I’ve always wanted to feel like a real college graduate would, full of wisdom and knowledge. Of course, as a nearly real college graduate, I feel mostly full of debt and ramen. And a vague sense of unease, like someone took four years from my life and ten thousand times that from my wallet.
I’m sure college is a fine investment and a choice that I’ll eventually be happy I made. I’m sure of this because if I believed anything else, I would go crazy and would gnaw the next plaza-dweller who pressed a leaflet into my hand.
Plaza Dweller: “Would you like to hear more about my church and/or dance club? It’s open every…”
Plaza Dweller: “Help! Mad gnawer! No! My best leaflet-passing hand!”
I don’t know what they taste like, but my guess is – vengeance. Every day trying to cross the plaza, someone would accost me. They’d either be campaigning for some obscure political cause or convincing me that I was going to Hell or looking for money or some horrible combination of all three.
I’d usually try to dodge and be polite. No thank you, I’d say, I don’t have a minute for the environment, as I’m quite keen on just letting it die. It’s suffered enough. Yes, I realize that it will only be a minute of my time, but I’m paying to go to classes and do sudoku, not listen to you.
Occasionally I was dragged into a religious debate with one of the plaza’s more… colorful residents (Colorful – adj. See also, scary ranting nutcase). These were fun because I alternated between being bemused by everyone’s outrage and being outraged myself. It was all the fun of an emotional rollercoaster, only without all my stuff ending up in a suitcase on the front lawn.
Despite distractions on the plaza, I made it to most of my classes. I certainly didn’t have perfect attendance, but I never skipped a class without a good reason, like being sick, or busy, or tired or hungry. And I learned lots and lots from the ones I remember attending.
There was the one with the guy with the beard and he was always angry, and that other one that might have been about Shakespeare. I think there was a history class in a building where the air conditioning was broken. There was that awful class that started at 7, and the other one that started at the other 7.
I do remember late nights, prioritizing my friends and family over an essay that I could turn in late for fewer points. I remember that I frequently chose my health and eight hours of sleep over another three hours cramming for a test. I remember working for hours on an article rather than a final essay, because my articles are more important to me than what some teacher thinks of what I think of what Shakespeare thought of racism.
If college was just about acquiring knowledge, students would be better served spending two years alternating between Google, Wikipedia, public libraries and internships. But it’s not about classes and knowledge. It’s about the interesting stuff – the things that happen on the plaza on the way to class.
It’s about the stuff that orbits the university, attracted by its social gravity (Thank you, Freshman physics!) I won’t look at the degree as just some stuff I know – I’m going to look at it and remember the meaty taste of the plaza dweller’s hand.
Johnathan Kastner is a senior English major. His column runs just once more, next Thursday. He should not write another article while hungry.