“They” say that I should stop and smell the roses, live each day like it is my last, take life by the horns (or by another plural appendage, whichever you prefer). I say that this is a load of clichéd bullshit. These are phrases that we often hear as hopeful college students, and yet we rarely know how to follow them. Truly, how are we to know the location of life’s horns, let alone how to seize them? How often do we encounter roses daily? They certainly are not common on this campus. Yes, I realize that I am taking these metaphorical encouragements quite literally, but where is their real meaning? How often do the people who say these things actually care what your life is like, let alone genuinely want you to improve it?
At this point, you may be criticizing me for my cynicism, but I am warning you: this Endgame is not the cheerful type. In our protective college bubble, we have professors that actually care about us, a few that pretend to care, and some that do not even try. Some of us are lucky with a mommy and daddy who pay for everything; we have room and board without having to work or fret over student loans that will follow us to the grave. Some of us are really lucky: mommy and daddy paid for our Mercedes or our Beamer. We never worked a day of our life and that nonexistent work ethic reflects in our dismal grades. That’s okay, though, because we can pay full tuition, schools will wink at our GPA. Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad for the brand-new-Mercedes-driving types, they allow me to have scholarships and lovely new buildings on campus. Personally, though, I think students should know how to write a damn thesis statement before colleges admit them.
But back to the roses. Despite all outward appearances, I do not want to be accused of bitterness. I do believe that there are figurative roses out there whose fragrance I have more than once passed up without taking a single whiff. There are, in fact, professors, administrators, and students at this school who have helped me survive the year without being doubled over by panic attacks on a daily basis. But the problem is, what happens when I leave? There are classes full of college seniors across the country, across the world, asking that question at this very moment. Who is going to grab the back of my shirt and yank me off of the ground if I fall on my face? Though many of us professedly strong and independent types would like to boast that we would get our own asses off of the ground if we fall, I say that everyone needs someone, or several someones.
While ambition will earn you loads of money or disappointment, I do not believe that it comprises one’s entire purpose in life. Take for example the character Amber on House, MD. Within the first few days of competing for an opening on House’s new team, Amber earns the affectionate nickname “cutthroat bitch.” Amber is intelligent, ambitious and, yes, rather vicious and manipulative. I, for one, think that she was a magnificent character (apply that how you will to my own morality). While her cutthroat tactics get her far in the job competition, they ultimately cost her the position. To me, Amber seems happier when she starts dating Wilson (the subject of House’s bromance) and gets a different job. Don’t jump to conclusions; I am by no means saying that every woman needs a man to be happy. The point here is that cutthroat bitch found a support system and some semblance of friends. While we all can keep our eyes on the prize, it is easy to become consumed by our goals. Some of those roses are simply too important to breeze past. However, if money and prestige are the things that make you happy in the world, by all means, dive right in.
It seems cruelly hypocritical that the same society in which students are pushed forward with Advanced Placement classes and Ivy League competition produces such phrases as “never lose sight of the important things.” Students are pressured at progressively younger ages to succeed in school and rack up the As. While kids exist that are annoyingly smart without trying, many of the students who study their brains out for an A develop a skewed view of what is actually important. College helps this process along. I feel a pang of annoyance whenever I hear younger students complaining about their workload. Thoughts such as, “you have no idea what you are in for,” “you call that difficult?” and “shut up, you annoying twit,” flare up. Of course, afterward I feel like a snob and a jerk–unless the kid really is an annoying twit, then there is no remorse. I feel as though college has conditioned many of my classmates, and myself, for the occasional snobbery. Sorry guys, it’s true, and you know who you are…or maybe you don’t. You and I are sad, brain-fried products of the Advanced Placement system. You and I have lost sight of the “important things,” because winning, achieving, and leaving everyone to eat our dust has created demi-monsters of us.
You could respond with: No Mary, you’re actually just crazy, I have never felt this competitive urge. To this I say bullshit. Why would you publicly complain about your thesis, about how many hours of sleep you have lost over it, about how many pages it is, or how much it has made you cry like a little kid convinced that there is a monster under the bed? I have done this and you have done this (or you will when it comes time). There is part of you, even if you are not conscious of it, that seeks recognition for your intelligence, that wants to make others feel intimidated by you or even to feel sorry for your suffering. There is a proud and nasty part of you that goes through the whole college experience not just wanting to learn, but to win, if not over everyone then at least over someone. In this category I must exclude the following: those rare and lovely people who actually focus on the “important things,” people who do not care about grades at all and people who would rather party all night every night and scrape by with enough to pass.
Okay, that was pretty bleak. I probably sound like I despise every single person on campus including myself, which I don’t. In fact, I like many, many people. Hell, I even love them. The point to all of this is that I do not want to go out into the world with my head stuck in the rose bed or peering through the rosy tinted glasses. I realize, and I think that you should realize, that people do not always exist to support you. Some of them want to tear you down, to be cutthroat assholes and get the job over you. This protective college bubble that has cushioned us for the past four years is not a reflection of what we face. There are no good or bad people, there are just people. Some of them turn out to be saints and some serial killers. Just do the best that you can, love to your fullest capacity, and try not to fall for the bullshit.