Upon venturing into what would become “my college years,” I was informed, on more than one occasion, that this was the place where I would learn how to think.
That statement was always juxtaposed to the world I had known before; one filled with standardized tests and desperate grade-grabbing.
High school was where we all learned a finite series of facts, participated in seemingly inconsequential social engagements, and found success confirmed definitively by an acceptance to a college or university, within a given routine we’d accepted since early childhood.
Suddenly a college student, I had two or three classes per day, sometimes only four days a week, and was thrown into a new world complete with its own code of conduct.
There was a liberality, an assumed manner of open mindedness and freedom of expression that implied our arrival to adulthood; we had earned the right to an opinion because we had earned the right to an education.
Any clashing utterance imposed from one student to another was resolutely defined as another example of “diversity,” be it in the shape of an opinion, upbringing or personal life experience, however minimal.
Civil discourse, at first, felt like a charade; each of us secretly children, dressed no longer in the clothes our parents had bought for us, but instead our own clothes, which we had stolen from their closets and decided to wear out.
We were imitations of what we yearned to be or assumed we ought to be by that point.
Some of us played the game better than others.
Per usual, several haughty freshman would fall on their face, break their teeth on the first day; these were always the sheltered ones, the ones who still received the opinions of their parents as purely factual and as universally uncontradictory as “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.”
As a now senior, I like to think I’ve developed the capacity to identify the individuals who’ve learned that the college game is played either with incredible ease, difficulty or unlikely indifference, struck out, scored in their own time, and came out the other side with their own ideas of what it all meant.
I suppose this tangent is proof of that process.
What is most concerning, however, is not the inevitable submission to the new order of things, but rather the basis by which we allow ourselves to be formed as students in the world today.
Though it be a generalization, we as students in pursuit of our degree exist inattentively, resignedly, and almost entirely void of any sense resembling initiative or personal achievement.
We maintain a general disinterest in the world or simply an unwillingness to express it and commit ourselves mindlessly to the time-suck of social media.
We dream empty dreams, separate from reality or any belief that dreams and reality need not exist in opposition to one another.
Somewhere, surely, there must have been a collapse or several collapses.
Maybe we exist only in response to shifting cultural nuances through these extremely formative years.
Perhaps that is simply my perception of things, or perhaps my pessimism is born from the same shoddy source.
Either way, it has become increasingly rare to encounter a fellow student with a genuine desire to interact actively in class outside of the expected complaints.
There are, of course, exceptions to this statement.
I have known many students who work two jobs and practically live in the library in order to achieve a quantifiable level of success.
I claim to exist somewhere in the middle most of the time.
My apathy and shy disposition is in a way a reflection of my surroundings.
Though I enjoy college, and know its struggles as well as anyone, I find myself reaching for a collective change in attitude.
Too easily do I take education for granted and too easily have these years disappeared beneath my pen.