High School Happens Forever

I did not go to a college that looks like this:

I went to a college that looks like this:

The first you may recognize asthe prestigious and expensive Oxford University. The second I very highly doubt your memory acknowledges as anything, except maybe an abandoned space station. But it’s the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth– not to be confused with Dartmouth College, though it frequently is and I’ve stopped correcting people–, a very standard, however quite ugly, state university.

I loved the two-and-a-half years I spent at UMD. I met fantastic people, had the privilege of studying under professors both energetic and wise, and learned how to balance a hefty drinking habit with a heavy homework load and part-time job. For more about how much I loved my UMD years, read this. Because that is not what I’m tapping away at the keyboard to tell you today.

I’d assume every state university functions this way, but UMD was broken up into a series of colleges: the liberal arts college (where I paraded around as a scholar-in-training), the Charlton College of Business, the science and engineering college, the college of visual and performing arts, something to do with nursing, and there might be another one but I don’t remember. Anyhow, the colleges had their own buildings on the campus, and students tended to have their classes confined to their college’s respective building.

Today, on Facebook, one of my friends– who is finishing up her second bachelor’s at the UMD college of visual and performing arts, or, CVPA– posted an article written by an English major at UMD.

The author contradicts herself in the very first line, completely slaughtering her credibility by saying, “I’m not uncomfortable walking anywhere, but I am sometimes uncomfortable in the CVPA.” Still, I had to read on, because I’m an alum of the UMD English program, and I was curious to see what those still trudging through my Alma Mater had to say.

It didn’t give me too much hope. In case you don’t feel like reading the article, let me drop a quick synopsis on you:

“I’m an English major and I don’t like how all the mean, snobby hipsters stare at me when I walk through the CVPA because I’m better than them since, after all, it’s not like UMD is a ‘richy-rich art school’…”

(I thought that part was poignant enough to merit a direct quote)

“…and I respect how you artists in the CVPA have to carry heavy things around all day but it’s not like I’d beat you with a Shakespeare anthology if you tried to come into my building on campus so please stop giving me dirty looks because it makes me feel bad about myself.”

There was a point in tenth grade, in the spring, maybe a month before I threw in the towel on a high school education, when it occurred to me that life wouldn’t always be as petty as the social nonsense I was badgered with every day.

A few years later, at UMD, there was a point somewhere in the middle of my third semester when I thought how wonderful it would be to be out in the world, after college, and over all of the social nonsense of student life.

Now, I get home from work every day and think, “Holy Christ, high school never ended, did it?” Because truly, high school isn’t a template for the rest of your social life, it is just an introduction into the crap you can expect from everyone, all the time, forever.

At UMD, I had a few classes in the CVPA. I walked through the halls of the building without getting any mean glares from the hipsters huddling around their MacBooks, and I thought it was pretty damn neat to have a writing class next door to an African Drum and Dance studio.

I know culture can be a scary thing for some people, and I also know that when you walk around with a face that looks like this:

then people are not very likely to make any kind of attempt to smile or even acknowledge you. It is true that no fantastic person got to be so great without accumulating a whopping pile of enemies on the way to awesomeness– trust me, tons of people hate me for being as incredible as I am– but becoming amazing doesn’t happen by calling people out on not liking you.

Or just looking at you wrong, I guess.

No. Being awesome is all about not giving any credence to the negativity you sense from people around you. And it’s about liking who you are and what you do, and continuing to be and do those things on that principle alone.

I’d bet the contents of my savings account– which is maybe twelve cents, currently– that if that “journalist” did an experiment in which she smiled and said hello to every mean looking hipster kid in the CVPA, she would feel very differently about her journey to the center of the art school.

Of course, I highly doubt she’ll be allowed to pass through the doors now without getting a well-deserved paintbrush shoved into her scowling eye.


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