I feel only the slightest perverse pleasure, only the slightest longing, as I follow through on this purely ceremonious act. I’ve taken classes
with all these professors before, and I can already imagine what they will say on
the first day of class, what their syllabi will look like, what kinds of
assignments they’ll give. While I’m happy for the students who will discover these things for the first time, I’m not jealous. I’d like to
think that these teachers have already given me the tools I need to study these
topics on my own, should I ever choose to do so.
And let’s be real. Classes are kind of a drag. You have to deal with people you
might not like all that much. You have to fulfill onerous requirements. You
have to sit still in a cold and sterile room when you’d probably rather be
outside. It all sounds a lot like what I’ll probably be doing for the next 40
Now it just looks like I’m going to ridiculous lengths to justify the alarming
proximity of my impending graduation and foreclose the possibility of paralyzing regret.
It reeks of intellectual dishonesty. Of course classes are way better than
work. Of course I haven’t learned everything I can here. I could spend the rest
of my life in college and never stop learning.
I don’t really have any choice in the matter of my graduation, so my question
becomes: Did I use my time here the best I could? But even that question is
fraught, because it assumes I could have gone through college without making
any big mistakes. Doesn’t everyone say that the mistakes are part of the
me that kind of pat-on-the-back retroactive justification has always seemed purely
therapeutic. I like thinking that my stupid mistakes were
essential or good for me only because this thought makes me feel better.
truth is that a certain degree of intellectually dishonest retroactive
validation is pretty necessary for dealing with something as depressing as college graduation. Maybe this validation can be tempered with an equal measure of honest
reflection and soul-searching, but eventually you have to cash out and move on.
(That’s one thing you learn especially well when you live so close
to Las Vegas.)
The real key to preventing an unhealthy amount of retroactive validation is taking
stock every once in a while, and not waiting until the end to figure out what
your mistakes were and whether or not they might be prevented in the future.
Locate where you are relative to where you want to be, and then make the
necessary adjustments. Eventually, no matter where you end up, you have to
declare the thing over, call it a wash and move on. That’s what I’m doing with
my thesis; hell, that’s what anyone who’s ever written anything has done. At some point, regrets, mistakes and misgivings
stop being growth opportunities and start being crutches.
if you’re lucky enough to still get some use out of the course catalog, take
that to heart. Put that “daring mind” to work. Figure out where you are and where you want to be. Make adjustments, and don’t look back. Because it’s going to look messy.