by Hana Low, guest writer
First, take a year off. Do something “alternative.” Bicycle from Argentina to New York. Juggle. Leap frog across Antarctica. Basket weave in Bali. Ski, copiously. It is best if you choose an activity that is just interesting enough to do for a year, but not enough to choose as a career. Return home and ready yourself for a life less bohemian. Order some Dalí elephant posters. They will adorn your ivory dorm room. Buy extra-long twin sheets. You will experience crowded sex on them in a few months’ time. Put your “CC Bound” binder under your pillow. Dream of doing chemistry for twenty-four days and nights. Fill out the roommate matching survey. Inadequate, it asks: “What are your music preferences? When do you go to bed and wake up? Do you smoke?” Feel miffed that ResLife reduces you so. You are a complex being. Hope the random roommate generator served you well. Facebook stalk to confirm. Grasp at possible human connections by posting frantically (about indie rock groups, rock climbing, or geology) on the “CC Class of 20__” group.
Consider revising your persona. You have a fresh palette. Visit thrift shops. Buy ’80s band threads and plaid. You will need a pair of Chacos and a MacBook. Spandex for parties, the louder the better. Perfect some esoteric skill. Unicycling. It will ensure that you are cast in experimental plays. Read Michael Pollan. Become a locavegan. Ready yourself to mourn the need, in winter, to buy food grown more than 100 miles away. Consider canning peaches and eating them for months to come.
Arrive. Attend several tedious lectures on safe sex, alcohol abuse, and academic honesty. Try not to fall asleep during the keynote speaker. Fall asleep during the keynote speaker. Panic. Will there be a quiz on this? No, but your professor and your fifteen first buddies at CC now know you to be a fool. Anticipate your Priddy trip, when you will be able to escape your unfortunate reputation and play the harmonica with wolves. Sign up for FOOT trips, Saturdays of Service, and every club on campus, so you will meet other people who do not yet know that you are a fool. Hope that the people who know you are a fool do not spread the word to others who don’t know that you are. Crap. Several of the people who know you to be a fool are on your NSO trip. Imagine wildly that they’re all talking about you behind your back.
Party with great gusto. Call Safe Ride in the cold, even if you’re sober. Notice all the attractive people. Begin by identifying as straight, but attend BGPs and make out with a lot of other women, if you are a woman. Use words such as “queer” instead of gay. Explain to your parents with exasperation that “queer” is no longer pejorative; it has been reclaimed by The Community. This confuses your parents. They wonder if you are gay. They had not seen this one coming, and now blame your sexual curiosities on the power of a liberal arts education.
Experience a minor existential crisis as your FYE ends. You will need to start making decisions on your own again. Look at the classes you could take. Panic. Many of those you wanted are already full. Fail to understand the point system. Start to understand the point system, but continue to panic about not getting into your classes. Fail to be calmed by your mentor and advisor. Get into all of your classes but decide, at the last minute, that none of them fits quite right. Show up to each class at 9:00 am on the first day, and plead for enrollment. Call this “living block-to-block.”
Scrutinize every department. Find none that suit you perfectly. Create an LAS major that incorporates neuroscience, philosophy, biochemistry, and dance. Swim through a couple of idyllic years in which real adulthood seems comfortably distant. Return for senior year. Do a thesis entitled “Sustainable Buddhism of the Southwest.” It will prepare you handsomely for your future in the working world. You wonder if there are LAS graduate degrees or industries.
Graduation nears. And nears further. You panic. You begin to wonder whether you picked the right major. You wonder if you picked the right school. You wonder if you should go to a community college and learn to be a radiology technician. Just to pay the bills. No. You are a liberal artist. You decide to take the LSAT and study international relations. The Career Center people tell you to apply for several jobs, write several résumés. They cook some acronym soup and Xerox it onto a flyer. SLAC, PIFP, TFA, SUCCESS. Peace Corps, Americorps. You’re thinking now that it might not be possible to apply for everything. It might be arbitrary decision time.
Your parents come for commencement. It’s on a Monday. They marvel at your accomplishments. Your parents tell your friends embarrassing childhood stories over brunch. Graduation comes. Relatives are tearful, throwing candy leis. They call your name. You are relieved to hear it pronounced correctly. You rise, walk across the graduation stage, accept your diploma, and prepare to wander into the abyss of adulthood.