Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Your college-educated life: an essay

This is an old one! It's a nightmarish take on American aspirations. Oddly, despite the overwhelming cynicism I'm not embarrassed by the content, likely as I relate to the sufferer of pathological angst who wrote it.

You've graduated from college, the stepping stone to success in the modern world. Most people live their entire lives within 50 miles of their birthplace, what are the odds of all the places in all the world you were born so close to the right one for you? You weren't, but since birth you've been conditioned for a life of compromise.

Upon ruining your parents' lives, they raised you the best they could. You instinctively trusted them as they were much wiser. They helped you survive, told you to go to college, and struggled through decades of toil to give something that came out of their genitals the life they themselves deserved. They never stopped to cash in on the great life their fathers and mothers had afforded them. Of course, religious belief helped them through the hurt process. A life of toil is irrelevant in comparison to an eternity in paradise.

And now it's your turn to do the same. You'll convince yourself you're very different from your father. He went to yard-sales and Sears, you make Amazon.com purchases. Eventually, out of desperation you'll cling to someone else. With a decent partner, any experience is half as shitty. Ultimately, it's still not fulfilling, it's pacification until you fill your significant other up with bile and another ball of hate and failure falls out of her into the loving world. That kid will pacify and justify your existence till death. Dying with that delusion is well worth the price of all the curious ways he or she will suffer.

If you play it smart, at best you'll be with your wife treading the aisles of the same supermarket your parents went to, without a kid in the cart. You'll ask your wife what kind of oatmeal to get, cinnamon or maple & brown sugar, she'll suggest your least favorite, strawberries & cream. Before every purchase your wife will ask you about them. "Should we get these tortilla chips?" of course you should, they're only $2.50 for a 3lb bag, but the blinding tolerance of love has made you both imbeciles. College educated you with certain skills, not good taste or tact. Unless you took psychology, then have fun outwitting pub patrons fascinated by Jerry Springer's show, or working a job with poorly parented kids on lithium as a paid friend.

Realistically your job will be Office Space with a lot less quirks and without the ending. It'll be worth it. You'll have to pay your student loans after having dealt with at least four years of horrendous stress. You'll pay monthly for a car you never wanted or needed in the first place. Perhaps you'll accidentally drive into a small lake and drown because your automatic windows and locks may not work under water, as the man who bought a cheaper car swims merrily towards shore. You won't be that lucky. You'll have that bill, a home, and utilities. You'll have taxes and insurance you sort of disagree with it, but you bite the bullet for the freedom it affords you. Not free enough to drive without a seatbelt or decide life isn't for you, but free to work and procreate.

You'll wear an uncomfortable suit every day in an air-conditioned environment, where it's way too cold and unnatural. You won't be able to look at women sans glances, they'd sue. You'll have to be wary about saying "fuck" in front of a coworker, as smart, civilized people don't even think such things. What really matters is how convinced you are you have it made. You'll mock some guy outside trimming the hedges, but at least he's getting a work out. Going to the gym won't work, as paying to do something that should come naturally will get old. Besides, using a treadmill is like a hamster using a running wheel, and relating to animals relates to nature, which is what civilized people most detest. Upon leaving your workout routine, your pecs will resemble breasts.

At home you can expect to be fenced in a nice neighborhood, ensuring nothing spontaneous ever happens. Catered to safety and sterile like a hospital, and about as exciting to live in. There will be a side walk that circles around all the strangely similar homes that ties the neighborhood into a repetitious loop of infinite boredom. You can always take the more daring route of city life, but you can't be out all the time. You'll be stuck in the tiny box of an apartment, taking in alcohol and sex as your only escape from a reality you can't fully understand. One night they'll combine with a forgotten condom or birth control pill. Lastly, the joy of fretting over a pregnancy before you're shipped back out to the suburbs.

There will be gentle moments, like your three weeks off a year. Holidays with your old lame family and your new lame family. It's not great, but it's not work. Vacations where you make up 1/10th of the dreams you can't fully realize. Maybe it was your dream to see the Great Wall, you'll be the colorfully t-shirted twat with sunglasses, delusional enough to think you're above the guy next to you with the fanny pack. The wife's hesitant to screw on the trip. The flight and planning has made her too warped and tired to fight. She gives in with a feigned enthusiasm eclipsed by what feels like recently wet cardboard.

Near the end you can retire in your mid-70s, finally free to live when you're ready to die. Will you finally live out your dreams? No, you've always played it safe, and besides, you don't like to move anymore. You're saving up that fifty grand for your next heart attack and a wooden box. By now your friends are gone, god clogged your arteries, and your kids don't call. You can build from faith, but if you believe there is an afterlife, expect more of the same. It's hard to imagine pleasure without actual effort behind it. So, who cares. This moment was yours to enjoy, and surely it goes.

Oh, but recently, I saw my high school guidance counselor at a wholesale store. She had told me all about college and what classes to take. I'm sure she went. And there she is past 50, looking bitter, depressed, sexually repressed, and alone. We probably both put forth an equal effort to ignore each other. It looks like she made it in life. At least the bare minimum: survival.

When the dust settles the graduate and the other guy are basically at the same spot. One owns the yacht and did the paperwork, the other was invited to it. They both end up on the same street. For the most part they both end up fucked working for someone they don't know high up the ladder. There's little to learn from that. Education only requires curiosity and a bit of ambition, not student loans. Sure, certain specific jobs need in-depth training. These sometimes force classes irrelevant to your future profession, perhaps to mold well-rounded individuals, but also impeding a greater focus in their respective field, and handicapping anyone not inclined or able in those other subjects. Studies are more about memorization and filling in blanks than putting reason to use. Little emphasis is put where education should matter the most: logic, creativity, and ethics.

College claims to provide the easier life but there's no proof of such a thing on a small scale. A 25k stocking job versus a 35k desk job, like the blurry line between low and middle class. You can cross the line and think you're accomplished and better than your fellow man. You can think you're fortunate enough to give your children a better life, but you're someone's child. Your life matters. When it comes to your contentment status is nothing. College has no bearing on success without some level of personal discovery, which should come into play before college, and isn't applicable in the average work place. Graduation is no guarantee on happiness, and any thinking person has the same odds for attaining it.

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