Day 7821 | Day 7840 | Day 7888
"Ben, what are you doing?"
"Well, I would say that I'm just drifting. Here in the pool."
"Well, it's very comfortable just to drift here."
"Have you thought about graduate school?"
"Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work?"
"You got me."
Two weeks left. Two more weeks of college and then I'm done, for better or for worse. It's hard not to be retrospective, especially when the last four years have had a greater influence on shaping who I am than any others. It's no secret that I've enjoyed the American college experience very little and as I look over all the drafts I've written about it there's no shortage of that opinion. It is interesting, in a meta sort of way, to read through them and see how my perceptions of college have changed over time—reflecting on reflections.
So I look back through them all, seeing how gratingly hopeful drafts turned enraged turned despondent turned apathetic, and I think "You know what? It really wasn't that bad." Which is total bullshit—it was exactly that bad. Years of contemplating suicide every day, of toxic friendship with my ex, of fear and contempt and jealousy of my peers. Years with one overriding theme: despair. Without a written record I might doubt myself, might actually believe 'it wasn't that bad'. But that's the nature of memory; we remember the good parts and forget the bad. And when it's all bad, we have no memory at all.
Several people have told me recently that I've changed noticeably in the last two months: 'less miserable,' 'more determined,' and 'brave.' I feel like none of these things, yet I've learned, slowly, to put trust in the observations of others. So maybe I have changed. I'm almost certain to change more as I continue to explore who I am and what remains of my personality after years of depression. I won't say that I'm no longer depressed—two months does not a recovery make—but it's the longest I've gone without having my reality warped by a lens of despair in over three years. All in the midst of the most gut-wrenching personal revelations which likely would've killed me only a few months ago. They still might.
But that is a node for another time (perhaps). I've gotten off topic.
In the past I've complained that college has little to do with education. At the time I felt that the purpose of college should be knowledge alone; acquiring factual information that could be used on the job. Utilitarian. And that is what college is about. But the important stuff, the stuff we actually remember? It's not the classes or the facts. It's the people we met, the things we did, the pranks we pulled and the personal changes as we slowly established our independent identities and decided who we wanted to be. Sometimes the experience of being educated is more important than the education itself. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.
For years I functioned on the assumption that I'd kill myself before I ever got to this point. Graduating college, no longer being able to define myself as a student (an identity I've had my whole life), having to get a job—a real job, paying bills, finding a place to live, everything in upheaval. It intimidated me. The anxious expectation that I should have a definite plan for my life, that I should be sure of where I was going before I acted because it's better to do nothing than do something and regret it later. In short, the fear of being adult.
I remember a conversation I had with one of my former housemates a couple of months ago. He said "I don't want to go to law school, but I want to go into the real world even less." Piling on the student debt out of a fear of the unknown. I sympathize with him, but now I'm on the precipice of the next stage in my life......and I think I'm ready. Apprehensive but excited, despite being the most uncertain I've ever been about myself and my identity. The uncertainty is the key though—the feeling of perfect freedom because anything is possible. It will always be easier to commit suicide. But here I am.
Remember the ending to The Graduate? Yeah, it's a lot like that.