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So, here’s the sitch. (I’ve always wanted to say that in real life but the proper moment just never comes up.)

Recently (about six minutes ago), I was walking down the hall. Well, OK, the hall was actually a sky-walk (one of those tube-y things on college campuses that connect buildings so no one actually has to set foot outside). Anyway, there I was, walking down the hall/sky-walk.

I’ll admit that at that moment I was being one of those people who walk and text on their cell phones at the same time. I was trying to, anyway. I don’t really text that much, let alone walk and text at the same time. We are talking high-level functioning human stuff, here.

Even better that I was texting this guy from Saudi Arabia who doesn’t really speak English. He’s in the English language program at my University. Basically, we hang out sometimes and, er, talk. (We are “conversation partners”. It’s all rather fancy.) So, when I text him, I can’t be all: “lets meet 2morrow 4 food-age, bro!”, or, “wassup homie?!” — you know, my typical text language. Yeah. I can just imagine the confused stares that would bring about.

OK, so there I was, doing all this multitasking, when suddenly, a wild college student appeared! AKA, a thirty year old lady in fancy pants (dress pants, you might call them). I was gaping (I’m sure looking all intelligent) down at my phone when I heard,

“Do you have a pen? – I could have?”

Me: uhhh… wait what just happened? “Um, I don’t know….”

So then I dig immediately into my (rather tiny) purse and spot the four pens that are hanging out in the bottom underneath my keys and my magic gum (I’ll tell you about that another time).

I have a brief mental moment of consideration. These are like good pens. Not those little BIC ones that are found on every floor of every room in every building on campus. These are my Pilot G2 babies. I have a red and a black and a green and a blue (for every occasion!). Should I give one of these to this random person – fully knowing that not only have I never seen her before, but I will certainly never see her again, AKA, this is me giving away my pen. I mean, she didn’t even say that lame thing that people say when they’re all like, ‘hey, can I borrow a piece of paper?!’ You are not going to be giving it back, though, and both parties know this.

So, I did my little purse-digging, briefly (hopefully not too long) stared at my little pens, and looked back up at her with a sad face, saying, “No. I’m sorry!” And then she walked away and I clutched my pen-containing-purse to my chest and ran quickly away in the opposite direction. The End.

 
Does this make me a horrible person? I don’t think so. The only reason I ask this is because just before I was walking down that sky-walk/hallway I had been in a Philosophy class. Dang you, Philosophy.

I feel like this is sort of similar to those situations when homeless people/others ask you for change while you’re walking down the street, and you don’t want to give them any – for whatever reason – so you go and pat your back pocket, shake your head like you’re surprised to find nothing there and go, “Sorry, I don’t have anything. Must have left my two rolls of quarters at home today. Sorry!” (I’ve even done the back-pocket maneuver. You think I’ve ever kept a wallet back there? Nope.)

What really gets me is that I messed up my text message because of it! I’m supposed to be helping this guy with his language skills, and I go and send him the following: “So how about we meet tomorrow after your class tomorrow and then maybe go to the farmer’s market?” Tomorrow. Did you get that? Well, then again, maybe that helped him.

Maybe this a life lesson: Don’t attempt to walk and text at the same time, Jenni. It’s just not going to work out for you.

Whatever. You still can’t have my pen.

 

 

1. Read your Book.

No, seriously. Really. Read it. Sure, your professor may have assigned 35 pages for tonight’s homework. I know, that’s a lot. And, it’s probably boring. Biology? Psychology? Philosophy? I know, I know – going to long, boring lectures is one thing, but, reading? No way! At least skim it, OK? Soon you will master the technique of reading as a college student – headers, bold words and phrases, key terms in the back of the chapter. You paid enough for that book – you might as well use it!

2. Don’t Skip.

No, you don’t have to go to class. I know – freedom! It’s great. You can just stay home, sleep in, play on the computer, generally lounge about. Tell your parents class is cancelled that day, or make up some other excuse for still being in bed at noon. One more perk of being a college student: You don’t actually have to go be a student in college! But, take it from me, a once serial-skipper. Skipping class just isn’t worth it in the end. For one thing, there’s the guilt. Yes, it will hit you. Gee, I probably should have went to class. It’s only an hour and fifteen minutes! You couldn’t take an hour and fifteen minutes out of your busy stare-at-the-computer-screen schedule to go to class? And, if you skip once, where does it end? I didn’t go to class last time.. and now I have no idea what’s going on in class this time.. sooo, I guess I’ll just stay home – again. Going to class is always the better option. Sure, you have to get out of your pajamas, but you get to go educate your brain! Ask yourself this: why are you signed up for classes, anyway? Why are you paying lots of money/taking out lots of loans just to not go to class? Don’t skip! Seriously. Don’t.

3. Make Friends.

College is different from High School in that the people there are educating themselves by choice. You have to go to High School – not so for University! The college crowd may not be what you expect, either. There are older people there. Like, your parents’ ages. And, they’re cool! They’re interesting! Of course, there are younger students as well. But these people are not just the folks that happen to live in your school district – they’re from all over the place! Different cities, different states, different countries. They have different accents than you do. Different experiences. Different stories to tell, different lessons to teach you. Getting to know these people is one of the greatest rewards you can glean from going to college. Sure, you’ll get an education and a piece of paper with your name on it – but the people you’ll meet along the way are worth more than your degree. Talk to them! They are people, too! Colleges and Universities are full of the sorts of people you want to be friends with. So go for it.

4. Explore.

Ah, the college years. The socially designated time to figure out who you are, what you want, and how you’re going to get it. Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want to eat for lunch today? All very important questions. College is definitely the place to explore. That can mean literally explore, like, wander around campus and find the best smoothie place. And, it can mean explore yourself, like, do I even like math? Do I want to be friends with those sorts of people? How do I want to spend my time here on this planet? And, it can mean explore your options. What sort of job do you want? What things do you like learning about? What do you want to research, or write about, or get involved in? If you’re confused about any of those kinds of things, college is the place to figure them out. There are people who have that job. They want to help you figure yourself out! You don’t have to know right away what you’re doing. It took me almost two years to figure out what I even wanted to Major in. Explore, explore, explore. It’s what college is for!

There are a lot of really amazing people in the world. There really are. A lot of the time I think that I forget that fact. Maybe you do, too. Sometimes these people are hard to see, hard to find. Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis seem simply ordinary. So many of them – ordinary folk. That’s fine, being ordinary, if that’s what you’re in to. I’m just, well, not. Why live a simple life? Why not do amazing things, see amazing things, be amazing?

I’ve recently started my senior year of Undergraduate school. So recently, in fact, that today is my second day of classes. Fall semester, 2012. Back to school!

I love college. I wasn’t so hot on High School. It is just so different, so restricted. So scheduled. Perhaps: so ordinary. Now, though, I’m a college student, and I love it. Walking from the parking lot to my classroom on the first day back, I found myself grinning. I love this place. I love these people. These people who are striving to be more than ordinary. Who would struggle through college classes in order to better themselves and their lives. Who would pay thousands of dollars just for the chance to become a higher-educated human being.

Students are more than simply students, though. They are minds. They are amazing. They have something to say, something to give. They are people who are excited about their lives and the future. They have dreams, plans, ideas, goals.

This fact, too, can be easy to forget. Another college student is just another college student. My campus is relatively small, yet thousands of students attend classes here. Thousands of creative, interested, willing, capable minds. We come to learn from professors and end up learning from each other, too. We learn math, yes, and science, yes, and French, and how to write in MLA format, and not to text in class, and that our professors really like when we participate, and that the bathroom on the second floor of the English building is always empty, and we learn not to get to class too early, and that staircases really are the better choice, and that not holding a door for someone when they are really far away is OK. We also learn about the people in our communities. We learn about their lives. We see how similar they are to us. We feel togetherness. We feel not-so-ordinary.

Today I was reading through some early submissions that were received by the creative writing magazine I work for at my school. There were only five – I’m sure there are many more to come. I love reading the poems and stories that come from fellow students. I read them anonymously – I have no idea who wrote these pieces – male, female; student, staff, teacher; old, young; black, white. And so, I am amazed. The submissions were good. All poems. All different. Not so ordinary.

The poems were all about different things – crumbling cities, religion, the media, girls, dirt. The poems were good, but it was the realization that I came to from reading them that made me stop, actually teary-eyed, and think. Think that there are a lot of amazing people in this world. That they are hard to see, sometimes. That we forget about them, that they exist. That they are living with us, mixed in with all the ordinary people. We are all living our lives together.

I need to make $5,000. In the next three weeks. (gasp)

Why? School. College. I go to college. Have you heard of it? You go there and it’s very expensive and they teach you things. It’s pretty great.

Fall semester is fast approaching, which means me handing over all of my summer-earned money to go towards tuition is fast approaching, too. I’ve been working full-time for the past two years to pay for all of my school expenses: tuition, books, gas, clothes, etc. I’ve always made it work. Sure, I never bought anything else, but I managed to squeeze by and pay for everything (and sneak in a few smoothies from the yummy smoothie shop at school).

This time, though, I seem to have very little money. What happened?! Was it the new car (used with 200,000 miles) I bought because my tiny sports car broke down? Was it the week trip to California? Wait, did I even work this summer? Yes, I did! I recall several hundred hours of working! What is going on?! Where is my money? There is no way I can make so much money in so little time. And there is equally no way that I’m dropping some of the courses I have scheduled… I’m so close! I’m almost done. I only have two semesters left of college!

Student loan, you say? What? Did I hear you right? No way, man. I don’t do that stuff.

Of course, today I did lock my better judgement away in a mental closet and research student loans online. It was a very stressful few minutes. Do you know that they either want you to pay monthly interest, or pay a monthly fee so that you don’t have to pay monthly interest?! That’s what I learned, and I didn’t even dig very far: they put that great deal on the front page of their website! No. Thank. You.

Still, even without the loan, I think I’ll be alright. With monthly payments to my school, working as much as I can around my class schedule, I should be able to make enough to pay everything by December. It’s how I roll. Student loans just make me itchy. How do people do it? How can you owe someone that much money? How do you go to school (or through life) everyday, knowing that you still have to pay for everything? Itchy.

All that said, I have another question: Why does college cost so much, anyhow?

So, I’m paying you (you, aka, the University) about $5,000 a semester, at really low full-time status: 13 credits. And how many $5,000 payments are you getting? How many students go to this University? Any University? Where does all that money go?

Sure, we use a lot of internet. And ink. And paper. Also, toilet paper. But, $5000 per semester per student worth? Even when you take professor’s wages into consideration… I’m not seeing it.

I’m sure we students would voluntarily bring in our own toilet paper, if that would help. We could just add it to our school supplies list, under Pilot G2 pens (seriously, those things are great). I will even sweep the floors. Anything else? Come on, work with me here! Can’t you see that we can’t afford this?

Now, all of that said, why isn’t there a website where one can go and sign up to be sponsored by a super-rich billionaire? Seriously. I mean, I am freaking out over $5,000, when I am sure there are people out there who make that much money in, like, fifteen minutes. Where are these people? How  does one get in contact? Super-rich billionaires love to give money to charities, right? Just call this one the “middle-class college students” charity. Or, the “People who can almost afford to go to College” organization. Simple, really. Somebody out there, make this website. Then, sign me up. Thanks.

(P.s, if you are a super-rich billionaire who is really excited about this fantastic offer, yet saddened that this website does not, in fact, yet exist, feel free to get in touch. After all, if you’ve read this entire post, you’ve already made enough money to help out this middle-class, slightly-poor, college student. I’ll totally tell all of my friends on Facebook about your generosity!)

I work for the creative writing magazine at my University. I’m the “Prose Editor”. I handle the fiction and non-fiction submissions. AKA, anything that’s not poetry.

I love my job. (I call it a job… it’s more of a paid volunteer.) It’s great. I love writing, I love reading, I love working with the authors and editing their pieces to make them the best that they can be; to help create the end product that the writers originally imagined.

About a year ago, I discovered there was such a thing as a creative writing magazine. Who knew? I think I found out about them from my creative writing professor, who handed me a long compiled list of mags that accepted student work. When I found out, I thought I had stumbled onto something big.

That’s it! I’m sure I shouted in my head. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll work for a creative writing magazine/journal once I graduate from college. Sounds good to me!

Little did I know, nor could I ever imagine, that about four months later… I would be working at a creative writing magazine – at my college, no less!

Like I said, it’s a great job. I get to do all that cool stuff I already mentioned, as well as hang out with the staff (who are a group of amazingly cool people themselves), go to poetry readings, have magazine launch parties (in which we eat cheese, drink wine, and wear fancy clothing)… basically, I have the opportunity to do what I love with people I love in the town I love.

I hope I can be so lucky once I graduate and get a “real” job. I mean, honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I keep asking people, “What am I going to do the day after graduation? … What are you gonna do?” (And with my literary magazine idea already completed, well, I’ve got nothing.)

College students, generally, are pretty cool. They tend to be intelligent, open minded, fun, interesting, etc. Well, the ones I hang out with, anyway. People getting a higher education are just interesting people to know; they’re either involved in some cool project, or they’re helping out in the local community, or they’re working in or at the University itself, making it a better place in one way or another.

Universities and colleges are where the smart people hang out. Where the kids with bright futures live. (Oh, and I go there, too. …) So, when I ask my, “What are you going to do after you graduate” question, I always expect something other than what I tend to hear: “Oh, I’m going to be a teacher” or, “Oh, I guess I’ll be a professor.”

Uh, excuse me, what?

I think this has happened with the last 6/10 students I’ve spoken to. The rest of them, the 4/10, either have a different career in mind, or, more commonly, still have no idea.

I can’t believe it, though! A teacher? You want to teach? You’ve just spent the first 25 years of your life in school, and now you want to teach? What?

I don’t want to teach. I know that much for sure. (Crossing possible careers choices off of my ‘list’ is better than nothing, right?) No way! Maybe I’m just too selfish to be a teacher. Or, maybe I dream too big. The way I see it, you’ve only got one life. You’re gonna die. (Hate to break it to you like this.) Why waste it doing something you don’t love? Why not try, why not risk it (whatever “it” is) and go for your dream job? Why be a teacher?

Ok, Ok, I understand that some people really do want to teach. Like, they’re passionate about it, and it’s how they want to spend their life. And that’s great! Good for them. But I’m not talking about those particular people. I’m talking about the really fucking awesome people in this world that become teachers/professors because they just don’t know what else to do, or they’re too scared to do it, or (this is probably the most correct option) they’re too smart to do it.

“What I really want is a good paying job.” This is what I hear a lot. People just want to do something that will make them money. A good, steady, income. Be reasonable: get a reasonable degree, get a reasonable job, live a reasonable life.

I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough for me! I don’t care about money. Really, I don’t. But, at the same time, money is a necessity. Money buys shelter and Charles Bukowski poetry books. It’s just not that important to me. A successful life and job is doing what I love. For me, that’s not teaching. That’s not a lot of things. I don’t know exactly what it is yet. I love so many things, maybe that’s why I can’t settle on one job. Maybe I need to find or create a job that lets me do lots of really cool, interesting things.

I don’t know! I’ll admit it: I don’t know. Not a clue. And it is so scary, not knowing. You’re expected to know. “What are you majoring in?” “What are you going to be when you grow up?” “What are you going to do the day after graduation?”

Can I respond with: “Who Cares!”? That’s what I want to say, sometimes. I’ll figure it out. I’m just going to live my life and see where it leads. I want to do so many different things. I don’t want a “regular” job.

I don’t know!

what are we doing? seriously, have you taken a moment recently to look around? look at what we’ve done. look at all the things we’ve built. look at all the animals we’ve made extinct, all the animals we’ve brought back from extinction by taking some old DNA and putting it into a goat. look at all the people we’ve killed. look at all the people we’ve buried in tightly-sealed boxes. look at all the people who want to be buried in tightly-sealed boxes. look at us, pretending we’ll never die, and, at the same time, pretending to live. pretending to live here. what are we doing? why are we doing this? do we even have a four-year plan? where are we going? where are we headed? the future seems vague and never-ending. it seems infinite. it seems like we’ll always be here, building, tearing down, killing, loving, searching, putting dead people in boxes so they can hide from the worms.

So…

Where did all that come from, you might ask? Are you a little bit afraid of me now? Is it not normal to carry on lengthy conversations about burial procedures?
I’ll answer that first question, and we’ll avoid the other two. Ok? Ok.

Today, at my wonderful University (that takes all of my money), … well, ok, I don’t know. These things just come up. If you’re a college student (or ever have been), I’m sure you’ll understand. Getting off-topic is my favorite, because you get to talking about things that people actually want to talk about. (Ok, I’ll admit some of my fellow classmates looked a bit faint-y during the 15 minutes we discussed coffins, cremations, etc… but, still.) Getting off-topic gets to the guts of the conversation. You get to the topics that everyone desperately wants to talk about with each other. You get to the reasons why people want to go to college in the first place (at least, that’s how it seems to me). Connection, right? Understanding. To learn more than you ever could in high school: Not just FACTS, but, KNOWLEDGE.

Once, I heard tell (from somewhere) about these cemetery-type things in Sweden. I heard that they just sort of take you (you, being dead, and all), bundle you up a bit (think: shroud/cloth of Ancient Greece), and plop you in a hole in the ground (Have I made this seem properly romantic?). But, here’s the best part yet (which I’m sort of foggy on): They either plant a tree on top of (you) your burial spot, or they place (not plop! what horrible word usage on my behalf…) you next to a tree, sort of like an additional fertilizer. (Ahh, so romantic! I love it! Yeah?)

Or, if you’d prefer, there’s always the nice option of the tightly-sealed coffin. Personally, I don’t get it. I’d really love for someone (pro-coffin) to explain this to my poor, confused, brain.

Also, here’s another point to argue my point (another point being that I’m not quite sure what point I’m trying to make, here). Actually, I think this fits rather nicely into this flow of consciousness because I learned this at college, too! (See, Mom??!)

I’m pretty sure it was in Sociology class, b.t.w., so there’s that. It must have been one of those off-topic conversations… (And, if you know me, or you’ve just read this far [hi!], you know I love those!)

“Conservation of Energy” Ok, I don’t really remember exactly what that is (It’s been like five semesters since that class, ok?), but I’m pretty sure it’s something like: “There’s a certain amount of energy in the Universe, and the form that the energy takes can change, but the amount of energy in the Universe always stays the same.” (Don’t quote me in any important research papers. Or, do!)

So, your body (look down at it. Do you see it?) has a whole lot of energy in it. No, not that slice of pizza you had for dinner (or, not only that…. pepperoni, was it?), but the total amount of energy that you consist of. (Not your aura, either. This is not that kind of blog.) Like, your cells and everything. Your hair. (You have hair, right? Probably? If not, feel free to use any of the following: your nose, your left big toe, both elbows, your right hip bone…)

You are a mass of energy! Look at you! You can do anything! (Oh, wait, we’re not doing inspirational this time.)

Even after you die (slash pass away, drift off, etc.), you are energy. You’re part of the total amount of energy in the Universe! (whoops. Too inspirational-y? I can’t stop!)

Finally, we get to my point! If we bury people (and their energy) away in the ground, seal ’em up tight, what happens? There must be a huge amount of something just buried away in the ground – sealed up. Hell, maybe that’s what’s causing global warming! (I can have my own theory, right? Also, was that a pun?)

It just seems wrong to me.

Newsflash: You are going to die some day! (In one way or another; whatever you’re beliefs are…. yatta yatta)

Are we somehow less dead if the worms can’t get to us? If the energy from our bodies can stay locked up in some cement box?

Here, let’s go full circle. Follow me, now:

What are we doing? 

That’s a broad question, right? Yeah, I know. It may be one of those questions we go to college to try and answer. Maybe we can’t answer it. Maybe we won’t ever know. Maybe we will!

In any case, shouldn’t we strive for the things that we do to be logical?

If not, Why are we even doing the things that we do?