College is a death sport and I survived. I graduated in June–ish of 2013, so that makes it a handful of months that I’ve been out in the “world.” I moved from my college town to my mom’s house and then to this other place. Mixed in there I found a job that, at first, and sometimes still, disappoints me. Some other stuff happened and now I’m here. I feel like an old crotchety woman compared to who I was before, telling herself that she doesn’t miss smoking, and missing it anyway. I know some of you might be in my position: disappointed, in a rut, displeased with things in general. But I’m here to offer some condolence. First, you should know, college is a death sport, and not what you expect. And second, once you get out, the first thing you should do, for your own sake, is quit.
Here’s a short list of the things I’ve been experimenting with since I’ve entered this new world of unstructured education: feeding myself, maintaining relationships, thinking about my family, missing people that are gone, being happy, being lonely, feeling uncool, wearing matching socks, cleaning the kitchen, using a salad spinner, practicing dental hygiene, asking questions, naming documents, thinking about the file structure of my brain, reading everything I want, or not reading anything at all for long periods of time, sleeping, embracing boredom, examining myself for what seems like the first time, examining other people for what is definitely the first time, and the oxford comma.
When I realized that I’d been experimenting more – and I mean, in more meaningful and life-changing ways, out of college than I had been in college, I was a bit surprised. Then I was surprised at my surprise. And then I thought about the things that are actually far from surprising as far as college activities go, that, at the time, I thought were illicit, cool, and meaningful. They were all these things, maybe they were even “fun,” a concept that I don’t believe in anymore.
I actually don’t believe in much that I used to, especially all this emphasis on having fun. I don’t believe I’ve ever had fun once. I blame this on what I once believed was “college,” or “life,” but I now know to be something else entirely – an enormous, grief–inducing, traumatic web of social relations spun by Facebook, YOLO, 2004, 1991, September 11th, The Great Recession, Occupy Wall Street, Barack Obama, Karl Marx, Four Loko, bottomless sexual desire, five hundred million trillion commercials, Drake (did I say Drake already?), etc., and in addition, the unbounded accumulation of bad experiences that come with being the worst age ever: 20 in the USA, made worse, of course, by an unfathomable pit of insecurity AKA the foundation for human emotional life. A pile of wooden beams, nails, and an old computer. What? How do you build a house again?
Anyway, listen – I’m your friend, a millennial. As always, here I am, delivered by internet, made up of internet. I want to let you in on a secret. No one will give you this advice because it’s never even occurred to anyone. It’s, perhaps a “lifestyle tactic,” better than a feeble vinyl collection, a nuclear family, hair chalk, a flask of whiskey, or hard drugs. This is exactly what I’m saying. This is for you. Here it is: GIVE UP!
One of the best things I’ve ever done was quit.
For my new years resolution, I quit everything on purpose. I did it because it was the only way. I felt so let down despite evidence of success. I felt let down by my job, the way that it kept me at a desk so much, the way it made me feel so boring, and bored, and the way it kept me coming back because I needed it. I felt let down by my state of mind, worried sick that I’d made the wrong decision, or multiple, that I’d been led astray by my attempt at living, that the place I had ended up (sitting at a desk in a converted studio apartment) “wasn’t for me” because I hadn’t tried enough or that maybe I had given up by accident, unknowingly, which is different than giving up on purpose.
But, you know, since I was a philosophy minor and everything, I eventually reasoned my way into a solution, this time incorporating whatever I wanted, like fortune cookies, astrology apps, and other devices, like an open mind, for example. And I realized that who I thought I was and where I thought I had been going wasn’t really any thing or anyone at all. When I forced myself to examine the person I wished I were, the whole thing was like a half-sentence, or a mostly forgotten dream.
So I gave up! I gave up on everything! Recent grads, freshly-employed folk, you people who consider yourself a lamer version of the cool kid you once were – here’s my advice, from a novice at life. Give up.
It’s been a couple months now, of giving up, and things are going pretty well. I’d estimate that I’ve given up on anywhere from ten to one hundred things depending on the circumstance. I gave up on being a vegetarian because, let’s face it, I had that one terrible experience with diner prosciutto, but the trauma is almost gone by now. So I gave up, gave up on feeling constrained by some vague recollection of an experience. I gave up on compensating for things I perceived that I was lacking. I gave up on social media. I still “do it” – but I gave up on caring about it. It just is. I called it broadcast journalism instead because I had given up so completely on everything I’d ever heard. I gave up on writing. I gave up on blogging especially because I never did it. I gave up on chaos, unintended consequences, atheism, cigarettes, being drunk, and wearing crop tops. I gave up on feeling bad for being out of touch with people I’d crossed paths with, because I was never supposed to be a perfect person, and who knows where we’ll all be eventually?
Since giving up, I can understand myself evolving out of the girl I used to know. As much as I want to go back to a place where I thought I was truly special I know I can’t, because the truth is, college is a death sport, and I survived, but barely. And now the real work comes, at least for someone like me.
I say that college is a death sport because some people really die. I left my college town quietly and then my home town quietly (some would say secretly. I’m sorry) because I felt ashamed by all the people I’d met in the same ways a million times. I was drunk in college. There’s no way of repairing old, broken interactions, especially because I don’t remember a lot of them. I say that college is a death sport because it is. The whole identity is inherited, or built for you, by the enormous heaps of advertising, marketing, and surveillance techniques that come with being 18–24 years old. This age is sort of like the worst thing, especially when getting older is seems about as inspiring as mold or salmonella. So, we YOLO just to get by, because it’s so damn sad to be crawling towards adulthood, sitting in a student center, knowing well that nothing matters, but wishing that it did, because you’re growing weary and it’s almost over.
I get it, and it’s true. Nothing “matters.” But you can’t escape yourself, and you can’t escape this world we live in, as bad as it all seems. But there is a solution, and that’s why I’m here. Here it is: throw it all out. Give up on everything – all the addictions, and all psychic traps that we were given, fooled into thinking that culture had been waiting for us to fit into a certain role or space. No more comfort or convenience in old, dusty things– your brain’s all wet and squishy, I’d imagine, so come on, do it. Give up. No one’s anything anymore – no musicians, no writers, no artists. No one’s anything because we’re all everything. Give up on thinking. Give up on believing that you’re any certain thing, because chances are you’re something else, or nothing at all! Give up all your political arguments at the dinner table, give up on feeling worthless, give up on getting stoned, being sober, or forgetting. This is my advice. If you believe that you’re losing yourself, quit all the things you thought you were as soon as possible. Adjust, and make it hurt. It’s the only way. I know this for sure. I’m begging you – do it quick and all at once – give up!