The Vengeful Polyglot

Graduation Thoughts

Posted on: April 21, 2011

I really wanted to spend the spare time I had before my next class blogging about WoW. Maybe do a post on the new Call to Arms change for 4.1, or discuss my alt addiction, or how healing is shaping up now that I’ve got all 4 classes past 80. But I just stood in line with about 200 other members of my class and couldn’t name a single one. I guess I’ll talk about college.

I’m sitting in the Locus, the special study lounge for the campuswide honor students, just mystified by the changes time can make. I remember when this felt like home. I remember when I felt like a member of the CHP, instead of vaguely dreading their events because I might run into a crazy ex-roommate, or just an ex in general. I remember when I could use the phrase “all my friends” instead of the one or three I can list now, but that’s neither here not there. I remember being excited about college, and my classes, and my work.

Now I’m sitting in here with four people who I can’t say I recognize, wondering when the last time I set foot in here was. And when was the last time I did so without vague anxiety? I know this is the haunt of people who just aren’t in my life anymore, through my choice or theirs. It’s not a secret, so much so that I almost feel like I’m trespassing. I’ve always felt vaguely resentful that they got custody. When did I decide it was better to be alone in my apartment than to try and hold onto something that once felt so comfortable? Now nothing here does.

I guess the real reason I’m feeling morose is because I’m realizing just how little I’ve accomplished here, in university. Though not all of it was my own fault, I feel like I’ve done exactly nothing. I have good grades, I have honors; that isn’t really what I came here for. It wasn’t my “goal” for this. Those were expected. I have a level at which I expect myself to perform, and I’ve done all right at that, but it’s not what drove me here. It was just an expected consequence. People point to my academic achievements and say, “Look, you published a paper, you’ve got a great GPA in a difficult subject — you’ve done fine.” But there wasn’t going to be a world in which I didn’t “do fine” in college. That wasn’t on the table. What was on the table was exploring new subjects. Trying to write a book, or at least write something. Making friends. Broadening my horizons. Seeing and understanding other world views. I don’t think I’ve done any of that. I’ve become a more cynical, closed-minded person because of this place, and it’s not what I wanted, or what I was sold. I feel gypped because I paid for services I didn’t receive… like an education.

Mostly I’m just disappointed in myself. I could have done better. I could stare at this tassel I picked up today and think, yes, I’m excited to graduate, I’ve earned it. But now it’s not like a reward. It’s like getting out of jail, and it’s all the more terrible because I don’t think I ever looked forward to anything in my life more than going to college. There are things I have learned, but what I have learned hasn’t been pleasant. I have learned to stand up for myself, through trial by fire. I have learned to never depend on my department for anything; I have learned that they will lie, or ignore me, or generally do anything but do their jobs correctly. I’ve learned that I need to go beyond what is required in order to succeed, and hopefully I’ve reached out enough to the community beyond that I can anticipate some level of job hunting success. But I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s all so uncertain.

All I wanted to do was learn, and it wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. Sure, there is a certain satisfaction to figuring something out against the odds, but at the end it’s empty. You think, “These people shouldn’t have been against me. They should have been helping.” Some of the problems here were greater than I was, or greater than I could make up for. Nothing I do now is going to change the fact that I’m a UCI anomaly: a white, Jewish girl studying Computer Science, only one of a handful of women graduating in my class. Some things I can’t change. But there are definitely things I know now that could have helped me way back when.

I guess it all just boils down to it being too little, too late. I see now the things I could have done to make my time here less intolerable. It’s too late to fix it now, though. There’s only so much time left. I’ll walk in two months or so, and it will be for naught. I will have fancy cords, and maybe they’ll say something after my name (though most likely not, because while Summer grads get to walk, they don’t get considered for Latin Honors until the next year), I will stand and smile next to people I’ve never said a word to, and I will go back to my last two classes with nothing changed. I will be the same.

I always thought something magical happened to you when they handed you that piece of paper. That suddenly, you knew more, or understood more, maybe in proportion to the number of subjects or honors listed there. Maybe in proportion to how many units you took. It turns out I was wrong. Nothing is going to change on that day except that maybe now I can move on to finally learn some of the things I really wanted to learn, just without a summer break. I’m ready to be out of here; this place stopped being a home a long time ago. My skin is crawling sitting here with these people I don’t know in a room that was once a comfort. It’s so wrong now. I’m ready to be out of here. That doesn’t mean I won’t have my regrets, though. I can only try to do better next time, as trite as that sounds.

 

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Blog by a programmer cum linguist cum writer cum total geek. One who pretentiously uses "cum" in place of any other logical connectives. Direct questions to the Ask Lauren page!

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