Day 6938 | Day 7040 | Day 7097
"Ah, I see you're in your position." My new suitemate Ryan walked in the door, putting his keys in his pocket as he walked between my seat and the TV on his way to his desk. Ryan was a second semester senior and had just finished a semester in Scotland. With few rooming options in a college of such a small size, he got roomed with us when he got back, a suite full of sophomores. My room was next door but I practically lived with him and his roommate because their room was the one with the Xbox.
"Yeah," I replied absently, leaning around him to see the screen.
"This is all you do isn't it?" he said, shaking his head in disbelief, "Play video games and go on that website."
"I like my life simple."
"Don't you ever have any work to do? What are you doing with your life?" Ryan was a chem major, in the honors college, and had a schedule packed from nine-until-nine with class and extracurriculars. The guy was a machine: writing lab reports, theses, presentations, and creating D&D characters and Warhammer 40,000 models by the score. He did orgo problems for fun.
"I dunno, sorta just chillin' for a few years. FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!" I yelled as my killstreak ended, the mixture of apathy and profane outbursts juxtaposed like the musings of a Tourette's victim.
"Don't you have a major?"
Ryan was a well-known figure around the school. At least 6'4" he stood head and shoulders above most people and his involvement in the honors and science programs gave him a lot of visibility. He was also known for being a passionate chemistry student, TAing
for labs and regularly attempting to convince new students to switch to a chem major.
"Well, technically I'm still undeclared but the school's making me put at least something down by the end of the semester so I'll prolly end up with economics and something."
"Yeah, I might get a statistics minor. Depends on how much work I'm willing to put into math this semester. Don't hold your breath."
"So why aren't you doing economics?"
"Dunno, doesn't really hold my attention all that much."
"Why is it your major then?" His incredulity was building.
"Other things hold my attention even less." I manipulated the joysticks on the controller, eyes unfocused and fixated on the screen. The conversation was going on a lot longer than the usual exchange of pleasantries and using 'dunno' as a response was becoming increasingly repetitive though no less accurate.
"Isn't there anything that you want to do here?"
"Not really. I've actually been thinking about not coming back next semester because of that."
"I dunno, my parents are spending thirty thousand a year for me to go here and I don't think I'm getting enough value out of my experience to justify their spending that kind of money." Sure, fifteen thousand dollars of acedemic scholarship helps but signed pieces of paper are very expensive nowadays, especially at private liberal arts colleges. Skipping half of your classes also tends to add to the impression that you're wasting time and (lots of) money.
"But there are so many opportunities here! You just need to take them. My freshman year I had a class about genetics and I wrote Francis Collins with a few questions about his work. He wrote back and told me to read his book so I did and then we discussed it and I invited him to come speak here. I did all the fundraising and we got him to speak last year. I'm not saying you have to do something like that but there are tons of things you can do; you can't tell me there's no opportunities here."
Ryan had missed the point. It was and is not a matter of opportunity or ability; it is one of passion. There is nothing—literally nothing—which captures my desire in such a way that I would be happy doing it for more than a year or two at most. Ryan had misconstrued my lack of enthusiasm for a slight against the school. The concept of not knowing what the fuck you're doing with your life was totally foreign to him.
"I didn't say there were no opportunities, I just don't care."
"What're we doing here?" I asked, watching her spread cream cheese on her bagel.
"Huh?" She looked up from the newspaper spread out on the table between us—the crossword that day was hard.
"What are we doing here, what do you plan to do after college?" I repeated.
"Uh, well I'm probably going to go to grad school." My questions had caught her off guard. This was not the usual political soapboxing on my part or gossiping on hers.
"For literature?" I asked, failing at politely disguising my disdain for English majors. You can't major in English just like you can't major in fine arts. If you really believe in that post-modernist bullshit no amount of education will help you in your endeavors. Grab a book, grab a brush, grab a pen and just do it.
"Yeah." We paused for a few seconds and looked at the expressions on each others face: hers was concerned confusion, mine was introspection. "Why do you ask?"
"Dunno, nothing seems to matter anymore. I don't feel like doing shit and I'm not really getting anything out of college. Seems pointless."
"Well that's college, people feel that way sometimes. Besides you're already here, what else are you going to do?"
"I was thinking about not coming back next semester." Dropping that phrase is something similar to watching those old newsreels of the Enola Gay flying over Hiroshima opening its bomb bay doors.
"What? No! You totally should come back next semester." The concern on her face deepened with a slight edge of panic.
"Do you really want to flip burgers for a living?"
"Yeah, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett ended up doing..."
"What do you see yourself doing in five years?" Beatrice was a theatre/english double major, both degrees the elitist in me questioned the validity of.
"professional waitress :p"
"no, really, where do you want to be?"
"I know where i want to be but its never going to happen"
"you're not going to tell me, are you?"
"nope 0:)" The chat window idled for a few minutes as we both went about our lives on the other end of the screen.
"I've been thinking of dropping out"
"I'd miss you"
"yeah" I stared at the cursor, watching its intermittent blinking and wondering if I was making a mistake in even considering the thought. Statistics flew through my head: degree holders earn on average twice as much as high school grads and have millions more in lifetime earnings.
I could be a college grad, no problem. My grades are good, I have the ability, and I have skills. People tell me that I'm smart, wise, that I have potential; even my peers have a sense of deference towards me which I find unsettling in the least. And yet they are willing to work within the system where I am not; to play the game that everyone—our parents, our employers, our politicians—wants us to play as though a college degree has an actual connection with education. Some smart people drop out of college; lots of dumb people graduate from college. I would be just as capable a worker—just as capable a learner—with a high school diploma and four years of work experience as I would with a diploma and a college degree, yet few would recognize it. College isn't about an education, it's about avoiding a stigma. Jumping through hoops to get a piece of paper which affirms that you're good at jumping through hoops.
"do what you need to do" she replied.
"I'm not sure if it's the right decision"
"doesn't matter. whichever decision you make just make sure you don't regret it. you can regret the consequences of it but never regret making it."
Dropping out of college is scary.