Monday, October 19, 2015

Keeping the Stars in Your Eyes

Last week was homecoming. In addition to the football game and other day activities, we had a parade circling around campus. I've always loved pomp and circumstance, and you can't ask for much more of that than a parade, so I wandered around for a good half hour before I finally found a good place to watch. I could hear the echoes of bag pipes and tubas, but I couldn't figure out where they were. I didn't dare ask anybody for directions in case wanting to see the parade turned out to be another cute little freshman desire. Maybe the reason I couldn't find anybody else looking for it was because nobody cared.
At last, I found a spot at sat down beside some other girls to watch the parade go by. After a while I thought, "Really, this isn't something spectacular. Cars with banners. T-shirted club members with bags of taffy. Teenage girls in lots of makeup waving from streamered platforms moving down the road." Parades quit being fun when you strip them down to their parts instead of the sum.
But then, so does everything.
Halfway through our poetry unit, my English professor joked that poets in general Emily Dickinson in particular must have had what she called "low wonder thresholds." Emily probably walked downstairs in the morning, gasped, "BREAKFAST!" And ran back to her room with enough inspiration for a month. How else could she wax poetic about such simple things for so long?

The most valuable thing children have is wonder. We lose that as we get older. Partly because the shininess of the world wears off the longer we live in it. We've seen enough sunrises, what's one more? A miracle? Sunrise just means breakfast, breakfast just means getting ready for the day, getting ready for the day, getting ready for the day just means leaving home, leaving home just means eight hours until you get to come back.
In my non-GE classes, I hear older students moan about how college is hard and it's getting old and could they just graduate already and what to do after graduation and life is haaaaaaard. They've lost the stars. But I'm determined to keep them for as long as possible.
A few days ago I went to the cafeteria for breakfast and got hash browns, yummy runny eggs, and an English muffin, all on the same plate! I sat down by some stranger. He asked "How are you", but instead of answering back with a "Fine", I told him how excited I was for my breakfast. Because I honestly was. I've checked the university app every day since to see when that meal will come around again. I've gone to lectures and club events and campus activities just because they sound fun. I'm still marveling at all the ways college is different from high school. The library has a 3D printer and I can make anything I want! My civ classroom has a back section that rotates like a merry go round! I could take a class in floral design or glass staining or Scandinavian cinema!
I know I'll get a college callous eventually, just like I did for high school and middle school before that, but I'm trying to prolong it. There's still joy to be found in eggs and parades. I don't think poets are born with low wonder thresholds, I think it's a matter of training. You can choose to retain a childlike sense of wonder even as you mature.
I have to believe that. After all, what fun is life if you can't live it with stars in your eyes?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dear High Schoolers: Five Things to Look Forward to

Well, your life sucks. You're bound to your parents, homework's got you down, and studies show that you probably have the same stress level as an average psychiatric patient from fifty years ago. But guess what, high schoolers? It's gets better! Just hold on in there until college.

Everyone is Lying to You

I'm sleeping way more than I ever did in high school. Sophomore year was my worst. Back then, I averaged five hours and fifteen minutes a night. Now I've achieved that mythical eight hours. Since I pick my own schedule, my classes started at 10:00, 12:00, or 1:00, depending on the day. My only motivation to wake up early-and by early I mean 8:30-is getting to the cafeteria in time for omelette hour.

Not Sitting Behind Pentagram Hat Boy

In my last semester of senior year, I spent my seventh period sitting behind this kid in a knit pentagram beanie. He and his buddies, who'd all chosen seats against the wall, would complain about how they got kicked out of some place for smoking and had to go to the vacant lot against the street, but the lot itself wasn't so bad, just that "there's not even a wall to lean against, just a pole", and they didn't want to take turns with the pole.
College separates the wheat from the chaff. Of course you'll find new annoying people, but they're a higher caliber of annoying, so this feeling is gone.

When Are We Ever Gonna Use This is Dead

Only one or two classes are required required. Some grit-your-teeth-and-bear it classes are required for your major, but you chose your major because you liked it more than a hundred or so other options. Your schedule dissolves into the needs and wants: stuff you have to know for your future and stuff you want to learn just because you're in college and you can.
At least, that's my life. I had a graduate from my major and a guy who works for the university sit next to me for two hours while I planned out my schedule. That's why I can take fun classes and sleep whenever I want. Not everybody had that foresight. A few weeks ago, a girl in my study group complained that she'll "Never need to know" all the factoids about Mesopotamian pottery we were memorizing for a test. All I could think was, "Well, you signed up to pay hundreds of dollars for this class instead of the one of the fourteen classes from eleven different programs that could fill this requirement. That's your first problem."
Okay, so there's still some chaff.

People Exist Outside of School

For years, I thought there were two types of people my age: school people and outside people, who came from my neighborhood or extracurriulars. Sometimes school people could become outside people if I invited them over. But most of the time they stayed in their sphere.
Then I'd go somewhere, like Target, and suddenly they're there buying orange juice. It was always jarring. Were they supposed to exist outside of school? In high school the boundaries got thinner, since we had afterschool culture and cars to meet up places, but now they're completely gone. You sleep a floor away from people in your classes.

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Everything is an Adventure

Today I made an egg salad sandwich.
That sounds like such a small thing, but I'm in a dorm room and don't have a good way to boil eggs. Not to mention that buying a carton would take up half the space in my mini fridge. Then there's mayonnaise and mustard. If I buy them, I have to be intending to make a habit of this, because I don't need entire bottles for one sandwich.
Then a few days ago I went to the gym vending machines for a snack. Gym people want to be healthy, so this vending machine has real people food instead of just skittles. Apparently some people like to suck on eggs while they walk to their workout. There they were, already hard boiled, two of them nestled snug against each other. But I still needed condiments. Our cafeteria has a no food past the door rule. But I've smuggled deserts and fruit before. This time I filled three condiment cups with mayonnaise, mustard, and a salt and pepper mix. I snuck them out the door. Success!
Now, after four days of eying those eggs in the fridge, I get to eat them.
I've made plenty of egg salad sandwiches in my life. But this one I'm proud of because I had to plan it out and find a way to put all the pieces together.
It reminds me of getting my driver's license. Sure, I'd been in hundreds of cars before, going thousands of places, but this time I got to take the wheel. So when I told weekend stories to my friends every Monday, I was careful to say "I drove to the movies" instead of  "I went to the movies", and they'd get a play-by-play of my adventures in traffic. Doing things on your own makes every little thing an adventure.

Monday, October 5, 2015

College Students vs. Homeless People

College students do weird stuff for fun, okay? The other night my friend Susan decided to do a Mexican food run at 10:30 P.M. After that, we didn't know what to do with our lives, so she took us on a tour of town until we ended up in a park at midnight. The park was full of not-quite-asleep homeless people. For a while, I wondered if we'd get kicked out of their park, but they respected us and we respected them. We stood a polite distance away and kept our voices down so they can sleep.
Homeless people are so often stereotyped and I was cautioned away from them my entire childhood. But after chilling out in the park for a while, I'm convinced homeless people and college students aren't that different.

Homeless People: Sleep on benches and grass in the night.

College Students: Sleep on benches, grass, and the floor of the Japanese periodical section of the library where no one will look for them. Usually in broad daylight.

Homeless People: Show up to soup kitchens and charity dinners to get free food.

College Students: Join clubs, go to school spirit events, and date just to get free food.

Homeless People: Carry everything they own around with them in bulging backpacks and bundles.

College Students: Carry everything of value around with them and in bulging backpacks and bundles.

Homeless People: Get to be homeless for free. Apply for government assistance to stop being homeless.

College Students: Pay thousands of dollars each year for the privilege of being college students. Apply for government assistance to continue being college students. If they didn't, they'd have to get student loan debts, which will come back to bite them and suck future paychecks dry. They don't want to do that. After all, they could end up homeless.

If I ever end up homeless and need a place to hang out, I'm going back to college.