on those than I did on my thesis.
There are kids that are locked in a perpetual state of adolescence. I think it's because most of them are trapped in a script, because it's never crossed their mind that they can write their own script. Our dear high school valedictorian probably studied his ass off for his MCAT. He followed the script perfectly, and he'll do that for the rest of his life, if I knew him well enough: internship, residency, board certification, private practice, retire a bitter old alcoholic on a mountain of money. Things fell together for him: he had a family that could support him, he had all the right classes, he knew all the right people.
I grew up just barely above the poverty line in the best of times. I just broke out from under the federally-defined poverty line last year. I never got the chance to take all those really challenging courses in high school: no AP, no IB, no dual enrollment for me. When your school doesn't offer the first two, and the nearest community college is fifteen miles down the road, you're stuck with all the mainstream kids. They copied from my tests, and it didn't do them a damn bit of good.
But I did good in college. I no longer chain myself to a copy of Strunk and White. I can split an infinitive with the best of them. Scripts are for those who can afford not to really think. Those who can't afford to not think are battered with all the stochastic slings and arrows of the universe, and wake up a decade later and wonder why they aren't where they want to be.
I don't want to be the smart kid anymore. I don't ever expect to find my soulmate and marry her. I don't particularly want kids. I definitely don't want a house and a two-car garage. I don't want people thinking of me as a brain with legs. There's guts and hair and body fluids and orifices in between. I've made some friends who couldn't give a rat's ass about my intellectual conclusions, my reading list, which semi-famous academics I've met, whose articles I have printed out and piled up next to the crapper. They're the most awesome people I could have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Intellectualism won't get you the girl, help you make friends or influence people --- emotional intelligence and social skills will. Intellectualism won't get you ahead in life --- not in this economy, and not if your resume has five years as a restaurant line cook and a pretty decent (though not stellar) academic record. Intellectualism won't make you happy --- in fact, I really don't know what will. I only know what works for me: learning not to plan it out in advance, and really learn to wing it. Stop trying to figure out how you're going to make it, because you probably won't have anything like the life you have planned.
Scripts only really work for those who can afford not to think, and I've got some serious thinking to do.