View From South Campus: On Being an Adult

Not too long ago, during an extended
Target run, I purchased an Easter card for my dear
old mom and dad back home. After ruminating at great length regarding how best
to capture in writing the essence of “Happy Resurrection of Christ, Please Send
Money,” I moseyed on over to the post office on Harvard to give it the old bon
voyage. Sure, I’d lost the envelope somewhere in the bottomless hell-pit that
is my room (or maybe it had gone, along with my religious studies homework, my
passport and a multicolored lump of otherwise unidentified pocket lint,
through the washer and dryer the week before), but I just sort of assumed that
I’d be able to pick one up there without too much trouble. I mean, it’s a post office after all—isn’t it
supposed to represent the pinnacle of that good old American
Protestant-ethic-inspired efficiency and freedom to move about the country
(USPS, Southwest Airlines, it’s all the same to me)?

Imagine my shock and
horror when I discovered that I would have to wait in the 40 person-strong line
to buy something as mundane as a plain white envelope (or worse, that they
didn’t even sell standard greeting
card-sized envelopes. Shouldn’t the post office sell all the envelopes? Isn’t
it, like, an emporium for all things mail?)—couldn’t I just leave my money
on the counter? Discouraged by the news that failure to comply with post office
regulations constitutes as a federal crime, I moved onto what any reasonable
adult would call the next best plan and went to Hendrick’s to buy another card, one with a similarly-sized
envelope that I could use instead. Why I chose to buy something so entirely inapplicable
to my life as “To Our Son and His Wife on Valentine’s Day,” I really could not
tell you, but, basically, what ended up happening was that I spent all the cash
I had on the second card, so that when I got to the post office I had none left
for stamps, and when I tried to buy some with a credit card they asked for ID,
which I didn’t have because my passport was still lying at the bottom of the
dryer in Blaisdell, and, well, apparently, the man at the DMV and I have two very different definitions of “lost
control of the vehicle.” I never sent the card.

Basically, the point here is that
every time I try to act like a functional adult, I crash and burn. Proponents
of so-called “real-world experience” may argue that college (and, in
particular, liberal arts college) is an unnecessary pamper-heavy stopover that
only serves to perpetuate immaturity, but if this year has taught me anything
about myself, it is that I desperately need this protective bubble. As someone
who ended up on the bottom of the pool when my parents threw me in (sometimes,
sink or swim is not a choice; some people just lack buoyancy!), I seriously
appreciate these training wheels. In the real
real world, Camp Sec is not going to return my lost wallet complete with cash
and cards and a little slip of paper with information on how to call the RA in
case of emergency (seriously, try it, lose your wallet—Camp Sec is like a day spa for lost wallets). My parents’
accountant won’t be there to swoop in and save my sorry behind the next time
Pomona Valley Hospital chases after my insurance information for five months.
And eventually, I am going to run out of Claremont Cash, which is going to
preclude my continually buying new clothing from the Coop Store and force me to
once again face my old enemy, the laundry machine.

I guess the real question, then, is
if just knowing I have weaknesses in
practical skills and swimming is going to be quite enough. Every time I mess
something up, I take the route set before me as a 21st-century
liberal arts college student and turn to the Internet. I fruitlessly search the
Honnold-Mudd online catalog for—what? Some kind of panacean guidebook on how
to survive as a grown-up? People debate the utility of various college degrees,
but, really, even if I went to a school where I could be an engineering or agricultural science major or something like that, would I be able to do things
in the world without knowing how to balance a checkbook or iron my shirts? For
all the problems of my mother’s 1970s-era public schooling, she did have home
economics class (and let me tell you, to this very day, Ritamarie can iron with
the best of them). I spend my days studying 17th-century Spanish
literature and theorizing about the problem of theodicy, but, in the grand
scheme of things, will any of that really be more important than knowing how to
do my taxes?

I’m not suggesting that the school
sit me down and teach me how to not
fail at life, because that’s not exactly what I’m paying for—I knew what I
was getting into with this. I’m just doing what I do best, which is, you know,
ruminating at great length without proposing any real solutions. I’m lucky, in
fact—like I said, my mom did ‘home ec,’ and I’m sure she’d be all too willing
to show me a few things this summer (talk about a rigorous summer undergraduate
research program). In the meantime, I think I’ll hide out on the Internet
amongst my fellow practically-inept teenagers and stick to e-cards for a

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